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Getting rid of oil smell

SO I have a bit of a big problem with a house I plan to remodel. The entire house smells of heating oil. The two oil tanks are in a "closet" in the back room, mud room area. The concrete just outside the doors appears to be stained with oil, as well as the concrete under the tanks. There was a leak in the line running between the two tanks that the previous owners put cans under; the leak as since been fixed but that didn't fix the smell, obviously. The smell is pretty strong and annoying throughout the house. I don't really wanna start on the remodeling until this issue is taken care of, don't want the smell stuck in new stuff!! Earlier in the year I had to buy some oil and the oil guy looked at the tanks and didn't express much concern other than that they are old, nor did the boiler repair guy. The boiler is basically new so there's no problems there. The problem is I don't know how to get rid of the smell. I've so far been thinking that I need to remove the tanks and tear out that whole back room area and have toyed with the idea of converting the boiler to propane, but that seems extreme. I'm at a loss here because I've been needing to get a move on with this place but I don't know how to get rid of the oil smell short of switching over to propane and tearing off the back.

Any suggestions?


Re: Getting rid of oil smell


You may want to get a 2nd onsite opinion from another heating tech that hopefully has a better eye for detail than the previous guy.

Oil smells will usually dissapate by themelves UNLESS there is an active hidden leak in a buried pipe, from a failed fuel pump, fuel nozzle, etc., or there is no pipe air venting from the top of the tanks to the outside to provide an escape for the in-tank odors AND MORE IMPORTANT, to allow air INTO the tanks so the oil in the tanks is not restricted & can freely flow to the oil burner.

Another major cause of oil smell is from a boiler that hasn't been serviced recently---the fuel/air mixture which should be approx. 1/2 air and 1/2 oil gets slanted to more oil than air burned due to a clogged fuel filter, strainer, dirty nozzle, or misaligned fuel pump---these all should be adjusted with a combustion analyzer by the heating tech after new filters & nozzle have been installed & the burner's air shutter & air band have been adjusted using the analyzer---an annual cleaning & burner adjustment is mandatory for all oil-fired heating equipment.

Another possibility is the high voltage transformer on the burner is on the way out, is providing only intermittant sparks, so oil collects in the combustion chamber, causing odors.

Are there air vent/fill pipe lines going from the top of the tanks to the outside???

Do you see any leakage under the oil burner, fuel pump, or from any buried oil pipes???

Is there enough AIR coming into the boiler room so the burner can have enough oxygen to burn the fuel properly???

From the description in your post, it sounds like you have what's called a "confined space" for oil storage or boiler location.

You should have the equivalent of at least one 12" diameter air supply pipe or duct going to the outside (or to the attic) to give the oil burner sufficient air to breathe---if you don't, the oil burner may be sucking all the oxygen out of the confined space, thus enhancing the oil odor.

There are fuel deodorant sprays and powders available at heating supply houses (Yellow Pages: "Heating Supplies--parts") that are designed to address this problem:

REM-1 fuel oil deodorant spray/powder, $5 for a 16 oz. can; COMSTAR odor neutralizer or COMSTAR sweet air spray/powder/Cherry Bomb for about $4/can---there are others--explain to the clerk what your problem is.

But also check the points noted for leaks, boiler tuneup and adequate air in your boiler room.

Re: Getting rid of oil smell

Hi, thanks for your reply. I'm going to post this in the heating section as well.

I have some of the answers to your questions. There are two pipes coming up out of the room with the tanks, so they do have venting. However I did discover that the insulation above the tanks in that room appears to be soaked in oil, that will be removed. From what I can see there are no other leaks in the tank room.

The boiler is in a room in the basement under the stairway; it's basically an open room as there are no doors, though doorways, two. The vent coming out of the boiler is about 6" in diameter and leads into the chimney.

In March like I think I said before I had a tech out and he cleaned the boiler, however before and after the tech left there's a pie pan underneath the connecting link from the oil feed line to the boil. I guess the tech thought he fixed that, or didn't care. hmmm...

I have also used an oil odor spray and that really didn't do anything.

Aside from this I seem to have run out of oil again. I have had the furnace off since mid-May or June. I had bought 300 gallons in the beginning of March. I'm unfamiliar with oil burning systems but I am surprised to see that I am out of oil already, then again it burns hotter than I would like. The thermostat has been set at 70 and still it burns at 80, it's even hotter in the basement. The furnace was on then when I went back it was on lock-out and when i pressed the button it went into recycle, exactly what it did when it ran out just after I bought the place.

The boiler is so new it seems silly to switch out the system, unnecessary, extra costs, but I've been thinking about changing the system to a propane boiler, natural gas is not available in my area. Thus I'm working out the pros and cons.

Re: Getting rid of oil smell


Give yourself time to acclimate to the reality of being a new homeowner---there's so much to learn---in time, you will become familiar with how these systems work---there are many helpful books at the home improvement section of your local library in the 643.7 numbered stacks.

You have a house over 3k sq.ft., but burning 300 gallons during the summer months sounds crazy---if you have a service contract for the boiler, call them back to have it checked out.

The boiler shouldn't go into lockout unless there is an air leak in the fuel line or a defective transformer, etc.

Have them check the burner nozzle & see if a smaller one can be installed that will burn less fuel.

I would stick with the oil boiler---especially if it is relatively new---oil costs are expected to stay low this year & propane can cost as much, if not more than oil.

Google "fuel cost comparisons" to get an interactive chart that will compare which will cost you more before you make any moves in changing boilers.

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