Heating Oil 101: Heating Oil Basics You Need To Know
Wondering about the basics of heating oil? We know a thing or three about heating oil and have pulled together everything you need to know. Sharpen your pencils and dive into Heating Oil 101.
What are the benefits of heating oil?
The great news about heating oil is that it’s a safe, efficient, durable heating source.
So, if you want benefits, we’ve got benefits.
Benefit #1: Home heating oil is safe. Home heating oil won’t burn in a liquid state, so it won’t ever spontaneously combust. If a leak should happen, it’s not an explosive hazard. Additionally, the advent of Ultra Low Sulfur (ULS) heating oil has made heating your home with oil better for the environment and public health. How? Traditional oil has a sulfur content of 4,000 ppm; ultra-low sulfur heating oil only has a sulfur content of 15 ppm.
Benefit #2: Home heating oil is efficient. A gallon of heating oil produces 35% more heat than a gallon of natural gas. That means you can use less fuel to make the same amount of heat. In addition, heating oil produces the hottest flame of any home heating fuel, allowing it to warm your house faster. But wait—there’s more! ULS heating oil reduces the amount of sulfur buildup and allows your system to run at a more efficient level. It’s an efficiency trifecta.
Benefit #3: Heating oil systems are durable. A new heating oil system should last for 15 to 25 years or more, if you do a good job of taking care of it. And using ULS heating oil will help your furnace running smoothly and efficiently thereby lengthening the life of your system.
Safe, efficient, durable. It’s easy to see why so many New Englanders count on heating oil to heat our homes through those long and snowy winters.
Looking for more on the benefits of heating oil? Check out the Benefits of Heating Oil page.
What is residential heating oil?
Essentially, residential heating oil is the oil delivered via truck to your home to heat it. There is no difference between heating oil that is used to heat a home or a business. All residential heating oil delivered in New England since July 2018 is Ultra Low Sulfur Heating Oil.
Looking for more? Check out the What is Residential Heating Oil?
What’s the difference between types of heating fuels?
Heating oil is so prevalent in the Northeast that many people who grew up here don’t even realize that people living in other parts of the country use other types of fuel. While about 5.7 million households in the United States use heating oil as their main space-heating fuel, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, types of household heating fuels vary tremendously across the country. Curious, but true.
Natural gas. Nationwide, 50% of homes heat with natural gas. Like crude oil, natural gas was formed over millions of years and has to be processed in order to be useful. Natural gas is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. As a safety measure, a substance known as mercaptan is added to natural gas to give it an odor similar to rotten eggs. Gross, we know. But it’s done as a safety precaution, so that in the event of a natural gas leak, the odor would be detectable.
Propane. Also called LPG or Liquified Petroleum Gas, propane is produced through natural gas processing and petroleum refining during which it is extracted, liquified under pressure, and stored in pressurized containers (just like the tanks you get at the hardware store to run your gas grill). Like natural gas, propane is odorless, so an odorant is added to make it detectable in the case of leak.
Electricity. Though expensive, electricity is another heating source used in the U.S. Today, electricity is generated through a variety of different types of generators. An electric furnace is kind of like a big hair dryer. It takes in cold air through a cold-air return, heats the cold air by running it through electric heating elements, and blows the now-heated air out to the house through heating ducts.
Looking for more? Check out the Difference in Heating Fuels page.
How is heating oil made?
Heating oil begins as crude oil, the gushing liquid that is extracted from the earth. Because crude oil has a number of impurities and won’t work in an oil-burning furnace or boiler, it needs to go through a process called refining where the oil is distilled—yes, just like moonshine and all your other favorite alcoholic bevvies.
In fractional distillation, crude oil is heated with high pressure steam to a super high temperature – and when we say ‘high’, we’re not talking 100 degrees Fahrenheit, we’re talking like… 1112 degrees Fahrenheit—and that’s not a typo. Through this process of fractional distillation, hydrocarbons are removed from crude oil and become their own pure substances. Those substances are then purified and blended into a bunch of products, including heating oil.
Looking for more? Check out the full story on How Heating Oil Is Made.
Are some types of heating oil better than others?
If you are new to the world of heating oil, you may wonder if there are different types of heating oil? How do they differ and is one type better than another?
Luckily, the industry switch to ULSHO has simplified these questions! All the states across New England officially transitioned to Ultra Low Sulfur Heating Oil ULSHO in July 2018. This means that all heating delivery companies throughout New England are now essentially delivering the same (improved) product to homes and businesses throughout this region.
ULSHO (what Heatable uses) is a cleaner type of heating oil with lower sulfur content than traditional heating oil. An illustrative comparison: Traditional heating oil has anywhere from 500-4000 PPM (parts per million) whereas the new ULSHO is 15 PPM.
Want to learn a bit more? Check out Are some types of heating oil better than others?
You wouldn’t happen to have a heating fuel glossary, would you?
Sure do! Sometimes just being able to define words or acronyms like BTUs, vent pipe, fuel gauge, #2, boiler, HVAC…yada yada…can help you get a better grip on your heating system. Check out the Heatable Heating Oil Glossary.
Learn more about Heating Oil
Visit our Ultimate Consumer’s Guide to Heating Oil for everything you need to know about heating your home with #2 heating oil.
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