Oil-filled radiators last a long time. In our wood workshop, we have a 30-year-old oil-filled radiator that’s still fully functional. In comparison, other space heater types age much faster.
So, let’s check what makes an oil-filled radiator last for so long.
And also, I am going to tell you what you can do to increase your oil radiator’s lifespan even more.
Quick answer: An oil-filled radiator lasts at least 20+ years. If it is not exposed to weather and large temperature changes, then it can easily work well beyond 30 years. The main reason is that oil-filled radiators don’t have any built-in moving parts that wear down.
But there’s even more to it.
How long do oil-filled radiators last?
An average oil-filled radiator lasts at least 20 years. Here’s a table with oil heater lifespans depending on usage.
|How long will an oil-filled radiator last?
|Indoor usage (supply heat)
|Basement / Attic (rare usage)
|Workshop / Garage (occasional usage)
|Indoor usage (main heat source)
|Mobile home / RV
An oil-filled radiator lasts a long time if it is not moved a lot and is not exposed to temperature changes and weather.
That’s why oil heaters last for well over 30 years if they serve as an occasional indoor heat source.
If an oil-filled heater is used outdoors, or in places with more “extreme” temperature changes, such as garages, workshops, or RVs, where they get moved around, then its lifespan decreases.
What’s a durable oil-filled radiator model?
If you are looking for an oil-filled radiator, I highly recommend this Pelonis oil-filled radiator (click here to read my review).
It is a simple heater, without any fancy features. It heats perfectly well, and because it comes without many extras, there’s nothing that can break.
So, it will last you for a (very) long time!
Why do oil-filled radiators last so long?
There are many reasons oil-filled radiators are almost indestructible. Here’s a list of some reasons:
#1 Oil-filled radiators are maintenance-free
Oil-filled radiators are maintenance-free. You will never need to exchange the oil because it is stored fully sealed inside the heater’s metal body.
So, it is impossible that the oil ever leaves the heater, unless the heater is damaged. So, you won’t ever need to refill an oil-filled radiator.
Additionally, most oil-filled radiators have no built-in fans which blow air, because the heat is distributed through convection.
If there are no built-in fans and no moving parts in general, then this also means that there’s nothing to maintain. Only moving parts need maintenance.
What doesn’t move, doesn’t need maintenance.
#2 Oil-filled radiators contain no moving parts
Oil-filled radiators contain no moving parts. This means that there is no internal friction. Any technical system with internal friction wears down over time.
Friction would cause parts to deteriorate, and oil to get greasy. Also, it would force you to maintain parts after some time.
However, if no parts ever move, then there’s nothing to wear down. And if nothing in a heater wears down, then the heater lasts for decades.
There are oil-filled heaters (and other space heaters) that have built-in fans. These fans will wear down with time. That’s why I recommend getting an oil-filled radiator without fans.
These fans are not even necessary for the heating, since they don’t really distribute heat better than the large finned metal body itself.
#3 Oil-filled radiators don’t burn any fuel
Oil-filled radiators don’t burn any fuel. This has three implications:
- None of the oil inside it is ever used up
- There will never be overly hot temperatures inside an oil-filled radiator
- Soot or other waste material buildup is impossible
All of these things would wear down fuel or gas-burning heaters over time. But they don’t apply to oil-filled radiators. How nice!
#4 Oil heater heating elements don’t overheat
What’s the difference between an oil-filled radiator and any other space heater? It’s the form of heat distribution.
The main difference between an oil-filled radiator and other electric space heaters is that the heating element is embedded inside an oil-filled metal body.
The oil surrounding the heating element wicks the heat away from the heating element. The oil then transports the heat to the large metal surface where it is given off to the room’s air.
This means that an oil-filled radiator never overheats. The oil wicking away the heat from the heating element ensures that the heating element’s temperature is moderate at all times.
While other space heaters’ heating elements get glowing red hot, that’s not possible for an oil-filled radiator. This ensures that the heating element never overheats.
And because of the resulting even heat distribution within the heater, no parts break down quicker than others.
This makes an oil-filled radiator last a very long time. Everything just ties together well. Oil radiators are technically simple but very elaborate.
#5 Oil heaters are a fully enclosed system
The metal body containing the oil of the oil-filled radiator is fully enclosed. This means that none of the oil inside it will ever leave.
Additionally, the temperature inside the oil-filled radiator is not hot enough to break down the oil.
That’s another reason oil-filled radiators last so long.
How to increase an oil-filled radiator’s lifespan?
Even if an oil-filled radiator lasts for so long, you can still increase its lifespan by many years if you do the following:
Never damage an oil-filled radiator’s varnish
An oil-filled radiator’s heating body is sealed using a special varnish that prevents the metal from oxidizing.
If your oil-filled radiator tips over and that varnish is damaged, then breakdown begins.
Don’t expose your oil-filled radiator to weather
Don’t let your oil-filled radiator stand outdoors where it is exposed to rain, snow, and hailstorms.
Bad weather wears down the outer shell of your oil heater and might open it up for oxidation.
Use your oil heater at moderate temperatures only
Oil-filled radiators can output a lot of heat. However, you shouldn’t always blast your oil-filled radiator at full power. Aside from the high electricity cost of oil-filled radiators, the large temperature changes increase the internal wear down of your heater.
This is, however, just a small effect. So, you shouldn’t worry too much about it.
At least, I wouldn’t worry about whether my oil heater lasts 25 or 26 years.
Oil-filled radiators last well over 20 years. Oftentimes, they last well over 30 years, depending on how they are used.
The lack of moving parts and internal friction makes oil-filled radiators the most durable type of space heater. Which is why they are my personal favorites!
They just heat, and heat, and heat. And they never break down.
An oil-filled radiator might stop working only after 25 years. But until that time, your personal situation has changed, your home might have changed, and technology might have changed, and you don’t even need that heater anymore.
So, enjoy your oil-filled radiator while it lasts!