Find the answers to your questions about oil heating systems, water heaters, oil tanks, air conditioning, HVAC service, and more.
If you have lost your heat, or if your central air condition system isn’t keeping your house cool, there may be something you can do to fix the problem yourself. This could save you time and the cost of a service call. Try one of our troubleshooting modules or look for the topic below. If none of these suggestions works for your situation, please contact us directly and we’ll dispatch a technician to fix the problem.
Troubleshooting Your HVAC Equipment
- Q: What should I do if my heating system doesn’t work?
- Q: How does a furnace work?
- Q: How does a furnace differ from a boiler?
- Q: What is a cracked heat exchanger?
- Q: On mild winter days my furnace runs in short blasts and my home alternates from being too hot to being too cold. How can I fix this?
- Q: I hear a lot of talk about high-efficiency heating systems. How do you determine a heating system’s efficiency?
- Q: Is there anything you can do about the smell of heating oil?
- Q: At what temperature should I set my thermostat?
- Q: Should I install a programmable thermostat?
- Q: What is an indirect-fired water heater?
- Q: Why do oil-fired water heaters save money and prevent running out of hot water?
- Q: What can I do to maintain my water heater?
HVAC Repairs, Installation & Service
- Q: Do you provide 24-hour service?
- Q: Do you use your own installation specialists or do you hire subcontractors?
- Q: How long does it take to get an estimate on a new heating system?
- Q: Approximately how long does it take you to complete an installation of a heating system?
- Q: Do you offer service plans?
- Q: Is annual maintenance necessary?
- Q: How do I know what size heating or air conditioning system to install?
- Q: I’ve been buying my oil from a dealer in the area who sells cheap oil but they don’t do equipment service. If I lose my heat, can you help me?
Replace or Repair?
Heating Oil Tanks
- Q: Are underground oil tanks subject to federal regulations?
- Q: What options do I have for testing my underground tank?
- Q: Can I replace my old underground storage tank with a new one?
- Q: Where should I put my new above ground tank?
- Q: What does SEER stand for?
- Q: Is it OK to “mix and match” air conditioning components of different efficiencies? Just because my compressor is on its way out, does it mean I have to replace my indoor unit as well?
- Q: My home has a forced-air furnace but no air conditioning. Can I add central air?
- Q. My home does NOT have forced-air heating, and, therefore, there is no ductwork. Can I still get central air conditioning?
- Q: What is Puron™, and why should I be concerned about choosing this coolant for my air conditioning system?
- Q: Why does it cost so much to run an air conditioning system?
- Q: Do I really need a tune-up for my air conditioner?
A: Before you call or email us, go through the troubleshooting steps below to make sure a service call is really needed. It will save you the cost and inconvenience of an unnecessary service visit, and have our technicians working where they are most needed.
- Make sure the thermostat is set above room temperature or in the “heat” position. If it’s a digital thermostat and the display screen is blank, you either need new batteries or the power supply has been interrupted.
- Check for a tripped circuit breaker or a blown fuse.
- Look to see if the power switch for your heating system is turned on. Sometimes, these get turned off accidentally.
- Check your oil tank to see if you have heating fuel.
- If you have an oil heating system, press the reset button on the burner relay — ONCE ONLY. If your system doesn’t start after you push the reset button the first time, do not push it again. Pushing this button more than once can cause your heating system to “flood.” Too much oil will get pumped into the combustion chamber, resulting in a lengthy and costly repair.
If at this point you still don’t get heat, call us immediately.
When a service technician arrives, let him know everything you did to the system before he begins working on it. You should also let him know if anything out of the ordinary happened, like an unusual noise, a strange smell or smoke.
In many cases, this will help the technician find the problem—and get your heat back on again—faster.
A: Heat is generated by burning oil or propane inside the furnace. This happens in the combustion chamber, which gets very hot. Air absorbs this heat in the furnace’s heat exchanger. The blower then sends the heated air through a system of ducts, and warm air circulates through the home.
A: The basic heating principle is the same. The difference is that a boiler heats water instead of air. A circulator pumps the hot water through a system of pipes, distributing the water to radiators or baseboards throughout the home. Some boilers are designed to create steam, which circulates by means of a system of pipes. The pipes are connected to steam radiators throughout the home.
A: The heat exchanger is the main component of your furnace. If the heat exchanger has a crack or a rust hole, combustion fumes (including carbon monoxide) can contaminate the air in your home. This is a potentially deadly situation and should be addressed IMMEDIATELY. A cracked heat exchanger usually requires replacing the entire furnace. If you suspect that you might have a cracked heat exchanger, or a carbon monoxide problem caused by your furnace, turn the system off immediately and contact us right away for service.
A: Installing a new furnace with a variable speed motor is a good solution. These “smart” motors automatically adjust the volume and speed of air based on your home’s temperature requirements. There will be fewer on/off cycles, smaller temperature swings, consistent even heat, and lower fuel bills.
A: There are two indicators of efficiency:
1. Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE). All heating equipment manufactured after 1980 has been required to have a label indicating its AFUE. The AFUE ratio is a measurement of a heating system’s seasonal efficiency, taking into account how well the system performs over an entire season of starts and stops. Modern heating systems can range in efficiency from 81% to 95%. If your system’s AFUE is lower than this range, talk to us about your replacement options.
2. Combustion efficiency. When we tune up your heating system, we do a combustion efficiency test that tells us how well your burner is converting oil into heat. If your combustion efficiency is below 78, you may want to evaluate your upgrade options, which could include an oil burner retrofit. A new burner will burn the fuel/air mixture in a cleaner, more controlled manner, resulting in lower heating costs and less air pollution going out of your chimney.
A: Yes! As long as your heating system is working properly, you should not smell oil in your home. If you do, it means something is WRONG! An oil smell could come from a leak, combustion or burner troubles, heat exchanger failure or exhaust system problems. Call us and we’ll come over to correct the problem. If you have a leak, we’ll remove the oil and help get the smell out of your home. If you ever smell oil coming from your vents, call us immediately. That’s an indication of a faulty furnace that may be releasing dangerous gases in your home.
A: Different people feel comfortable at different temperatures. Pay less attention to the number on the thermostat display (or the position of the temperature indicator on a non-digital display) and more attention to how comfortable the room feels to you. When you feel comfortable, check the setting. That’s the right temperature for you.
A: Absolutely. Programmable thermostats are especially useful for people who are away from home at regular intervals. They allow for customized comfort settings around the clock, and they can cut heating and cooling costs by as much as 10%!
A: In an indirect-fired water heating system, the domestic water is heated by hot water from the boiler. A typical design is a water tank with coiled pipes inside. These coiled pipes connect to your boiler. Hot water from the boiler passes through the coil, which heats up the domestic water surrounding it.
A: Heating oil produces the hottest flame of any home heating fuel. This means an oil-fired water heater heats water fast. How fast? On average, oil-fired units heat water three times faster than gas heaters and five times faster than electric units.
A: You’ll get longer life from your water heater and prevent breakdowns if you follow these simple guidelines:
- Every three months, drain a gallon of water from the tank. Do it every month if you have hard water. This reduces the amount of sediment collecting in the bottom of the tank, which can make the burner or heating coils work harder.
- Every year have your water heater inspected by a service technician to keep it in peak operating condition.
HVAC Repairs, Installation & Service
A: Absolutely! Every day of the year!
A: We use only our own certified, factory-trained technicians. We don’t hire subcontractors. Our heating and cooling technicians are the most highly trained in the industry, and we believe that using subcontractors would be taking a step down. Your comfort and our reputation are too important to put in anyone else’s hands.
A: Usually it’s only a matter of a couple of days. We can come out to your home at your convenience during the day or in the evening. To recommend the right size system for you, we do a lot of calculations. One thing we look at is heat loss, or the amount of heat your home loses in the winter. This is just one way we figure how much Btu “power” your home’s heating system needs.
A: Most of our installations are done in a day and a half though every job is different and some take longer than others.
A: Yes. The Value Plan covers a multitude of things that typically go wrong with a heating system and includes annual tune-ups to maximize performance and longevity. Our Total Comfort Plan includes everything in the Value Plan plus coverage for many more parts and services.
We also offer a TankSure® tank protection plan.
For more information about our service plans see our Service page.
A: Yes! Heating and air conditioning systems operate for months on end and need regular maintenance—just like your car. Without the regular maintenance of a tune-up, you lose efficiency and money.
Annual tune-ups keep your system working at peak efficiency and give our technicians a chance to catch minor problems and signs of wear before they turn into major trouble down the road. An annual tune-up also protects your family by helping prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
In addition, regular maintenance can extend the life of your equipment.
A: The experts at Burch Oil Company will be happy to come to your home and calculate your heating and cooling “loads.” They will then be able to recommend a system that is the correct size and model to meet your home’s requirements. Please call us for more details.
A: As much as we would like to help, our first priority is to take care of our own customers. Providing our customers with fast, high-quality service (especially in an emergency) is what we are all about. We can’t do this if our technicians are chasing calls at all points on the compass to take care of our competitors’ customers because our competitors can’t. If you buy your fuel from us, however, it will create an obligation on our part to provide you with quality service.
Replace or Repair?
A: If you’re like many people, the frustration of an equipment breakdown can make it tempting to solve the problem with a quick fix that doesn’t cost you a lot of money. That way you can get on with your busy life in relative comfort. BUT, while a quick fix may be the least expensive solution in the short run, it may not give you the most value in the long run.
It’s a fact of life: Older systems are more likely to break down. That means a bigger chance of emergency service calls and repairs—and paying for them. Worse, a breakdown could mean extensive damage to your home (no heat on a cold winter day can allow your pipes to freeze).
There’s also an ongoing cost factor. Repairing an old system can only restore it to something less than its original level of efficiency. After you’ve recovered from the shock of the repair bill and the frustration of a system breakdown, you’ll still be battling high energy bills. What’s more, even a system that doesn’t break down loses efficiency as it ages. A 15-year-old heating system doesn’t operate anywhere near the efficiency it had when it was new!
Plus, when compared with modern, technologically advanced equipment, 15-year-old heating and cooling systems are considered inefficient by today’s standards. The average homeowner can save up to 40% on heating and cooling costs with new high-efficiency equipment.
Here are some rules of thumb to help you decide whether to replace or repair.
Replace your heating system if:
- it is more than 10 years old and only in average condition.
- it does not keep you as comfortable as you would like.
- it breaks down frequently.
- it is burning too much fuel.
- you will be living in your home for at least five more years.
Repair your heating system if:
- it is less than 10 years old and in good condition.
- your heating and cooling costs have been acceptable.
- you’re pleased with your level of comfort.
- its performance is reliable.
- you will be moving within the next five years.
- it is still under warranty.
Heating Oil Tanks
A: No. At this time there are no federal laws governing active, underground, residential heating oil tanks.
A: There are several test methods used today. Computerized sonic or ultrasound methods are gaining popularity because they don’t put stress on the tank. Pressure or vacuum tests are reliable, but they can put stress on the tank; if improperly performed, they can also cause leaks. Another method is to test the soil around the tank. Soil borings are noninvasive and, in our area, tend to be less expensive than other test methods. Burch Oil Company offers TankSure® an EPA-approved ultrasonic oil tank testing method.
A: Yes. However, the National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) recommends that homeowners replace underground tanks with new, leak-proof above ground models. Even though modern underground tanks are made of double-walled plastic and fiberglass that won’t corrode, there’s still a chance leaks can develop in the piping if they are not properly installed. Either way, check with your local municipality for regulations regarding the replacement and/or decommissioning of underground tanks.
A: Because heating oil is biodegradable and safe to store inside the home, you can put your new leak-proof tank in a basement, closet or garage. You can also put it outside, near your house or garage or anywhere in your yard.
A: SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. It is used to indicate the efficiency of air conditioning systems. The higher the SEER number, the more cooling you get per unit of energy. As of January 2006, only units with a SEER of 13 or higher are allowed to be sold in the United States. Today’s cooling units are up to 40% more efficient than those made as recently as 10 years ago.
A: It’s not a good idea to mix and match A/C components with different SEER values. You might save money initially by replacing only your outdoor unit with one of the new mandated 13 or higher SEER compressors and hooking it up to your 10 or 12 SEER system. However, it just doesn’t make sense in the long run. It’s like buying a brand-new stereo set and hooking it up to your old, antiquated speakers. You’re just not going to get your money’s worth in terms of comfort and efficiency. You’re better off paying a little extra up front because you’ll be saving a lot more over time.
At Burch Oil, we have the expertise to help you choose a system with the right efficiency for your home.
A: You bet! We can mount a cooling coil on top of the furnace and install a condensing unit outside. For a no-obligation evaluation, click here.
A: Absolutely! Today, ductless air conditioning systems offer a simple option for quiet and efficient cooling even if your home doesn’t have ductwork.
Ductless a/c systems consist of one or more indor units (for distributing cooled air through the home), which are linked to an outdor compressor with flexible refrigeration lines. These flexible “hoses” are positioned inside your walls and ceilings with a minimum inconvenience. Ductless systems cost a little more than conventional cooling systems, but not when you add in the extra cost of installing ductwork.
A: You may not realize it, but most of the air conditioning systems in use today are an endangered species. Soon, the refrigerant we know as Freon (R-22) will no longer be used in a/c systems because it destroys the Earth’s protective ozone layer in the atmosphere. (Ozone protects us from harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun.) As of January 2006, cooling system manufacturers were no longer able to make systems that use R-22. By 2010 the production of R-22 will no longer be permitted. In 1991 Allied Signal developed the first environmentally friendly coolant known as R-410A. Several companies have since trademarked their own version of R-410A, including Carrier (Puron®), Honeywell (Genetron® AZ20) and Dupont (Suva® 410A). Years of commercial use and testing have proven that Puron® and the other R-410A products are superior in performance and energy efficiency to Freon.
A: Air conditioning systems run on electricity and electricity is the most expensive energy source. Converting fuels like coal or natural gas into electricity is inherently inefficient. What’s more, much of the original electricity generated at the power plant is lost during transmission over power lines. So, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, by the time it reaches your home, electricity is only 33% efficient on average.
A: An air conditioning tune-up and inspection will help catch service problems before they get you hot under the collar. Many breakdowns occur on the hottest day of the year — because that’s when your A/C is under the most stress. And because a tune-up aids your system’s efficiency, , it can help lower your electric bills.