Types of Fuel Oil

Fuel Oil vs. Heating Oil: What’s the Difference?

fuel oil wisconsin What do you call the fuel that gets delivered to your home’s heating oil tank? Heating oil? Fuel oil? Maybe you just call it oil.

We bring this up because some people tend to interchange heating oil with fuel oil when describing their home heating fuel. That’s perfectly fine, but just for the record, the term fuel oil is not limited to home heating oil. Fuel oil is a broader term because it refers to any petroleum product that can power a home heating system or an engine.

There are similarities of course. Both fuel oil and home heating oil are derived from crude oil during the refining process, which separates crude oil into different fractions while removing impurities. While lighter fractions of crude oil eventually become propane, butane, and petrochemicals, slightly heavier fractions are used to produce gasoline, kerosene, jet fuel, diesel fuel, and No. 2 home heating oil.

There are also heavier fractions refined from crude oil that are transformed into what’s known as No. 4 heating oil and No. 6 heating oil. These heavier grades of heating oil are commonly used to fuel the large heating systems found in commercial and industrial buildings, as well as hospitals and schools.

What Are Common Fuel Oil Products?

  • Kerosene — A clear fuel that was first used to power oil lamps in the 19th Century, kerosene is made by distilling crude oil at extremely high temperatures. Kerosene is an ideal fuel in certain situations because it has a low gel point. This means it can continue to work well in extremely cold temperatures. Kerosene won’t gel, or thicken, until the outdoor temperature gets near -40° F. Compare that to heating oil, which starts to gel when the temperature drops to 16° F. That’s why kerosene is recommended over heating oil for people with mobile homes or outdoor fuel storage tanks.
  • Diesel —This is the fuel of choice for most commercial ventures. It can be used to power buses, trucks, forklifts, generators, farm equipment and boats. While there are two categories of diesel–on-road and off-road—there is no chemical difference between them. The only difference is their appearance, intended usage and price.
  • Heating oil — Petroleum-based home heating oil, also called No. 2 fuel oil, is essentially the same as off-road diesel. However, many homeowners and businesses can now count on an even more environmentally friendly product, including heating oil consumers in Wisconsin.

Bioheat® Fuel in Wisconsin

Eco-friendly Bioheat® fuel is ultra-low sulfur heating oil that’s blended with renewable biofuel. Bioheat fuel, the most refined grade of heating oil available, is one of the cleanest burning heating sources. It reduces greenhouse gas emissions significantly compared to all-petroleum heating oil and no changes to your existing heating oil system are necessary.

What Carbon Neutral Means

The biodiesel blend in Bioheat fuel is composed of various organic products, including vegetable oils, animal fats and even algae and wood waste.

Biodiesel is considered a biogenic fuel that eliminates carbon output. By contrast, when traditional fossil fuels that do not contain biodiesel are burned, they take carbon that was once stored in the soil and transfer 100% of that carbon into the atmosphere.

On the other hand, the combustion of biofuels and other biogenic energy sources recycles carbon-dioxide emissions through renewable plant materials and other biomass feedstocks.

The goal is to transition to B100 Bioheat fuel (100% biodiesel/biofuel). We’re seeing important progress in this direction. The R.W. Beckett Corporation recently started production of fully warranted burners with B100-compliant components. Beckett is the country’s largest producer of heating oil burners. Additionally, the National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) has demonstrated that a home heated with 100% biodiesel and using solar panels to produce electricity can reach net-zero carbon emissions quickly — and at an economically viable cost.

That’s why you’ll keep hearing a lot about net-zero carbon emissions and carbon neutral fuels in the years ahead.

Read more about Bioheat fuel.

What Thermostat Setting Is Recommended For Winter?

winter thermostat setting wisconsinOne common debate in households at this time of year revolves around thermostat settings. How low can you go and how much can this save you on heating your home?

While finding a balance between comfort and savings is not easy because every family and home are different, here are general guidelines from the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE).

You can easily save energy in the winter by setting the thermostat to 68°F while you’re awake and setting it about 8°F lower while you’re asleep or away from home.

Why You Save With A Lower Temperature

According to Energy.gov the lower the interior temperature, the slower the heat loss. So the longer your house remains at the lower temperature, the more energy you save, because your house has lost less energy than it would have at the higher temperature.

The same concept applies to raising your thermostat setting in the summer — a higher temperature inside your home will slow heat gain into your house, saving you energy and money on air conditioning costs.

The Energy Department concludes that you can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F for eight hours a day from its normal setting.

Why Going Too Low Causes Problems

When the temperature inside your house drops too low (below 60°F,) the risk for frozen pipes goes up a lot.

Most bathroom and kitchen pipes are not insulated, so they rely on your home heating system to keep them warm. Without adequate exposure to heat, these pipes can freeze and because of this expansion, eventually burst. This can cause severe water and structural damage that could cost thousands of dollars to repair. There are countless stories of people returning from a winter vacation only to find a water pipe had burst and flooded their home.

How To Avoid Frozen Water Pipes

  • Leave your thermostat setting no lower than 60° F if you plan to be away from home in winter—keep it higher if temperatures are forecasted to be especially frigid when your home is vacant.
  • Keep the main water valve turned off while you’re away
  • Have a neighbor or friend check your house when you’re away to head off problems.
  • Plug or caulk holes that allow water lines to be exposed to cold outside air.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors where water pipes are located, allowing heat to enter.
  • Check in and around your home for water lines in colder or unheated areas. Insulate both cold and hot water lines in areas such as your garage, crawl spaces and your attic. Consider a heated cable or electric heat tape if the area remains cold and can’t be easily warmed up.
  • If the cold weather is sustained or severe, allow a small trickle of warm and cold water through the faucet.

Smart Thermostats Make It Easier

An easy way to control your temperature settings is to install a smart programmable thermostat, which will help you keep temperatures low while you’re away (or sleeping) and higher while you’re home. Why waste time adjusting your thermostat every day? Plus, you can remotely monitor your home’s temperature anytime, from anywhere from your mobile phone.

If you’re worried that your heating system will not keep you warm enough this winter, please explore current equipment rebate opportunities and then reach out to your heating oil service provider for advice.

Be warm and stay safe this winter!