How to Tune Up an Oil Furnace

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Spring is a good time for an annual tune up.
Spring is a good time for an annual tune up. (Image: Royalty-free image)

Oil furnaces provide reliable heat in areas where oil is sold as a utility. In addition, oil heat is convenient for off-the-grid homes that store oil for heating purposes. New oil furnaces are highly efficient, but an annual tune up will keep them functioning at top performance. While you should hire a professional for major repairs or replacements, you can tune up your oil furnace annually and save money; here's how.

Things You'll Need

  • Vacuum
  • Soft clean rag
  • Oil filter
  • Filter gaskets
  • Wrenches (assorted sizes)
  • 10-weight motor oil
  • Cotton-tipped swabs
  • Kerosene
  • Wire brush
  • Old newspapers

Plan to tune up your oil furnace after its last use in the spring. This is the best time for routine maintenance, and if you need to call a professional, it will be easier to get one at this time.

Shut off the oil supply valve to your furnace and disconnect the electrical feed to the blower before you begin.

Start with the chimney and work your way towards the furnace. Clean the soot buildup from the stack by removing the bolts with a wrench and placing the bolts on the newspaper. Remove the control sensor by gently disconnecting the plug and set it aside. Use the wire brush with a soft rag attached to gently rub off excess soot. Wipe clean with another soft rag before replacing the control sensor and bolting the stack back into place.

Check the draft regulator, found on the outside of the stack and move it back and forth to ensure that it operates freely. If it sticks, wipe any accumulate soot away carefully with a cotton-tipped swab.

Replace the oil filter. Remove the filter housing by unscrewing the unit. Carefully pull the old filter from the housing and dispose of it according to the regulations in your community. Pry the old gaskets loose with your fingernail or a screwdriver. Wipe the housing clean and put a new filter and gasket on before reattaching it to the furnace.

Inspect the pump strainer (on some models) by removing the bolts that hold the cover on. Gently pry the inside strainer loose and soak it in kerosene to remove deposits. If the strainer shows excess wear or damage, consider replacing it; otherwise put the cleaned strainer back and replace the cover.

Clean the furnace blower by using the rod attachment of your vacuum and sucking out the dust bunnies that accumulated over the winter.

Squeeze a few drops of 10-weight motor oil on the blower motor assembly to ensure smooth movement.

Swap your old return-air filters for new ones at this time. If your return-air vents also supply an air conditioning system, you will need to replace them again in the fall before starting the furnace.

Tips & Warnings

  • Don’t attempt to adjust or clean the burner on your furnace. This part requires professional servicing.
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