How Does Oil Heat Work in a House?

Heating oil is among the most popular methods for heating a home, along with natural gas and electricity. In fact, the Northeast region of the country relies on oil heat more than all other areas of the U.S. combined. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that 85% of all residential heating oil is sold in our region.

Oil Heat Is Important in The Northeast

While natural gas and electricity provide other home heating options, the EIA shares that about 25% of homes in the Northeast still rely on oil heat for winter-time comfort. As oil is a vital heating source for many homeowners in our region, it’s not unusual for customers to ask, “How does oil heat work in a house?”

Let’s first look at home oil heat compares to natural gas. Like diesel fuel that powers large trucks and heavy equipment, oil heat is refined from crude oil. Natural gas is collected from deep-earth formations. Cold weather, supply problems, and other issues can cause a demand increase and a price increase. Heating oil can be delivered anywhere a truck can get to and requires a storage tank. Periodic delivery of heating oil is needed. Natural gas is continuously delivered via a pipeline system that ultimately connects to an individual house. To heat with natural gas, a home must be connected to this system.

How Does Oil Heat Work?

An oil heat system uses either a boiler or furnace. The heating oil is ignited in a boiler, which then heats water or converts water to steam.

The warm water or steam is sent through a network of pipes and radiators, which generates house-warming heat. While also igniting heating oil, a furnace uses warmed air sent through ductwork and vents to warm a home.

Components of An Oil Heat System

Both oil heat systems have these components in common:

  • Thermostat: A thermostat gauges the temperature inside a home. As the temperature falls below a certain point, the thermostat signals the heating system to start up.
  • Oil tank: The oil tank is the storage device for home heating oil. Tanks come in different shapes and sizes and can be located above or below ground or, in some cases, within the home. A tank should be accessible by a delivery truck.
  • Fuel pump: The fuel pump manages the heating oil flow as it moves from the tank to the heating system.
  • Filter: The filter strains impurities and residue from the home heating oil as it leaves the tank on its way to the furnace or boiler.
  • Combustion chamber: Home heating oil is ignited in the combustion chamber. The resulting heat warms the water in a boiler or the air in a furnace.

What Are the Benefits of Using Oil Heat?

Oil heat can be the ideal home heating solution and offers several benefits.

  • Safety: Home heating oil is engineered to be less combustible than some other liquid fuels. Heating oil also requires high pressure and high temperature (in the combustion chamber) before it ignites.
  • Clean Burning: Modern heating oil is produced to be clean-burning through ultra-low sulfur formulations.
  • Location Friendly: Unlike natural gas, which requires a home to be connected to a pipeline network, an oil heat house can be located just about anywhere.

Have questions about your furnace? In addition to home fuel delivery, Atlantic Fuels offers residential and light commercial oil, propane, and natural gas heating system and equipment repair & maintenance services throughout New Hampshire’s Seacoast Region – 24/7/365. Give us a call at (603) 964-6967 or send us an email today!

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