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Homeowner's guide to:

Heating Oil Deliveries

#2 Heating Oil

a.k.a. "Heating Oil" and "Fuel Oil"

Almost identical to the diesel fuel that’s sold at gas stations, “heating oil,” a.k.a “#2 heating oil” and “fuel oil,” is the primary heating fuel for “about 5.5 million households in the United States” (US Energy Information Administration, Feb 9, 2021). Unlike electricity or natural gas, which are sold by monopoly utility companies and rely on a single grid or pipe network, heating oil is delivered by thousands of private companies via small tanker truck, all competing for your business, ranging from low-price no-frills “COD fuel” dealers to premium full-service heating oil companies that are more expensive, but offer a variety of payment plans and other conveniences.

Advantages of Heating Oil Central Heat

  • Heating capacity: A small quality of oil produces a tremendous amount of heat. On a 32°F winter day, an average home’s oil furnace uses only 5 gallons (a single office water-cooler jug) of oil to heat the entire home to a comfortable temperature (Young’s Home Comfort, Nov 13, 2020).
  • Safety: Heating oil is not flammable at room temperature (Princeton University, Environmental Health & Safety Department), isn’t stored under pressure, and its fumes aren’t undetectably toxic (Connecticut Department of Public Health, Environmental Assessment Program). For the safety-conscious homeowner, this is a big advantage.
  • Reliability: With more than 2,000 providers across the northeast each fielding a fleet of trucks, if your heating oil company isn’t able to make a delivery, there are multiple home heating oil companies near you to choose from.
  • On-site storage: One tank of heating oil provides heat for many days, and even weeks, giving you the peace of mind that if a storm disrupts the roads and utilities, you have enough energy on hand, at your house, to heat your home through the period of the disruption.
  • Service: For something as important to your family as home heating, it’s good to know that most heating oil companies are family owned and operated, and provide a level of customer service that the faceless utility monopolies simply don’t offer.

Heating Oil Detergent Additive

We’ve all seen ads that promote detergent gasolines that “clean your engine while you drive,” and a AAA study actually proved these claims, finding that detergent gasolines actually reduce engine deposit buildup 94.5% (American Automobile Association, 2016)

Because heating oil contains even more floating deposits than gasoline, using a heating oil with detergent additive is even more important for your boiler than a detergent gasoline is for your car.

Your heating system’s efficiency rating, which for oil boilers is typically around 85%, is based on a clean system without deposit
build-up. Heating oil that lacks detergent additive allows deposits (dirt) to build up throughout the whole system, reducing your boiler’s efficiency and increases your annual heating costs.

Heating Oil Detergent Additive Benefits

  • Reduce heating costs: The detergent prevents deposits from building up on the boiler nozzle, which optimizes fuel atomization and overall boiler efficiency. Deposit build-up degrades efficiency: every 1% loss in efficiency translates directly into a 1% rise in home heating costs.
  • Boost boiler reliability: Untreated heating oil “gels” (becomes viscus) during severe cold fronts, which can cause your boiler to stall at the time you need it the most. Detergent additive prevents gelling, ensuring your boiler runs smoothly even in the most extreme cold-weather conditions.
  • Reduce maintenance costs: Boilers have very few moving parts, but when those parts fail, it’s often because they get gummed up with dirt deposits. Detergent additives dissolve these deposits to keep your boiler running smoothly and reduce or eliminate expensive service calls.
  • Prevent oil tank leaks: Your oil tank has a vent to the outside air. When humidity from the air enters the cool tank, the humidity condenses into water droplets which sink to the bottom of the tank and corrode the tank, eventually leading to leaks and, in extreme cases, tank failure. Detergent additives disperse the water-droplets into the oil, flushing the water out of your heating system when the oil is atomized in your boiler, preventing tank corrosion.
  • Inhibit Chimney Soot: “Soot” is made of oil particles that do not fully burn. Detergent additives contain combustion catalysts that optimize combustion, eliminating soot.
  • Dissolve tank sludge: In the warm summer months, heating oil is a breeding ground for microbes, which coalesce at the bottom of your oil tank to form sludge. Detergent additives not only prohibit microbial growth, but also break down existing sludge, which is flushed out through your heating system.
Image of Detergent Additive Benefits

Biodiesel Blends

Modern oil boilers can achieve peak efficiency with Bioheat mixtures – even B100 (pure biodiesel) – but because burn properties of biodiesel differ from #2 heating oil, your boiler must be tuned specifically for the blend that you choose.

“Biodiesel” is a liquid fuel similar in composition to diesel, but refined from vegetable oil rather than crude oil. From an environmental standpoint, the fact that biodiesel comes from a renewable energy source makes is preferable to standard heating oil.

Some home heating oil delivery companies offer “Bioheat,” a marketing name for a mixture of standard #2 heating oil and biodiesel. The name of the bioheat being delivered typically contains a number that indicates proportion of biodiesel in the fuel blend, for example, “B20 has 20% biodiesel and 80% petroleum diesel” (“What About Blends?“), Pennsylvania State University).

Example Blends:

  • B3: 3% biodiesel, 97% #2 home heating oil
  • B10: 10% biodiesel, 90% #2 home heating oil
  • B20: 20% biodiesel, 80% #2 home heating oil
  • B100: 100% biodiesel