Knowing more about how your heating oil furnace works will help you to make smart choices if you’re considering replacing your old heating system with a new, high-efficiency model. And if you’re having a heating problem, understanding how your furnace works will be helpful when you discuss the issue with your heating service contractor.
Understanding Your Furnace
Furnaces can be powered by either fuel oil, propane gas, natural gas or electricity. Also known as warm-air or forced-air systems, furnaces produce heated air in the combustion chamber.
Inside an oil-fired furnace, the fuel is mixed with air and burned.
The heat exchanger transfers the heat to the air, which is pushed through the heat exchanger by the furnace’s blower fan.
The fan blows the heated air through a network of air ducts before the warm air exits through registers or vents throughout your home.
Combustion gases are vented out of your home through a flue pipe.
The Advantage of Having a Furnace
Besides heat, the ductwork that connects with your furnace can provide other kinds of conditioned air, including through:
a central air conditioning system
a whole-house humidifier
an air cleaning system or air purifier
Differences Between Old Furnaces and New Furnaces
Older furnaces vent exhaust gases directly to the outside, but this wastes about 30% of the heat energy because the exhaust gases need to remain hot enough to rise through the chimney safely.
Modern furnaces use an insulated flue pipe instead of a barometric damper. This improves venting and reduces heat loss.
Modern-day furnaces can operate at a range of speeds and feature other efficiency-enhancing features including microprocessor-based controls, high-pressure flame-retention burners and durable heat exchangers.
Advanced technology has also brought us the ultra-efficient condensing furnace, which recovers and uses some of the lost heat from waste gases, thanks to a secondary heat exchanger.
Replacing Your Old Furnace
As noted, today’s high-efficiency furnaces provide extra heat more efficiently than units made a generation ago. Higher efficiency means more energy savings, which of course translates into lower energy costs. This is why it pays to learn as much as you can about today’s high-tech heating solutions—and your heating oil service contractor is here to help you, with all of the latest information on new, high-efficiency heating oil furnaces.
When discussing your heating oil furnace replacement options with your heating expert, you’ll most likely learn about the importance of proper sizing.
Sizing refers to the heating system’s Btu rating. If your equipment contractor installs something too powerful (oversized), it will give you more heat than you need, wasting energy and money.
But if the system doesn’t have enough power (undersized), your home will not feel comfortable, and you will spend more on fuel because the heating oil furnace will switch on and off throughout the day.
To determine how much power your home’s heating system needs, an experienced heating-oil-system installer will do tests that show how much heat your home loses in the winter.