For most Americans, keeping your home adequately heated during the winter is an absolute must. Living in a balanced climate means those hot summers are accompanied by extended periods of chilly weather between November and March, so your building has to be ready for them. That means you’ll need a furnace that functions adequately. However, it’s important to realize that not all furnaces work the same way. In fact, there are various kinds of furnaces out there, and different fuel sources to power them. Choosing the right type of heater for your home or business will depend on different factors.
One of the oldest and most established sources of fuel for furnaces is oil. Oil-based heating systems work like this: your thermostat detects that the temperature in your home needs to be raised, and turns on the oil burner in your furnace. Your furnace then pumps oil into the burner from the tank where it is usually stored. As it is pumped, it combines with air to create a kind of mist, which is burned to generate heat. This heat then travels through your home by way of air ducts, water pipes, or steam radiators.
However, oil is far from the only way to heat your home—and it may or may not be the most convenient. To help you decide whether an oil furnace is the right choice for your home, let’s examine seven significant oil heating pros and cons:
- Pro: Oil Furnaces Have Lower Upfront Costs
One of the primary reasons why people seek out oil heating systems is because it costs less to purchase and install one. Generally speaking, an oil furnace is far cheaper than an electric or gas model, since these furnaces use newer technology. That initial price point can be extremely attractive—at first, anyway (more on this in a moment).
- Pro: Oil Furnaces Do Not Require LNG Lines
If your furnace runs on natural gas, you’ll have to make sure you live in an area with the necessary infrastructure to provide it to your home. Oil furnaces, on the other hand, may be used practically anywhere—because their fuel is stored on-site in a nearby tank.
- Pro: Oil Furnaces Provide More Btu Per Hour than Other Systems
The Btu per hour of a furnace determines the size of space it is capable of warming efficiently. The higher the Btu/hr, the bigger the space you can effectively heat. Oil furnaces offer higher Btu ratings than comparable gas or electric models, which means you can use a smaller unit to heat a larger space.
- Con: The Long-Term Costs of Oil Furnaces Are Considerable
The price you pay upfront for an oil heater might well be less than that of a gas or electric model, but you’ll probably end up paying more eventually. That’s because oil prices are much less stable than those for natural gas, and they tend to be higher in general. Heating a home with gas for an entire winter costs the average American just over $700. On the other hand, the average price for heating a home all winter with oil is $2,535.
- Con: Oil Furnaces Require More Maintenance
Oil furnaces experience a variety of problems regularly, because of factors such as soot buildup. These can include puffbacks, leaking fumes, and clogs from a faulty burner. Gas and electric furnaces require far less maintenance.
- Oil Furnaces Must be Separate from Air Conditioners
One of the major reasons not to use an oil furnace is that many gas and electric units form part of HVAC systems. An HVAC takes care of your heating and cooling needs from the same system, which makes them extremely useful in climates that have hot summers as well as cold winters. Oil furnaces, on the other hand, are standalone units, which means that if you want to keep fresh in summer, you’ll need to buy a separate system to do it.
- Oil Furnaces Have Fewer Available Service Companies
Because only 8% of homes in the United States still use oil furnaces, there are fewer companies around to help care for them—which doesn’t bode well when you consider how much service oil furnaces need. However, it’s easy to find qualified HVAC technicians who can work on systems that use different fuel sources.
Ultimately, you’ll have to make the decision on which kind of furnace you want in your home. However, make sure you know the facts before you do. If you live in a remote area without natural gas lines, then an oil heater might be the way to go. In most cases, however, the long-term expenses and specific needs of an oil furnace make it less convenient than upgrading to an HVAC.