Heating Oil ? Please explain

feathersnfinsOctober 19, 2005

Would someone fill me in on the basics of Heating Oil that I hear about on this forum?

I live in the south and I'm sure it's more common in the north.

Would someone answer a few questions for me?

1) Is it used in a stove, furnace, etc... and how? Poured into a tank, direct line from the city (like gas)?

2) Is the oil actually like motor oil as far a consistency?

3) How much do you order at a time and who delivers?

4) How many gallons do you typically use in a year for what size of house and how much does that cost?


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1. It can be used in a stove or a furnace/boiler. Different mechanisms, of course. It's unlike gas, though, in that there are no supply mains. If you have a furnace or boiler, you have a storage tank, normally 250 to 500 gallon capacity. A company delivers oil on a regular basis.

2. Its consistency is a lot like kerosene or diesel fuel.

3. See 1 above.

4. That is HIGHLY variable, depending on size of house, insulation levels, general climate, etc.

My parents have a large, old, victorian with old windows. They use a lot more oil every year than my brother and sister-in-law, who have a small, VERY well insulated home with new windows.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2005 at 12:20AM
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question #2: Heating oil is #2 distilate fuel oil which is exactly what diesel fuel is. kerosene is #1 distilate oil and is what is generally used in small stoves and space heaters, furnaces use #2 fuel oil. (fyi, jet fuels are a combination of the two in different ratios, jp8 being the most common)

    Bookmark   October 20, 2005 at 8:47AM
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Is heating oil mainly used in rural areas where there are no gas mains?

    Bookmark   October 20, 2005 at 11:28AM
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Yes, a big reason to use fuel oil is that it doesn't require the infrastructure of underground gas piping. I never liked heating with oil because of the smell/dirt associated with the old furnace we had. When that furnace finally went, it was replaced with a propane (or LP - liquified petroleum gas) furnace, which is an alternative to oil, and burns much cleaner.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2005 at 12:51PM
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propane is not "much" cleaner than heating with oil, perhaps lack of proper maintinence on your part helped make your furnace dirty and innefficient.

there are many reasons to heat with oil; heating oil is much less volitile than propane, and a leak will not cause your house to blow up (a bbq 20lbs propane tank, if it were to explode would level a house, now think about heating with propane and having 300 or more gallon tank sitting outside your window) also, the temp rise with oil furnace is second to none, read: the air coming from the registers will be hotter, quicker.

additionally propane is generally more expensive than heating oil, even though oil prices are very high right now. This is because propane is also a product of crude oil, as is heating oil. (remember a gallon of LP contains half the btu's of a gallon of oil, so this must be figured in when calculating the heating costs for the different fuels)

    Bookmark   October 20, 2005 at 1:56PM
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I think the use of oil as a heat source also varies with geographic area. In northern New England it's pretty much the norm.

Our propane bill came the other day, $4.27/gallon; we prepaid our heating oil bill for the winter in late August... locked in at $2.09/gallon; last time I checked it was in the $2.50/gallon range, and a number of local dealers were no longer offering a "capped price" for pre-pay.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2005 at 5:32AM
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Fuel is very much a reguonal thing.

I grew up in MA, we had oil.

Married an moved to the midwest. Out there is was gas. I initially thought it crazy to have gas piped into the house.

My wife grew up in the midwest with gas.

We now live in CT, she initially thought it crazy to have 330 gallons of oil in the basement.

It's all relative.

Oil is clean. No smell. I work in my basement and there's no odor to let me know that it's there.

Oil is delivered automaticlally by delivery companies. They track the degree days and deliver based upon your estimated use. Over time they can fine-tune your use, which is based upon how you live and the thermal efficiency of your house.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2005 at 10:03AM
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I find this link pretty good for heating oil and finding a local supplier.


Here is a link that might be useful: Heating Oil

    Bookmark   October 18, 2007 at 9:55AM
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I live in PA. we have had both oil and kerosene.
Oil is for inside tank storage only. It will gel (get to thick)if the temp below freezing.
Kerosene is used in applications where you have an outside tank. We had a Miller hot air furnace that ran on Kerosene because our tank was outside although it could also use #2 oil if the tank was inside.
Right now we have a moniter heater which also uses Kero.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2007 at 10:11PM
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The regional thing I think is more historical accident than anything. I grew up outside of boston and while we had natural gas our neighbor had oil. Houses built around the same time. There are lots of oil companies and houses using oil, so people keep using it.

As for consistency, if you're not familiar with those other fuels fuel oil is much closer in consistency to water than to motor oil. Perhaps closest to a very light cooking oil (say vegetable oil).

    Bookmark   October 25, 2007 at 1:35PM
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Oil REALLY came into vogue in the years following World War II.

Prior to that, gas and coal were a lot more common.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2007 at 12:58AM
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We live in MD, in the DC/Baltimore suburbs although it's pretty rural out here (horse farm across the street, state park south of us). When we built 12 years ago our choices were electric heat pump or oil...there is no gas piped out here. A heat pump heated our townhouse b/f we built and I hated it b/c it took so long to warm up the house and if I wanted a "quick fix" I couldn't stand over the register to warm up quickly! I grew up with natural gas so I am used to HOT air coming out of registers and oil gives me that, as well as the "quick fix" to warm up quickly...and to dry mittens and boots :-)

We have a maintenance contract to have them come twice a year...in late summer to service the furnace and late winter to service the A/C. We also have automatic oil delivery and, as far as I know, we still have a "budget plan" with fixed payments throughout the year. Although, since oil has risen so much lately, we actually voluntarily raised our monthly payment so we wouldn't owe a lot at the end of the season.

We haven't had an oil delivery lately so I don't know how much it is now...but I'm sure it's quite high...they're forecasting a big jump in home heating oil prices this winter. We're actually considering getting a pellet stove to supplement the heat so we don't use so much oil...but I haven't looked into it too deeply yet to see if it's actually worth it. Besides, the kitchen remodel comes first!

When the oil is delivered, the tanker connects to a pipe on the outside of our house that feeds into the 250 gallon tank in our basement.


    Bookmark   October 29, 2007 at 12:27PM
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Oil heat is getting more expensive every year. If you ever have to replace your central a/c, you should consider a heat pump and keep the oil as back-up heat for the heat pump. Today's heat pumps (especially those with scroll compressors) put out warmer air than the ones from 12 years ago. At 40 degrees outside air temp, my new heat pump puts out 97 degree air. At 30 degrees outside air temp, it puts out 93 degree air. Still not as hot as 120 degree temps from gas or oil.

Even with Maryland electric rates increasing 65%, a heat pump still provides cheap heat compared to oil.

Additionally, with the old mechanical/mercury thermostats, the house had to get colder before the auxillary heat kicked in. Today's digital stats bring the aux heat on if the temperature doesn't rise in a certain amount of time.

I live in Harford County.

Take care.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2007 at 3:45PM
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Thanks GaryG (we're in western Howard County).

Funny you should mention that since our A/C just died Saturday...we're going to have someone out to look at it soon, but no rush since it looks like fall has finally arrived. I'm hoping it's something simple/inexpensive, we'll see. I will talk to my husband about this and if it's going to be an expensive repair or replacement we will consider what you've said.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   October 29, 2007 at 8:48PM
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