How Efficient Are Heating Oil Systems?

home efficiency rating wisconsinToday’s heating oil boilers and heating oil furnaces offer Wisconsin homeowners a great opportunity to increase their comfort while decreasing their energy usage. New heating oil systems can now heat a home using significantly less energy compared to older generation equipment. But how do you determine the efficiency of a furnace or a boiler?

AFUE, an acronym for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency, is a type of energy efficiency rating used for furnaces and boilers, including those fueled by heating oil. The AFUE number—usually found on a yellow sticker attached to your heating system—represents how much of the fuel your equipment consumes is being directed toward producing heat for your living space.

For example, in a newer heating unit with an 85% AFUE unit, 85% of the fuel consumed by the heating system goes toward heating your home; the remaining 15% is lost in the combustion process—usually getting wasted up the chimney.

Another way to think about AFUE is to consider it in terms of the dollars you spend on fuel. In an 85% AFUE furnace, 85 cents of every dollar will go toward heating your Wisconsin home. But if your oil-powered furnace or boiler is old and not well maintained, your actual AFUE could drop into the 60s or even 50s. This is a big reason why the decision to upgrade your heating equipment often pays for itself fairly quickly.

Today’s advanced equipment operates with improved efficiency, so you use less energy to keep your home comfortable. You’ll also see savings on maintenance and repairs when you update your system.

AFUE Is Only Part Of The Story

Knowing the AFUE rating remains an important bit of information when it comes time to invest in new high-efficiency home heating equipment. Of course, AFUE doesn’t tell the whole efficiency story – proper heating system installation and periodic heating system maintenance are also extremely important pieces of the equation, as are several other factors.

Efficiency ratings can be a good general starting point, but it’s important to remember that the tests to determine AFUE are all done in a laboratory. Efficiency performance is only as good as your installer. Equipment needs to be installed to the manufacturer’s specifications so you can get the best performance and value for your investment.

Getting The Right Fit

Your installer will have to determine how much BTU power your new system needs. Some contractors will miscalculate and install a heating system that’s too powerful, or oversized. This 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; you will also spend more on fuel because the boiler or furnace will keep turning on.

To determine how much power your home’s heating system needs, an experienced heating oil service provider will do tests to figure out how much heat your home loses in the winter.

Installing The Equipment Correctly

Once a proper-sized system is selected, your heating oil service provider will install it the right way. This requires skilled technicians with specialized training. A furnace or boiler is not alike a refrigerator that you wheel into the kitchen and plugin. A heating system installation takes much more work!

Bottom line: installing a new heating system will increase energy efficiency and save you money, as long as the boiler or furnace is sized and installed correctly.

If you’re ready to explore new heating options for your home, your local heating oil company or HVAC service contractor will be happy to help. Please remember to ask about current heating oil rebate opportunities in Wisconsin.