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Q & A: A question about forced-air heating?

Question by moosederchi: A question about forced-air heating?
We have forced-air heating and central air conditioning. We use oil to run the heater. Will anything bad happen to the heating system if we don’t use it throughout the winter and instead use our fireplace and two electric heaters to heat the home since we can’t afford the oil?

Best answer:

Answer by Corky R
Probably not. I’d imagine there are plenty of people that shut their homes up for the winter, that have oil heat and go to Florida, or Texas, or S. Carolina, anywhere that’s warm. As long as it’s just setting there dormant there will be no wear and tear on anything, and with the fuel oil in it there will be plenty of lubrication for the gun assembly. Shouldn’t hurt it at all I would think.

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6 Responses to Q & A: A question about forced-air heating?

  1. German Jerry

    Oh man! going from Oil to electric and fireplace heat is going from bad to worse! Here is the most efficient way to heat your home minimally for the winter…
    Set your oil furnace at a minimal temp (60 degrees) this will keep your pipes from freezing and you will conserve your oil and your furnace will cycle only occasionally. This will keep the unit from being damaged by non-use issues as well.
    Focus your time on conserving the heat you generate so insulate, seal and plug all the drafts possible. And above all, please don’t fire up the fireplace! The chimney is designed to suck air from your home and it will suck the heat with it with peak efficiency. Plug that fireplace and leave it plugged for the winter.
    Practicing zone heat can help but you nee a real efficient electric heater like a portable tile heater. Consumer Reports has some suggestions on the best ones to get. Keep in mind resistance heating is THE most expensive kind of heat, so use it sparingly.
    If you are seriously looking into an alternative fuel source that will save you in the long run you can look into wood heat. Your fireplace may be a candidate for an efficient wood insert. That is the only way you will get good efficient heat from it.

  2. HalfHandy2

    Zone heating is a good idea, but you are going about it the wrong way. Open Fireplaces waste more heat than they produce and electric resistance heat is the most expensive way to heat…you need to reevaluate your plan.
    Use the furnace to keep a minimum temperature of 60 in the house. This will keep your oil bill low and keep the plumbing from having freezing issues.
    You could get a fireplace insert to get efficient heat from your fireplace, but don’t use an open fireplace or you will be wasting more heat than you are gaining. If you don’t use an insert just plug the fireplace with a chimney balloon to keep the damper from leaking and forgo using it for this winter.
    To get efficient zone heat you can go with movable electric tile heaters that are better than the electrical resistance types.

    Since your fuel types sound like they are limited to wood, oil or electric you have a few options, but not many. Natural gas opens up more less expensive options like power vent furnaces and power vent fireplaces.

  3. Karen L

    You sure that’s cheaper? Fireplaces are very inefficient. You might be better off keeping the furnace on at a low temp, like low 60s, shut the heat vents to rooms you don’t use much, use the electric heaters in certain rooms only, and wear sweaters indoors.

  4. Breath on the wind

    You might have a water problem. Water vapor may condense on cold duct work. Condensation can make duct work rust quite nicely. Your proposed heating system may create more pockets of cold air. Therefore, you will have to consider any plumbing lines and make sure that they do not freeze.

    One thing that may help both of these issues is to see if you can set your heating system fan from “auto” to “on” This control should be on the thermostat. You will use electricity to make the heat in the house more even and keep the duct work dry.

    It is true that a fireplace without a metal firebox that ducts the air to the room is less efficient. It can push too much warm air from the heated room up the flue. Even more efficient is a an airtight stove eithor as a liner in the fireplace or stand alone. Both of these push more heat in a room with a fan on the ductwork. However, if you have available firewood or wish to spend the time to cut firewood one year to burn another efficiency is correctly taking a back seat to availability. The firewood in hand is cheaper than the oil you would have to buy. And any additional equipment that you don’t own will add to your costs. If this is a temporary solution you may wish to keep costs down.

    Electric resistance heaters are also more expensive than any other type of heat, however if this allows you to to create zones and lower the heat in some areas then you may have a cheaper overall solution.

  5. HVAC Man

    One thing you may want to do is test fire the furnace atleast once a month, that will help keep everything in working order.

    Leaving a furnace sit not running for a long period of time can cause problems.

    Good Luck.

  6. Noah T. Hall

    You may check out this website and see if they can help.


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