As of January 2016, about 6 million households in the country use heating oil as their main space heating fuel, and most of the consumption is concentrated in the Northeast area. In 2014, about 88% of total U.S. residential fuel oil was sold to consumers in the Northeast. (EIA)
Since the demand of home heating energy is larger than other regions, it’s important that homeowners can fully understand heating oil and the differences between other types of heating systems, such as natural gas. As technologies evolve, heating oil may be very different from what you may think.
Fact 1: Heating oil is non-explosive
Did you know if you drop a match into heating oil it will be extinguished as if dropped into water? Mind-blowing, right? Many people confuse oil and heating oil and think heating oil is extremely dangerous, which is a myth. Heating oil is a low viscosity, liquid petroleum product that must be vaporized before it will ignite or burn. It doesn’t burn in a liquid state. Even if a heating oil leak does happen, it wouldn’t be an explosive hazard.
Fact 2: Pink is the new black
Do you imagine heating oil is black, sticky like this? Bzzzzzt, wrong answer. Government regulations in most countries require that no. 2 heating oil be dyed pink so that inspectors, vendors, and purchasers can distinguish it from various oil products, like off-road diesel.
Fact 3: Heating oil is clean and continually getting cleaner
Since 2012, Northeastern states are working on cutting the sulfur content of heating oil with official law regulation. By 2018, sulfur content in oilheat will be lower than 15 ppm.
Federal Mandates for Ultra-low Sulfur Diesel
(Chart courtesy of EIA)
Fact 4: Heating oil is cheaper than you think
If you are reading this article, most likely you’ve heard that switching to natural gas could save you more. Well, if you calculate all the elements that go into a conversion, such as: the cost of construction, a new furnace, hiring a contractor to install it, removal of your old heating source and so on, you wouldn’t recuperate your costs for many years.
Studies have shown that for the past 30 years, natural gas and oil were comparably priced, and heating oil had the advantage most of the time. (American Energy Coalition) Oil prices have reached 10-year lows this year, with analysts predicting prices will stay low for the foreseeable future.
Fact 5: Heating oil is your best option until renewable energy is more readily available
Renewable energy sources are expected to be affordable and accessible in the near future. Meanwhile, the investments required to construct natural gas pipelines across the state are staggering -- even when amortized over 20+ years. Who will be on the hook to pay for those pipelines long after more affordable, renewable energy sources are introduced over the next decade?
Heating oil is the most cost-efficient and environment-friendly option for now that can be a bridge to a renewable energy choice down the road. By contrast, other types of heating systems hinder efforts to move towards renewable energy solutions.
Fact 6: Heating oil generates fewer emissions
Since 1970, the heating oil industry has cut its total greenhouse gas emissions by about 1/3. Home oil burners generate less than 1/3 of 1% of total U.S. particulate emissions.
When it comes to Bioheat, the National Oilheat Research Alliance’s study in 2015 shows that its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are less than natural gas GHG emissions at a blend level of 2% biodiesel.
Fact 7: Heating oil burns hotter than any home heating fuel
Heating oil burns 400 degrees hotter than natural gas, warming your home with less fuel and money. Efficiency of heating oil equipment is usually evaluated between 83% and 94%. The number breaks down to how many cents of every dollar spent for heat are actually used to heat up your home.
Fact 8: Using heating oil in Maine supports the local economy
Most heating oil providers are family-owned and operated in the neighborhood for years and provide a wide range of service and expertise. By using heating oil, you are actually supporting the local economy and providing more job opportunities. Heating oil providers care about and are involved in the local community.
Fact 9: Using heating oil means having more choices
There are over 100 heating oil suppliers who deliver to customers across Maine. As a homeowner, you're free to choose whichever supplier you'd like. With more suppliers come more options -- like competitive pricing and a wide range of service plans. If you use natural gas, you're likely stuck with one supplier (think cable company).
Now, more than ever before, there is an ongoing and vigorous debate over the use of various energy resources and their potential impact on the environment. As part of this debate, much is being written about the United States reliance on foreign oil, the impact of fossil fuels on the environment, and the need to continually improve energy efficiency.
Energy consumers, business leaders, policy makers, and the news media do not need more rhetoric; they need s to ensure a balanced dialogue on the economic and environmental benefits of all fuels. As such, it's important to understand and separate commonly held myths about heating oil from the facts:
When all of the economic and environmental factors are considered,
heating oil has a great story in terms of its reliability, affordability,
and sustainability; and with Bioheat, its future is even brighter.
This information was compiled by the Energy Communications Council (ECC). ECC represents the New England Fuel Institute, the Delaware Valley Fuel Dealers Association, the Maine Oil Dealers Association, the Massachusetts Oilheat Council, the Fuel Merchants Association of New Jersey, Oil Heat Comfort Corp. of Long Island, the New York Oil Heating Association, Inc., the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association, and the Virginia Petroleum, Convenience, and Grocery Association, and is funded by the National Oilheat Research Alliance.