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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Portland
    Posts
    43

    Ancient oil furnace, occasional ignition failure

    Greetings all -

    I've come to ask advice about my verrrrry old oil furnace. I don't know much about it other than it's labeled American Standard and is probably 40 years old at least.

    To start with, I plan to change the sucker out (probably for gas) this summer, so I'm not really worried about longevity.

    I did have it 'serviced' by a well-repped local house in the fall. I use the quotes because he wasn't down there too long...

    So... back in mid-November we had a real cold snap (cold for around here, down into the mid/high teens). Maybe by coincidence, the first real cold morning we woke up and the house felt pretty cold. Turns out the furnace had (apparently) failed to light and tripped off it's safety.

    So I pressed the reset and crossed my fingers. At least 20 seconds later, just as I had given up hope and went looking for the space heaters, it whooshed to life and leaked a fair bit of smoke in doing so.

    It then proceeded to work totally normally for a number of weeks. I should add that in the almost 7 years I've lived here, it has always behaved about the same, sometimes it fires instantly, sometimes it takes 5-10 seconds to light. I have no idea if that's "normal", but this was the first time it had tripped off for no apparent reason (such as running out of oil!).

    I hoped it was a fluke, but it happened again a few weeks ago, and then a third time this morning, which officially makes it a recurring phenomenon. For what it's worth the 2nd and 3rd time it didn't take quite so long to light or make nearly as much smoke.

    So now I come to you good folks for advice. I'm not entirely sure what I'm asking for other than theories on what exactly is happening... bearing in mind that I haven't actually observed it fail to fire, I'm just assuming that's what's happening... maybe it's the safety that's buggered? Could I be getting water or air in the (one-pipe) line from the (underground) tank? Air leaking in at the filter? It doesn't seem like it would be an issue with the igniter or gun since it's so intermittent... but what do I know?

    In case anyone's concerned, I'm not thinking of trying to fix it myself... just trying to get an idea what's going on.

    Thanks much for any input.

  2. #2
    it could be a number of things. first i'd like to ask if you have oil. when was the last time you had it cleaned? the nozzle, filter, or strainer could be dirty. another possibility could be a bad transformer or cad cell eye.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Athens GA
    Posts
    1,234
    Well it could be any of 12 differant things or more.
    Unless you like waking up to a cold house I would suggest that you get your burneer tuned up and reset with instraments.I would suggest that anybody that comes out and says he can set it up by eye be told to leave your house and never come back.
    next.
    Summer will be here a lot sooner than you would think.
    Now is the time to get a manuel J and manuel S and a manuel D done so that when you buy your new furnace and a/c that you will know what size to get.That is the very least you should do and nothing lesss than that will do you any good.
    Any contractor with a lap top can do these things in a few hours.You wouldn't even want to consider a contractor that isn't willing to devote at least this time to a system that you will have to live with for the next 20 years.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Myrtle Creek. Oregon
    Posts
    182

    Smile anciant oil furnace

    things to do when serviceing a oil burner.
    make sure you have oil, change the filter, replace the nozzle, with the correct size, don't try to clean the nozzle, clean the screen thats in the pump, clean and readjust the electrods, make sure the flue is clear.
    fire up the furnace, check the draft across the fire, check the oil pressure it should 100 psi. follow this procedure, and you should be good. good luck
    a stupid question is a question you wont to ask, but don't

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Athens GA
    Posts
    1,234
    Quote Originally Posted by cboe View Post
    things to do when serviceing a oil burner.
    make sure you have oil, change the filter, replace the nozzle, with the correct size, don't try to clean the nozzle, clean the screen thats in the pump, clean and readjust the electrods, make sure the flue is clear.
    fire up the furnace, check the draft across the fire, check the oil pressure it should 100 psi. follow this procedure, and you should be good. good luck
    I know you are trying to be helpful but by leaving styuff out you are deoing a great diservice..
    Tempature and smoke are just as important if not a little more so.Like I said instraments are needed.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Posts
    1,196
    You will need an oil burner tech's keen and practiced eye to sort this out for you..

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Portland
    Posts
    43
    Thanks for the replies guys.

    I should have mentioned, there's plenty of oil in the tank.

    I *did* mention, I had it serviced in the fall, and I would hope that he would have done everything on the list, but as I mentioned it didn't take too long so I wonder if he skipped some steps.

    Also thanks for the advice to start shopping now... great point.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    Madison WI
    Posts
    77
    sounds like the iqnitor or maybe transformer is the problem . If you don't have a hot spark . Look around for a tech that as done a lot of oil a new burner might get you through the winter

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Portland
    Posts
    43
    well at this point it's not a big deal... as long as I don't have to go down there and reset it every day or it fails to light even after the reset I think I will just carry on until it gets replaced.

    It seems like if the ignitor/transformer were the issue it would be more consistent, but who knows...

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Canada
    Posts
    256
    Quote Originally Posted by tadc View Post
    Greetings all -

    I've come to ask advice about my verrrrry old oil furnace. I don't know much about it other than it's labeled American Standard and is probably 40 years old at least.

    To start with, I plan to change the sucker out (probably for gas) this summer, so I'm not really worried about longevity.

    I did have it 'serviced' by a well-repped local house in the fall. I use the quotes because he wasn't down there too long...

    So... back in mid-November we had a real cold snap (cold for around here, down into the mid/high teens). Maybe by coincidence, the first real cold morning we woke up and the house felt pretty cold. Turns out the furnace had (apparently) failed to light and tripped off it's safety.

    So I pressed the reset and crossed my fingers. At least 20 seconds later, just as I had given up hope and went looking for the space heaters, it whooshed to life and leaked a fair bit of smoke in doing so.

    It then proceeded to work totally normally for a number of weeks. I should add that in the almost 7 years I've lived here, it has always behaved about the same, sometimes it fires instantly, sometimes it takes 5-10 seconds to light. I have no idea if that's "normal", but this was the first time it had tripped off for no apparent reason (such as running out of oil!).

    I hoped it was a fluke, but it happened again a few weeks ago, and then a third time this morning, which officially makes it a recurring phenomenon. For what it's worth the 2nd and 3rd time it didn't take quite so long to light or make nearly as much smoke.

    So now I come to you good folks for advice. I'm not entirely sure what I'm asking for other than theories on what exactly is happening... bearing in mind that I haven't actually observed it fail to fire, I'm just assuming that's what's happening... maybe it's the safety that's buggered? Could I be getting water or air in the (one-pipe) line from the (underground) tank? Air leaking in at the filter? It doesn't seem like it would be an issue with the igniter or gun since it's so intermittent... but what do I know?

    In case anyone's concerned, I'm not thinking of trying to fix it myself... just trying to get an idea what's going on.

    Thanks much for any input.
    Could be a lot things like for instance BUT not limited to these
    weak ignition trans
    dirty carboned up electrodes points or their porcelains tracking to ground or cracked porcelains(late lighting can even crack them worse)
    misadjusted electrodes or points
    nozzle gone bad and coke tree formed in combustion chamber
    ya da ya da "sounds like its lighting late"

    But get it fixed!!!!!! becasue the flue pipe could become dislodged(due to late lighting) off the breach or itself if not fastened and the cad cell would still see the flame(some models can happen) with the unit still running then a smoky place is the result with the taste of sulphur

    You don't mention which American Standard it is probabaly the tan coloured one with the 8184 primary cad cell relay?
    Has approximately a 20 second safety timing
    Not likely a stack, heat sensitive R816(A) protectorelay?

    Some of those American standards had a side mount allanson ignition transfromer with brass or steel buss preformed wire plugging onto the transformer
    Remember: Murphy's Law,
    Newtons Law of Gravity, Einsteins Theory of Relativity..then you won't go to far wrong.

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