Oil Furnace question

My parents asked me if I knew what the Oil Company Technician who came to do our yearly checkup on our furnace meant when he said “It was getting thin and needs to be replaced” We have had the furnace 28 years and was told anything over 20 is extra because they don’t last past 20 that often.

Does anyone know what he might have meant by that?

The burner is wearing out. They typically are good for about 20 years.

Sounds like it’s time to start saving for a new furnace. It might not be cost-effective or all that energy-efficient to try replacing the just old burner alone. Step one would be to call some local heating shops and ask for estimates on repair or replacement.

Ahh so the burner wears out. It’s not a safty issue where the house can catch on fire if it gets too thin just the furnace will cease to work and we will freeze in the house unless we wear many layers.

As of now the (well last winter) the furnace was working just fine. My parents do have some calls out for quotes on replacing it but so far a few vendors said it might be hard to get anything to fit in the current “closet” the furnace is in

How does the furnace heat the home? Hot air or hot water?

There are quite a few modern European imports available that are extremely energy efficient and use very little space compared to the older dinosaurs.

When you say furnace, I assume that it is forced hot air and not water (which would usually be called a boiler)? If so:

His comment might also refer to the heat exchanger or the sidewalls of the furnace. In older furnaces, oil is burned in one chamber of the furnace (where the burner is located), and the combustion gases are exhausted through a chimney or a pipe through the side of the house. Another chamber has an air intake (either from the house or from outside), a fan, and a circulation duct that distributes hot air throughout the house. The two chambers are separated from one another by a heat exchanger; intake air that passes over this exchanger is warmed before being distributed.

Newer furnaces use many of the same features, but may have both intake and exhaust combined to increase efficiency.

It’s important to know that the combustion gases from the burner contain carbon monoxide. Sometimes furnaces are located in basements and the moist air can accelerate the rusting of the heat exchanger. If the heat exchanger is breached, instead of being exhausted to outside, CO can be distributed throughout the house with the warm air which can be fatal. You should verify if this is what the service technician meant. If it is the sidewalls that are getting thin, then CO may escape into the basement or living space through the sides of the furnace, which is still not a good thing.

So, yes, it probably is a safety issue.

A factor to consider is that a new furnace is going to be much more efficient than any furnace that is 28 years old. If you look at the rise in the cost of heating oil over the last couple of years and the likelihood that it will continue to rise, it may make economic sense to replace a 28 year old furnace even if it doesn’t present an immediate safety concern.

Summer is the time to do it.

The system is forced hot air. The furnace is located in a “closet” attached to the laundry room which is in the downstairs of our two story house

If you take the step to replace the furnace, I can recommend both an excellent installer and one to stay away from that should service your area.
I can also recommend a handful of top notch brands.
If you are replacing the furnace, it also might be the right time to see if Natural gas is available and if the Natural Gas company will give you rebates for switching to Natural Gas. When I was in Howell the Gas Company gave us a $1000 rebate.
We then added a gas Stove to replace the electric one. “Much rejoicing for my wife.”


Jim I’d appreciate any info you can provide on the installers. I believe my parents want to stay with Oil because he has always said he feels after with an oil furnace then a gas one.
Also it may be difficult for them to run gas to our house because it is on a slab.