Pros and Cons of Oil Heating Systems

Oil Heating System

It may seem that we are using oil heating systems less and less as we build new homes or upgrade to other systems, but a lot of home heating systems around the US still run by oil. Don’t fret, there are benefits to oil heat:

Benefits of Oil Heating Systems

  • Oil Heat is safer than other fuels. To put it simply, it doesn’t explode! If you dropped a match into your oil tank, the fire would just go out. It can only ignite with a furnace or burner as part of a larger system, and the system is safer as it has a much lower risk of leaking carbon monoxide. If things go wrong and there is a carbon monoxide leak, you will have signals such as smoke and soot. Inhaling fuel oil fumes is not fatal. Oil heat will not burn in a liquid state. In order to light it on fire, you would have to heat it past 140 degrees when it would start to vaporize.
  • It’s energy efficient (especially newer units) and can save homeowners a lot of money. Oil heating systems offer more heat per BTU (British Thermal Unit) than propane, natural gas, solar, electric, and other systems. It also scores well on the AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) which measures how much heat the system loses to how much fossil fuel it uses. The equipment is also getting smaller, smarter and more efficient.
  • Today's oil is much cleaner that ever before! It's biodegradable and has near-zero emissions. As far as emissions are concerned, it is better for the environment than natural gas. Bioheat is a blend of renewable biodiesel and ultra-low sulfur heating oil and makes for cleaner burning. It is made domestically from agricultural or recycled sources such as soybean oil or sometimes even restaurant cooking grease. It is even more environmentally friendly and efficient and can be used in your oil tank.
  • It’s cheaper than you may think, especially if you purchase oil in the summer. With oil heat you can choose your provider and select one that fits your budget. Although oil is a little more expensive than other methods, the price of an oil furnace is less expensive than most and lasts at least twice as long.
  • Oil burns hotter so you won’t have to use as much to heat your home (which will save you money).

With all of these benefits, it’s a wonder why some believe that oil is bad. We have come a long way in regards to systems and even the oil itself.

Concerns with Oil Heating Systems

  • Tank leaks may be a concern, especially if your tank is buried underground. That’s why your service agreement is important, because the delivery driver can check for water (water will enter before the oil can drain out).
  • Soil contamination can be expensive to fix. You may want to look into pollution liability insurance in case you ever need a soil contamination clean up.
  • Repairs and replacements — you can purchase yearly tank insurance in case your tank begins to wear down. Keep an eye on the age (they last roughly 30 years), energy efficiency, repair frequency, noises, etc. to know when it’s time to replace. Look for signs like black smoke and soot.
  • Cost may be a concern. If you cannot afford to pay for the hundreds of gallons of heating oil you get at a time, some providers offer payment plans.

Residential oil tank in basement

Oil Heat System Options

  1. A Furnace uses oil to heat air and send it through warm air ducts throughout the house. Cold air goes back to the furnace for reuse.
  2. A Boiler uses oil to heat water, and the pump sends heated water through pipes to radiators. Cold water returns to the boiler for reheating. Alternatively, a steam Boiler uses oil to boil water and then the steam moves through the system, bringing heat to the radiators.

In both of these system options, your home will need an on-site storage tank to hold your oil. This tank can be placed above ground or buried below ground. A local dealer will deliver oil to your home — you can opt to call when you need more or signup for automatic delivery. You can also sign a service contract with your selected oil provider where you will get a cleaning and a checkup every year (and whatever else you agree on).

If you have an oil heating system, always monitor and report anything unusual to your maintenance or oil company. Monitor the energy efficiency, and be proactive with a good servicing annually. If you're buying a home with an oil heating system, here's what you need to know about your oil tank.

Want more advice about all things home — including homebuying or selling advice? Nestiny is a great place for homebuyer education and to help you gauge how ready you are to buy a home. Journey Homeward allows you to enter all your wants and needs while the True Affordability Tool will break down your budget, showing what you can comfortably afford. You will also receive a Ready Report that will give you a vital head start in the home buying journey, saving you valuable time and money.

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