Heating oil, also known in the United States as No. 2 heating oil, is used to fuel building furnaces or boilers. Heating oil is commonly delivered by tank truck and stored in above-ground storage tanks ("ASTs") located in the basements, garages, or outside adjacent to the building. Heating oil provides approximately 7% of the energy requirements of home in the United States, and as the name implies, this fuel is used almost exclusively for heating.
Residential space heating is the primary use for heating oil, making the demand highly seasonal. Most of the heating oil use occurs during October through March. Of the 8.1 million households in the United States that use heating oil to heat their homes, 6.3 million households or roughly 78 percent exist in the Northeast region of the country. In other regions, older homes have been converted from oil heat to gas heat, and oil no longer has a noticeable share of the new home construction market.
Heating oil is widely used in parts of the United States and Canada where natural gas or propane is frequently not available. See the above chart for density of BTU (British Thermal Units) consumption per person in the USA. The USA imports most of it’s oil, with the largest international producer being Canada.
Some customers try to beat rising winter prices by filling their storage tanks in the summer or early fall when the prices are likely to be lower. However, most homeowners do not have large enough storage tanks to store the full amount needed to meet winter demands. Because homeowners may have to refill their tanks as often as 4 or 5 times during the heating season, possible rising or spiking prices are a concern.
Every oil heating system is based on one simple principle. The heat from the burner flame produces hot water, hot air or steam which is then circulated throughout the house for heat. Without question, your oil burner is the most important part of your heating system. But contrary to popular belief, an oil burner doesn't burn oil.
Instead it combines fuel oil from your tank with amount of air and then delivers it to the point of ignition at the burner head. This burning mixture of oil and air heats the air, water or steam that's circulated through your home.
Ignition can only be achieved after the burner has atomized the oil into a fine spray of minute oil particles. These particles are mixed with air drawn into the burner, then ignited by an electric spark generated by the burner's transformer.
The US Energy Information Administration forecast continuing oil consumption over the long term in their report in 2005. Market events in 2008 will lead to a change in this forecast. Home heating oil is not forecast separately.