Oil burner reset button

The heat keeps going off.
I've had the local oil company people come in many times, and they've replaced the oil pump and filter and other parts. I've had several different techies from the company come in, and I've watched and talked with them as they worked, and they all seem professional.
But the heat keeps going off, and I have to keep restarting it.
After one visit there was a reccomendation to get a new tank. The owner of the company says that sludge is collecting and this is the problem.
But last week a technician came it to start the heat (since it had locked up) and could not see anything wrong. He was there for quite awhile trying to come up with ideas about my problems.
And then the heat stopped again the next day.
So my question is: If there was sludge in the tank (1) wouldn't it show up in the filter; and (2) wouldn't it take a while to cause problems again after servicing.
Right now the heat goes off about once a day, and we hit the button (just once) to get it going again. Takes 5-10 seconds to fire up.
Since a new tank is going to be about $2000, I'm obviously looking for any other possible solutions.
Also: The tank is inside the basement. I had flooding in the basement in the fall, but I also had recurring burner problems last winter, no problems the previous 10-12 years. I have a tank-less hot water system in the furnace. I've also noticed that one of the heating zones is not working (I have two zones with hot water pipes -- one of these is not working, one zone with old radiators). The technician said this must be a short in the thermostat.
Jim
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

Sounds to me like you need a more competent service company. Oil burning heating systems aren't eggsackly rocket science these days, they've been around for nearly a hunnert years now.
Get someone in who knows what they're doing and how to check and test things to determine if they're ok or not, rather than give you guesses.
Jeff
--
Jeffry Wisnia

(W1BSV + Brass Rat \'57 EE)
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5 to 10 seconds? Does it have a delayed oil valve? If not, that is too long. It should start up immediately. Nice and smooth. Does it rumble (and possibly smoke a little) when you hit the reset? If it does, it could be a weak transformer. Sure it fires up every time, but that one time during the night when it decides it won't put out enough spark: "POP" goes the reset! If it does NOT have an oil delay valve, it sounds like they need to put a pump guage on it and test the pressures. It's "sucking air" from somwhere. Should be a good steady pressure (at whatever pressure the burner calls for) and then drop 20 lbs at shutdown and HOLD that pressure. If it isn't, then they need to find out where it's sucking air from. Could be one of the flare or (yikes!) compression fittings. If it has an oil filter in-line, it could be one of several gaslkets on IT that aren't seated properly.

Yikes! and I thought WE were expensive at $900.

Short in the thermostat? If there was a short, then it would run all the time. Remember: The thermostat is a switch. It's either on or off. Could be a loose/broken wire, heat anticipator is burnt up, circulator (or zone valve) is bad. Real easy to check the thermostat: Set it to "call" for heat and ohm out the (disconnected) wires at whatever it is that it's supposed to turn on (relay, zone valve, etc.).
Another thing it could be is that the loop is "air locked" and needs to be bled. Not sure of your set up, but if the ciculator is running and the zone valve is opening, it's not going to circulate if you have air in the loop.
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Something sounds a little fishy about the techs you've gotten. See if you can't get a recommendation from a neighbor? A name doesn't make a competent furnace repairman: e.g. Agway is big around here, but don't let them touch your furnace. Anybody can get a job there.
...

Sludge collecting does NOT mean you need a new tank!

Yes, it certainly would show up in the filter. And in the nozzle. Sludge in a tank is common and unless you let the tank get real low, usually isn't a problem. Sometimes sludge will cause a problem right after a fillup; it gets stirred up and riled up and you'll find it in the filter. But if the filter does its job it doesn't get to the nozzles or the pumps.
and (2) wouldn't it take a while to cause

No, not necessarily. But maybe <g>. Or NOT! In other words, it depends on too many things to say one way or the other.

Someone said that was too long, but in reality it is not. We have three oil units: 2 furnaces and a water heater; they all take 5 to 10 seconds to ignite.

Understandably. If there IS too much sludge in the tank, they can be cleaned out; not necessary to replace a perfectly good tank because of sludge. It sounds, however, like the filters are staying clean. How many nozzles have they changed? If only one or two, then forget this path. Check the nameplates on the burner and look for the nozzle orfice specs: Angle and gallons/min (gpm). Those are important and normally MUST use the right nozzle to ignite properly and reliably. If no one has checked, it could be as simple as the wrong nozzle; especially if all they do is look at the old nozzle to see what ot use for the replacement: It has to be the right nozzle.
Go down and watch the furnace fire up and turn off a couple times while someone operates the thermostat for you. Observe whatever happens and report back with that info. There's a little door you can open to see the fire inside after it lights; the flames should be bright, constant, and quite yellow in color. No smoke, no puffing, etc..

No idea what to say about those things; not enough details. YOu need to gather together as many details as you can for folks to make eudcated guesses about the problem/s you have. Personally, I don't think you've had a good tech come out there yet - quitting that often, it shouldn't be that hard to pin down.
If it's excessively cold in the basement, say below freezing, or drafty, you might try switching to #1 fuel oil next time you get down to about half a tank and see if htat helps. I'm assuming you're burning #2 fuel oil; #1 is lighter and cleaner. It if helps, try another tank. If it keeps working, after a tank or two, go back to #2 and see if the problems return.
You could also have air in the oil lines, lots of other things, but without knowing what the feeds are, oil line returns, if any, etc., it's real hard to guess much further.
HTH,
Pop
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Thanks to all who responded. I did look at the flame and it is indeed bright yellow. The cellar doesn't get much colder than 60.
Here's notes that have been left on the furnace: 10/05 new pump (I think) 11/9/05 - DC going on safety New 50200 + EyE Kit EyE reading now 596 New N and adj Electrods 12/19/05 N,pump, eye 590 , Ignitor OK 1/26/06 D.C N.F.S Adj Electrodes + Air Eye = 520 2/8/06 Check pump Took running pump ps Check electrode ignitor. Found nothing wrong. Fired unit off about 10 times.
Somewhat amusing sidebar -- this summer a tech from a different company went down to my system by mistake and did a bit of maintenance -- he had the wrong address, and I called his company when I saw he had been here. Don't think he did any damage, but I'll review the card he left.
Pop wrote:

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