While there are many different situations that can cause your heating system to operate poorly–or not work at all—we’ll keep the focus of this blog on four common problems that occur a lot. Fortunately, these are usually easy and inexpensive to fix—or to avoid altogether.
Please note that in most cases, these tips apply to both heating oil furnaces and heating oil boilers. Not sure which type of heating system you have? Read Boiler vs. Furnace: What’s The Difference?
If your heat stops working and you’ve confirmed that there isn’t a power outage in your neighborhood, your next step should be to check for a tripped circuit breaker or a blown fuse. You also should check to see if the power switches to your boiler or furnace have been accidentally turned off
If you find that power switches for your heating system have been turned off by mistake, simply turn the electrical switches back to the “on” position and your problem may be solved. If only all solutions were that easy!
Typically, there is a power switch located on the side of the heating system or on a wall nearby. In addition, farther away, often at the top of the basement stairs, there is an emergency switch with a red cover plate that is labeled. People will sometimes turn this switch off by mistake, thinking it is the power switch for the basement light.
If your power switches are not the problem, check your circuit breaker box to see if all circuit switches are still in the “on” position. Flipping the proper switch to on again may be all you need to get your system running again.
However, please keep this in mind: a circuit breaker rarely ever trips for no reason. If this happens once and never happens again, it may be just a fluke. But if this happens more than once, contact a heating oil service professional, as this could indicate a serious problem.
Many instances of heating systems not working can be traced to the thermostat, whose job it is to send a signal to your oil boiler or oil furnace to call for heat. But this signal may be interrupted if the wiring of the thermostat has begun to deteriorate. A build-up of dust inside your thermostat is another common reason why your thermostat is not operating correctly. Another thing to look for are weak batteries in the thermostat.
If you have a warm-air oil furnace, change or clean the filter on a regular basis during the heating season. Dust and dirt are the natural enemies of your furnace; a dirty filter compromises efficiency and can even cause your furnace to shut down.
If you have a steam oil boiler, check the water gauge periodically. Low water levels are a leading cause for boiler shutdowns. Steam boilers should also be flushed when the water in the gauge looks rusty. Contact your Massachusetts heating oil company if you’re not familiar with this procedure. You can also watch this quick video.
If you have a hot water oil boiler, make sure the water level of the boiler is at half-full. The boiler’s automatic filling system, controlled by the pressure-reducing valve, should maintain the proper water level at 12 to 15 psi of pressure.
And of course, you should always schedule preventive maintenance from your heating oil service provider so you don’t have to worry about your furnace or boiler breaking down during the winter. Annual service will also improve efficiency, helping you to conserve fuel.
If you call to order your fuel, make sure to check your heating oil tank regularly—especially in the middle of a cold snap. You should not let your oil tank fall below the ¼ mark. To prevent run-outs, see if your heating oil company offers automatic delivery service, which is designed to prevent run-outs.
If you have questions or any problems with your heating oil system, please reach out to your Massachusetts heating oil service provider.