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Old 02-22-2008, 03:54 AM   #1
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Oil Furnace won't start all the time, Help!

Hi all, I don't have much knowledge when it comes to furnaces so I'll put this very plainly....

My oil furnace isn't kicking on sometimes. It's been happening for the past week, but not constantly. Maybe once or twice a day. My husband will go and hit the reset button once, on the furnace and it will kick on and work properly for hours.

We're in New England and it's cold here. And we have the temp set at 68-70. and it will continue to keep the heat at that temp. But then it will occasionally just shut off and the reset button will need to be hit to make it work again.

Does anyone know why this would happen? And if he could fix it himself? He's pretty knowledgible when it comes to this stuff, once he knows what the problem is.

Thank you all!


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Old 02-22-2008, 06:19 AM   #2
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Ayuh,.... When was the last time the furnace was Serviced,+ Cleaned,..??..

It sounds like it Needs it,.... Now.....


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Old 02-22-2008, 07:24 AM   #3
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Hi, think of the reset light as the "Check Engine" light in a car. It's telling you there's a problem but it can't tell you where to look.

Before I go on, please remember, NEVER hit the reset button more than once if the unit does not run through an entire cycle of heater your house. If the problem is not fuel related, hitting the reset can deliver fuel into the chamber for up to a minute (perhaps longer if the safety is bad). Fuel oil does not evaporate quickly like gasoline, so it sits there. Every time you hit the reset more is fed. Once ignited, that extra fuel will vaporize and give you one huge fireball inside the furnace, probably shaking the house and possibly damaging the heater beyond repair (warped or cracked heat exchanger).

That being said, as far as the combustion side is concerned, there's not a lot a homeowner can do. If so inclined, your husband can change the nozzle and fuel filter. They are inexpensive and should be changed annually anyway. Do NOT adjust the electrodes if you don't know what you're doing.

Most fuel pumps now-a-days have a bleeder valve attached, it looks like the bleeder for car brakes. If accessible, put a can or something to catch a stream of oil. Just open the valve very slightly. Start the furnace (push the reset if needed), and see if you have a solid stream of oil. If so, close the valve, then turn off the heater (holding the reset button in should stop the heater until you let go). If no oil, change the filter (make sure you turn the tank valve OFF first). If still no oil, the oil line can be clogged, or if you have an outside tank, the lines may be freezing during severe weather if oil is untreated.

Ignition problems, leave to the professionals. Setting the gap on electrodes is not as simple as a spark plug, it's 3 dimensional and takes a trained eye or gauges and some know-how, not to mention the tens of thousands of volts coming from the transformer. They can be tested using a heavy screwdriver but I won't be the one explaining how to do it for safety reasons.

The point to remember is many things can make an oil heater go off on safety, not the least being the safety control going bad even when everything else is working properly. Hopefully, someone else will chime in with other things to check, I have to go shovel snow! Good luck.

PS. If your furnace hasn't been professionally serviced for a year or two, you'll come out ahead to just have the proper maintenance performed by a tech. Servicing will help maintain the efficiency and safety of the equipment which ultimately costs less than fixing things later, IMO.

(disclaimer: don't hold me responsible if anything goes wrong, because something can always go wrong)

Last edited by c5pilot; 02-22-2008 at 07:46 PM.
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