Oil Fume Smell - brand new oil furnace

busacqMarch 9, 2014

In November we purchased a new oil furnace as a previous tech recommended we do so.as the furnace was 32 yrs old. we never had a problem with the old furnace but from day 1 we experienced an oil fume smell in the house Installed December 2013 we had the installing oil co come out roughly 5 times . Typically the techs say it is normal for a New Oil furnace to give off an odor for a yr or so. I know this is not true. Does anyone have any idea as to what the problem is?? They checked the flu and it is clean. The last tech moved a nozzle so it pointed down not flat & cleaned up a little oil. But that was 3 or 4 weeks ago and the smell is still present although not as bad. ANY IDEAS PLEASE?? New high efficiency system etc etc

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I do not know if an oil smell is "normal" with a new furnace, but I can share MY experience when I replaced my oil furnace and A/C with a heat pump and an oil furnace three years ago.

My wife and I could smell oil for 3-4 months - not severe and I never called for a return visit. It did stop on its own.

When I discussed it with the tech the following spring during the annual checkup and burner and filter change, the tech said it was "normal."

Again, I don't know. Just one small data point.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 3:18PM
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If the combustion air shutters are allowing too much air flow into the combustion chamber it can cause delayed ignition which usually results in oil fuel odors.

What make oil burner is it?
Many are mfg'ered for 3-gph capacity & yours may be set with a nozzle for .75 or .85-gph Rate.

The secondary shutters should be closed for 1-gph or less & the shutter on the end should be used to adjust the combustion air to the burner.

A fuel oil tech needs to do all the adjusting & testing!

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 6:41PM
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You should NOT smell "oil fumes" or fuel oil from a new furnace installation unless the tech spilled oil all over the place when changing out the furnaces - in which case it's still his fault.

Is this a power/direct vent or chimney vent? I don't recommend power/direct vent w/ oil, under many conditions oil exhaust has an odor and, if the home is leaky, can re-enter the home. If it's a chimney vent, be sure the stack is tall enough (disregard 10-3-2 rule) it should be 2-4' taller than the tallest portion of the home and not obstructed, thus giving good draft under all conditions. The baro needs to be set properly.

Also, if the electrodes, nozzle, fuel pressure, or air shutter isn't set properly (sometimes far too lean to prevent sooting by lazy techs) the burner may have rough, puffing starts w/ raw fuel smell.

Again, unless a direct/power vent w/ a leaky house, you should smell NOTHING from you oil furnace except for perhaps the first day or two after it's installed and brought up to temp for the first time. Get someone out there who knows what they're doing.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 7:21PM
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The unit is an Olsen HTLV-D with an ECM Motor. The nozzles are certified for multiple firing ratio's set from 89,000-140,000 btu It also has a 5" or 5 1/2 " Hepa Filter.
It is vented via the Chimney. This week we are having another Tech stop from the same company that sold us the system - But thanks to you guys I will have some ammunition if he tells me its normal..
Thanks for the amazing inputs any follow ups??

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 7:35PM
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I would want the Model 90D 89,200-BTU/Hr Output with the .75 nozzle; that will heat a fairly large home in very severe weather conditions.

However, you should have a load-calc performed!

Here is a link that might be useful: Free Whole House load-calc

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 8:40PM
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You may find that your heap filter is creating so much air flow restriction that you are getting to high a temp at the furnace. When the stat is satisfied and the blower turns off there may be enough residual heat that the temp builds up in your Beckett burner, heating the residual oil in the tubing inside the oil shut off or pump in the tray assembly. The heat expands the oil, the expansion pressure pushes oil out of the nozzle into the hot chamber which smokes and works it way out of the burner or the barometric damper and into the house.

Air filters MUST be considered and discussed at the point of design. So many times a homeowner will decide they need a really fine filter and it will completely screw up the air flow due to the restriction of air. Your tech should be able to test the static pressure in the duct system both on the supply side as well as the return both before and after the filter. That will tell the story

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 7:04PM
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"...from day 1 we experienced an oil fume smell in the house Installed December 2013 we had the installing oil co come out roughly 5 times . Typically the techs say it is normal for a New Oil furnace to give off an odor for a yr or so."

I think this is an example of the shrinking heating oil industry. You have techs who are not as experienced in doing a new installation properly as techs were 10 years ago.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 10:21AM
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At least 1 tech has been in the industry for 35 yrs & the others for over 8-20 yrs. The last tech discovered that the nozzle was not correctly positioned hence it did not drain properly (he found drops of oil) He corrected it and the smell was reduced but its still here. This week we have their top trouble shooter coming out . I will let you know his summation.
I would like to thank everyone for your scientific analysis (obviously its way over my head)
but I take good notes. Thanks again

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 2:22PM
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Are you sure it is a HEPA filter? Reason I ask is that companies like Aprilaire, Trion, Purolator and others make 5" pleated filters that are typically installed in household furnaces. Air filters are based upon a MERV number. the higher the MERV number the tighter the filter. If memory serves me correctly most furnaces and duct systems can handle about an 8. Higher numbers require careful planning on fan speed and general duct system lay-out.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 4:07PM
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I just checked it. The filter package indicates the following
The original Trion Air Bear Supreme made in USA
16" x 25" x 5" The original tech's worked on the sheet metal for the fit.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 8:31PM
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That is a good filter. It is not a HEPA. The Duomatic Olsen is a good furnace. They have been around for a long time. I'll be interested in what the senior tech comes up with. There is no way that you should have odors other than those that come from burning off the oils from the raw material, meaning the metal of the furnace.

Another thing to consider is the condition of your chimney. I'd be interested to hear what they say about that.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 12:36AM
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Unless the chimney is too short to provide proper draft, collapsed, or obstructed, the "condition" is irrelevant. I would hope that the obvious would have been detected before this furnace was installed.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 7:16AM
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I would like to thank everyone for there thoughtful comments.
Today another Senior Tech stopped by (the sales rep also a former tech arranged this for us)
He walked in and immediately I envisioned Sherlock Holmes just by his demeanor.
We went into the basement and unlike the previous 4 or 5 techs who spent hours on this rather then opening up the oil furnace He simply looked at the large pipe that extends from the furnace to the chimney. Then like Sherlock he rubbed his ring finger over it near the furnace. He smiled & said I know what the problem is. (I thought he was joking) After showing me a little dust. He pointed out a little discoloration on the pipe . He then said occasionally the heat is going in the wrong direction.. To prove this he connected a Draft Meter. When the system is on (flame on) its negative but when the fan goes on it is positive (looking for air)
We went up stairs and once again he smiled. We have chairs and stuff in front of the outgoing vents and he moved them a few inches & then said problem solved. He said the newer powerful systems simply need to circulate more air. both in and out.
We went back to the basement with his Draft Regulator and it tested perfect.
IT only took this gentleman less then a minute to resolve a problem that we had since November or December -A problem that most of the other techs downplayed etc The chairs and stuff were there with the old less powerful furnace without any issues. .
again thanks for your input.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 2:10PM
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