How does an oil furnace work

Oil-fired heating systems distribute heat in one of three ways: warm air through vents, hot water through baseboards, or steam through radiators. Your thermostat senses that the room temperature has fallen below your thermostat setting and sends a signal to your heating system to provide heat for your home.

When your oil burner is engaged, heating oil travels from the tank to the burner by way of a pump where it becomes a fine mist mixed with air.

Heating system types Depending on the type of system you have, water-based or warm air, the system works differently to disperse heat throughout your home. There are two main types of water-based systems: hot water systems and steam systems.

how does an oil furnace work

Water is heated in either a cast iron or steel boiler before it is dispersed throughout your home. In a warm air system, your furnace heats air. A blower then sends the heated air up through the ducts and out of vents in your floors or walls.

How Does a Waste Oil Heater Work?

The air gets drawn back to the furnace through a return duct and the cycle repeats. Finally, the emissions from the combustion of fuel and air exit the system through a flue pipe that runs out of your home through the chimney.

Whether you're a current customer wanting to schedule a delivery or a new customer wanting to join the Petro family, from the coldest days of winter to the hottest days of summer, we're always here to help. Why Petro? Overview Why choose Petro? Petro vs. Sales 1. How your oil home heating system works.

What is a Boiler and How does It Work?

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The more you know how a furnace works, the better you can troubleshoot it if something goes wrong.

how does an oil furnace work

To be clear, you may have a different heating system, such as a boilerheat pumpor active solar heating. If your heating system heats water and you have radiators, you have a boiler. A heat pump is basically an air conditioner that works in reverse. Keep in mind that many homes have a hybrid heating systemwhich combines the energy efficiency of heat pumps for mild weather with the powerful heating capacity of furnaces during more extreme temperatures.

And not all furnaces use natural gas, although most do. Your furnace may run on propane, heating oil, or electricity. Understanding how your furnace works will help you troubleshoot your furnace and potentially avoid an expensive HVAC service call.

how does an oil furnace work

Sometimes, you can quickly solve the problem yourself. Other times, you can easily show the problem to your HVAC technician, saving time and frustration.

Welcome to Furnacewhere we teach you the basics of your furnace and how it works to provide heating to your home.

How does the Oil Furnace in Your Home Work?

The most common type of furnace is a gas-powered central air system, which heats air in a one area and then distributes it throughout the home via ductwork and vents. The main parts of your furnace are the control system thermostat and electrical controlsgas valve, burners, heat exchanger, blower, and duct and ventilation system.

When your furnace creates heat, combustion gases are vented out of your home via a flue pipe. Your furnace starts when it receives a signal from the thermostat that tells it to turn on.

Depending on the temperature you set, when the thermostat detects the air temperature dropping below that number, it activates the furnace. When the thermostat sends its signal to the furnace, the furnace gas valve opens and ignites the burner component beneath the combustion chamber.

The gas valve works with the thermostat to regulate the amount of gas that flows into your furnace. For instructions on relighting the pilot light, refer to your manufacturer instructions or contact a professional. You may also have an issue with your thermocouple or thermopile, which helps detect whether your pilot light is on or not. Your thermocouple is an essential safety device that makes sure your gas valve is not sending gas into a furnace without a working pilot light.

The flames from the burner component heat a metal heat exchanger. The heat circulates through the looped tubes of the heat exchanger, transferring the heat to air. This is an extremely important part. Heat exchanger can also be dangerous if they develop any leaks or cracks. An efficient and well-maintained heat exchanger is essential for a working furnace.InspectAPedia tolerates no conflicts of interest.

We have no relationship with advertisers, products, or services discussed at this website. This article series answers just about any question about forced air or warm air furnace central heating system troubleshooting, inspection, diagnosis, and repairs in residential buildings and homes.

We explain how furnaces work, what controls and settings are used, what goes wrong, and how to fix it. This page is the starting point for our series of heating furnace diagnosis and repair articles. Sketch at page top courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates. If you have no heat. At this website we describe the basic components of a home heating system, how to find the rated heating capacity of an heating system by examining various data tags and components, how to recognize common heating system operating or safety defects, and how to save money on home heating costs.

If you don't know what kind of heat your building uses, we explain how to figure out the answer in more detail. Here we're showing heating equipment just as you'll see it in your home, with all of the access covers and panels in place.

Articles at this website offer lots more detail including photos of individual heating system controls and components along with explanatory text.

How your oil home heating system works

The heated air is being heated by a gas, oil, or electric furnace, or perhaps by a heat pump or a geo-thermal system then your heat is provided by a warm air furnace sketch at page top, for example. Cooler air hopefully also from the same occupied space flows back to the furnace through one or more air returns and ducts into the furnace return air plenum from which it enters the furnace itself to be re-heated.

Some older warm air systems illustrated below are less sophisticated and may have no ductwork at all, and worse, may heat cold air from the basement and send it one-way into the occupied spaces of the home. Your heating furnace may located in a basement, in a crawl space, in an attic, or even in an outdoor utility closet or an attached garage.

In all cases, some heating equipment oil, gas, coal, wood, geothermal, electric, solar is used to transfer heat to air that is then delivered to the occupied space of the building. Older hot air heating systems were comprised of a furnace that heated air, sometimes just air from the basement. The warm air rose into the upper areas of the building by convection warm air, which is less heavy than cold air rises, displacing colder, more dense air in the building.

You can see one of these old under-floor convection furnaces in our photos at left. Popularly called a "gravity furnace" cold air falls by gravity, and warm air defies gravity by risingyou will see only two "pipes" or ducts on the unit. A flue gas exhaust flue the smaller diameter steel "pipe" that exits near the bottom left of the gravity furnace and connects to a brick chimney in our photo - and that larger diameter round duct at the top center of the gravity furnace.

That large round warm air supply plenum or duct delivered warm air into the building through a large floor grate in the first floor above. Our arrows show the direction of air flow through this gravity furnace. In this photo we can't see the cool air intake but almost certainly it's at the bottom of the unit and is in this horribly inefficient unit, is taking cold wet basement air and heating it up before sending it upstairs.

We do see a little of this furnace's repair history - that abandoned motor on the floor in the bottom center tells us that an oil burner was installed and had to have a motor replacement. Warm air rose from this gravity furnace upwards from the first floor grate into the rest of the building also by convection or "gravity" flowing up a stairwell, or upstairs through registers cut in the first floor ceilings.

We know that the air register at left is a warm air supply register because it has those moveable louvers that would be absent on a cool air return register cover.

But now let's be honest - we don't know for sure if the air register at left is connected to ductwork or if it's just letting warm air rise by "gravity" we say "convection" from a floor below. It's easy to figure out however. Just open the louvers and look through the grating.To understand the workings of an oil-fired boiler, it is helpful to look at it in one of its most common applications: as a heating system found in many homes and businesses.

Consider a common scenario that occurs many times a day. People within a building set the thermostat to a temperature at which they will feel comfortable. When the room temperature drops below that setting, the thermostat sends an electrical signal that opens a valve and releases hot water from the boiler.

This water enters distribution piping and passes through heating baseboards or radiators that warm the air by both radiation and air convection.

A pump is used to circulate the water through the piping and then back to the heating boiler. The water has cooled during its journey and, upon mixing with the water already in the boiler, will cause a drop in temperature. A temperature sensor in the boiler water is connected to the main control of the boiler. When the temperature of the water drops below a predetermined setting, an electrical current is sent to the oil burner and switches it on.

The oil burner then pumps oil at high pressure from a holding tank through a fuel line to a burner nozzle. The nozzle sprays the oil into a fire chamber, separating it into small droplets so that it will vaporize quickly and thus be susceptible to combustion. The oil burner has both a high voltage ignition system that sends sparks and an air intake blower that provides air into the fire chamber. This provides all that is necessary to efficiently ignite the oil vapor.

how does an oil furnace work

Hot gases from the burning oil pass through metal tubes or sections in the boiler, heating them in the process.

These hot pipes in turn heat the water in the boiler up to the safe maximum temperature of the system. This water is stored in the boiler until the system is put into action again by the thermostat in the building. Anthony Smith began writing for Demand Studios in May of and has since written over articles for them. He also writes for "The College Baseball Newsletter. By Anthony Smith. Hunker may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story.

Glossary of Boiler Terms and Definitions. Share this article. Anthony Smith. Show Comments.Adding retrofits, such as a vent damper, to an oil-fuel furnace can increase the appliance's energy efficiency. Department of Energy. See Reference 1 Page 3 The type of heating system you choose for your home plays a large part in your utility costs, as some heating systems perform more efficiently than others.

Both heat pumps and oil-fueled furnaces can be energy efficient, but both systems also have potential disadvantages. An air-source heat pump has an outdoor compressor with a copper tubing coil encased by aluminum fins. Another copper tubing coil is inside the house. To generate heat, the outside coils have a refrigerant that draws in heat from the air and evaporates the heat into a gas. The refrigerant inside the indoor coil condenses the heat back into a liquid, releasing heat into the home.

Generally, heat pumps do not work well in areas with extremely cold climates. If temperatures fall below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, a panel of coils power up and provide heat inside the house. These coils are not as effective as drawing heat from the outdoor air.

See Reference 2. However, many heat pumps have performance problems. Research funded by Energy Star found that more than 50 percent of heat pumps have leaky ducts, poor airflow and an incorrect refrigerant charge. An oil furnace system has a storage tank and the furnace element. Oil enters the furnace through a pipe, where a burner turns the oil into a mist, mixes the oil mist with air, and lights a spark to create a flame. The flame heats the air and the furnace pushes the hot air through a duct system inside the house.

See Reference 3. Generally, oil furnaces use heating oil, a nonrenewable resource, but some companies manufacture biodiesel blends that create less pollution than using heating oil alone.

See Reference 4. For example, a 90 percent AFUE means that 90 percent of the energy in the fuel heats the home, and 10 percent of the energy escapes through the chimney.

See Reference 5. However, the AFUE rating does not factor in energy lost outside the furnace. The U. Amelia Jenkins has more than eight years of professional writing experience, covering financial, environmental and travel topics.

Her work has appeared on MSN and various other websites and her articles have topped the best-of list for sites like Bankrate and Kipplinger. Jenkins studied English at Tarrant County College.

Skip to main content. Home Guides Home Home Improvement Sustainability Adding retrofits, such as a vent damper, to an oil-fuel furnace can increase the appliance's energy efficiency. How Heat Pumps Work An air-source heat pump has an outdoor compressor with a copper tubing coil encased by aluminum fins. See Reference 2 However, many heat pumps have performance problems. See Reference 3 Generally, oil furnaces use heating oil, a nonrenewable resource, but some companies manufacture biodiesel blends that create less pollution than using heating oil alone.

About the Author Amelia Jenkins has more than eight years of professional writing experience, covering financial, environmental and travel topics. Customer Service Newsroom Contacts.How does oil heat work, and is it really a better choice than gas? Here are the basics of how oil heating works, which should help you gain a better, more thorough understanding. There are two different types of oil heating systems: air-based and water-based.

Water-based systems can be further divided into standard hot water systems or steam systems. If you have radiators, you have a hot water heater system — either a standard hot water system or a steam system.

The burning oil is used to heat up water, which then circulates through the radiators to provide heat throughout the house. If you have a boiler, you have a steam oil heating system.

This heating system is also water-based, but your oil is used as fuel to boil the water into steam, which then passes through pipes and heats the home through your radiators. One advantage of water-based heating systems is that they are extremely durable. With good maintenance, they can last 15 years or more. An air heating system works a little differently, with a hot air furnace. In this type of oil heating system, your oil fuels the heating of air in the furnace rather than water.

It works in concert with a blower to force that heated air through the ducts and out of the vents of your home. A return duct sucks the air back in to keep the heating cycle going. Older atmospheric furnaces that funneled waste gasses out through the chimney were fairly inefficient and wasteful. Modern, high-efficiency furnaces draw the hot air through a heat exchanger before venting, and they do so to eliminate heat loss during waste elimination.

Condensing furnaces — which cool the waste gasses until they condense and then pipe them out of the house rather than condense them — are the most efficient. By now, you may have a better understanding of whether you have a boiler or a furnace. But where exactly does the oil part fit in? Good question. Your oil heating system has what is called a combustion chamber. The system pumps oil from your tank into the chamber, usually through a process called pressure injection.

Then, the system ignites the oil. What else is in the heat exchanger depends upon what kind of heating system you have.

Now that you have hot air or water as a result of the heated-up oil products in the heat exchanger, whichever medium you use can go on to heat the house. Whether you have an air-based furnace system or a water-based boiler system, you need oil. Marstellar Oil is the reliable local source for home heating oil throughout the region. Those who know home heating oil in the central PA area know that Marstellar Oil is the right choice. To learn more about oil heating or place your own oil order with Marstellar Oil, contact us or order online now.Why Electric Fireplaces Are Hot.

Should you turn your heat down when you're not home? Oil-fired burners are used in many parts of the country as the basic heat source for warm air and hot water heating systems. Most of the home oil systems in use today are called pressure burners. In this type of system, oil is sprayed into a combustion chamber at high pressure, propelled by a blower, and ignited by an electric spark.

The oil continues to burn as the mist is sprayed. Most oil furnaces in use today are called pressure burners. In this type of system, oil is sprayed into a combustion chamber at high pressure.

An oil furnace is a complex assembly. The maintenance and repair work for this type of furnace is limited to simple parts: the filters, the blower, the motor belts, the switches, and the thermostat. Electrodes, an oil nozzle, air tubes, a transformer, a pump, and other components require special tools and testing equipment and are best left to a professional for service.

To become familiar with your oil furnace, remove the access panel covering the burner blower by removing the retaining screws around the rim of the housing. You can access the air blower and filter through a metal panel on one side of the furnace. The panel is held by either hooks or retaining bolts; slip the panel up and off the hooks or remove the bolts and lift the panel off.

Most furnaces have switches and reset buttons located on the motor or in a switch box outside the furnace housing. The stack control sensor, a safety device that monitors burner operation, is positioned in the stack and held with a series of retaining bolts.

There's not much you can do to fix an oil furnace, but routine maintenance can forestall many problems. On the next page you'll find a list of tips to keep your furnace running smoothly. For more articles on home repair, check out the following links. Furnace Maintenance : Save yourself time and money by learning the steps to keep youor furnace in prime condition.

Major Appliance Repair : If the furnace isn't the only thing in your house on the fritz, you can learn how to fix other machines in this article. Small Appliance Repair : Once you've tackled the furnace, a toaster or blender seems like child's play.

Find out how to fix them here. Thermostat Maintenance : To make sure there's actually a problem with your heating system, you may want to check the thermostat, too.

Learn how to calibrate a thermostat.

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