The Role Of Heating Oil In The United States

19 January 2015
 Categories: Industrial & Manufacturing, Blog

Heating units, such as furnaces and water boilers, are an omnipresent part of our lives, but do we really know how they work? They create heat, but so does almost every other appliance or electronic we own, so how are they unique? 

The answer lies in the fuel they use to create heat and the mechanism for distributing that heat. Here is an introduction to one of the most common types of fuel, heating oil, as well as an explanation of its role in the United States,


As you can probably tell from the name, heating oil is a specific type of oil that is used in heaters. While gasoline used to power cars and other vehicles burns quickly to produce a large amount of energy quickly, heating oil is much less volatile. This means that heating oil is much safer to store long term, although it cannot provide energy as rapidly as gasoline. 

This is primarily due to differences in composition between the two materials. Gasoline has shorter hydrocarbon chains that heating oil, which translates to lower stability and higher volatility. Heating oil has between 14 and 20 carbons in each chain, while gasoline is generally in the 4-12 range.


Since heating oil is slightly more efficient in providing energy than gasoline, while simultaneously being less volatile, it is a perfect choice for heating. Furnaces and boilers do not need to deliver the same amount of burst energy that a car would require, so they do not need gasoline. Additionally, the stability of heating oil greatly reduces the risk of a fire or accident. 


Heating oil usage is heavily dependent on geographic factors such as weather and proximity to refineries. For instance, heating oil is almost never used in states other than those in the north east. This can be attributed both to the harsh winters of that region and the proximity to the Irving refinery at Saint John in Canada, which produces over 150,000 barrels per day for the United States alone.

Legal Notes

In the United States, businesses are offered a tax exemption if they dye their heating oil red. This contributes to a standardized identification system based on visual and sometimes olfactory markers. The reasoning behind this system is that many dangerous gases or fluids have no readily-identifiable features. Therefore, the system exists to artificially insert very obvious warning signs, and offers economic incentives for doing so.

Speak with professionals like Fox Fuel Co for more info.