While heating oil is one of the most popular sources for fuel in the northeast, it is also one of the safest. And did you know that heating oil is not even flammable at room temperature? In this post we’ll walk through how heating oil works, and what makes it one of the safest ways to heat your home.
How Home Heating Oil Works
Heating oil, sometimes referred to as fuel oil, is stored in an oil tank at home that is connected your heating system. This fuel oil tank is typically in the basement or garage, but occasionally can be found outside the home or underground. A heating oil truck must come on occasion and refill the heating oil tank to make sure the system always has heating oil when called for.
The heating oil is drawn from the tank by a pump in the burner – or occasionally by gravity – to the burner itself. Once there, the ignitions process takes place as follows:
- Heating oil is drawn from the tank through an oil filter to filter out any particulates or contaminants.
- The burner preheats the oil and activates a fan that mixes in air to help ignite the fuel.
- The heating oil then passes through a nozzle where it is atomized (turned into a fine mist), heated further, and ignited to create a flame.
- A sensor inside the system confirms that ignition has occurred, and the system continues to burn heating oil until a thermostat inside the unit tells it to stop.
Is Heating Oil Safe?
Since heating oil must be atomized and heated to 140° F before it can be ignited, it is considered extremely safe. In fact, if you were to drop a match into a bucket of heating oil, the match would simply go out (don’t try this at home though – as heating oil stinks!). This is because heating oil is not flammable in liquid form.
Check Your Heating Oil Tank for Safe Operation
The main thing to watch out for if your home is heated with oil is that it is properly stored in a secure heating oil tank. If your tank is underground and over 30 years old, we recommend removing it from the ground and installing a tank (or tanks) inside your home. This will prevent an environmental hazard that could result of an underground heating oil tank begins to leak.
If your house has an above-ground heating oil tank, then we recommend following our step-by-step guide for inspecting your heating oil tank here.