What is Heating Oil for Your Home?

What is Heating Oil for Your Home?

Heating oil is a liquid petroleum product with low viscosity. It serves as a fuel oil used in boilers or furnaces in buildings. HHO is the abbreviation for Home heating oil.

Heating oil is made up of a combination of petroleum-derived hydrocarbons that condense between 250 and 350 °C (482 and 662 °F) during oil refining, most of which occur in the 14- to 20-carbon atom range. Heating oil is known to condense at a relatively low temperature when compared with petroleum jelly, candle wax, bitumen, and lubricating oil.

However, the condensing temperature is higher than that of kerosene, which is known to condense between 160–250 °C (320–482 °F). Heavier (C20+) hydrocarbons usually condense between temperatures of 340 °C to 400 °C (644–752 °F). Heating oil generates 138,500 British thermal units for every US gallon (38.6 MJ/l). It has a weight of 8.2 pounds per US gallon (0.95 kg/l). The fuel oil possesses a flash point of 52 °C (126 °F).

The majority of products manufactured using heating oil are similar to that of diesel fuel, and motor fuel. Hence, both can be interchanged as raw materials. The only problem is the difference in taxes. Heating oil carried a reduced tax compared to motor fuel. It is more economical to buy heating oil at a cheaper price than purchasing motor fuel at an expensive rate.

Furthermore, visual differences have also being introduced to the oil, making enforcement possible. Red dyes are often added, responsible for the “red diesel” name in several countries. In the U.S., after dying the fuel oil red, it is not taxed and can be used for constructing highways.

Heating oil is usually delivered to commercial, residential, and municipal buildings by tank truck. The oil can be stored using above-ground oil storage tanks, usually located in the garages, basements, or outside close to the construction. At times, heating oil can also be stored in underground oil storage tanks. Above-ground fuel storage tanks are often used since they are cheaper to construct. Heating oil is rarely used for generation of power or as an industrial fuel.

The major environmental concern are leaks from tanks, and pipes. Various federal and state regulations have been put in place guiding the appropriate transportation, proper storage, and right way to burn heating oil since federal regulators have categorized it as a hazardous material (HazMat). Know how to check the soil due to oil leaks is critical as well. 

Heating Oil in the United States and Canada

In the United States, heating oil is widely recognized as the No. 2 heating oil. It is very important that it conforms to ASTM standard D396. Kerosene and Diesel also have their respective ASTM standards in which they must conform to. Residents and businesses in both Canada and the United States make use of heating oil a lot.

The futures contract trades of heating oil is in units of 1,000 barrels (160 cubic meter), featuring a minimum fluctuation of $0.0001 per gallon. This is calculated dependent on delivery in New York Harbor.

The respective prices paid by homeowners for heating fuel is monitored by the Department of Energy. Prices can be compared online. The US Energy Information Administration also collects price statistics of heating oil. They are also responsible for maintaining historical price data for all major US markets every heating season.

Heating oil is generally utilized in the northeastern United States. Irving Oil’s refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick makes most of the heating oil available in the region. This is Canada’s largest refinery. Heating oil is often distributed to consumers through family-owned small businesses. Nonetheless, distributors in the United States provide the Department of Energy the average price for each gallon for their users. These prices are not listed on comparison websites. Rather, they prefer to provide the most appropriate quote for the property.


This is a degree day system. It is dependent on the quantity of fuel consumed by a customer between more than one deliveries. It also depends on the high and low outdoor temperatures during the specified period.

A degree day refers to one degree of temperature lower than 65 °F. To calculate the number of degree days in a single day official high and low temperatures for that particular day will be obtained. The average of both figures will be calculated. The number of degree days for the particular day is the number of units that the calculated average is lower than 65 °F.

The K factor refers to the ratio of the number of degree days in a specified period to the number of gallons of fuel oil used within that period. The number of degree-days before any need for delivery can be calculated by multiplying K degree-days per gallon by the amount of gallon of consumable fuel oil left in the tank.


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