Heating Oil Vs. Fuel Oil

Home Heating Oil Can Go by Different Names

heating oil wisconsin Have you ever referred to the fuel in your heating system as furnace oil? How about home heating oil or fuel oil? At first glance, these descriptive terms may seem interchangeable, but there are some subtle differences.

First, furnace oil or home heating oil applies only to the heating fuel your furnace uses to heat your home.

You can also call the heating oil that powers your furnace fuel oil, but this term 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. For instance, diesel fuel is a good example of fuel oil.

What these terms have in common is that all these fuels are derived from crude oil during the refining process, which separates crude oil into different “fractions” while removing impurities.

The lighter fractions of crude oil eventually become propane, butane, and petrochemicals while heavier fractions are used to produce gasoline, kerosene, jet fuel, diesel fuel, and No. 2 home heating oil. Heavier fractions become No. 4 or No. 6 heating oils. This is used for commercial and industrial buildings, schools, and hospitals.

Types of Common Fuel Oil Products

  • 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.
  • 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 hot temperatures. Kerosene is valued because it has a low “gel point.” This means it can continue to work well and flow to the heating system in sustained freezing temperatures. That’s why it is typically used by consumers with mobile homes or outdoor fuel tanks.
  • 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 around the country are now using a more environmentally friendly product called Bioheat® fuel.
  • Bioheat fuel — Heating oil has been reformulated with Bioheat fuel, which consists of ultra-low sulfur heating oil that’s blended with renewable biofuel, also known as biodiesel. These Bioheat fuel blends are the future of heating oil. The most refined grade of heating oil available, Bioheat fuel is one of the cleanest burning heating sources for your home. It reduces greenhouse gas emissions significantly and no changes to your existing heating oil system are necessary to start using Bioheat fuel.

How Home Heating Oil Keeps You Warm

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 both use oil to generate 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 fine spray. This oil mist mixes with air and ignites in the combustion chamber, which gets extremely 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).

If you’re ready to explore new heating oil system options for your home, your local heating oil company or HVAC service contractor will be happy to help. Please remember to ask about current rebate opportunities for new heating oil equipment in Wisconsin.