How Oil Heating Systems Work

If you use oil to heat your home, it pays to be smart about how it works. This can help you better understand when any problems may arise, potentially help you troubleshoot and be more knowledgeable when dealing with technicians for any repairs or replacement services. We’ve put together this quick guide to help you learn more about your oil heating system.

How oil heat systems heat your home

Depending on the type of system you have (water based or warm air), the system works differently to disperse heat throughout your home.

  • 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. The fuel/air mixture is then injected into the burner where it is ignited in the combustion chamber.        

Types of oil heat systems

  1. Water based

There are two main types of water-based systems:

  • Hot water systems, that heat water which is then circulated through radiators or baseboards.
  • Steam systems, in which the water turns to steam and rises through pipes to the radiators.
  • For both, water is heated in either a cast iron or steel boiler before it is dispersed throughout your home.
  1. Warm air based
  • In this 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. The air gets drawn back to the furnace through a return duct and the cycle repeats.

Whether water or warm air based, your oil heat system emissions from the combustion of fuel and air finally exit the system through a flue pipe that runs out of your home through the chimney.