When it comes to choosing a way to heat your home, there are a number of reasons to choose a heating oil furnace.
For one, an oil furnace can be installed anywhere – you don’t need to hook up to a pipeline like you do with natural gas. Oil is also safer than gas (natural gas or propane), since it can’t explode or even ignite in normal household conditions. Oil furnaces are built to last, too, with lifespans that can exceed 25 years with proper professional maintenance.
“Sounds great,” you say. “But what about efficiency?”
Efficiency is indeed critical to the decision-making process for buying a furnace, since higher efficiency saves you money and helps save the planet. So are heating oil furnaces efficient? To answer that, let’s first take a look at an important acronym: AFUE.
AFUE, or Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency, is a type of energy efficiency rating of heating appliances, including furnaces, boilers, and water heaters. The AFUE number (which you can usually find on the yellow sticker on your appliance) represents how much of the fuel your equipment consumes is actually directed toward producing heat for your living space (as opposed to how much energy is wasted along the way). For example, in an 84 AFUE unit, 84 percent of the fuel consumed by the machine goes to heating your home; the remaining 16 percent is lost in transit – usually up the chimney.
Most new oil furnaces have AFUE ratings between 84 percent (the federally-required minimum) and 90 percent. But if your furnace is old and not well maintained, your AFUE could drop into the 60s or even 50s – a big reason why the decision to upgrade your older heating equipment often pays for itself pretty quickly.
Of course, AFUE doesn’t tell the whole efficiency story. For example, propane furnaces can achieve AFUE ratings into the mid-to upper 90s – but propane also produces fewer BTUs per gallon than heating oil when burned, so whatever benefit you get from improved efficiency is diminished by propane’s lower heating power. Proper heating system installation and periodic heating system maintenance are also extremely important pieces of the efficiency equation.
Still, knowing the AFUE rating remains an important bit of information when it comes time to invest in new high-efficiency heating equipment for your Hudson Valley home.