Truth vs. Myth

Turn it up or leave it alone? Shut it off? Switch to another fuel to save money?

Figuring out how to lower your energy bills while staying comfortable can be confusing, especially when it’s hard to separate truth from myth.

Take Our Quiz FIRST:

Answer the following questions with either “truth” or “myth” and then read the articles to see how much you know.

  1. Heating oil should never be stored inside a home.
  2. Natural gas is a more efficient heating fuel than heating oil.
  3. Your home heats up faster when you turn the thermostat up high.
  4. A new heating system always increases energy efficiency and saves money.

1. How Safe Are You?

The recent Oilheat Consumer Research Study revealed that many people, particularly younger ones, have huge misconceptions about the safety of heating with oil.

The fact is, oil-heated homes are incredibly safe! Here’s why.

No explosions. Contrary to what many people believe, heating oil cannot explode. The oil that’s stored in a tank is as likely to explode as the water in a swimming pool. That’s how safe it is to store heating oil in your basement or outside your home.

No fire hazard. Heating oil cannot burn in its liquid state. Before combustion can occur, heating oil must first be vaporized and turned into a fine mist by the burner at temperatures above 140°.

No dangerous surprises. Oil heat poses a very low risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. If an oil burner malfunctions (most often due to a lack of maintenance), the safety devices in the unit will typically shut the furnace off. Other heating sources—like natural gas—usually do not afford a homeowner this protection.

Bottom line: It’s a myth that heating oil cannot be safely stored inside a home.

2. What’s More Efficient?

Most people who have owned an oil-heated home will tell you that “cozy comfort” is one of the best benefits of oil heat. When temperatures drop to the single digits, as they did last winter, people really appreciate their oil-heated homes. What’s the secret? Efficiency!

Oil packs a wallop of heating energy, providing comfort and efficiency. For every gallon of oil burned, nearly 140,000 Btu’s of heat are produced. That’s the equivalent of about 70,000 60-watt lightbulbs. That’s why heating oil consumers get about 40% more for their heating dollar than the folks who heat their homes with natural gas.

New technologies have dramatically increased the efficiency of heating with oil. Because of these advances, homeowners who heat with oil typically use 50% fewer gallons of oil per year than in the 1970s—700 gallons now versus 1,400 gallons back then.*

Bottom line: It’s a myth that natural gas is a more efficient heating fuel than heating oil.

*Source: National Oilheat Research Alliance

3. Let’s Crank up the Heat!

Have you done this before? It’s a super-cold winter evening and you arrive at a home that feels chilly. You immediately stride to your thermostat and move the temperature setting as high as it will go. You smile as you hear the burner kick on. Now, you think, the house is going to get warm really fast. But is that the truth…or a myth?

The fact is, your furnace or boiler doesn’t work like a car—there is no gas pedal to step on to make it go faster. Your system will produce heat at the same rate regardless of whether your thermostat is set to 68° or 85°. Setting the thermostat higher just makes your system work longer and burn more fuel.

TIP: For better temperature control, trade in your old digital or manual thermostat for a wireless remote smart thermostat. After you register it online, you can access it from any location and adjust temperatures for both comfort and savings.

Bottom line: It’s a myth that your home heats up faster when you turn the thermostat all the way up.

4. Get What You Pay For

It seems logical. Your old, 50% efficient boiler has reached the end of the line and you replace it with a new oil boiler with an 85% efficiency rating. With such a big boost in energy efficiency, all you have to do now is sit back and count all the money you will save on heat for years to come. This is true—under one important condition: Your new boiler needs to be sized and installed correctly.

Sizing it up. Sizing refers to how much Btu power the system has. If a contractor installs something too powerful (oversized), it 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 will keep turning on.

To determine how much power your home’s heating system needs, we do tests to figure out how much heat your home loses in the winter.

Installing it right. Once we select a properly sized system, we install it the right way. This requires skilled technicians with specialized training. The biggest mistake people make when they purchase new equipment is choosing the wrong contractor. Some contractors will be glad to sell you equipment at a low price—but won’t be available if it doesn’t work properly. Or you may encounter a salesman who wants to sell you “the latest thing”—but won’t tell you about design flaws that cause the system to work poorly.

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.