This is a "pot burner" type of heater. That is, the diesel is admitted into the bottom of a "pot", where the heat of previously burned fuel vaporizes it. Once going, it is diesel fuel vapor which is burning, not liquid. But to get it going, it is liquid diesel which much be ignited.
Go to the head and get 4 squares of toilet paper. Roll up three of them into a loose roll, leaving the fourth as a tail.
Drop the paper into the heater. You will note that there is an internal baffle device in the burner - this serves as a heat reflector which, when hot, will provide the heat to evaporate the incoming liquid diesel. But now it is just in the way. Using a poker, try to get the rolled up portion to go at least partially beneath the disk at the bottom of the baffle, leaving the tail accessible for lighting. Do the best you can - usually you can't get more than one end under the disk.
Turn the oil valve all the way on (to number "5"). Note that there may be a couple of stops that prevent you from turning the knob this far in normal operation. But if you pull up on the knob, you can turn past the stops.
Do something else for 2 minutes. Do not lose track of the time!
Using a BBQ lighter, light the protruding tail of the toilet paper. Close the door. You will need to turn on the combustion air fan all the way to get enough air down to the paper to keep it lit. When the burning paper ignites the oil, it will be obvious - the flame is a rich bright yellow-orange instead of the pale yellow and blue of the burning paper.
If the burning paper fails to ignite the oil, turn off the oil valve. There is very likely enough diesel in the pot, it's just that the flame from the paper didn't reach it, or the diesel did not yet wet out the ash in the bottom of the pot far enough to reach the paper. Roll up some more toilet paper and try again, leaving the oil valve closed.
When the oil ignites, turn the combustion air fan down one notch. When it is all the way up, it will force smoke and fumes into the cabin.
How much combustion air the heater requires once it is settled in is a variable depending on the stack length. Ours (stack is approximately 36") requires none. If the flame is burning cleanly (no trailing soot tendrils off the tips of the flames, yellow in color - not orange), then adding more air just means you are pushing valuable heat up the stack.
- Before lighting the heater, be sure that there is nothing combustible near or above the Charlie Noble outside.
- In the unhappy event that you get too much oil in the burner before getting it lit, your first clue will be that the flame grows much more quickly than normal, and to a much higher level. Should this happen, turn off the oil! If you suspect it might be happening, turn off the oil! In our heater, the oil burns off harmlessly when this happens, tho with a frightening pulsing roaring sound, and the heater does get very hot. Standing by with a fire extinguisher would be prudent if this happens.
- The oil valve is very non-linear in controlling the heat output. Normal operation will be only be between the "1" and "2" marks.
- The oil feed and combustion air should always be adjusted so that the flame remains above the top ring of the baffle. This is the way the burner is designed to operate.
- If you should ever be moved to clean the heater, be advised that the collection of ash and crud in the bottom of the burner is an important part of the combustion process - it serves as a high surface area diffusion plate/evaporator, much like a candle wick. If all the material on the bottom of the burner is removed, the heater will be difficult to light until this layer gets re-established.