If you have recently moved into a home with a heating and air conditioning system that uses heating oil, then you may not understand exactly how to perform maintenance on the boiler. This is understandable, and it is wise to speak with an HVAC professional who can walk you through some of the most basic tasks. While this is true, there are some things that you need to be aware of so you can identify issues before they become problematic. One of the most common problems you will run into is a fuel filter that becomes clogged. Keep reading to learn why the filter clogs and also to find out some signs that the issue has developed.
Why Does The Fuel Filter Clog?
Most people have heating oil tanks that sit outside their homes. These tanks will feed the fuel oil through a small line. The oil will then move through the fuel filter, into the fuel pump, and then out a spray nozzle. The oil is then ignited and this creates the flames that heat your home. The fuel filter is the part of the system that removes the water and debris that have entered the fuel tank and have mixed with the heating oil. It also removes the built up wax that forms when the oil becomes cold.
Under normal circumstances, the fuel filter will only need to remove a small bit of water, debris, and wax as the fuel is fed through the system. However, debris can build quite quickly if the oil tank is old, if it has a hole, or if rust has started to develop on the inside.
In essence, the fuel filter is like a large sponge that allows the fluid to flow through while the solid matter is trapped. As the sponge fills with debris, less and less of the solid matter can be held by the sponge. Some of the solids will then make their way through the system. The fuel pump does have a small strainer attached to it to collect any debris that makes its way through the system, but this part can clog quite easily as well. If solids make their way past the filter and the strainer, then the fuel spray nozzle can become clogged and the system will no longer work. In this case, the filter, strainer, and the nozzle will all need to be cleaned or replaced.
What Are The Signs Of A Clog?
While the majority of fuel filters need to replaced only once a year at either the end or the beginning of the heating season, you may need to replace the filter in the middle of the season if you notice some signs that the filter has clogged. There are a number of signs to look for that include a boiler that is running hard. For example, if the furnace does not turn on quickly and seems to rumble and stall as it starts, then this is a sign that the fuel filter is not allowing a good volume of oil to pass through it.
Also, if you notice that the heating system releases some darker-colored smoke through your chimney, then this is an indication that the filter is allowing some water to move from the filter to the spray nozzle. This happens when the filter is full of debris and water and cannot hold any more material.
If your heating oil system cycles off and you need to manually start it at least a few times a week, then this a sign that the filter is allowing some debris to move to the sprayer. A small clog or a temporary clog can cause this problem and keep the system from getting the quantity of oil it needs. Without a good volume of oil, the system stops running.
While it is fairly easy to change the fuel filter, it is wise to seek the assistance of an HVAC professional. This individual can help you to understand how making the change so you can exchange the filter the next time around.