How Does an Oil-Fired Boiler Work?

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An oil-fired boiler uses oil rather than natural gas to provide your home with hot water and heating. Oil-fired boilers work much like gas boilers. Such systems boil oil to create hot water. The heated water then flows to your hot-water taps and through a water- or steam-based heating system.


Oil-Fired Boiler Benefits

When your home runs on an oil-fueled boiler, you don't need to connect to a natural gas line. Oil-fired boilers are a popular choice in geographic areas with limited access or no access to natural gas. They are also a good choice in terms of renewable fuel. This is especially the case if the oil is blended with biodiesel. Such biodiesel blends also produce less pollution than pure heating oil.


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How Oil-Fired Heating Systems Work

Oil-fired boilers are an effective solution for residential water and home heating. An oil-fired boiler works in the same basic way as a gas boiler in that the boiler uses boiling oil to create hot water that is then sent to the hot-water taps in your home.


Oil-fired heating systems distribute heat throughout a home in one of three ways. The heat can travel through vents as warm air, as steam through radiators, or via hot water through baseboards.

When the thermostat senses that a room's temperature has fallen below the desired heat setting, it sends a signal to the oil-fired heating system to boil. The heated oil travels from the tank to a burner via a pump where it becomes a fine mist mixed with air. This fuel/air mixture enters the burner, where it ignites in the combustion chamber and begins heating the water.


Water-Based Heating System Types

Two main types of water-based heating systems exist. These are hot-water heating systems and steam heating systems. With both systems, water is heated in a steel or cast-iron boiler and then distributed throughout the home.

With hot-water systems, the heated water circulates throughout your home via radiators or baseboards. Steam systems feature water turning to steam and rising through pipes to radiators.


Oil-Fired vs. Gas-Fired Boilers

Both oil-fired and gas-fired boilers have their benefits and drawbacks. Which type you choose for your home will depend on several considerations.

Oil-fired furnaces tend to be less efficient than gas-fired heating systems in terms of annual fuel utilization efficiency. This rating is a measurement of the efficiency of a machine's combustion. Fuel prices for oil-fired systems are also higher than those for gas-fired systems, and you must get the oil delivered and store it on your property. The maintenance for oil-fired furnaces is also more extensive and more frequently required than the maintenance for gas-fired furnaces.


On the other hand, gas-fired furnaces tend to be 10 to 25 percent higher in price than equivalent oil-fired furnace models. Such furnaces also provide less heat per BTU than oil-fired furnaces. In addition, your home must be located where a gas supply is available.



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