If you’ve kept your home warm with heating oil for a while, you probably already know that heating oil, like many other products, comes from the refinement of crude oil.
Through the process of distillation, hydrocarbons are removed from the crude oil, which is further purified and blended to make the heating oil that your fuel company ultimately delivers to your heating oil tank.
The lightest fractions of crude oil eventually become propane, butane and petrochemicals, while slightly heavier fractions are used to produce gasoline, kerosene, jet fuel, diesel fuel and No. 2 home heating oil. Diesel fuel and No. 2 heating oil are virtually the same in terms of their chemical composition, but they are taxed differently.
In recent years, there have been significant strides in the refining of heating oil that make it much cleaner and increasingly greener. Notably, most of the sulfur content has been removed, which is why today’s heating oil generates so little soot compared to the past. Heating oil is also being blended with renewable biofuel made from plants and other organic matter. This further reduces the fuel’s carbon emissions.
Massachusetts fuel companies are already leading the way on sustainability with Bioheat fuel, which must meet rigid production specifications. It is a “drop-in” fuel that requires little or no heating system modifications.
Renewable biofuels offer a responsible, immediate path for carbon reduction. Biofuels reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by as much as 86% over traditional petroleum heating oil. The fuel also helps eliminate sulfur oxides and particulate matter, which contribute to climate change problems and health issues.
Homeowners are using Bioheat fuel today across Massachusetts. This fuel burns so cleanly, it is helping homeowners save money on both fuel and system maintenance.
Nationwide, some three billion gallons of biofuel were consumed last year, and biofuel use is expected to exceed six billion gallons by 2030. This will eliminate over 35 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas emissions annually. That is excellent news for the environment! Read more about getting a heating oil delivery that includes a biofuel blend.
You either have an oil furnace or oil boiler in your home. A furnace uses air to heat your home, while boilers use water. Furnaces and boilers can both use fuel oil to heat, and it starts in the combustion chamber, where the oil is tuned into a flame by the oil burner.
The burner can be considered the engine of your heating oil system. When your house gets chilly, the thermostat will send a signal to tell the oil burner in the furnace or boiler to turn on. A fuel pump then starts to draw the oil from the tank and through fuel lines to reach the oil burner.
There is a device on the burner called the nozzle, which turns the oil into a very fine spray. This oil mist mixes with air and ignites in the combustion chamber, which gets very hot. This heat then gets moved around your home and comes out either through radiators or baseboards (if you have a boiler) or vents (if you have a furnace).
How efficiently this is done depends a lot on the design of the burner. Modern burners contain electronic pre-purge and post-purge controls to ensure ultra-clean starts and stops. New two-stage burners also have an efficiency level that’s 5–15% higher than older ones because they have been designed to conserve fuel.
Read more about heating oil efficiency.