Advice appreciated.

Inspector/Dad seeks advice re: daughter’s temperamental boiler.
My daughter recently bought her first home…a 1900 Victorian in the Hudson Valley 90 minutes north of NYC. Since I’m in Seattle and my Washington license doesn’t carry any weight in New York, she had an inspection done by a local. I’m not terribly impressed with the inspectors efforts given the obvious issues overlooked that she’s since had to deal with. One issue would admittedly likely not have been detected given the house had been vacant for the better part of a year and the inspection was done in August. Long story short…now it’s winter and the temperature is hovering between 17 degrees in the day and -5 degrees at night and the boiler periodically decides to take a break and shuts down. It will fire right back up again when she notices that the heat has not been on and she hits the reset. Trouble is, she works in the City and is gone for 3 - 5 days at a time. Fortunately, she has a reliable handyman that is familiar w/ the home, having worked for the previous owner

This I know:

  • This is a hot water system with the original old radiators.
  • Supposedly it had been regularly serviced by the prior oil provider, but the old gentleman who previously had the place was “frugal” and appeared to live mostly in the living room where he had had a freestanding vent-less gas stove installed, so I don’t know how much he relied on the boiler.
  • There’s plenty of oil. She signed up for a service contract and they don’t let it get much below 1/2 a tank.
  • A couple of different guys (backgrounds and expertise unknown) have looked at it and ruled out oil line problems (new) and dirty oil filter (new) but haven’t been able to identify the problem.
  • On one occasion the TPRV tripped off and discharged a fair amount of water on the basement slab but that hasn’t occurred again.Don’t know if that occurred concurrently w/ the boiler shutting down.
  • There’s apparently no obvious pattern as to when the boiler shuts off. Usually it’s running just fine for extended periods, then shuts down. On one occasion (before the weather was insanely cold) the boiler had been on and the thermostat was turned down because it was getting pretty warm while she and friends were working. They left for dinner, came back considerably later, and the heat was off though the temperature had clearly dropped below the setting on the thermostat. Again, it fired right up when the reset button was hit.

Dad keeps telling her to get someone independent of the oil provider who has worked on boilers for years to look at it. She’s a bit frustrated with the headache and expense of having had others look but find nothing. Thought someone out there might have a theory as to where to focus the investigation.



Boiler control devices are not very complicated there are generally less controls than a gas fired forced air furnace has. She needs to have a qualified contractor arrive before the boiler is reset. The contractor needs to find which safety control is opening and correct what ever the condition is. It maybe a faulty control device or there may be a true defect such as low water/high water flame failure switch high limit switch and so on. I would not recommend a plumber troubleshooting your boiler;-)

I’m no expert but it sounds like a faulty eye sensor/flame detector or control /reset

Plugged filter. Something simple to check especially if it’s intermittent.

Sounds more like a safety sensor perhaps because of flue blockage? That’s why it is requiring a total reset, not just stopping.

I had this happen two winters ago, turned out to be a faulty burner controller. It was a pain for the oil burner tech to diagnose because (of course) the problem didn’t occur in his presence. But after ruling out all the reasons the burner should cut off for safety reasons, he replaced the controller and it hasn’t happened since. Your advice is great, she needs a good independent service tech to take the time to diagnose.