How to Choose an Oil Furnace

Homeowners wonder how to choose an oil furnace when replacing an old one or having one installed in new construction.  This oil furnace guide will give you straightforward tips on how to choose the right oil furnace for your home.  It’s about finding the right balance of efficiency, performance, quality and price, the key factors in oil furnaces today.

Oil Furnace Efficiency

Efficiency is a measurement of how much heat created by the oil furnace burner goes toward heating your home. Today’s oil furnaces start at 80% efficient and the vast majority of them are less than 90% efficient, though a few are higher and very expensive.  In an 80% efficient furnace, 80% of the heat enters the home’s duct work and 20% escapes along with the exhaust.  The more efficient oil furnaces employ a second heat exchanger to capture more of the heat created by the burner. Here some examples of top oil furnaces at different places in the efficiency spectrum.

Trane XV80 oil furnace is 80% efficient.

American Standard Platinum XV oil furnace is 82% efficient.

Ducane Upflow model number RLUF80C oil furnace is 83% efficient.

Ruud ROCA Highboy Series oil furnace is 85% efficient.

Carrier Comfort Model OBL oil furnace is 86.6% efficient.

Oil Furnace Performance Features

Other than efficiency level, it is performance features that set apart some oil furnaces.  Standard performance oil furnaces have a single-speed blower fan.  The furnace comes on and blows at 100% capacity from the beginning.  The downside of this is that air that hasn’t been fully heated gets pushed into your home and it can feel drafty.  Plus, the blower coming on at full speed and then going from full speed to off can sound abrupt.  Some homeowners don’t mind these issues, but others want the most comfortable home possible.

The solution for “cold” starts and a noisy blower is a variable-speed or multi-speed blower.  When the burner fires up, the blower fan starts slow, gently circulating air until it gets fully warmed up in the combustion.  Then it comes on higher to comfortably circulate fully heated air.  As the burner shuts down, the blower continues, but at lower speed again, in order to gently push the remaining heated air out of the system.

After a multi-speed blower fan, enhanced dehumidification when a central air conditioner is part of the split system is the performance feature most homeowners look for.  Typically, the oil furnace will have a constant-low fan switch that will continue to circulate air over the indoor coil, which is very cold from the system’s refrigerant.  Moisture from the air cycling over the coil condenses on it and drains away, lowering the humidity in the home and making it more comfortable.

Oil Furnace Quality

There are two main ways to gauge quality in an oil furnace.  The first is to look at the quality of the parts.  Most furnaces use generic parts.  Some use higher quality parts that make a difference. One example of this is the use of top of the line burners made by Riello and Beckett.  For example, the Beckett Flame Retention burner used on the Trane XP80 oil furnace is the top rated in the industry.  Another example is the higher-grade alumina-silica ceramic fiber combustion box used on the Dave Lennox Elite Series O23 oil furnace and a few other brands.

The second way to gauge quality is to look at the warranty on the furnace.  As far as heat exchangers go, most carry a lifetime warranty.  But pay attention to the parts warranty.  Models with a 10-year parts warranty are of superior quality to those with a 5-year warranty.

Oil Furnace Prices

As you would expect, oil furnaces with higher efficiency, better performance and superior quality cost more.  The key is to find the right mix for your budget.  Once you determine your budget, then consider furnaces that have the qualities you deem most important.  Here some examples.

Home comfort: If you value a comfortable home over efficiency, then make sure the model has a multi-speed blower and humidity control, regardless of its efficiency.  Some 82% efficient models offer more comfort than 86% efficient models.  Put your money into comfort rather than efficiency.

Climate issues: If you want to find the right model for your climate, here’s a suggestion.  In warm climates where winters aren’t harsh, a lower-efficiency furnace will be more cost-effective.  It will cost less for the furnace, and since you won’t run it as much as in a northern climate, you won’t notice much difference in your energy bill.  In colder climates, the opposite reasoning prevails.  Choose the most efficient furnace you can afford.  It will lower your heating bills and the extra money you spent on a high-efficiency model will be made up in just a few years.

Value furnaces: If you are looking for the most affordable furnace or don’t care about the precision heating and humidity features, then the least expensive oil furnace might be your best choice. This is also true if you need to replace your oil furnace but don’t plan to live in the home for more than a few years.  Buy a cheap oil furnace because you won’t get your money’s worth from an expensive one.


Consider efficiency, performance, quality and cost in light of your specific circumstances.  Your analysis of those factors and the scenarios presented here will guide you in how to choose an oil furnace you’ll be very satisfied with in the years ahead.


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