What Do You Have: an Oil Furnace or an Oil Boiler?

do I have a furnace or a boilerMost people refer to their oil heating system as “a furnace.” As in, “I need to get my furnace checked.” But there is another type of oil heating system that may be keeping you warm right now–except it never gets much recognition. When was the last time you heard someone say, “I need to get my boiler checked”?

So the fact is, your oil heating system can either be a furnace or a boiler. Both of these heating units will keep you warm, but there is some information you should know that may come in handy if a problem arises. If it’s something minor, you may be able to correct it yourself. And if you need to discuss something with an oilheat service technician, you will at least have a working knowledge about how your heating system operates.

What is a Furnace?

A furnace refers to the heating unit in a warm air, or forced air, system. After air is heated in the furnace, a blower forces it through ducts. The warm air is then released through vents or registers in your home.

What is a Boiler?

If you have a hot water (hydronic) system, water circulates around your boiler’s combustion chamber. A circulator pumps the hot water through pipes to heat baseboards or radiators. Eventually, the water returns to the unit to begin the cycle again. If you have a steam system, the boiler turns the water into steam, which then rises through pipes to radiators.

Read more about furnaces and boilers.

Tips for Your Oil Furnace

  • All warm air systems have air filters to screen out dust and other impurities. In general, you should check the filter’s condition about once a month during the heating season and change/clean it when necessary. Contact your heating oil service company if you’re not familiar with this procedure.
  • If you have a whole house air cleaner connected to your furnace, get the most out of it by keeping the thermostat setting to “on” instead of auto. This provides continuous circulation and filtration of indoor air and helps maintain a balanced temperature throughout your home.

Tips for Your Oil Boiler

  • If you’re not getting heat from a baseboard, check to see if the damper is open. Make sure the bottom of the unit isn’t blocked by heavy carpeting.
  • For steam systems, check the boiler’s water gauge periodically. Low water levels are a leading cause for shutdowns. Steam boilers should also be “flushed” when the water in the gauge looks rusty. Contact your heating oil service contractor if you’re not familiar with this procedure.
  • A radiator valve has only two positions, on and off. Keeping the valve’s handle in between does not regulate the temperature but can strain the pipes and produce a hammering sound.

General Heating System Tips

  • Keep the area around your system as clean and clutter-free as possible. Never store anything flammable near your system.
  • Keep registers, baseboards or radiators clean and unobstructed to ensure maximum air flow.

If you think it’s time to replace your old furnace or boiler, please contact your heating oil company about your options. Today’s oil boilers and oil furnaces offer homeowners a great opportunity to increase their comfort while decreasing their energy usage.

New systems now heat your home using significantly less energy compared to older generation equipment. Energy-efficient equipment can be installed with controls to use only as much fuel as needed to heat your home or a specific part of your home.

You may also qualify for rebates.