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Written on: March 28, 2018

Sensing Home Comfort Problems

Shamus the dog

Every problem has a symptom, and frequently it is accompanied by something you see, hear, smell or even feel. Follow along as Shamus, the dogged detective, uses his enhanced senses to uncover common problems you might encounter at your oil-heated home.

Feeling a chill in your shower?

Does it takes longer to heat water than it used to, or does it feel as if the water doesn’t get as hot? These are strong signs that you are ready for a new unit. Other trouble signs include a slow leak from your tank or rust on the tank or in your tap water. (A water tank rusts from the inside out.)

If you think your water heater is failing — the average water heater lasts anywhere from 7 to 13 years — then please speak with us about your options in oil-fired water heaters.

Oil-fired water heating systems mean low-cost access to virtually unlimited amounts of hot water. That’s because their “recovery rate” is as high as 120 gallons per hour, versus a rate of about 40 gallons per hour for a standard electric water heater. (Recovery rate measures how many gallons of water can be heated in an hour.)

This means plenty of hot water for the whole family — something that less efficient gas and electric water heaters cannot provide.

Shamus the dog

Take the indirect approach

Many of our customers now use their boilers not only to heat their homes, but to produce hot water for showers, hot tubs, washing machines, dishwashers — you name it. And they get it virtually free in the winter.

It’s called an indirect-fired water heater, and if you have a boiler, it can really be a phenomenal option.

Any time your boiler is heating your home, your indirect water heater works for free. A traditional stand-alone water heater has to use gas or electricity to keep that water hot. And that’s a huge waste of money.

If you have a gas or electric water heater that is 10 years old or older, start checking out an indirect — and less expensive — approach to heating your water.

Seeing icicles?

Shamus the dog

If there are icicles hanging from your roof, then you could be facing a double whammy. First, there’s the safety risk of their falling. Second, icicles usually mean that you’re losing heat through your attic. Icicles form when a roof has “hot spots” (caused by escaping heat), that melt snow. The water trickles to colder spots on the roof and freezes. The water that drips over the eaves turns into icicles.

Eventually, mounds of ice can form and water trapped behind these ice dams can seep into your home, resulting in costly repairs.

The solution for heat loss and potential water damage is to seal air leaks in your attic and then improve the insulation. These steps will lower your heating costs — and reduce cooling bills in the summer because your attic will retain less heat.

What’s that noise?

Shamus the dog

Here are a few sounds and their possible causes. (Note: A correct diagnosis can only be made with an on-site visit by a service technician.)

Banging, whistling, howling or the sound of rushing water in your pipes. These are common symptoms of air in the pipes, insufficient water flow or a buildup of sludge.

Booming or rumbling burner. It’s normal to hear a burner “kick on,” but if it makes a loud boom, also known as a “hard start,” the burner is not igniting properly. It needs to be serviced as soon as possible.

Straining sound from fuel pump. This means that there is a clog somewhere in the delivery system— for instance, in a filter or a supply line.

What’s that funky smell?

Shamus the dog

Well, it could be the dog, but it’s probably caused by stagnant water — the most common source of bad odors because it often turns to mold. Look for water leaks in the roof, the foundation, or around sinks and other piping. Besides correcting water leaks promptly, you can keep indoor air virtually odor-free with correctly sized equipment, constant airflow and air purification systems.

Other problems to sniff out

Oil odors. If your system is working properly, you should never smell fuel oil. An oil smell could be caused by a leak, burner troubles, a heat exchanger failure or exhaust system problems. You should schedule service as soon as possible to correct this situation.

Smoky odors when your burner is operating. If a fireplace or exhaust fan is running at the same time as your oil burner, a smoky odor can result because a backdraft is pulling flue gases through the exhaust system and into your home.

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