How to Clean the Electrodes on an Oil Furnace

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Cleaning the electrodes on an oil furnace should be part of an annual maintenance routine. Although the electrodes may not be thought of when changing the air filters or installing a new fuel filter, the ignition electrodes are just as important. By following a basic process, you can clean the electrodes on an oil furnace as part of the yearly schedule maintenance.

Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver: Philips or slotted
  • Clean cloth
  • Cleaning solvent (acetone)

Remove all electrical power from the oil-burning furnace before executing any type of maintenance on the unit. This can be performed by either switching “off” the main circuit breaker that feeds power to the furnace or by turning “off” the service switch that is part of the control circuitry for the oil furnace. You may have to consult the manufacturer's directions for the location of the control power switch since the switch may be installed in different locations.

Use the proper screwdriver and remove the outer cover of the oil furnace that conceals the fan and oil pump assembly. The ignition electrode assembly will be located on the front and top of the “long snout” of the oil burner. Dependent on the make and model of the oil furnace, the electrodes will generally come in two distinct shapes. One type is a double-pin type, and the other is a hook or J-shaped type of electrode.

Gently wipe down the electrode assembly, which includes the white-colored porcelain insulators, with the clean cloth. Do not apply heavy pressure to the electrode assembly since it can cause the insulators to crack. Generally, a small layer of soot may be covering the white porcelain and the electrode tips.

Apply a small amount of the acetone solvent to the cloth and gently wipe the tips of the electrodes. Use only a small amount of the solvent for cleaning the tips. Allow the solvent to fully evaporate before replacing any covers that you may have removed.

Replace all the covers on the oil furnace unit and re-energize the electrical power. Test the unit by adjusting the thermostat and allowing the furnace to run a heating cycle.

Tips & Warnings

  • Follow all manufacturer's recommended procedures when servicing any type of furnace. Carefully inspect the insulator porcelain of the electrodes as you clean the tips. If the porcelain is cracked or damaged in any way, they must be replaced.

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