If you just jumped in, I’m examining the pros and cons of different energy sources on Your Wild Home. I recently covered coal, and will be covering gas, solar, wind, and geothermal energy in upcoming posts. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment!
If you found this post because you typed “oil heat” into your browser, then chances are high that you live in the Northeastern United States.
Because that’s the area of the U.S. that consumes nearly all the heating oil. In 2015, 84 percent of total residential oil sales were made in America’s Northeast region, according to the Energy Information Administration.
And for good reason. The winter weather is bitterly cold, and oil heat is one of the warmest ways to combat frigid temperatures. Oil heat burns 300 degrees hotter than natural gas, so it warms houses quicker and uses less fuel to do it.
But just because it’s one of the quickest and hottest heat sources doesn’t mean it’s the best for your home.
When you consider environmental factors, operation costs, fuel costs and convenience, the decision complicates.
So, if you need help making your decision, here’s what you need to know:
Heating oil is one of the many derivatives of crude oil. Once you extract crude oil, you distill it. Then, you capture the evaporation and and divide it into categories according to weight. Lastly, you convert each of these categories into a final product. A few of these are gasoline, motor oil, diesel and heating oil.
In fact, diesel and heating oil are both called No. 2 Distillate fuel oil, and they are so much the same that the IRS requires manufacturers to dye heating oil red because heating oil isn’t taxed the same as automotive diesel. Truckers caught running red diesel in their engines receive a fine for tax evasion. But homeowners who use heating oil can rest easy knowing they aren’t paying a fuel tax to heat their home.
Most heating oil used in the U.S. is also from the U.S.’s supply, with some from Canada and Russia. The U.S imports oil during the winter months because the demand is higher; but no new heating oil is made unless refineries have demand for other petroleum products as well.
All energy sources negatively affect the environment in some way, but certain fuels are more notorious than others for their contributions. We associate oil with large oceanic spills resulting in damage to marine ecosystems. An example is the 2010 Deepwater Horizon incident, which emptied 200,000 gallons of oil a day into Louisiana’s waters. But major oil spills aren’t the only ecological threat from products that have a petroleum base.
The process of transforming crude oil into heating oil and other petrochemicals is also a major air pollution contributor. In fact, ExxonMobil’s massive petrochemical factory in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, discharged more than 2.6 million pounds of carcinogenic chemicals into the air in 2014 alone, according to USA Today.
When you add to those negative impacts the amount of carbon released into the air as heating oil burns, then you’re looking at a significant amount of environmental harm.
But there are some changes being made in order to lower the CO2 emitted while burning oil. Along with lowering the sulfur content of heating oil, companies are also creating biofuel or bioheat. This is a mixture of petroleum and vegetable oils or animal fats, which burn cleaner than heating oil by itself.
This is a great option for those already using oil heat, but it may not be enough reason to switch to oil from another heating source.
Now that you know the background of heating oil, here are a few other pros and cons to consider:
No energy source is perfect, but hopefully this article will help you decide which source is perfect for you.