Understanding Fuel Oils: Your Questions Answered

Fuel oils are used in a variety of applications. It can be a complex topic with many people finding the different types and classifications confusing. This article aims to demystify fuel oils by answering some of the most common questions and helping you understand their characteristics, uses, and differences.

What is Heating Oil?

Heating oil, often referred to as #2 fuel oil, is a petroleum product used by many people to heat their homes, particularly in the northeastern United States. Heating oil is derived from crude oil through a refining process. During this refining process the crude oil is heated and different components are separated and collected at various points as the temperature increases. The technical term for this specific process is fractional distillation. The heating oil is collected at the point where the temperature is between 250-350 degrees Celsius (roughly 480-660 degrees Fahrenheit).

Differences Between #1 and #2 Fuel Oil

We started this article focused on #2 fuel oil, but what about #1 fuel oil? The primary difference lies in their viscosity, or thickness. #2 fuel oil is thicker, has higher energy content, and is more commonly used in residential heating. By comparison #1 fuel oil is thinner, making it a suitable choice in colder environments where a lower viscosity oil is needed to ensure proper flow.

#1 Fuel Oil vs Diesel

When it comes to fuel oil and diesel, they are essentially the same thing. However, like #2 fuel oil, when used for home heating, it is dyed red for this “off-road use” not subject to road taxes.

Can I Use Diesel as a Heating Oil Substitute?

Another common question is whether diesel can be used as a heating oil substitute. The short answer is, yes, diesel can serve as an emergency substitute for heating oil. The two fuels are quite similar, and most oil burners are equipped to handle either. However, this should be seen as a temporary solution rather than a long-term one. Because diesel fuel is subject to road taxes and is typically more expensive than heating oil, it is a costly option for regular use.

Kerosene vs Heating Oil

​​Is kerosene the same as heating oil? Not exactly, although they are closely related. Kerosene  can be used as a substitute for heating oil in some systems. It is less viscous than #2 heating oil and less likely to gel or freeze in cold temperatures. However, kerosene is usually more expensive than #2 heating oil so it might not be the most cost-effective choice for regular use.

Can I Use Kerosene in My Home Heating Oil Furnace?

Yes, it is possible to use kerosene in your home heating oil furnace. Kerosene, like #1 fuel oil, is lighter and cleaner-burning than #2 fuel oil. This makes it less likely to gel or freeze in cold temperatures, making it a better option in certain situations. However, kerosene is usually more expensive than #2 heating oil so it might not be the most cost-effective choice for regular use.

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