Forum Thread

Oil burner issues

28,554 3,726 February 13, 2018 at 12:41 PM
Here in the NE I am forced to live with HHO (home heating oil #2, aka diesel) for heat *and* hot water (HWH). My home is a bit of an oddball as it's the only one I've seen (of dozens) that uses HHO for hot water. These units operate just like a furnace would (in terms of the oil firing); for whatever reason they are very expensive when compared with electric and even gas units - like $3k for a new setup, but are supposedly the cadillac of water heating for residences in terms of recovery. So, I'd really like to not have to replace it.

Anyway, I have a furnace and HWH in parallel with an oil tank. The HWH, over say the past couple of months, has had an odd issue where every 2 - 3 days or so, it will lock out (due to lack of ignition). Pressing the red reset button and it fires up, *every time*.

In the past I've had to replace the igniter on both the furnace and HWH, but they both had a very predictable failure pattern, and failed about the same time (considering they were the same vintage, makes sense). [FWIW, the failure pattern was sporadic lockouts that became progressively closer together/more frequent over about 2 weeks, to the point where I'd have to reset it a few times in succession to get the burner to fire. Both cases the igniter was bad]

Anyway, I had another igniter laying around (they are about $45 brand new), so I swapped it for the hell of it. That "worked" for say about 7-10 days IIRC. ("worked" meaning I didn't need to reset the unit in that time)

Then I decided to change the CAD cell, as some simple multimeter testing made me think that when detecting light, the resistance was too high (like 800+ ohms), vs. the usual 300-400 ohms. It's a cheap part, about $35 @ HD.

That didn't work (kept getting the lockouts), so I decided to change the primary. The original primary was obsoleted (house built in 2004 so it's 14 yo or so), being replaced by a new "universal" unit that has an LED display that gives unit status, trouble codes, etc. It was pretty easy to wire, and I did that on 12/4. On 12/7 it got locked out again (happened to be while I was away on business, try walking DW through resetting it over the phone!). She reset it, as usual it fired right up, and hasn't had an issue since, almost a week ago.

The new primary actually gives some debugging info and listed the error as the previous cycle ignition time was too long, or something to that effect.

Of course to actually debug the issue, I'd need to be by the unit when it's causing issues, but as I said it *always* fires immediately when I recognize an issue (no HW) and reset it.

FWIW, this past summer was also the first time since we've owned the house (bought in 2010) that the HWH has been serviced. We have the furnace serviced every summer, and I assumed they were also taking care of the HWH as it's right next to the furnace but apparently not. That service was in August 2017, so not directly causative with the issues I've been facing.

So I've replaced the primary, the igniter and the cad cell. The HWH shares the same oil/filter/piping as the furnace, which hasn't had any issues, so I don't suspect the oil or filter/supply is a problem. All that's left are the motor, oil pump, and electrodes. The nozzle was changed at the last service. I haven't taken out the electrode/nozzle assembly to see if it's fouled or not.

Technical details:
HWH - Brock IB500 - IB32R/IB32O/IB50O
Serviced 8/2017 with 0.75-80W nozzle [FWIW the badge on the HWH itself says to use a 0.65-80W nozzle)
Old primary - Honeywell R8184G1393
New Primary - Honeywell R7284U1004
Motor - Beckett 21805 KCP111ES002BX
Burner - Beckett AFG
Thermostat ("aquastat") - Honeywell L4006G1022
Igniter - Beckett 51771U

6 Comments

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#2
I'm no expert when it comes to heating hvac or heating oil systems. Omitting words like control from "primary control" doesn't make it easier to follow what you posted.

I've generally just seen a single boiler that provides heat the heating system and water via a tank with a heat exchanger.

Quote from Dr. J
:
The new primary actually gives some debugging info and listed the error as the previous cycle ignition time was too long, or something to that effect.
To me that would point to the aquastat or an installation/setup issue with the universal control. idk.
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#3
Not sure if this applies since I am a newb but the Burnham or Beckett boiler I have was tripping. The cad was slightly dirty but I also cleaned the contact springs and ignitor rods with some alcohol since I have not had my boiler service and it has been running. Maybe try cleaning the ignitor rods and springs?
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Quote from MrTvguy
:
Not sure if this applies since I am a newb but the Burnham or Beckett boiler I have was tripping. The cad was slightly dirty but I also cleaned the contact springs and ignitor rods with some alcohol since I have not had my boiler service and it has been running. Maybe try cleaning the ignitor rods and springs?

springs are new.... they come with the igniter. The coils..... I've been meaning to take them out just to make sure the ends aren't sooted, and that the electrode ends are properly placed - from what I've read online it's about 1/8" separation, 1/8" from the end of the nozzle, and about 1/2" from the nozzle vertically. Problem is, I need to disconnect the fuel line for that and I haven't gotten to it yet.

The unit has been behaving more.... tripped out 3 times since 2/5, so maybe 4-5 days between hard lockouts. Still always fires right up on reset.
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#5
maybe the flue is dirty too.
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Quote from MrTvguy
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maybe the flue is dirty too.
Well I have the system inspected/serviced yearly. AFAIK it's not standard practice anywhere to clean furnace flues (but I do have a service that sweeps my fireplace flue annually).

When you get down to it, the system is pretty simple, actually. I just don't want to keep replacing parts for no real reason. My next suspect would be the fuel pump itself - perhaps its cavitating occasionally? The "upstream" oil should be fine as I said the fuel is share with a furnace that sits right beside it. I can't imagine that a motor could really be bad.
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Quote from Dr. J
:
Well I have the system inspected/serviced yearly. AFAIK it's not standard practice anywhere to clean furnace flues (but I do have a service that sweeps my fireplace flue annually).

When you get down to it, the system is pretty simple, actually. I just don't want to keep replacing parts for no real reason. My next suspect would be the fuel pump itself - perhaps its cavitating occasionally? The "upstream" oil should be fine as I said the fuel is share with a furnace that sits right beside it. I can't imagine that a motor could really be bad.
Flue might be the wrong word. What do they vacuum out when servicing a burner? Burn box? I'm no expert but I am gonna rip mine apart when it warms up
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