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What You Need To Know About An Oil Furnace – Is Electricity Required?

What You Need To Know About An Oil Furnace - Is Electricity Required?

During the twentieth century, oil gained widespread acceptance as a relatively efficient source of clean heat. Even up to this day, many oil heaters are still in use. Perhaps you have an old oil heater in your home or are thinking about installing a new one. In any case, you’re wondering if oil furnaces require electricity. In this post, we use industry professional knowledge and up-to-date research to answer your question.

Yes, electricity is required by oil furnaces. While the primary source of heat is the combustion of oil, several components of the furnace are powered by electricity. These include the ignition system, the oil pump, the blower motors, the circulation pumps (if necessary), and the controls.

Continue reading to learn more about the electrical requirements of an oil furnace. We also include information on how to keep an oil furnace running during a power outage. In addition, we discuss some alternatives to relying on electricity for winter heating.

Oil Furnace Electrical Requirements

It would be ideal if oil furnaces did not necessitate the use of electricity, but this is not the case. Because electricity is so common, oil furnace designers assumed it would always be available for heating the home. The main roles of electricity in oil furnaces will be discussed in the following subsections.

While oil is flammable, it requires a spark to ignite. This spark is almost always caused by an electrical ignitor. Most electrical ignitors in oil furnaces ignite when the furnace is turned on for the first time to light the oil. Some older furnaces, however, have ignitors that constantly spark.

What You Need To Know About An Oil Furnace - Is Electricity Required?

Without that electrical spark, the oil will not ignite and produce heat in either of these cases. You may be tempted to light the oil with a hand lighter, similar to how natural gas furnaces and stoves are lit. However, as explained in the following subsection, this method will not get you very far.

The Oil Pump
Oil is stored and transported in the form of a thick, viscous liquid. This means it will have a difficult time passing through the oil lines that connect your oil tank to your oil furnace. Oil furnaces include oil pumps to help with this process. These pumps are electrically powered.

Blower Engine
Most oil furnaces are also equipped with one or more blower motors. The blower is required in some furnace designs to bring air into the combustion chamber (remember, oxygen is just as important for combustion as the fuel itself). Furthermore, if the furnace used forced air and air ducts, the blower must distribute the heated air throughout the house. Both types of blowers are powered by electricity.

Circulator Pump
An electrical circulator pump is required for hydronic systems, which use a series of pipes to distribute hot water throughout the home (think radiators). These pumps circulate the water in the pipes, bringing colder water back to the furnace to be heated and hot water out to the pipes throughout the house.

What You Need To Know About An Oil Furnace - Is Electricity Required?

In addition to the components listed above, oil furnaces frequently include a number of electrical controls and safety features. These can include the thermostat, which tells the furnace when to turn on, as well as other sensors that aid in the operation of a safe and efficient furnace.

How Much Energy Is Required To Run An Oil Furnace?

An oil furnace typically requires 2,500 watts of electricity to operate. This is significantly less than the minimum requirement of 15,000 watts for electric furnaces. Keep in mind, however, that different furnaces and furnace types have different electrical needs.

Typically, the specific requirements are outlined on the furnace’s label or in the owner’s manual. Often, the label is hidden beneath a cover or panel that can be removed by hand or by unscrewing a couple of screws. Look for “watts,” which is sometimes abbreviated with a capital “W,” to find the specific requirements of your furnace.

When The Power Goes Out, How Do I Run My Oil Furnace?

Your oil furnace will not operate if the power grid is down. The only way to restart your oil furnace is to find another way to supply enough electricity to the furnace’s electrical components. Strategies include the use of generators, batteries, and solar panels.

Using A Generator To Power An Oil Furnace
When the power goes out, the most popular and cost-effective way to power an oil furnace is with a gas or propane generator. All you need is the generator, some gasoline or propane, and the appropriate connector cord, and you’ll be back in business in no time. Make certain that your generator will exhaust into an open area.

These generators can be found in most home improvement stores. However, due to the sudden increase in demand, they may be difficult to obtain in an emergency. The prudent course of action is to determine the size of generator required for your furnace and to have the generator and gas ready before the power goes out.

Using A Battery To Power An Oil Furnace
There are house batteries that can power your electric furnace. Because wiring and assembling these systems is difficult, it is best to hire a professional to install the system for you. To charge the battery and ensure that the power is converted into alternating current, you will need the battery itself.

Furthermore, you must ensure that the battery is large enough to power the furnace for an extended period of time (say one to two days). You will also need to keep the battery charged at all times because you never know when the power will go out.

Solar Energy
Solar panels convert the sun’s energy into usable electricity. Unfortunately, if the sun is shining brightly, the need for your oil furnace is not as pressing. As a result, it is best to pair solar with a battery so that the battery can be used during the cold night and then recharged during the day when the sun returns. The fact that this strategy is weather-dependent is a significant disadvantage.

What You Need To Know About An Oil Furnace - Is Electricity Required?

If you cannot generate electricity for your oil furnace using the methods described above, you will be left wondering how to heat your home when the power goes out. Wood is the only viable option.

Wood heat is possibly the oldest and most basic type of home heating. All you need is wood, a fire source, and a properly vented fireplace or stove. With these ingredients, you can generate adequate home heat whether or not the electricity is on. As a result, wood is a popular backup heat source in areas that experience power outages during the winter.

What Shouldn’t Be Used

If you don’t have a good place to burn wood or access to a generator, it may be tempting to use propane-fired space heaters. However, this option carries significant health risks. Similarly to how burning wood produces smoke, burning propane produces carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide, on the other hand, is a potentially lethal gas.

The distinction is that smoke can be seen and smelled, whereas carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless. The carbon monoxide is simply released into the room as the space heater burns. And, because it is likely to be cold outside, all windows and doors will be shut.

This means that dangerous levels of carbon monoxide will accumulate inside over time.

Prolonged carbon monoxide exposure can cause dizziness, unconsciousness, and even death. Because of this risk, chimney and flue regulations for all combustion appliances are extremely stringent. This is also why you should never use a gas generator indoors.


In this post, we discussed whether or not an oil furnace requires electricity. We go over all of the electrical components in an oil furnace, as well as how to power an oil furnace during a power outage. In addition, we discuss the primary alternative to electricity-powered heating. Best wishes!

What You Need To Know About An Oil Furnace - Is Electricity Required?

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