You may have heard before that you can use diesel fuel in your home heating oil tank in a pinch. This is because No. 2 heating oil and No. 2 diesel are somewhat interchangeable, meaning your furnace can safely burn diesel fuel. While it’s always best to opt for service from your heating oil supplier, this option can be a lifesaver in situations when you run out of fuel and can’t get an oil delivery quickly. Because you can buy diesel at most gas stations, it’s a viable alternative, although it should only be used to replace heating oil in emergencies.
If you do have to use diesel to heat your home, be sure to turn the furnace off before adding the fuel to your tank. After pouring the diesel in, wait 10 minutes to allow any sediment to settle. This will help you avoid clogs in the line to the furnace.
It’s important to note that you should never let your oil tank run completely dry. When you get to the “bottom of the barrel,” you could pull sediment from the tank into the furnace line, which can cause clogs and other damage. Hence, the importance of monitoring your fuel levels. If you know that your oil tank is getting critically low, you should schedule an emergency delivery as soon as possible. However, if you can’t get a refill quickly enough, you can add diesel to your tank in the meantime.
In the event that your oil tank has gone completely dry, you will most likely need to bleed the line after you’ve added fuel to get your furnace running again. This isn’t a complicated task, but, as with any maintenance work on your furnace, it should only be carried out by an experienced technician.
Home Heating Oil vs. Diesel
When crude oil is refined into the products we use every day, the hydrogen and carbon atoms it’s made up of form hydrocarbon chains. Each of these chains has a unique boiling point and will settle at a different level. Diesel and heating oil have higher boiling points and are considered to be middleweight distillates. This means that they settle at lower levels. Because the two have similar weight distillations, they produce about the same amount of heat, meaning that diesel can be effective in a home furnace. However, it’s not recommended for regular use, as it can damage the system over time.
The primary difference between diesel and heating oil is their sulfur content. Heating fuel oil has a sulfur content of 2,000 parts per million (ppm), while diesel is required to have less than 15 ppm. Additionally, heating oil is slightly heavier than diesel fuel. There is also a type of heating oil called “ultra-low sulfur,” which only contains 15 ppm. This is a preferred choice for many consumers for several reasons, including:
- Emissions Reduction – Ultra-low sulfur heating oil causes less pollution because there are 99 percent less sulfur dioxide emissions than traditional heating oil produces. It has also been known to create less particulate matter and nitrogen oxide emissions. This is a bonus for both the environment and the consumer.
- Efficiency – When you use ultra-low sulfur heating oil, you will likely reduce your utility costs, as it can increase the lifespan of your furnace. Plus, it allows you to go a bit longer between cleanings, saving even more money.
- No Conversion Costs – When you decide to use ultra-low sulfur heating oil, there’s no need to worry about paying for costly changes to your heating system. This is because the fuel is completely compatible with nearly all existing heating oil equipment.
Why Knowing the Difference Is Important for Fuel Consumers
Although home heating oil weighs more than diesel fuel, they produce the same amount of heat. Heating oil burns at 139,000 British thermal units (BTUs) in a home furnace, just as diesel does in a vehicle’s engine. However, consumers should understand the subtle differences between the two fuels, especially their price and tax differences.
Heating oil is taxed less than diesel in most places, so it is typically the most economical choice for home heating. With this in mind, you may be tempted to use home heating oil in place of diesel in your vehicle, but this should never be attempted. Heating oil doesn’t have the lubricative properties necessary to ensure proper engine functioning. So, although the two fuels can be interchanged in a home setting, it’s not wise to do so for your car or truck. The last thing anyone wants is their vehicle’s engine seizing up because they made the mistake of putting home heating oil in the gas tank. Not only is this an inconvenience, but it could necessitate costly repairs.
Did You Run Out of Fuel Unexpectedly? Diesel May Be an Option
If you run out of heating oil on a cold winter’s night and aren’t able to get a delivery for several days, diesel is a viable alternative. However, you should avoid using it regularly, as it could damage your furnace after long-term use. Additionally, using diesel in your home’s heating system could cost you, as home heating fuel prices are generally much lower. Therefore, you’ll save money by keeping your oil tank filled with regular service from your local heating fuel supplier.
Of course, accidents happen, and you may run out of oil before you even realize that your tank is low. Luckily, there are several ways to avoid this. First, many oil companies offer automatic delivery services, which schedule refills automatically based on your oil usage. You may also be eligible for tank monitoring, a service that utilizes a tracking software to keep tabs on your fuel levels. If you prefer a no-contract approach, there is still the option to buy home heating oil online. This convenience allows you to order heating oil quickly and easily whenever you need it.