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A clean furnace can produce big savings

When it comes to your heating system, an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude can cost you.

Many people only think of their furnace when it stops working, but according to Robert Stewart of Pelham, who opened an oil burner service company this fall, regular maintenance can have huge benefits.

“It’s the most expensive appliance in the house,” he said. “Because they’re down in the cellar people tend to kind of neglect them.”

An annual tune-up and cleaning can have a dramatic effect on a burner’s energy efficiency, Stewart said.

“Just an eighth of an inch of soot … reduces the efficiency by 10 percent. And I find them sometimes with an inch of soot,” he said. “People don’t realize it but they’re buying twice as much oil as they need to to get the same effect.”

Tune-ups also prevent furnace failures — the kind of events that can leave a building with no heat, prompting emergency calls from homeowners, Stewart said.

He said a cleaning and tune-up call generally costs between $100 and $150.

Stewart established his business after completing a training program with Firedragon Academy of Leicester in July. He was licensed by the state as an oil burner technician in September. He is also licensed by the National Oilheat Research Alliance.

Before he became an oil heating technician, Stewart had a varied career.

As a hydraulics and pneumatics engineer, he helped large factories set up automation systems. But when manufacturing declined in New England, the work dried up, Stewart said.

“I drive around and I see a lot of the plants that I used to call on are now just empty buildings for rent,” he said.

He’s also been a helicopter and airplane pilot and a hang-gliding instructor.

A few years ago Stewart decided it was time to get training in a new field.

He found his way to oil burner maintenance through one of his hobbies — motorcycle riding. A longtime friend and fellow motorcycle enthusiast who runs an oil burner maintenance company in Springfield encouraged him to get into the field. He mentored Stewart while he was in the training program, and has continued to help him.

“There’s a lot of difference between the learning that you do in school and then the real world when you get out there,” Stewart said.

“Working with him has helped me get a feel for how things are done.”


Oil-burner checklist

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security offers this checklist for oil burner maintenance: Oil burners and boilers should get a cleaning on an annual basis. Someone should always be present with the service technician while in your home. When paying for a boiler / burner cleaning, make sure that the following is done: e_SBlt The oil filter …

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