How Do Heating-Oil Tanks Work?


Quick Answer

Heating oil tanks work by pumping oil into a combustion chamber, where it is ignited to produce heat. Owners must maintain an adequate supply of oil inside the holding tank. These systems use warm air, hot water or steam to introduce heat into a building.

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Full Answer

The heating process begins with the thermostat. When the building's temperature falls to a specific level, the thermostat prompts a burner to elevate the oil's temperature. The heated oil then moves through a pump into the burner, where it transforms into a hot mist. The pump pushes the mist into a combustion chamber for ignition.

If the building is heated through central air vents, a furnace pushes the ignited mist through each of the vents as warm, dry air. If the structure utilizes radiator or baseboard heating, the ignited mist heats water for completion of the process. A hot water system circulates the hot water through the radiator or baseboards, while a steam system transforms the water into steam, which then rises into the building.

The system continues to heat the building until the thermostat senses that the temperature has reached the desired level. Once that occurs, the burner ignition cuts off, and the oil settles back into the tank.

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