HVAC Hacks: Tips for Novices and New Homeowners

Common Problems With Oil-Burning Furnaces

You rely on your oil-burning furnace to provide reliable heating to your home. However, oil-burning furnaces are not infallible and could have problems. This can be a major inconvenience in the middle of the winter when you need it most. Fortunately, a good residential furnace technician can fix most common oil furnace problems. Here are some signs you have an oil furnace problem and when you should call a technician for residential furnace repair.

Strange Noises

Oil-burning furnaces are notorious for making odd sounds. Most of the time, these sounds are normal and indicate your furnace is working correctly. However, a change in your furnace's normal sounds may mean you have a problem. Some of the troublesome sounds you may hear include:

  • Rattling
  • Whistling
  • Grinding
  • Screeching

All of these sounds mean there is a problem with your unit the fuel lines. Some of these sounds may only indicate minor issues, like blocked filters. Others could mean the need for a more complex repair, like a worn belt or bad motor.


Smoke from your furnace is a serious problem. It often indicates something is blocked, such as a chimney or nozzle. Smoke can also be a sign of bad gaskets around inspection doors and other areas. If your unit is visibly smoking, shut off your furnace until a professional looks at it. It could be a potential health hazard.

Odd Smells

Like smoke, any odd smells, like a burning smell, may indicate blockages. It could also mean the burners in need of adjustment. Odors can also mean you have a cracked heat exchanger. A clogged or dirty filter can also cause bad smells. Some odd smells are normal when you first start up your furnace for the season but should go away once you have run the furnace a few times.

Increased Oil Consumption

When your furnace suddenly starts using a lot of oil, it's a sign that something is wrong within the system. Your furnace could be working harder because heat is escaping through leaky ducts. A dirty nozzle can also cause your furnace to use up more oil than normal. Blower motors in need of lubrication may be another culprit. In many cases, you just need to adjust your habits to reduce your home's heat loss.

Oil-burning furnaces are fairly reliable and rarely break down. However, they do need regular maintenance and checkups, preferably before winter. If your oil-burning furnace is not working like it used to, turn it off and call a residential furnace repair technician for help.