To many folks, oil heat has an inherently bad reputation. Most—when asked to picture heating oil—think of a clichéd, black sludge-like substance that draws a direct connotation to a dirty, toxic substance. But that assumption is wildly mistaken.
The technological advances over the last few decades have resulted in fuels that burns 95% cleaner than it did in the 1970s. In fact, the heating oil in your tank burns so cleanly, producing such negligible emissions that the Federal Clean Air Act doesn’t even regulate it anymore.
How is this possible? Advances in refining processes have produced ultra-low sulfur heating oil that’s better for customers in many ways. The quality of the oil in your tank has a big impact on how efficiently your system runs, how long your equipment lasts—and how much fuel you need to burn to keep your home comfortable. It also has a big impact on the environment. That’s why ultra-low sulfur heating oil has been mandated in Maine since 2018.
Heating oil is already more efficient than natural gas in terms of Btu content. You need to burn about 40% more natural gas to receive the same heating equivalent of heating oil. Cleaner oil burns even more efficiently—helping to keep heating costs down even further. Ultra-low sulfur heating oil also opens the door to super-efficient heating systems, which can increase the advantages of heating oil over natural gas even more.
Research conducted by the Energy Research Council/Brookhaven National Laboratory found fuel savings as high as 48.3% when outdated equipment is replaced with a new, high-efficiency boiler. That’s just one more reason more people are sticking to oil—especially where winters are colder, like here in Maine.
Cleaner fuel also protects your equipment. The quality of the oil in your tank has a big impact on how long your equipment lasts. Less sulfur also means less build-up in your equipment. That translates to fewer breakdowns and lower maintenance costs for you.
The life expectancy of an average heating oil appliance is around 30 years if it is properly maintained—nearly double that of a typical gas furnace, which needs to be replaced after only 11 to 14 years. Heating oil-based appliances also boast faster recovery rates. For example, a water heater powered by heating oil will recover up to twice as fast as a water heater powered by natural gas, and more than three times as fast as an electric-powered water heater.