What Is a Prime and Start?

oil furnaceAnyone using oil furnaces for heat has been feeling the pinch as oil and gas prices rocket recently – almost doubling in the past two years. The average person can’t be blamed for trying to be frugal and squeeze every drop of use out of their heating oil.

Unfortunately, this can lead to letting the furnace run completely out of oil, creating the need to prime and start your furnace. (First of all, make sure you have an oil furnace as this is the only type of furnace that this procedure works on – not on gas furnaces.)

Why Won’t My Oil Furnace Fire Up?

Usually, this happens because the last of the oil in the tank has been used.

Air and sludge from the empty oil tank get pulled into the fuel lines as they empty out, blocking them, and must then be cleared. Clearing these lines is what is referred to as “priming” the pump.

How Long Does It Take to Prime an Oil Furnace?

Priming an oil furnace doesn’t take very long if you know what you’re doing – only about five to ten minutes if you have the tools and are accustomed to performing furnace maintenance. However, doing this yourself could affect your furnace warranty. Professional service is quick and safe.

How Do You Prime and Restart an Oil Furnace After Running Out of Fuel?

You can perform this procedure at home if you are fairly handy. Usually, all you need in most cases are either a 7/16-inch or 3/8-inch wrench, and a container for the oil that you drain from the system.

Please be aware that this is a job for those fairly experienced with “doing it yourself”. If you have any doubts or concerns, get in touch and let our staff of professionals handle it.

  1. Shut off power to the furnace. If you do not see an off switch, turn off the power at the circuit breaker.
  2. Find the bleeder valve on your fuel pump. It is similar to a bleeder valve on your car’s brake system. When you face the fuel pump, the bleeder valve is usually located on the side of the pump at the four o’clock position. If the bleeder valve is not obviously in the four o’clock spot, take a look on the front of the fuel pump. It usually looks like a hex nut.
  3. Catch the fuel with a container beneath the bleeder valve and use a fairly large one, so it does not overflow. Use a wrench to loosen the valve (usually a 7/16- or 3/8-inch wrench will fit).
  4. Switch on the power to the furnace. Air and fuel will sputter from the valve, so be prepared for possible splashing where it exits the bleeder valve.
  5. Look for the red reset button to restart the furnace and press it. Fuel will begin to pump through the line. Do not hit “reset” more than twice – Hitting that button pumps oil into the burner chamber, where it can build up if you have no ignition. When the furnace does start, the results can be explosive. If the button won’t reset, or if it pops up again rapidly, it’s time to call a professional repair service, like Tragar Express.
  6. Leave the valve open until you have a steady stream of fuel coming out. Close the valve, and the furnace should switch on automatically. Repeat this process if the furnace does not start. Sometimes up to five or six attempts may be needed before the furnace fires up.
  7. Pour any captured fuel back into your oil furnace fuel tank.

For a more detailed look at the process, including visual aids, check out this step-by-step walkthrough on WikiHow. If you encounter any snags or issues, call a professional. It is always better safe than sorry!

Tragar Express Can Help with Heating Problems

If you need assistance with your oil furnace or any other HVAC needs, the professionals at Tragar Express a can answer all your questions and provide estimates. If you’re in need of home heating oil, we offer the best prices available for COD oil delivery in Suffolk and Nassau Counties. To schedule a delivery, contact us online or call us to get started!