In much of Canada the popularization of automated central heating would await the arrival of the high-pressure, fuel-atomizing, gun-style, conversion oil burner. This burner would emerge in the late pre–Second World War years, to move to market dominance in the 1950s to 1960s.

It was a period when most Canadians, those that already enjoyed central heating, would be hand stocking their furnace or boiler with cordwood or coal. The conversion oil burner with its long snout (firing tube) was the ultimate in creativity, innovativeness, and entrepreneurialism, responding to a pent-up market for automated heating, which seemed at the time to be bottomless.

Fess was among the acknowledged leaders in the research and development of this oil-burner style. The market boom led to a manufacturing bonanza for Canadian manufacturers, the sector’s golden post–Second World War years.

As a result, many small start-up companies entered the oil burner conversion market, taking advantage of the readily available supply of component parts. (It was much like the explosion of the computer market, starting in the 1980s, when a myriad of entrepreneurs foun Read More
In much of Canada the popularization of automated central heating would await the arrival of the high-pressure, fuel-atomizing, gun-style, conversion oil burner. This burner would emerge in the late pre–Second World War years, to move to market dominance in the 1950s to 1960s.

It was a period when most Canadians, those that already enjoyed central heating, would be hand stocking their furnace or boiler with cordwood or coal. The conversion oil burner with its long snout (firing tube) was the ultimate in creativity, innovativeness, and entrepreneurialism, responding to a pent-up market for automated heating, which seemed at the time to be bottomless.

Fess was among the acknowledged leaders in the research and development of this oil-burner style. The market boom led to a manufacturing bonanza for Canadian manufacturers, the sector’s golden post–Second World War years.

As a result, many small start-up companies entered the oil burner conversion market, taking advantage of the readily available supply of component parts. (It was much like the explosion of the computer market, starting in the 1980s, when a myriad of entrepreneurs found themselves producing clones of IBM’s personal computer.) They would produce the needed castings, motors, pumps, fans, couplers, transformers, sundry fitments, tanks and controls required by the wave of small oil burner manufacturers, distributors and jobbers supporting the oil burner technology of the day.
* Research from the archives of the HVACR Heritage Centre Canada (DSCB #26, HD1005N).
* Historical artifact from the HVACR Centre Canada T.H Oliver Collection Accession No. 2006.143.
* Fess Oil Burners of Canada, Fess Heat Service and Installation Manual (Toronto and Montreal: n.p., undated, circa 1952).

© 2011, HVACR Heritage Centre Canada. All Rights Reserved.

Gun-style conversion oil burner

This high-pressure, gun-style oil burner for automatic heating applications was influenced by the Art Deco style trends of the 1950s.

G. Leslie Oliver, Mark Dorlandt Photography.
Ron Shuker, Nigel Heseltine
c. 1930
© 2010, HVACR Heritage Centre Canada. All Rights Reserved.


Dissassembled gun-style conversion oil burner

Dissassembled gun-style conversion oil burner. The development and marketing of the conversion oil burner would become a major driving force popularizing central home heating in much of Canada. It was designed to readily convert hand-stoked wood or coal-fired furnaces to automated oil firing.

G. Leslie Oliver, Mark Dorlandt Photography.
Ron Shuker, Nigel Heseltine
c. 1930
© 2011, HVACR Heritage Centre Canada. All Rights Reserved.


A finely calibrated nozzle sprayed an oil mist into the combustion chamber

A finely calibrated nozzle sprayed an oil mist into the combustion chamber where it was ignited with a high-voltage electrical spark.

G. Leslie Oliver, Mark Dorlandt Photography.
Ron Shuker, Nigel Heseltine
c. 1930
© 2011, HVACR Heritage Centre Canada. All Rights Reserved.


Under the influences of industrial designers the oil burner took on the smoothly curved lines of Art Deco styling

By the 1930s central automated heating equipment had started to lose its industrial machinery look. Under the influences of industrial designers the oil burner took on the smoothly curved lines of Art Deco styling.

G. Leslie Oliver, Mark Dorlandt Photography.
Ron Shuker, Nigel Heseltine
c. 1930
© 2011, HVACR Heritage Centre Canada. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

1.) What does the term "high efficiency" mean in terms of today’s furnaces and boilers, primarily fired by natural gas, propane or fuel oil?

2.) What is the best colour for the flames from a natural gas, propane or oil-fired furnace or boiler to ensure efficient combustion?

3.) Who were the scientists that mixeding gas and oxygen together efficiently in a burner that is still the basis of most burners even today? Hint: Their creation is still used in high school laboratories more than 100 years later?

4.) What is the name of the most common oil-fired burner? What are its features?

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