Strong Oil Smell in House?


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Old 03-23-13, 11:00 PM
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Strong Oil Smell in House?

Hi all,

I have oil burner with a water boiler / baseboard heating. Over the past couple months, we have noticed a strong oil smell in the house, and it isn't consistent with it being only when the burner or system runs.

We had our a heating service tech come out to figure it out but he found nothing wrong. He checked for leaks and everything and found nothing. He said the flame was good, and the pump wasn't delivering too much oil to the flame.

Any other things I should check or things that would cause this?

It also doesn't necessary smell like oil only around the burner, which IS on the first floor of the house.

Thoughts would be great.
 
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Old 03-24-13, 01:01 AM
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You don't mention anything about the tank. Is there a tank in the basement ?
 
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Old 03-24-13, 10:04 AM
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Sorry. No, the tank is outside, above ground. The house used to have a buried tank but was replaced last year with one above ground. The lines from the old tank were removed.
 
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Old 03-24-13, 12:43 PM
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I wonder if a gas/hydrocarbon detector used by gas companies to detect leaks could be used. Wander through the house and try to find where the meter gets the strongest reading.
 
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Old 03-24-13, 12:57 PM
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There really are only two places the oil smell can come from. The oil burner or the tank/lines.

The tank is outside so that pretty much eliminates that unless there is a leak there. The line(s) go from the tank to the burner. Pretty easy to check for and spot leaks.

That leaves the oil burner itself. Either a temporary misfire or an issue in the flue.
Since you smell it all around the house that leaves the flue as a primary issue.

Has the flue been inspected recently ?
Is it an older house where the flue itself could be cracked ?
 
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Old 03-24-13, 01:28 PM
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To help narrow down the possible source of the odor, can you tell us if the smell is that of raw fuel or exhaust? Did the tech do any combustion testing or just look at the flame?
 
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Old 03-24-13, 07:52 PM
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Hi all,

I can't pinpoint the smell exactly, but I'd say it is exhaust. It can't be a lot though.

I don't believe he did any testing.

I never hear the burner misfire or try to ignite after a failed try. It seems to start up correctly every time. I also believe the burner I have has all kinds of safety's to prevent this sort of thing. I know when we run the tank dry and refill, it won't ignite until I bleed the oil. Haven't had to do that in a while. I'm pretty sure there are no leaks, and the guy that was here left paper towels under the burner and around the floor to indicate leaks and nothing has shown up.

If the flue is cracked (it's aluminum, I believe), where would this exhaust go? It appears to go straight into the wall, up, and outside. I can try taping the seams of the parts to the wall with foil tape as there are 3-4 pieces and they don't seem to be airtight.
 
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Old 03-24-13, 08:20 PM
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The line between the boiler and the wall is steel. The part of the flue I was referring to was from that point to where it exits from the roof. Older chimneys may not have a clay type flue liner or crumbling masonry.

Where the steel line enters the chiney/flue should be sealed with fire proof mastic. Tape is not an acceptable form of seal on masonry.
 
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Old 03-24-13, 09:53 PM
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Well, I can't actually see where the steel enters the flue. All I see is the steel go into the wall, unless it is possible that there is a steel cap over the flue. I was referring to the 3-4 pieces of steel before they hit the wall. They are joined together with just self-tapping screws, but it appears the pieces could have small air gaps between them.

Could wind be kicking exhaust back in somehow? I imagine if this were the case, it would be kind of smokey in here, and it is not.
 
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Old 03-25-13, 08:27 AM
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It is possible to get a "down draft" in the chimney under certain conditions. This could indeed cause odors & the likelyhood of you detecting any smoke or haze in the house is next to nil.
Something which can & often does cause odors is something we call "after drip".
This is a small amount of fuel dripping into the chamber after the burner shuts down. It can be hard to catch & may not happen with each run.
 
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Old 03-25-13, 08:48 AM
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What is the solution to "after drip"? Or how to do you diagnose/find/fix it?
 
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Old 03-25-13, 10:06 AM
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After drip can be caused by several things but first we must determine if it is actually happening. This is best done by observing the combustion chamber at & for 15-30 seconds after the burner shuts down. Depends upon what kind of boiler you have as to how difficult this is, if it can be done at all. What make & model is the boiler? A good frontal picture would help.
 
 

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