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Converting From Oil to Electric Heat

I am currently a licensed contractor performing remodeling services for residential and commercial customers in Wisconsin.

Learn everything you need to know about converting your heating source from oil to electric

Learn everything you need to know about converting your heating source from oil to electric

Converting Heat Sources

Switching your heat source can be a daunting process. With all of the choices out there, it can be hard to choose- especially if you have an oil furnace. Switching from oil heat to any other type requires the removal of the oil furnace. One of the easiest heat source transitions from oil heat is to electric heat. Electric heat is much quieter than oil heat, and doesn't require ventilation, since nothing is burned.

Things You'll Need

  • Channel locks
  • 5 gallon buckets
  • Screwdriver
  • Furniture dolly
Diagram of an oil furnace, including how to identify the need for replacement

Diagram of an oil furnace, including how to identify the need for replacement

Steps You'll Take

Step 1

Close the pump valve behind the oil pump on the tank. Turn the pump connector counterclockwise at the pump and valve junction. Unscrew to pump and set it to the side.

Step 2

Attach an old garden hose that is cut to just a few feet long to the nozzle where the pump was attached and put the end of the hose in a 5-gallon bucket. Open the valve slowly and fill it up about 3/4 of the way full, then close the valve. Repeat this process until the tank is empty. Take the buckets to your local waste management facility for proper disposal. If you have a large amount of oil left, call the supplier who delivers the oil. They may pump it out free of charge.

Step 3

Remove the old lines by turning the connectors counterclockwise with channel locks. If there is any oil left in the lines, drain them out in a 5-gallon bucket. Throw the lines into the garbage.

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Step 4

Disconnect the exhaust pipe and barometric damper by removing the screws that hold the pipe to the oil furnace. Disconnect the exhaust pipe from the chimney by removing the screws and twisting. The entire pipe should come free. Set the pipe to the side for now.

Step 5

Remove all of the screws that attach the supply and return ductwork to the furnace. Do not worry about disconnecting the power and the thermostat wires. This will be performed by the heating and cooling specialists later.

Step 6

Go to your electrical panel. Open the door to see the breakers. You will need two unoccupied slots for the breaker for the new electric furnace. If there are not two slots available or you have an older fuse panel, you will have to have an electrician install a sub-panel prior to the new furnace being installed.

Step 7

After the HVAC contractor removes the power and the thermostat, remove the oil furnace with a furniture dolly. This will make it easier to get up the stairs, if it's in the basement. Help the HVAC contractor carry the much lighter electric furnace into the basement. From there you simply let them do their job. They should have the new furnace hooked up in a few hours.


  • When removing an oil furnace, have the HVAC contractor dispose of the unit. These units can cost extra to dispose of at a waste management facility.
  • Wear gloves to protect your hands from sharp ductwork.
  • In some jurisdictions, you are required to remove an abandoned oil tank. You usually have to cut the tank into pieces to remove it.
  • Never dump oil down your drains. Oil will harden in the plumbing traps and cause major problems with clogging and backups.
  • If you smell something burning when you first use the electric furnace, this is the oil used in the manufacturing process burning off the heat exchanger coils. This is normal and will go away after a few uses.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


shanel from Seattle on July 17, 2010:

I don't know if I would ever attempt this conversion on my own, but your instructions are so detailed and clear it looks entirely possible. Very informative hub.

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