View Full Version : What the hell is fuel oil?
This is something people use to heat their homes? I always figured home heating was generally done with natural gas.
Yet today I hear that President Clinton is providing fuel oil subsidies. Is this an east coast thing, maybe? How does this work? Are their fuel oil pipes running under everyone's house, or do trucks deliver it?
Why use fuel oil rather than natural gas? What exactly is it, kerosene? Why have I never heard of this?
02-17-2000, 05:13 AM
Fuel oil is in many homes for heating, rather natural gas (my mother-in-law heats with oil).
One the claimed advantages of oil is that it is not delivered "on demand" via pipeline, but is stored by the homeowner in a large underground tank (generally holding at least 1,000 U.S. gallons). Deliveries can thus be made by a myriad of small dealers, avoiding the Evil Konspiracy™ of the monolithic NG utilities.
Another claimed advantage is that oil is not explosive, like NG/air mixtures.
Fuel oil is essentially heavy hydrocarbons not broken down ("cracked") during the refining process. Going from light to heavy, the order is roughly: natural gas, propane, butane, gasoline, kerosene, light (or "white") fuel oil, heavy (or "black") fuel oil, paraffin wax.
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02-17-2000, 06:19 AM
I live in the house that is considered by my family to be the 'homeplace' meaning this is where my parents and my brothers and I lived. Both parents are deceased now and brothers live elsewhere. My house was heated with fuel oil until two years ago. There is a 1,000 gallon tank buried in the back yard. A furnace under the house and baseboard vents. When I bought the house from my brothers I had a gas pack installed. I can remember well the smell of the fuel oil when the heat would come on. I would not recommend anyone using that kind of heat.
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02-17-2000, 06:43 AM
I think it's more of a northern thing. Here in Florida houses are usually heated by electric or gas. I've already shut down my heat and it's cool enough not to run the AC. Not that I'm complaining or anything. :)
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02-17-2000, 07:33 AM
A co-worker has an "all-electric" house. Her electricity bill is huge. I live in an apartment that uses gas. My electric and gas bill combined come to about $30/month. Granted, it's less expensive to "fuel" an apartment; but the difference between cooking with gas and cooking with electrical coils seems disproportionate.
It appears gas is cheaper and more efficient. Why do people still cook with electricity?
02-17-2000, 07:49 AM
Johnny--simple answer is, not everyone lives in an area with access to gas pipelines. Here in Eastern PA, many of my relatives live in houses that were built before natural gas pipelines were installed. Even after the pipelines were run down their street, some of them chose not to pay the cost to retrofit their houses for gas.
02-17-2000, 07:51 AM
This woman is in So. Cal. in a fairly-new house. *shrug*
02-17-2000, 08:05 AM
Electricity is more readily available than gas. It's the most expensive way to heat a house, but it is easier to maintain and you can customize your heat more easily -- turning it down in unused spaces is quite simple.
In the northeast, there aren't a lot of gas lines, especially in rural areas. Oil and electric heat are the main options (a few heat with coal or wood, but very few).
Also, the cost of oil vs. gas can fluctuate. Last year, it was probably cheaper to heat with oil. This year, it's not.
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02-17-2000, 08:08 AM
Fuel oil is basically diesel. One of the popular scams in some areas is to use it in trucks. It's illegal, because the road taxes aren't paid. So how do they catch someone? They dye the fuel and do spot checks at weighing stations and other areas.
Many rural houses are heated by fuel oil, as well as houses where gas isn't available. The new fuel oil heaters are efficient and clean, it's not a bad way to heat a house. Much more efficient than coal-based electric.
02-17-2000, 08:09 AM
Here in brownstone Brooklyn, the preponderance of townhouses are heated with fuel oil (it was an upgrade from the days of coal heating...every townhouse also has street-front trapdoor access to the cellar, where the coal would be poured). Through the winter months, delivery trucks stop on the streets and pump oil down into people's tanks.
Inertia will keep Brooklynites using oil heat for years to come...as houses change hands, some will probably refit for gas heat.
In an old thread I mentioned how extremely IRRITATING the radio ads for the two different kinds of heat are...the Oil Boys basically try to frighten you with tales of precious apple-cheeked baby girls and boys blown sky-high by natural gas explosions. The Gashouse Gang counters with lip-smacking gloating over high oil prices. The bottom line for each side is that folks who use the OTHER kind are subhuman morons.
02-17-2000, 08:20 AM
tales of precious apple-cheeked baby girls and boys blown sky-high by natural gas explosions.
In the L.A. area I hear of a couple of gas explosions every year. In a county of about 9 million people, that's a pretty good average.
FWIW, my grandparents retired to southern Oregon around 1960. They were about 14 miles (and over a ridge) from the nearest town (Applegate). It would have been too expensive to run power lines to their house, so they used generators; as I recall, a 5hp Briggs & Stratton. When the fuel tank was empty, it was about time for bed. The house was wired with 12-volt lights for use when the generator was off. They had a natural gas tank that was filled every 6 months or so that powered the (Servel-brand, gas) refrigerators and one of the stoves. They had gas-powered space heaters, but most of the house's heat came from the wood-burning stoves in the main room and the kitchen, and a fireplace.
02-17-2000, 08:41 AM
Natural Gas is piped in.
LPG, Butane or Propane is stored in tanks.
They are different, you don't want to use a natural gas appliance with LPG or vice versa.
Sounds like a great setup Johnny.
02-17-2000, 10:00 AM
It appears gas is cheaper and more efficient. Why do people still cook with electricity?
...simple answer is, not everyone lives in an area with access to gas pipelines.
Many homes in DC are still using gas, and you can even see gas porch lights burning. So it seems like gas is still available but when my place was renovated (a couple years before I bought it) it was converted to all electric. The bills are high and the heat pump is worthless when the outside temp is below 30°.
I'd like to go back to gas if I could, would that be a major headache (and expense) to get somebody in and bring gas lines back to my stove, furnace, etc.?
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02-17-2000, 10:59 AM
I had oil heat for years and I liked it since the house had a huge tank and I only filled it once a year in the fall. Oil was about a dollar a gallon then so I paid $ 500 for heat all winter. The burner needed service every year for a new nozzle. The oil is pumped under very high pressure through a vaporizing nozzle and it burns fairly well.
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02-17-2000, 01:12 PM
02-17-2000, 02:10 PM
fuzzy wuzzy said:
I can remember well the smell of the fuel oil when the heat would come on. I would not recommend anyone using that kind of heat.
That may have been true for older furnaces, but I agree with Thing 1. A modern, properly operating oil furnace is odor free and with automatic delivery is as transparent to the user as gas. The automatic delivery is based on degree days and a computer based prediction of oil consumption by your furnace.
In sixteen years, we have never run out of oil.
The new furnaces are also very efficient, albeit not quite as efficient as gas furnaces.
02-17-2000, 02:22 PM
Contact your local gas utility - I bet its Washington Gas Light - and find out what your cost would be to install a service line and gas meter to your house.
You would also need to contact a HVAC contractor that works with gas appliances to install a gas furnace, stove, water-heater, gas dryer, fireplace, etc. and the pipe running from the gas meter.
02-17-2000, 03:03 PM
There's also the little point that she can heat with whatever the heck she wants to use, from peat to cold fusion. (Though I admit that #2 fuel oil has got to be the most goshawful odor since the skunk ate two garlic sandwiches. -- And it also leaves heavy disgusting gray dust anywhere you cannot get at to clean regularly.)
02-17-2000, 03:30 PM
Has anyone heard of soy heating oil.I 've heard of soy type deisel tractor fuel.
02-18-2000, 12:47 AM
My cousins own the local propane distributorship so I switched from oil to propane a couple years back. The furnace needed to be replaced one way or another and changing over was definitely a good idea. I got rid of any oil odor, it was faint but you could smell it. Also the new furnace was so much more efficient and runs a lot less. The price of propane has gone up but certainly not at the rate of fuel oil, which my parents are grumbling about. Some fuel oil furnaces can be retrofitted for propane without too much fuss and my cousin has been doing quite a bit of that lately.
02-18-2000, 12:57 AM
"I can remember well the smell of the fuel oil when the heat would come on. I would not recommend anyone using that kind of heat."
We have oil heat. I have never noticed any fuel oil smell when the heat is on. I would wager that if you smell oil when the heat comes on then your furnace is not operating at its best. Here in NJ the price of oil has been less than that for natural gas until just recently. Now it has skyrocketed and people are upset at having to pay as much as double what they expected to pay to heat their homes. If our neighborhood had gas lines I would consider switching, but it would not be a big priority. Getting rid of our electric stove in favor of a gas one would definitely be the first thing on the list though.
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