Tune-Up Time


I know the first day of Spring has come and gone, but I’m not sure I believe it because, like many, I still see snow surrounding my house. But that’s life in New England!

Many companies are still making deliveries and handling the everyday service issues, while at the same time trying to come up with quotes needed to replace the heating equipment that just made it through the winter.

However, we all know that once we reach the months of April and May it’s time to start scheduling annual tune-ups or cleanings as some call it.

For the most part, these are dictated by some type of annual service contract. I also realize that scheduling tune-ups can be just as difficult as scheduling the long list of service calls during the heating season. One reason is that once the students are out of school, it’s like an evacuation drill. Everyone seems to be headed to Disney World or some other faraway place.

With all the above said, I often wonder, just how well are we really doing when it comes to servicing the equipment? The reason I wonder is that I periodically hear that boilers, nozzles, pump strainers and tank filters are found to be plugged. I also know that the discovery of plugged components is often made in cases where a C.O.D customer has decided to switch to a full-service company. Still, I have seen for myself tune-ups that were not done properly.


Perhaps some of you have found filters, nozzles and pump strainers that have never been replaced, even though the unit appeared to have been, as it’s called, “brushed and vacuumed.” To me this is a sign of unprofessional service to the customer who has paid for a contract and often pays a higher price for oil. (I also know that there are many old oil tanks loaded with sludge in need of replacement that can contribute to the plugged nozzle, filter and strainers).

Getting back to the tune-up, I also wonder if the combustion testing procedures are being conducted correctly. To me this is the most important part of any properly performed tune-up. This test assures the homeowner that the system is operating safely and at peak efficiency. Important aspects of a tune-up include checking on carbon monoxide, conducting a smoke test on fuel oil-fired equipment, and evaluating excess air, stack temperature, and draft. I’m grateful for the electronic combustion testing instruments that are available but remember that they also require recalibration. Even the old wet kits require servicing to maintain accuracy. And keep in mind that all equipment has different required ranges of CO, draft, smoke, and the like. When testing equipment, technicians should follow the literature provided by the manufacturer.

Combustion readings vary for atmospheric gas-fired burners, gas-powered burners and oil-fired burners. Here are some examples:


                                       Atmospheric-Fired Burners

Oxygen (02)               7% – 9%

Stack Temp.              325 to 500 degrees

Draft                         -.02 to.04 inches of Water Column

Carbon Monoxide    400 Parts per million (FA)


Gas-Fired Power Burners

Oxygen (02)               3-6%

Stack Temp.               275-500 Degrees

Draft                           -.02 to Water Column Over-fire

-.02 to -.04 Water Column Stack

Carbon Monoxide      400 Parts per million (FA)


Oil-Fired Burners

Oxygen (02)                4 to 7 %

Stack Temp.                325 to 600 Degrees

Draft                            -.02 to Water Column Over- Fire

-.04 to .06 Water Column Stack

Carbon Monoxide      400 Parts per million (FA

Smoke                           0 to trace


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