A Beginner’s Guide to Heating Oil

A Beginner’s Guide to Heating Oil

If you are thinking about moving to a new home, you may find that your new central heating system utilizes oil instead of natural gas or propane. This can be somewhat intimidating if you've never lived in a home that uses heating oil before, so we at HeatingOilApp.com have put together some common questions about heating oil as well as some tips and questions to consider before you buy or rent a particular home.

Common Questions About Heating Oil:

What kind of heating oil will I need?

Most homes today utilize kerosene, which is usually referred to as heating oil. It is possible to purchase premium kerosene, which contains additives that can cause your boiler to burn cleaner, but this will cost more than standard kerosene. Plus, you can purchase separate containers of additive to put in your tank that are cheaper than buying premium heating oil.

How often will I need to service my oil boiler?

You should plan to have your oil boiler serviced annually by a competent engineer. If you have a boiler that is used all year round, you may need this to be scheduled more frequently. If you have any questions about this, it would be a good idea to check with the boiler’s manufacturer.

Will it be expensive to use heating oil?

Heating oil is somewhat more expensive than it used to be, but in recent years, the price of oil hasn’t risen as much as gas and electricity prices. Heating oil prices do fluctuate throughout the year, with the winter season from October to March typically being the most expensive time to purchase it. During the summer, when there is not as much demand, the prices for oil are usually lower.

What in the world is a bunded oil tank?

A bunded tank is basically one that has a secondary containment system, so that if your tank is ever damaged, the oil leak would be contained. Usually, this is in the form of a second skin around the tank, but it could also be a stone, brick, or concrete enclosure. A bunded tank is not necessary for all installations, but it’s always a wise plan to have one, since the price tag of cleaning up oil spills can be expensive.

Will there be a minimum order amount for heating oil?

Yes, most heating oil companies have a minimum order amount; it varies from company to company. Therefore, you will need to check with the company you are using and ensure that you have enough space in your tank before you order your oil. However, don't let your tank run dry, as this can result in filters being blocked and problems restarting your boiler if tank sludge should appen to seep into the system.

Wise Questions to Ask Before Purchasing a New Home:

  1. What is the age of the oil tank?
  2. Is there a warranty on the oil tank?
  3. When was the last time you had the oil tank inspected?
  4. When was the last time the boiler was serviced? Was it done by a certified engineer? (Ask to see the service report.)
  5. Is the oil tank bunded?
  6. What is the age of the boiler?
  7. What is the energy efficiency rating of the boiler? (If they aren’t sure, make a note of the make and model, and do your own research online.)

Additional Questions to Ask the Homeowner:

  1. What kind of oil does the boiler utilize?
  2. What security measures have you taken to avoid or discourage theft?
  3. What is the capacity of the oil tank?
  4. Are there any noteworthy access problems with the oil tank?
  5. Is there a tank monitor?
  6. How much oil do you usually go through in a year? What is the typical use during winter?
  7. Do you know of any oil thefts in the area? Does the tank have a lock?
  8. Do you have a copy of the manual for the boiler?

Be Observant!

When you are touring a potential home that utilizes heating oil, it is smart to be observant and pay special attention to the following:

  1. Are there any indicators of leaks, spills, or oil marks around the tank?
  2. Are there any signs of damage or rust on the tank?
  3. Are there any smoky or sooty marks around the boiler? This may be an indicator of a combustion problem.
  4. Are there carbon monoxide alarms in the home?
  5. Are there smoke alarms in the home?