An average of 7% of homes use oil heating to heat their homes and provide hot water for showers and washing. This 7% utilizes around 7 billion gallons of fuel every single year.
If you’re a homeowner with oil heat, you’ll want to get comfortable with your system and understand how your oil heating system works. As will all major home systems, yearly maintenance and knowledge can potentially save you from major repairs and fixes.
Furnaces Heat Air Flowing Through Your Home
Furnaces provide heat for homes in colder climates by blowing hot air. These furnaces come in three commonly used models:
- Atmospheric Furnaces: Atmospheric furnaces work by funneling waste gasses up through the home’s chimneys. While this system does work, it is inefficient and loses up to 30% of heat energy to vent the gasses.
- Modern Furnaces (high efficiency): Modern furnaces use a fan to draw the heated air through a heat exchanger. This eliminates some of the heat energy waste from the earlier models. The waste gasses are vented through a chimney, but the heat loss is minimized.
- Condensing Furnaces: Condensing furnaces are the most efficient furnaces on the market. A well-maintained condensing furnace can work at upwards of 90% efficiency. This model doesn’t vent the hot gasses through a chimney. Instead, gasses are cooled first, which allows the water vapor to condense. This cooled condensate is then piped outside the house, rather than heat being vented through hot chimneys.
While there are a variety of other models available, the three listed above are the most commonly used.
Boilers Heat Water to Warm Your Home
Radiators, baseboard heaters and heated floors provide heat based on the work of your boiler and the hot water it sends through your system. Boilers are often considered a more efficient form of heating, as they don’t lose as much heat as air-based heating systems.
Cooled water is recirculated back to the boiler to be reheated. Since it is a closed system, there is little to no loss of water throughout the heating and reheating process.
Water-based heaters have also used steam rather than heated water to warm the home. Instead of piping water through the walls, a steam boiler pipes steam through the heating ducts. The steam boiler system requires residual gasses be vented through a chimney to the exterior of the house.
Though they might be more expensive than their electric or natural gas alternatives, oil-fired boilers are a great investment, with a lifespan of 16-20 years if properly maintained.
Oil Heat Distribution
How do oil burners turn fuel oil and water into heat for your home? Everything starts with the combustion chamber. Oil is pumped into the chamber from a holding tank, where it is ignited. Most modern boilers use a pressure injection system, meaning the fuel oil is kept under high pressure until it is injected into the combustion chamber.
The heat and gasses from the burning oil are then funneled into a heat exchanger. This is where furnaces and boilers start to differ. Furnaces move air through the heat exchanger, while boilers move water through the same.
Furnaces use a fan to pull cool air into the heat exchanger. The air is then heated and distrusted throughout the house to warm the home. Cooled air is then pulled back into the heat exchanger to begin the process all over again.
Boilers direct the heat from the heat exchanger into pipes filled with water. This water is then piped throughout the house where the heat can be utilized in baseboard heaters, radiators or heated floorboards. Cooled water can be cycled back to the boiler to be reheated.
Oil burning furnaces and boilers are graded on their efficiency based on the amount of oil they use on an annual basis. More specifically, the grade is based on the heat output, usually in BTUs, compared to the annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE). The more efficient the boiler, the less fuel it uses and the more power you get for fuel burned.
A modern oil burning heating can be an efficient and cost-effective choice for your home.
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