How Do Oil Filled Radiators Work? Find Out Here!

October 26, 2020
Acacia Crossley

Oil-filled radiators are considered to be the most beneficial heaters on the market due to their efficiency when it comes to cost and energy. However, unlike its name suggests, oil is not used as a burnable fuel which can be off putting to many customers.

We are breaking down exactly how an oil-filled heater works so that you can understand your heater better and decide if this type of heating appliance is the right type for you and your home.

Do Oil Filled Heaters Use Oil?

Unlike what most people would assume by the name, oil-filled radiators do not use oil in the way that you would think. While oil is included in the heater, it is simply used as a component to be heated up over and over again rather than as a burnable fuel.

An electric coil is surrounded by the oil and when you turn your heater on, the coil heats up. The oil is then heated up and is able to work to warm up your room. Because the oil and the electric coil are stored in the heater itself, your radiator does not need to be connected to any central heating system.

Due to the fact that these types of heaters only use the oil in them as a heating element, there is no reason for you to need to replace the oil, as it gets recycled and reused rather than going to waste after one use.

If you do find that your heater has stopped working or has started to lose oil, get in contact with the manufacturer, as each brand will use a different type of oil at different levels. By trying to fix the issue yourself, you could do more damage than good and may result in your oil filled radiator not lasting as long as it should.

It's All About The Convection

As discussed, the oil is heated by electricity running through a submerged electric metal coil within the heater but how exactly does this process work? It is all through the process of convection.

In short, convection is a transfer of heat that takes place on a molecular level between liquids and gases. The way this works in heaters is that when the oil is heated by the electricity, the atoms within that oil separate so that the hot ones rise to the top and the colder molecules sink to the bottom (convection). This means that the hot oil molecules rise to the top of the heater, warming your room.

You will find that the area where your electric coil is located within your heater is colder than the rest of the body. This is because the cold molecules sink to this area, more often than not the bottom of the heater, ready to be heated and reused again. It is this cycle that continues to keep your oil filled radiator emitting warm air and making your winters that much cosier.

Due to the oil constantly being reused, the heat that the radiator produces lasts as long as it takes for the oil to cool down to its natural temperature again, meaning that your room stays warmer for longer than if you were just using a fan heater.

The External Design

You will find that oil-filled radiators will have multiple fins making up the main body, or for larger, new heaters, these fins may be hidden by a larger protector to appear sleek and modern. While these fins may seem to be an aesthetic choice, there is actually a real reason why manufacturers go with this shape.

The more fins a heater has, the larger the surface area available and the more contact that the hot oil can have with the air around it. It is for this reason that you will find that a smaller oil-filled radiator will still have a large number of fins like the full-size heaters, but on the smaller ones, the fins will be more squished together. This is so that you can still get the maximum amount of heat from your heater regardless of the product's size.

In some oil-filled heater reviews, customers have complained about how long these type of heaters take to warm up. Many manufacturers have taken this on board and, in their newer models, have included more fins with less space between each fin, no matter the size of the heater. This is done so that a larger number of fins are heated up at the same time and will give out more heat quicker than fewer fins, solving the main issue that comes with oil-filled radiators.

How Much Power Is Needed?

Due to not being linked up to a main central heating system, your oil-filled radiators will need to be powered individually on a room by room basis. But how much power will your heater need and are they worth the energy consumption?

It is typical for oil-filled radiators to need a power input of between 500 and 2400 watts. While this may seem like a large difference, keep in mind that heaters brought for a box room bedroom will be considerably smaller and need far less power than that of a heater brought for warming up a whole office.

The energy efficiency will vary from brand to brand, depending on how long it takes for the heater to warm up and how warm you want your room to be. If you have a large oil-filled heater that can only operate at a 700 watt capacity, it will take twice as long for that heater to heat up its oil to your desired temperature than it would a heater than requires a 1400 watt input.

It should be noted that while each heater will need different watt inputs, most–if not all–oil-filled radiators are 100% efficient when it comes to the energy they are provided with. This means that any energy that it consumes will be put to use and will not be wasted, allowing you to benefit from every penny of energy input into your oil filled heater.

About the author

Acacia works as a freelance content writer alongside getting their film degree. They enjoy writing about health, food and technology and keeps up to date with what is current and popular today.

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