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Are Oil Furnaces Efficient?

If you’re considering having a new furnace installed in a home or commercial building, at some point, you’ll have to decide just what fuel source you’ll use for heating. There are plenty of options, with oil being one of the more popular ones nowadays. Popularity, however, should never be the main reason you make a major decision for your home. Are oil furnaces efficient? Will they save you money when compared to other methods of heating a building?

These are simple questions, but they don’t necessarily have simple answers. In this article, we’ll tell you the factors you need to consider when making the decision of whether or not to use oil when heating your building. We’ll also help you figure out what steps to take when you’ve made a decision about what heating method you prefer to use.

Gloved hands adding oil to a heater

What Do We Mean By Efficiency?

In the world of HVAC, energy efficiency refers to the amount of usable heat energy you get for every dollar of fuel you burn. There are plenty of factors that contribute to the efficiency of a furnace. For example, a fuel that burns hotter is often more energy efficient since it requires less of it to achieve the desired temperature. However, the base cost of the material is also considered to be an important factor. It doesn’t matter how hot a fuel burns if it’s too expensive to be cost-effective.

Energy usage is measured in British Thermal Units, or BTUs for short. One BTU is the amount of heat energy needed to raise the temperature of one pound of liquid water by one degree Fahrenheit. When it comes to fuel sources, BTUs are the preferred method of measurement. This is due to the fact that all fuel sources can be measured in this way, whereas weight and size vary depending upon the different fuel types.

While British Thermal Units are used to measure the energy output of a particular fuel source, the efficiency of the furnaces themselves are measured by the annual fuel utilization efficiency, or AFUE, standard. This is a measurement of just how much of the fuel is actually effectively converted into BTUs. The standard is given as a number, which is calculated as a percentage. A highly efficient furnace will have an AFUE rating in the 90s, while government regulations usually require that modern furnaces have a rating of 80 or above.

Oil Furnaces: What You Need To Know

We’ve mentioned that fuels that burn hotter tend to make for more efficient furnaces. This is part of the reason why oil furnaces are as popular as they are: oil furnaces can achieve high temperatures very quickly. Compare them to other fuel sources of similar popularity, and they do tend to generate heat significantly faster. Oil burns at hotter temperatures than fuel sources such as natural gas, generating more BTUs at a quicker rate.

When it comes to the cost of the fuel itself, however, oil does tend to be one of the more expensive ones. It costs more by weight than fuels such as natural gas or propane. Nevertheless, this cost may be offset by its ability to create the needed heat energy more quickly than other fuel sources.

You’ll also need to consider that the price of oil can fluctuate quite a bit. Buying oil in the winter is considerably more expensive than buying it during the spring and summer.

A Few Words on Safety

So, are oil furnaces efficient? They certainly are, but there are other factors to consider as well when you’re deciding on how you’ll heat your home or business. For example, not all heating methods are created equally when it comes to safety: some of them pose a risk of fire, while others may generate toxic byproducts when the fuel source is burned.

Oil is generally safer than many other heating methods. While it is certainly flammable, it isn’t explosive. Natural gas, on the other hand, can actually pose a risk of explosion if it’s not stored correctly. Still, there is a certain fire risk when operating an oil furnace, and you’ll have to take great care to make sure nothing flammable is left close to the furnace.

Another advantage of oil heating, with regard to safety, is that it doesn’t generate the same amount of toxic byproducts as coal or natural gas does. While you still need to ensure that the fumes your oil furnace generates are safely vented away, it’s not going to pose a risk of filling your home with toxic carbon monoxide.

Consider the Installation Costs

The final factor to take into consideration is the installation cost. A very efficient furnace will save you money over the course of years, but if it’s not cost effective to have it installed in the first place, it may actually not be worth it.

Oil furnaces are fairly inexpensive to install compared to other heating types. They cost less than gas furnaces, even if their fuel source tends to cost more. Even so, you’ll need to factor in your ability to access the necessary fuel sources for your chosen method of heating. That is to say, don’t opt to have an oil furnace installed if you don’t have easy access to oil. It’ll also be more expensive to install if you don’t already have a ductwork system for a forced-air furnace.

 The Next Steps

Whether or not you’ve decided that an oil furnace is right for your home or office, you’ll need to find the right contractor to take the next steps for your heating situation. Look for a company with years in the business, such as Entek, one that can guide you through every step of the process of securing the right furnace, oil or otherwise, for your building.

The experts at Entek can begin the installation progress if you’re ready for it. If you’re not, we can help you decide what the best steps to take are with regard to your home heating situation. We’ll offer up suggestions based on the square footage of your home and its access to various fuel sources. After you’ve settled on the heating method you want, we can install your furnace for you. Finally, we can perform regular maintenance and, if necessary, emergency repairs on your furnace, keeping it in tip-top shape for years to come.


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