Oil Heater Emergency Troubleshooting

Posted on: 8 January 2019

If you have an oil heating system that suddenly stops working in the dead of winter, then there is a chance that you will need to purchase a replacement heater at some point. While this is true, there are a few emergency troubleshooting tasks that you can complete first. Keep reading to learn what they are so your home can be warm and toasty once again.

Investigate The Line

For safety purposes, the vast majority of home heating oil supply tanks are held outside the home. The tank feeds a small amount of oil to the boiler, and a small diameter fuel line is used for this purpose. This line is often exposed to the cold outdoor temperatures, and depending on how cold it gets near your home, the fuel can start to gel. 

Gelling is when fuel thinks significantly. And, if there is water in your tank, this water can freeze if it works its way down the fuel line. When gelled fuel and oil meet in the line, then it can easily become clogged. 

It is not easy to tell if your fuel line is clogged or sluggish with slow-moving fuel oil. However, you can use heat against the line to see if your boiler starts working again. While it is generally safe to use a butane torch against the steel line, it is best to leave this sort of thing to the professionals. As an inexperienced homeowner, try using heat tape instead. The type of tape that is sold for use around water supply lines will work well to heat up the oil.

If you want the heat tape to works as quickly as possible, try wrapping some pipe insulation around the tape and the oil line. Wait about 60 minutes, and then try to fire the boiler once again.

Empty Out The Filter

Sometimes your oil boiler will not fire during the coldest days of the year due to the accumulation of solidified wax and debris around your oil filter. As the fuel oil start to thicken, this wax pulls out of the heating oil and can clog the fuel filter.

You can remove the media from the filter to clean it out, or you can purchase a new one and connect it to your heating system. Since the nuts on the filter are typically tightened strongly, it is often easier to simply remove the filter and clean it than to attach a brand new casing.

Remove the twist top from the top of the filter, and reach in to grab the soft filter. You want to gently swirl it around in some clean heating oil to remove debris. Replace the filter afterward, and try your heater. 

If none of these strategies work, you will need to contact a heating system replacement and repair company.