If you have an old oil heating system and are looking to invest in a new one, you might be surprised to learn how efficient oil heating system technology has become. Oil furnaces with natural draft flue gas, continuous pilot light and thick-walled heat exchangers can lose one quarter to nearly half the heat it produces. Newer furnaces, however, have reduced the losses to roughly 10 percent. This means you are burning less fuel and saving more money.
How to rate efficiency?
When shopping for a new heating system, you will want to evaluate efficiency along with price. Heating system efficiency is measured by “annual fuel utilization efficiency,” of AFUE. AFUE is a measurement of the annual heat output of the furnace or boiler compared to the total annual fossil fuel energy consumed. For example, an AFUE of 90 percent means that 90 percent of the fuel becomes heat for the home and 10 percent is released through the flue or elsewhere.
If you’re considering purchasing a lower-cost unit, check the efficiency. More efficient units usually come at a higher price. But this shouldn’t be the only factor in your decision. Consider not only the up-front cost of the system, but the cost of fuel over the life of the unit.
What are the rules regarding new oil system efficiency?
The U.S. Department of Energy has set heating system standards for new systems that require a certain level of efficiency. A newly installed oil home heating system must have an AFUE of 83. These rules vary if you own a mobile home.
How do these efficient models compare to my old unit?
Although new units are required to have an AFUE rating, older systems may not carry this efficiency rating, or the information may have been removed by the previous homeowner. Knowing how efficient your current unit is can help you determine how much fuel – and money – will be saved once a new system is installed.
There are a few signs that indicate a low-efficiency unit, which runs anywhere from 56 percent to 70 percent efficiency. Look for a continuous pilot light, which must be relit if it goes out. These systems rely on drafts to distribute the warmth and can be identified by ductwork described as octopus-style.
Mid-range efficiency models will use an electric ignition, so there is no pilot light. They also have fans that control airflow and carry an efficiency of about 80-83 percent.
Shopping for quality and efficiency
High-efficiency furnaces run at 90-98.5 percent efficiency, depending on the model. These are usually condensing units with two heat exchangers that maximizes use of the heat from the exhaust gas.
As we noted, these units are more expensive, however, you can save a significant amount in fuel costs over time. For people who live in cold climates like New Hampshire, these systems are usually the better bargain.
At M.L. Halle Oil, we promote, install and service Energy Kinetics products, boilers and water storage tanks. We’ve have had a relationship with this company for several years and are an Energy Kinetics System 2000 dealer. We can also consult with you about other brands and can install and repair heating systems by other manufacturers, including Buderus, Weil McLain, ThermoPride, Utica, Burnham, and Miller.
We have found that Energy Kinetics products range from 88 percent efficiency to 91 percent, which is likely a big improvement over your old unit. If you have questions about installing a new oil heat system, please feel free to contact us at (603) 627-7869