DIY Home Maintenance on a Fuel Oil Boiler

The term "fuel oil boiler" refers to the central portion of an oil-fired heating system. A boiler heats water to make steam or hot water for heating purposes. Hot water flows through pipes to baseboard radiators or radiant-type heating systems located under or within floors. Steam from a boiler travels through pipes to steam radiators in specific locations throughout the residence. Attend to maintenance chores on your fuel oil burner at least once a year. You can do many of these tasks yourself and have a licensed burner technician take care of the more critical adjustments.

Replace the oil filter at least once a year. Loosen the nut on the filter cover with an adjustable wrench and slide the casing away from the gasket. Remove the filter with your hand and wrap it in newspaper for disposal. Slip the replacement filter into the casing and attach it to the gasket. Tighten the nut on top of the filter cover to secure the unit in place.

Clean the burner motor. Use a vacuum cleaner to clear away dust and debris from the motor's housing. Use a paper towel to wipe off excess grease or oil from the exterior of the motor. Excessive build-up of dust, debris, grease and oil shorten the life of the burner motor.

Examine the burner's mounting plate and look for smudges or spotting that indicates the presence of a leak. Leaks alter the fuel-to-air mixture allowing smoke to enter the room. Call a technician if you find evidence of a leak.

Check the boiler's master switch and cable. Use a flashlight and look for any cable breaks or frayed connections. Open your breaker box and check for tripped circuit breakers. In addition, check the reset button located on the top of the burner motor. A tripped reset button or a tripped circuit breaker indicates an electrical problem and you should contact an oil burner technician.

Examine the exhaust stack and look for signs of corrosion, bad connections or surface damage. A damaged exhaust stack can cause a fire. Replace the exhaust stack if signs of damage exist.

Vacuum the dust and dirt that cling around the draft regulator. Particles of dust or other foreign matter impede the action of the draft regulator. Use a paper towel and wipe off greasy soot from the draft regulator's plate. Make sure to clean the backside of the plate.

Check for leaks, under, over, and around your fuel storage tank. Illuminate these areas with your flashlight. If you notice oil stains, puddles or a very strong odour of fuel oil around your tank, contact your heating contractor.

Sweep the floor of your boiler room. An oil burner can suck up dust and dirt carried in the air during the process of combustion. This can cause a sooty and insufficient burn.

Remove the covers from your room thermostats. Use a soft brush to wipe away accumulated dust and lint that may interfere with the accuracy of their operation. Reattach the covers after cleaning.

Check your chimney smoke. Black smoke indicates poor burner combustion. Have your heating contractor service your burner when you notice black smoke.


Conduct your annual boiler maintenance check the same time every year. That will make it easier to remember.


Dispose of oil-contaminated materials at your nearest hazardous waste recycling centre.

Things You'll Need

  • Adjustable wrench
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Newspaper
  • Flash light
  • Broom
  • Soft brush
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About the Author

Truell Bliss retired from the restaurant and hospitality industry after almost a lifetime of service. An officer in the American Culinary Federation, he earned his dietary manager certification and progressed into positions as chef instructor, chef manager, dining services operations manager and finally, director of food service.