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Can I reuse an old oil heating burner?

Can I reuse an old oil heating burner?

water heater oil burner ctIt sounds like a good idea.   Who wouldn’t want to save 400-500 bucks on a new burner, when the old one seemed to be working fine?  The thing is…

Why you shouldn’t put an old oil burner in a new oil fired water heater tank.

1) Use less oil.  New burners use less oil.  If every dollar counts.  New modern burners, with new matching controls are cleaner, are flawless and as efficient as possible.

2) New burners use less electricity.  A burner coming from a water heater older than 10+ years has a large electric motor.
New oil-fired burners have small modern electric motor that use less electricity than older models.  (figures coming soon)

3) Older burners might not physically fit.  The portion of the burner, that you don’t see, which enters the water heaters fire box is called the Blast Tube.  The length and width of the blast tube (and the parts inside it, delivering oil to the tip of the blast tube) are specifically designed for each particular tank.  Since the fire chamber on new oil fired water heater tanks are smaller now, keeping more heat within the lower portion of the tank, trying to stick an old burner in a new tank presents itself with an issue.  Many times the width and length on older burners blast tubes is too large and you can’t get an exact fit.  And you either need to rebuild the burner- (with small blast tube & components,)  or must worse.  WARNING- Inexperienced plumbers that don’t know about this blast tube size different problem will just simply rip apart the firebox chamber, chiseling out some fire brick insulation  in order to get the burner to physically fit.  This is absolutely the worse way possible to reinstall an old burner in a new oil fired water heater, this type of destructive alteration (which you cannot see from the outside) would also lower efficiency and void the warranty.

4) Right width, but too long.  When you put a old burner in a brand new oil fired water heater, the old burner’s longer bast tube sleeve will deliver heat constantly to the rear of the fire chamber, which will result in lower efficiency, and most likely a shorter live span of the new tank.

5) Older burners = Old controls.  When buying a new oil fired burner it comes with a new temp control box right on it.   The “Control” is the low voltage portion of the burner that communicates with the tanks interior temperature sensor, called “the Well”.   The Well gets corroded over the years and the signal fades away over time, this is potentially dangerous because this is when burns stay on too long, water heats up past the point of “comfort zone” and people can get burned.   The burner not only produces heat, it communicates with the burner and is responsible for your safety, and  is there is no cold water mixing valve present the burner is 100% responsible for your families safety.

6) Rebuilding an old burner doesn’t make cents.  It is possible to rebuild an old burner, upgrade the Well, add on new controls etc.  But this really doesn’t make any sense because the rebuild kit for the blast tube alone is around $100, and at least another $100 on a new control box. $200 for photo/light sensor,   Then a technician has to spend a couple hours doing the upgrade.   A new burner for a Bock 32e is $400- my cost.   So why would a homeowner want to spend around the same cost rebuilding an older burner, for the same cost as a new one?

7) New is better.  Any new modern oil burner will burn heating oil more efficient than old burners, and all new burners come designed to fit within modern oil fired water heater tanks, to exact manufactures specification.  Meaning, all new burners come per-sized straight from the factory to match different particular oil-fired tank models.  New oil fired water heater installations aren’t cheap, so you want to go with a oil fired, and new burner that are compatible so together they will last as long as possible so you get as much life as possible out of it.    All new burners come with a factory three (3) year warranty.

8) Don’t spend more later.  Installing a new burner at the time of a water heater tank replacement is much less expensive than getting that burner replaced at a later date, hundreds less.   Typically a plumber would want at least $700 to replace an oil fired burner, but when we replace a burner at the same time as a water heater tank we charge a fraction of that.

Final Thoughts

If you haven’t guessed it yet, we highly recommend going with a new burner for with your new oil fired water heater, and we will only entertain the idea of reusing a burner if it’s less than 7 years old, working, properly maintained, and we are 100% sure its the right fit.   One last time, reusing an old burner is OK, but only after it gets thoroughly inspected, and verified with manufacture specs, it’s the correct dimensions for the new replacement tank.

Warm regards-

J. Sullivan-