How Does Oil Heat Work? [Home Heating Oil 101 And FAQs]

How Does Oil Heat Work? [Home Heating Oil 101 And FAQs]

How Does Oil Heat Work? [Home Heating Oil 101 And FAQs]In 2023, there is a lot of discussion about what the best fuel source is for heating your home. With oil heat being one of the most common ways to heat a home, we wanted to tell you a little more about how oil heating works.

John Cipollone Inc. started as an oil delivery company back in 1953, and we still deliver oil to this very day. We service, repair, and install oil heating systems, so this is one of our areas of expertise. We want to tell you a little more about how your oil heating system works, and what you should be doing to keep it in tip-top shape!

Read More: Heating Oil FAQs

How Does Oil Heat Work In A House?

If you have oil heating in your home, it all starts with a full tank of oil. You probably have it delivered at the beginning of the winter, and it sits in a tank either behind or on the side of your home, or buried in the ground.

From here, the oil is pulled into the heating system where it is sprayed into the combustion chamber. Here the oil is burned, creating heat. This heat is then transferred to either water, or to air, where it then is pushed into the home, into either radiators, or into ducts where the heat is distributed.

The gases from the combustion chamber are brought up through the flue pipe, to the chimney and out of your home. These gases are dangerous, and it’s very important they be taken out of the home and aren’t leaking.

Types of Heating Oil Systems

There are a few different types of oil heat systems. The main ones are water-based, and warm air. With the water-based system, you are typically using radiators or baseboards to heat, while the air system uses ducts to send warm air throughout the house. No matter what type of system you have, both oil furnaces and boilers do a great job of heating your home.

Read More: Oil Saving Tips For Your Home Heating


A furnace is an air-based heating system. Here, the combustion occurs, creating heat, that is then used to warm up the air. Once the furnace heats air, it is then pushed through ductwork, and distributed throughout the house. 

Cooled air is then brought back to the heating system through return ducts that suck in air. From here it’s brought back into the furnace and the process is repeated. 


Boiler systems will still burn oil, but instead, it either heats water or creates steam. This hot water or steam is then brought up into radiators or baseboards throughout your home. After the water cools off, the cool water is brought back to the boiler and the process repeats. 

Common Types of Home Heating Oils

Now that you see how simple the heat process actually is with an oil heating system, you may want to know more about the oil you are using. Nearly all the home heating oil we use is produced from crude oil, but here are the main 2 types: 

  • Kerosene
  • Gas Oil


Kerosene is a clear liquid, derived from petroleum. It burns cleaner that gas oil, and therefore typically requires less maintenance for your heating system. This is the most common heating oil in the United States. 

Gas Oil

Gas oil is the thicker, darker oil you probably think about when it comes to oil heat. This gas leaves behind more soot and dirt, therefore leading to additional maintenance needs for your heating system. 

Oil Heating Maintenance: What It Is And Why It’s Important

Jimmy Filling Up The Oil TankHaving your oil heating system serviced at least once a year is essential to energy efficiency, and getting the most out of your heating system. 

When you leave your system without maintenance, you could be costing yourself money in operation, and shortening the life of your heating system. Oil can go bad… did you know that? 

If you have old oil in your system it could be hurting the efficiency of your heating system. This is making your home less comfortable, and also costing you money by having to run your system harder. 

You will also want to make sure that the burner is clean, and there isn’t any soot buildup that is hurting your system. 

Finally, you also want to make sure that your flue pipe is taking all the harmful, dangerous gases outside of your home. We highly recommend a service at least once a year for your oil heat furnace or oil heat boiler. 

Read More: My Oil Burner Won’t Turn On. What Should I Do?

Oil Heat FAQs:

  • What happens if you run out of oil heat?
    If you run out of oil, your system stops working! You will need to refill your oil tank right away.

  • Is oil heating better than gas?
    Oil heating is just as safe and clean as using natural gas. The real variable is the cost. If oil is more expensive than gas, it’s going to cost more to run. We recommend locking into a guaranteed rate for oil using the cap budget program. Many oil dealers provide an opportunity like this. It’s a way to set your price for the year and not worry about the fluctuating price of oil costs.

  • How long do 100 gallons of oil last?
    You use about 5 gallons of oil per day in the winter, so we estimate that 100 gallons should last for about 20 days. The most common tanks hold about 275 gallons. This means that should last for about 55 days, or 2 months.

    Depending on the size of your home and how much heat you prefer, we think it’s usually about 2 fillups per winter. 
  • Is it better to leave an oil heater on all the time?
    It’s better to have an oil system that is on all the time, or at variable speeds. Instead of kicking on and off constantly, it runs at a low and steady rate, maintaining the temperature. Most people think it would be better to kick on and off, but truthfully this sucks up energy, and provides imbalanced comfort. 

Home Heating Oil Delivery in Villanova, PA

John Cipollone Inc. is an expert when it comes to home heating oil delivery in Villanova, PA, and the surrounding areas. We have been delivering heating oil since 1953, and know our way around any oil heating system. If you need service, repair, or replacement of your oil heater, give us a call at (610) 446-7877, or click here to contact us online!

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