Heating Oil 101

Heating Oil 101

What Is Heating Oil and Where Does It Come?

heating oil maine Heating oil consumers in Maine can rest easy knowing that they can always rely on home heating oil to keep them safe and comfortable, regardless of how cold winters get in the Pine Tree State. To help you appreciate your home heating fuel more, here are some facts about where heating comes from and how it keeps your home warm.

Heating oil comes from crude oil, which needs to be refined to remove impurities. It’s then separated into different “fractions.” More refined, lighter fractions are used to produce such products as gasoline, kerosene, jet fuel, diesel fuel and No. 2 home heating oil, which is what you use to heat your home.

Refining is just a step in the process. There is more work to be done before your fuel reaches your heating oil storage tank. After it is refined and ready for use, heating oil is transported by ship, barge, truck, and/or pipeline to major fuel terminals. It is distributed from these terminals to local heating oil companies. Many of these companies have their own storage facilities, which can hold thousands of gallons of heating oil. These secure storage facilities ensure that an adequate supply of fuel is on hand during the cold months to ensure consumers get their heating oil delivery whenever they need it.

How Heating Oil Keeps You Warm

You either have a heating oil furnace or heating oil boiler in your home. A furnace uses air to heat your home, while boilers use water, or in some cases, steam. Furnaces and boilers can both use fuel oil to generate heat, and it starts in the combustion chamber, where the oil is tuned into a flame by the oil burner.

How Oil Burners Work

Like any mechanical device, heating oil systems require all components to work together. But some parts are more important than others. One component that is particularly vital to the efficient and effective operation of a heating oil system is its burner.

The burner can be considered the engine of the 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 very fine spray. This oil mist mixes with air and ignites in the combustion chamber, which gets very 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).

How efficiently this is done depends on the design of the burner. Modern burners contain electronic pre-purge and post-purge controls to ensure ultra-clean starts and stops. New two-stage burners also have an efficiency level that’s 5–15% higher than older ones because they have been designed to conserve fuel.

Combustion Problems in an Oil Burner

If an oil burner seems to have combustion issues, it doesn’t always mean the burner is malfunctioning on its own. Sometimes, poor air flow around the system can be the culprit. Poor air flow can be caused by a variety of factors.

If the burner flame looks weak, its color is orange and if there are signs of soot, there may be a lack of combustion air. To confirm this, open a door or window to bring fresh air to the area around the heating system and watch the burner flame. If it turns a bright white, lack of combustion air is the problem.

If you are uncertain about the cause, the best thing to do is to reach out to your heating oil service contractor and arrange for burner service.

If you’re ready to explore options in new heating oil systems, your Maine heating oil service company will be happy to help. Be sure to ask about savings opportunities through available equipment Maine rebates and federal tax credits.