Sensing Home Comfort Problems

Use Your Senses to Uncover Problems

home heating tipsEvery problem has a symptom, and frequently, it is accompanied by something you see, hear, smell or even feel.

Use the gift of your senses to uncover common problems you might encounter in your oil-heated home.

Why Icicles Form

If there are icicles hanging from your roof, this usually means that you’re losing heat through your attic. Here’s why.

Icicles form when a roof has “hot spots” (caused by escaping heat), which melts snow. The water then trickles to colder spots on the roof and freezes. The water that drips over the eaves turns into icicles.

Eventually, ice dams can form and water trapped behind these mounds of ice can seep into the home, resulting in costly repairs.

The solution for heat loss and potential water damage is to seal air leaks in your attic and then improve the insulation. These steps will lower your heating costs—and reduce cooling bills in the summer because your attic will retain less heat.

Finding the Cause of Common Odors

  • Mold and mildew smells. Foul smells can often be caused by stagnant water—the most common source for bad odors because it often turns to mold. Look for water leaks in the roof, foundation, around sinks and other piping. Besides correcting water leaks promptly, you can keep indoor air virtually odor-free with correctly sized equipment, constant airflow and air purification systems.
  • Fuel oil smells. If your heating oil system is working properly, you should never smell fuel oil. An oil smell could be caused by a leak, burner troubles, a heat exchanger failure or exhaust system problems. You should schedule service as soon as possible to correct this situation.
  • Smoky odors. If a fireplace or exhaust fan is running at the same time as your oil burner, this can result in a smoky odor because a backdraft is pulling flue gases through the exhaust system and into the home.

Strange Noises in the Night

Here are a few sounds you might hear and the possible cause. (Note: a correct diagnosis can only be made with an onsite visit by a service technician).

  • Banging, whistling, howling or the sound of rushing water in your pipes. These are common symptoms of air in the pipes, insufficient water flow or a build-up of sludge.
  • Booming or rumbling burner. It’s normal to hear a burner turn on, but if it makes a loud boom, also known as a “hard start,” the burner is not igniting properly. It needs to be serviced as soon as possible.
  • Straining sound from fuel pump. This means that there is a clog somewhere in the delivery system, for instance, in a filter or supply line.

Shivering in the Shower

If it takes longer to heat water than it used to, or the water doesn’t get as hot, these are strong signs that you are ready for a new water-heating unit. Other trouble signs include a slow leak from your tank or rust on the tank or in your tap water. (A water tank rusts from the inside out).

If you think your water heater is failing—the average water heater lasts anywhere from 7 to 13 years—please speak with your heating oil service provider about your options in oil-fired water heaters, including high-efficiency indirect oil water heaters.

Reach Out for Help

If you are experiencing problems or have questions about decreasing your energy use, reducing your heating costs or simply using energy around your home in smarter ways, make sure to contact your local heating oil company for advice.

You can also read about the benefits of having an oil-heated home by going here.