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Hello All,

I am new to the inspector's journal. This is my first post.

This week I will be inspecting a oil/wood combination boiler. This is all the details I have at this time. Does anyone have any inspection tips for these systems? or any links to information?

More questions. The oil tank is empty. The home owner plans on getting kerosene to light the furnace before I get there. I advised him to order oil, but he is not interested in my suggestions. Are there any hazards to anyone or to equipment? Will the flame burn differently?

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Hi,

Well, he can use it if he doesn't blow himself sky high. He'll need to add it at the tank where he'll be well clear of the unit, 'cuz the fumes are highly flammable. Kerosene that's refined for use in oil burners is typically dyed red so that it's easily distinguishable. As long as the burners are firing ok it'll be fine. However, if the thing doesn't fire and douses the combustion chamber with wet fuel, and then he tries to burn it off by doing something like toss a match in there, it could get dicey.

Do you know what brand combo it is?

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Originally posted by travismoshier

Hello All,

I am new to the inspector's journal. This is my first post.

This week I will be inspecting a oil/wood combination boiler. This is all the details I have at this time. Does anyone have any inspection tips for these systems? or any links to information?

More questions. The oil tank is empty. The home owner plans on getting kerosene to light the furnace before I get there. I advised him to order oil, but he is not interested in my suggestions. Are there any hazards to anyone or to equipment? Will the flame burn differently?

I've only see a few but each was built like a tank. Evaluate the wood side as you would a wood stove. Evaluate the oil side the same as any other oil burner. The rest of the system is like any other hydronic boiler.

The kerosene will be a little more spritely than #2 heating oil. The danger, as Mike described, is that, if the oil doesn't ignite right away, any delayed ignition will be lively.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Originally posted by kurt

Question from the guy that's only seen one oil burner in his life......

Doesn't kerosene have to be aerosol'd/atomized to ignite? Why would it ignite just "laying there" on the burners?

If you just throw a match into a pail of kerosene, the match will go out. If you spray the kerosene into a refractory pot in an enclosed area, the evaporating kerosene creates fumes that can ignite. It's not just kerosene. The same thing happens with #2, though to a lesser degree. It's a classic homeowner blunder. He tries to ignite his furnace or boiler for the first time in the fall and, because he was too cheap to have it serviced, the burner fails to ignite. So the unit shuts itself down. The homeowner pushes the little red button and tries again, and again, and again. Finally when the thing decides to ignite, there's so much oil residue in the combustion chamber that he gets a mini-explosion. Homeowners have to learn not to push the red button.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Hi Kurt,

Yeah, it does have to be aerosol'd (is that a Kurt word - kurd). However, let's say that the igniter doesn't work and a bunch of kerosene gets sprayed into the chamber and everything is saturated. Now you've got fumes wafting around and kerosene fumes are more volatile than fuel oil fumes - way more. All it takes is a spark and she go BOOM!

I remember a funny story a few years ago where some fella decided to get some grease stains out of his pants with kerosene. He rubbed it into his pants and then popped them in the washing machine and hit the switch. A minute or so later when one of the little switching gizmos in the top of the washing machine kicked in the washing machine blew all to hell.

You could never do that with fuel oil, it'd just lie there, look up at you and snicker and say, "No way, sucka!"*

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

* Speaking figuratively, Walter, don't blow a cork.

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It won't, but the large volume of vapor that accumulates in the cumbustion chamber as it evaporates will. Ever see a salamander shoot a fire ball when it took a few extra seconds to light? Kinda the same but inside a closed combustion chamber. The sawmill I worked at right out of school used offroad diesel instead of kerosene, and a fire ball could be expected about the third or fourth time you tried to light it, loads of fun in room full of sawdust[:-dev3]

Tom

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Travis,

There are times on this job when it's wiser to hand off the baton to someone who's more experienced and more knowledgable. This may be one of those times.

I'm not a large fan of deferring to others, but your clients will likely understand and appreciate it if you tell them the system should be checked out by a boiler-certified HVAC contractor.

If you decide to hang out on this forum for a while, you'll be amazed by the breadth of knowledge possessed by many of the regulars. I see references to explosions in Tom, Mike and Jim's posts. To me, that may be reason enough to defer to a specialist if you don't feel you have sufficient training to check out the boiler you described.

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I guess we have seen/inspected a couple thousand oil burners. Kerosene is not an option for all the above reasons and a couple dozen more. I would be a little hesitant to list all, but here are a couple: You don't know the nozzle pattern, size or age.

You don't know the electrode gap nor configuration.

You don't know what residue is in the pot.

You don't know if it is a one or two line system.

You don't know the condition of filter nor type.

Kerosene will ignite differently, burn different, pressurize differently, leak differently, pass thru filters at a different volume, etc..

Shoot, the atmospheric damper will even be affected.

Even if it works, it only tells you to go buy a lottery ticket - 'cause you are damn lucky today!

Some would consider me a "cowboy", but I would have no part of a potential buyer dumping anything into an empty tank.

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Typical heating oil is #2

Diesel is just another name for #1. It's a little more refined, but not all that different.

I've seen dozens of homes where people burn diesel in a regular-ass oil fired system without consequence.

Diesel is more expensive, though, so you'd need a good reason to do it. I think the only times I've seen people use diesel instead of heating oil is when the tank is outside and above ground. #2 oil will congeal and stop flowing at about 10 degrees F. The vast majority of oil tanks are in basements in NE.

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Around here we have winter blends (mandated) of all grades and differences in color and composition.

I am talking about kerosene. I have even known folks to pour a little white gas or campstove fuel into their oil tank to give it a little "zip" and clean the nozzle!

At one time I owned dozens of steam/high pressure cleaners for oil field work that were all fired with fuel oil. The guys experienced more fireballs than my insurance carrier was willing to cover.

Second bottom line: if you do not understand how the system works and the laws of physics, don't fool with it.

BTW, does anyone remember the old slinger style oil burners? or pot style? or wick style? or tube generator style?

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Originally posted by Les

BTW, does anyone remember the old slinger style oil burners? or pot style? or wick style? or tube generator style?

OK, Les,

I'm putting my foot down; we discuss home inspection issues here, there will not be any discussion of ancient Asian sex techniques on this forum. [:-censore

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Originally posted by hausdok

Hi Kurt,

Yeah, it does have to be aerosol'd (is that a Kurt word - kurd). However, let's say that the igniter doesn't work and a bunch of kerosene gets sprayed into the chamber and everything is saturated. Now you've got fumes wafting around and kerosene fumes are more volatile than fuel oil fumes - way more. All it takes is a spark and she go BOOM!

I remember a funny story a few years ago where some fella decided to get some grease stains out of his pants with kerosene. He rubbed it into his pants and then popped them in the washing machine and hit the switch. A minute or so later when one of the little switching gizmos in the top of the washing machine kicked in the washing machine blew all to hell.

You could never do that with fuel oil, it'd just lie there, look up at you and snicker and say, "No way, sucka!"*

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

* Speaking figuratively, Walter, don't blow a cork.

Blow a cork? Me? Sucka is a word to me. And I admire Kurt's coming up with aerosol'd. Makes perfect sense in this context.

While I've gotcha: A good friend of mine's father has a coal mine. Some years back, after looking around his mine, the fellow took off his coveralls and dropped them into a tub of gasoline -- to get the coal out.

Well, his wife dropped those gasolined coveralls into the washing machine and washed them. Later, when she opened the lid, the lid switch made a little spark, which blew her out of the laundry room and burned off her eyebrows.

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