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Servicing Oil Burner

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by n1st, Dec 4, 2007.

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  1. n1st

    n1st New Member

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    It's about time I service my oil boiler. It's a weil-mclain wtgo-3. I'm no expert, but I manage to change the oil filter, clean the strainer, and change the nozzel witout too much of a problem. The thing I can't stand is brushing between the fingers of all those sections. I last used a Mill Rose 1/2" x 1 tapered brush but still managed to get the handle stuck several times to the point of thinking it wasn't coming out.

    So, is there a better way than brushing to clean out the soot? If not, a better technique maybe?

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  2. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    I'm entirely no expert, but I too am contemplating cleaning my boiler (a Burnham).
    The manual does give some tips about how to do it without damage.
    I watched the technician do it two times and they used brushes and a vacuum.
    Maybe a different sized brush could be used.
    Is there an igniter that has to be changed regularly?
  3. n1st

    n1st New Member

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    It's actually the shaft of the wire brush that get's stuck, but maybe there's a secret I need to learn.

    Regarding ignition, there are a pair of electrodes. They're pretty forgiving, but you want them spaced correctly and just above the nozzel spray. If your burner is igniting without a pause, don't touch them. When replacing the nozzel, be careful not to bend them!
  4. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Thanks for the tip.
    I procrastinated this year again and paid to have it done.
    Next year for sure, lol.
    I mean, I clean my chimney and fix my car, why can't I do an annual oil burner maintenance and save 150 bucks?
  5. thephotohound

    thephotohound New Member

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    Velvet -

    I think it would be a great service to all of those on the forum if you were to take detailed step-by-step photographs of the entire process, include any pitfalls and shortcuts, and provide a description of all tools and techniques used. It's not like I have a Burnham oil burner that hasn't been serviced in two years and I'm too cheap to spend the $150... it's for the benefit of countless others... Thank you in advance (from them, of course).
  6. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Maybe next time (next fall).
  7. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    In our area, they will do all the normal stuff for $70 except brush and vac - then they try to sell you $300 more for a "extended" cleaning. I said no thanks and did it myself.

    Our local non-chain home improvement store had exactly the right kind of brush w/long taper - as long as I go in at the right angle, it runs right through the heat exchanger fingers and it's a remarkably easy job. While doing this, I kept a vaccum nozzle right over the heat exchanger to keep dust down.

    Once done, I closed up the top and vacuumed out the bottom - just be careful to not damage the ceramic target.

    Now that I have the right brush, I'll do it every year as it's at most a 15 minute job, and having watched them do the nozzle/filter this time, that also looks like something I'll cover myself next time. Frankly, I find it more convenient that scheduling an appointment and arranging to be at home for a service call as I can do it at my convenience.

    -Colin
  8. Rich M

    Rich M New Member

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    I hope I'm not hijacking this thread too much but -

    I skipped the service for my oil furnace this season (first time doing that) based on the fact that in previous years I would burn 1000+ gallons and last year was only around 100. Am I inviting disaster? This is a relatively new unit and I do run it a few times a week and everything seems normal. Will I be ok servicing every other year (It's a nearly $200 service call when I have it done)? I'm sure I could change the oil filter myself but I'm unsure how/what else needs to be done. It's a Patriot 80 Plus.
  9. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    I found it funny that when I called to have mine cleaned for first time in 3 years, they all wanted to charge more and couldn't comprehend that someone would only burn 100-200 gallons/year. I learned that the right answer is "yes, I get it cleaned every year" and then they come to do a "light cleaning" for less money unless you specifically ask to have them brush it out which they charge an obscene amount for.

    After 2+ years and about 500 gallons ,the guy commented it all looked to be in great shape. The service guy agreed it makes no sense to base it 100% on time if you hardly ever run it.

    -Colin
  10. Rich M

    Rich M New Member

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    Seems like common sense, thanks for confirming.
  11. BrownianHeatingTech

    BrownianHeatingTech Minister of Fire

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    Regarding the "yearly" cleaning, while some items are dependent on gallon usage, the oil filter at the tank should be changed yearly, as the sludge can build up even with no flow (sludge is created by algae, and will continue to grow under some circumstances). Oil filters are cheap.

    If you are reasonably handy, replace the old-type filter with a Gar-Ber spin-on filter head. Easier to change, and much better filtration. If you want to get fancy, keep the old filter and add the spin-on after it, for double filtration (old filter at tank, spin-on at heating appliance). If you do that, get the better Gar-Ber with the vacuum gauge and the mounting bracket; the bracket simplifies installation, and the gauge will let you know when to change the filters, rather than relying on time - just watch it with the system running.
    (Gar-Ber is one particular brand, but Westwood also makes a quality filter)
    The actual spin-on filters have a Fram equivalent, so you can get them locally, without going to the heating-supply store.

    Be careful working on the fuel filter at the tank. If the nipple going into the tank snaps, you can have a very large mess on your hands. Always use a backing wrench if you have to apply any torque to the filter (they can get tight over time). Never use Teflon tape on fuel oil fittings. It's a very bad thing. The tape can release strands when the pipe threads cut into it, which can destroy your oil pump. Not to mention that it keeps the joint loose, which is great for disassembly, but we don't want that oil line to disassemble itself... Use Gasoila or other pipe dope that is designed for fuel oil usage.

    Regarding the annual cleaning, there is a brush made for pin boilers. It's actually called a "Weil McLain brush" by most supply houses. It is a wire brush, and is flat, so it fits between the pins. Just be very careful near the back of the boiler, to protect the ceramic. Slide the brush down gently until you touch the top of the target, then mark it at that point, so you don't over-extend it. Bright spray paint works well, since it won't slide like a strip of tape.

    You want to clean it with the boiler warm, after it has run a few cycles. Don't do it in the middle of summer, with the boiler shut down, as it may have condensation mixed in with the soot, which ends up being like concrete.

    Also, clean the blower wheel in the burner, and make sure the air inlet slots (near the pump on Beckett and Carlin burners) are clean. Lint plugging up the air inlet is the leading cause of boilers running too rich and plugging with soot.

    The biggest problem with cleaning it yourself is that nozzles aren't exact. They have as much as 10% variance in fuel flow. When you replace the nozzle on an oil burner, the combustion needs to be re-adjusted with instruments. It might be right on, by dumb luck, but it can be running significantly rich or lean, if that nozzle isn't close to what the last one was.

    If you've already done the nozzle, the pump strainer, and the fuel filter, and brushed/vacuumed the heat exchanger, you can ask a service company to do a combustion test. Most companies I've dealt with have a set price they charge for coming out and doing that. If you tell them you want someone to check the combustion and look the system over for any possible repairs or improvements, they'll likely give you a better price in order to get a tech over there who may find something to sell you. If he makes a recommendation, think it over and see if it passes the BS test. It might be the "product of the week" from an unscrupulous company, or it may be an important repair/improvement that you should actually consider.

    The second biggest problem is the electrode setting. They are pretty sensitive, and proper adjustment is necessary for clean and reliable combustion. While you're at the heating supply store, buy an electrode gauge. If you have a Carlin burner, there are two different gauges - one for the EZ-1, and one for the older (99, 98, etc.) models. Tell them which model you have, so you can get the right one. If you have a Beckett burner, get their Z-gauge, as it will check the head distance and the nozzle gap, with one gauge. These gauges are all plastic, and should not be used with a hot burner. I mention this because I've seen experiences service techs do it. Just because you had the drawer assembly out to replace the nozzle, and it has cooled down, does not mean that the burner end cone will be cool...

    Joe
  12. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    You want to be careful handling the nozzle. Don't touch the tip.

    One trick a heating guy showed me was to clean the electrodes off with a small piece of fiberglass insulation.
  13. Rich M

    Rich M New Member

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    Wow, that's some wonderful information, thanks for taking the time to write that. It convinced me to leave the job for my service company, way over my head :^)
  14. fbelec

    fbelec Minister of Fire

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    that is a great way of looking at it rich. save your self some money buy cleaning it, but save the burner end to a tech. a good tech will also check the pump pressure if it is starting to lose pressure it's going to run different. time to replace the pump. with that in mind setting the electrodes if not set right could after a few runs not fire right away and cause a blow back. and a good blow back usually involves the insurance company and maybe the fire dept. not necessarily burning your house down, but blacking up your walls and ceiling
  15. newyorkone

    newyorkone New Member

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    Wow!!! How did you go from 1000 gallons to 100? Please share the details...was it a new boiler? new insulation? Thanks!

    Steve
  16. Rich M

    Rich M New Member

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    I installed a wood burning insert in the drafty old fireplace and burned 6 cord of hardwood.

    My oil furnace is just forced air, no boiler or hot water, so as long as I'm available to tend the stove the furnace doesn't come on. I set the thermostat at 60 so it does run if I'm gone for an extended period. Sometimes I use it to bring the house up to temp quickly in the morning too.
  17. n1st

    n1st New Member

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    Joe,

    Thanks for all the helpful info. The way I look at it, I don't have all the equipment to set it up perfectly, but I take more care and do more than the guys that have come out to clean it. They surely don't check the electrodes, pump pressure or even combustion. I'm lucky if they remove the stove pipe into the chimney.

    Can you tell me more about this flat brush... Is the shaft flat or the brissle configuration? Do you know the model or catalog #.
  18. BrownianHeatingTech

    BrownianHeatingTech Minister of Fire

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    I'd find someone else, other than whatever punks have been doing it.

    It looks like: http://www.millrose.com/brush_styles/m.htm

    Any decent HVAC place should have it. Not sure what the part number is, since the paper tags don't last long. Drop Mill/Rose an email asking for a Weil McLain boiler brush.

    Joe
  19. n1st

    n1st New Member

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    Joe,

    The Liner in my WM Gold is about $75. Mine disolved when water came down in thru my chimmeney. Some say it's not necessary. Do you think it's worth replacing (and if so, why?)?
  20. BrownianHeatingTech

    BrownianHeatingTech Minister of Fire

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    I presume you're talking about the target wall and the floor covering in the combustion chamber?

    If so, they act for two purposes. The first is to prevent erosion of the metal by the flame. This is particularly a problem in some of the lower-grade irons that get used in certain boilers.

    The second is to insulate the flame from the cold metal. While a boiler is "hot" by our standards, it's very cold to that oil flame. Edges of the flame that get cooled will have incomplete combustion, producing soot.

    $75 is pretty good for a liner kit. Just be careful removing the old material... use a shop vac (with a bag and a HEPA filter if you can) and wear a dust mask. It's basically artificial asbestos, and has some of the same dangers if not treated with respect. If the new target won't fit in, don't force it. You can use firm pressure, but be careful as they are delicate. If necessary, you can shave it a bit. Just have the vacuum running right there to catch the shavings as they come off, and try not to remove too much.

    The better kits will be shipped "wet," and the material is a lot more flexible that way.

    Joe
  21. n1st

    n1st New Member

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    Thanks Joe. You know your stuff.
  22. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    tru.dat
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