This article is about something I keep hearing about and most of what I’m hearing is really upsetting to a lot of people, creating more urban legends and really messing things up for some of us. In addition, the people screaming the most about this stuff just shouldn’t be because I really believe most of it is just a lot of ruminations. I know, it’s tough out there for all heating men, and overall it’s only getting harder to be an oil man, but do we really need to throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water?
My gripe is about OEM Burner Specifications. I keep getting questions about just how valid these OEM Setup Specifications are supposed to be and if they are the bottom line. What happens if you change the nozzle or orifice sizes, gas and oil pump pressures, head settings and last, but not least, something that will have to be changed 99 percent of the time; the primary, secondary and tertiary air settings?
In my opinion, the OEM Specifications have been made way too, too much of. Most are not even close for many of the applications I see and hear about. I truly feel that they have been totally overhyped to death and in this day and age have just escalated to becoming a poor fitting screen door in a submarine. I’ve been on too many jobs and seen too many varying ambient and environmental conditions to consider these of any real value beyond an initial fire and start parameter. Quite simply, on too many jobs totally useless when used as ‘the gospel.” Some days I wish they had never been created.
One of the biggest problems out there for oil burners is fuel quality and the diversity of heating oil in the marketplace as you move from area to area. Of the three major brands, one oil burner company builds and tests in the Midwest, another is in Canada and finally one in New England. What is the true Btu content, composition and stability of the fuel they are using?
Years ago no one gave you much info to setup any burner after initial installation. On oil they might have given you a nozzle cone type (H, SH, SS, S) and an angle range (45 to 90 degree) for that nozzle. Most gave you a minimum draft requirement and that left you to do the rest correctly! Many also gave you chamber dimensions and a Useable Tube Length (UTL) and that is important. Beyond that the OEMs relied on a ‘qualified person” to get it right. With gas you got an orifice size and a recommended minimum/maximum gas pressure, an ‘ideal” draft condition and that was about it.
You took your knowledge, your education and your expertise, added in a ruler, a good set of pump gauges for oil and a gas gauge for gas, a flame mirror and your combustion test kit and you setup a burner so that it ran correctly, not so that it ran by a bunch of irrelevant numbers developed in a laboratory. In other words burners were setup by ‘experts,” not book reading, autocratic, robotic burnermen so afraid of a lawsuit that they can’t go to the bathroom without the written instructions for flushing a toilet.
I know there are fuel quality issues and that they are increasing. They have for 80 years. We need to face those issues, fix them or fight to make them right. Many in this industry asked for much of this fuel quality disaster with oil, so to those of you who you asked for it, live with it. To the rest of you, my sympathies. Some are still trying to get by with one 50 micron filter when many of us are using one or two 5 micron filters in series and have since the 1980s. You have to face reality, fuel quality is deplorable and in my opinion only going to get worse. Many have fought for the changes in heating oil and yet are surprised by the fuel stability issues. Promoters of the bio-fuels have continued to flip-flop on the issue of solvency, but trust me this stuff breaks everything loose, everything! When oil goes into a residential oil tank looking great like cherry Kool-Aid