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How Does Oil Heat Work in Your Home?

How Does Oil Heat Work in Your Home?

With winter in New England fast approaching, it’s time to consider the best heating option for your home. Not only will the right choice keep you warm this upcoming season, but it will also save you time, money, and stress. 

Whether oil, propane, heat pumps, or pellet stoves (to name a few), the best heating option depends on your budget and your home’s structure. In this article, we’ll discuss why so many homeowners opt for heating oil, which consistently delivers warmth at a lower cost than other alternatives.


What Is Oil Heat?

The oil used to heat residential buildings is a refined petroleum product. Typically kept in furnaces and boilers, the oil produces hot air or water to regulate indoor temperatures distributed throughout a home. 

For a more in-depth discussion, read the guide to home heating oil!


Components of an Oil Heating System

If your home uses oil heat, it likely has a furnace or boiler as its heating system.


The oil heating system follows a series of steps to ensure your home is at the correct temperature. The star of the show here is the thermostat, which sends a signal to the controls on the burner, alerting it to heat your home at a specific temperature. The burner then turns the oil into a fine spray, mixes it with air, and then ignites in a combustion chamber, which then becomes extremely hot. 

Air absorbs heat in a heat exchanger, which then goes through a blower and ducts to heat the home. When your home’s indoor temperature reaches the setting on your thermostat, the heating cycle ends. The thermostat will constantly check the indoor temperature and trigger the heater to turn on if it senses a significant drop in temperature.


While a furnace circulates hot hair, a boiler provides heat to your home by circulating hot water through pipes. Burning oil in the boiler’s circulator heats water, which then travels through pipes in radiators, baseboard heaters, or coils in the floorboards.

When heating your home with oil—no matter with a furnace or boiler—it’s crucial to consider the components of a system, especially a tank, which serves as a receptacle for your product. There are three common types of tanks available for storing heating oil:

  • Above Ground & Indoor Tank: A standard indoor tank holds 275 gallons of oil, although some models can range from 105-500. These tanks are often in a utility room, basement, or garage.
  • Above Ground & Outdoor Tank: The size of an outdoor tank is similar to an indoor tank, as it typically holds 275 gallons of oil. They are often found on the side or at the rear of a home. They can also withstand extreme weather conditions, which can contribute to the overall cost of the system. 
  •  Underground Tank: Underground tanks hold much more oil than indoor and outdoor tanks, typically ranging from 550 to 1000 gallons for residential properties. These tanks are not visible, as heating companies bury them during installation. 


Aside from where your home heating tank lives, it’s also essential to consider the type of material used to build it. Like with the placement of your tank, there are three common materials and price points available: 

  • Steel: The most common and cost-effective option, steel tanks are an excellent storage method for above and below-ground applications.
  • Fiberglass: Great at withstanding rust, fiberglass tanks are often underground. However, they are now viable options for above-ground systems as well.  
  • Combination: Polyethylene double-wall tanks are the most advanced oil storage medium. While the inside tank is polyethylene composite, the outer shell is constructed from galvanized steel, making this the most weatherproof and abuse-resistant option.


So, you have your oil tanks in place. But how does the oil distribute heat throughout a home? As previously mentioned, heating oil systems can provide warmth in three ways: radiators, baseboards, and forced-air systems:

  • Radiators: Radiators draw heat from water or steam heated by hot oil. Through a process known as convection, the hot water flows through a system of pipes to heat the room. 
  • Baseboards: Baseboard heating relies on radiators and convection currents to heat a room. The radiators line the base of the wall, and then the heat rises and disperses throughout the room. While this system is easy to install and cost-effective, it is best in smaller spaces.
  • Forced-Air: The forced-air system uses a fan to blow hot air from a furnace around a room. It can evenly heat small and large spaces quickly based on how the system circulates air. A forced-air system, however, is more costly than baseboard heating, as the installation is more complex.  


Advantages of Oil Heating

Heating oil continues to be a valuable, dependable, and economical choice. Below are four main reasons to consider using oil for your home heating system needs: 

  • Energy Efficient: Newer oil heating systems have an average efficiency rate of 85%, meaning less energy is used to produce oil from every gallon. Rest assured, your heating bill will be much more manageable, even during the coldest months.
  • Reliable & Safe: When properly maintained, oil heating systems can last 30 years, saving you money on costly replacements. With gas heating, there is a high risk of carbon monoxide leaks or explosions, but oil, even when stored for long periods, does not cause these issues.
  • Fast-Acting: Gone are the days of waiting hours for your home to heat up. Oil heat warms much faster than alternative options and is 400 degrees hotter than natural gas, making this a practical choice for residential and commercial properties. 
  • Environmentally Responsible: There is a common misconception that oil-burning systems are not environmentally friendly; however, thanks to new, high-efficiency technology and an ultra-low sulfur product, oil produces fewer emissions and greenhouse gasses while maximizing heat output. 


Heating Oil System Maintenance and Care

Regular maintenance of your heating oil system will ensure its longevity and safety. You can handle some basic tasks, like removing debris from the combustion chamber to prevent corrosion. You can also check the flue pipe for cracks, holes, or leaks. Don’t forget about your oil filter, either! You can replace it at least twice per heating season. 

Other preventative oil heating maintenance tasks might require professional services, especially tank and burner repairs. We check the wear and tear of parts, calibrate them appropriately, and ensure they are clean. Scheduling inspections with certified Haffner technicians can help identify potential issues early, thwart costly repairs, and enhance safety. 


Is Oil Heating Right for Your Home?

Now that you are well-versed in home heating oil, it’s time to decide whether or not it’s the best solution. Consider if home heating oil aligns with your budget, your architecture, your efficiency needs, and your comfort. You’ll also want to review initial costs and maintenance demands. 

At Haffner’s, we are happy to provide a professional consultation to help you find the perfect heating solution for your unique requirements. We’ll consider your finances, home layout, local climate, and more to warm your house and keep your family comfortable.


Choose Haffner’s For Your Home Heating Oil

With so many home heating systems, we know it can be overwhelming. Our experts can help you evaluate the best heating system for your home this season. Plus, ordering with Haffner’s is easy thanks to our pre-buy plans and a user-friendly app for managing deliveries and orders with ease. 

Ready to book a consultation or order your heating oil from Haffners today? Contact us or call 866-It-Kicks (866-485-4257).