As we all gear up for the cold winter months, heating oil is used in more homes worldwide than any other heating source. It is more affordable and safer than gas. Because of the very big job it does, we buy it by the barrel loads.
But how long will heating oil last? Provided it is properly stored in a tank that is in good condition and free of corrosion, and at temperatures above freezing, heating oil can remain usable for 18 to 24 months.
What factors can influence the storage life of heating oil and how can you ensure it remains usable?
I have a few tips to help you calculate the correct amount to purchase to ensure it will be used before its shelf life is over. I also have some tips and advice to make your oil last longer.
How Much Oil Should You Purchase?
The size of your home and where you live are both factors to consider when buying your heating oil. For a home that is 2,500 to 3,000 square feet (232 to 278 square meters), you should expect to use 5 to 8 gallons (18 to 30 liters) per day.
Most people will need 300 gallons (1,135 ltiers) to heat a one- or two-bedroom house over the course of a winter. Three- to four-bedroom homes will use about 400 gallons (1,500 liters) of heating oil.
On days when the temperature is 50 °F (10 °C) outside, you will use roughly 2 gallons(7 liters) to heat your home. The colder it gets, the more oil you will use.
It is important to take into account where you live. If you live in an area where the outside temperature goes well below freezing, you will need more oil than if you live in an area where it gets cold, but never below freezing.
You can also calculate how much oil your heating system uses by multiplying the number of hours a day your furnace runs by the gallons per hour used. This will help you plan your purchases better.
Why Does Heating Oil Have a Shelf Life?
Heating oil deteriorates with time because bacteria, water, and acids in the tank break it down.
Rust, crud, and sludge form through the natural corrosion process of metal and cause the oil itself to erode over time and releases these corroded metal particles that block up your heating system.
How Does Outdoor Temperature Affect Oil Usage?
The outdoor temperature will affect your oil usage and it could affect the usability of the oil. If it is very cold, you will probably leave your furnace on 24 hours a day. This means you will use more oil.
If you store your oil tank outside or underground, and the temperature reaches below freezing, the oil in the tank will take on a gel-like consistency. It cannot be used in this condition, but once it warms up, it becomes usable again.
It’s important to remember that when deciding on where to store the oil. Many people store their oil in their basements by the furnace for convenience, and to ensure it does not take on the gel consistency.
Underground tanks are exposed to more water (rain) and therefore corrode, rust, and break down quicker than oil stored indoors.
How Does the Condition of the Tank Affect Oil Storage?
With time and exposure to the elements, metal corrodes. It develops rust which will seep into your oil supply. The rust particles will then seep into your heating system, and cause blockages.
To prevent damaging your furnace and heating system, you should replace your storage tank every ten to fifteen years.
If your furnace runs out of oil while you are not home, do not panic; it will not damage your heating system. You may need to replace the filter before you reset the furnace.
Does My Furnace Impact My Oil Consumption?
The age of your furnace has a large impact on how much fuel you will consume.
Older furnaces will use much more oil than newer furnaces. If your furnace is struggling to heat your house, I recommend replacing it.
If you find yourself pressing the red reset button daily or multiple times a day, it means you are running low on oil, and need to get more. The good news is the oil lasts 18 to 24 months, so it will be good for next winter.
Optimal Temperatures for Oil Storage and Use
To maintain usable oil the temperature in the storage tanks, it should be maintained at 50° above the pour point. This is to aid the settling process of the oil.
The pour point of any liquid is simply the temperature below which a liquid loses its flow characteristics. In the case of heating oil, this refers to the oil turning into a gel.
Ways to Make Your Heating Oil Last
Here are some things you can do to make your heating oil go a little further:
- Decrease the amount of energy used in your home
- Turn off bathroom fans immediately after use to prevent excessive heat loss.
- Open curtains on sunny days to let the sun help warm your house.
- Keep curtains closed on cold, overcast days to keep the heat in.
- Set your thermostat lower – you do not really need sunbathing weather in your home.
- Buy your heating oil when the price is right – prices are lower in the warmer months.
- Find a service provider who can put you on a plan – this is normally cheaper than buying a tankful at a time.
- Upgrade your furnace – new furnaces use much less oil.
- Ensure that your storage tank is in good condition.
- Dress in layers and wear socks or slippers.
- Make sure that your heating system is free of obstructions.
- A good programable thermostat can help lower your use by reducing the temperature in the house when you are at work and raising it when you are home.
What to Do with Oil That Has Gone Bad
If your tank has unusable oil left over, you will need to call out an oil company to remove the unused oil. Make sure that you tell them when the oil was delivered so that they can appropriately either reuse it for some other function or dispose of it.
When purchasing and storing heating oil, a little planning goes a long way. Consider where you will store your heating oil. Plan for the cold and its impact on your heating oil.
Ensure that your tank, furnace, and heating system are in good condition and rust-free to prevent any blockages.
Make sure that your home is properly insulated. The insulation will help keep the cold out and the heat in, meaning you will need less oil.
It is easy to tell if your oil has gone bad. Just give it the sniff test. The oil that has gone bad will have a very foul odor.
If you do have leftovers in the tank from last year, check the color and flow of the remaining oil. It should be clear in color and should pour easily.
I hope this guide will help you plan your oil consumption and storage. Keep warm and cozy. Let me know what you do to conserve heat and optimize your oil consumption in your home in the comments below.
Di-Anne Devenish Seebregts was raised in an environment where daily life consisted of hiking, environmental conservation, growing fruit and vegetables, and raising poultry for meat and eggs.
She combined her passion for the writing word with her love of the pride that comes with not relying on others. She raised three children (who are now adults) to value the environment, and understand the value of being self-sufficient.
Find out more about Di-Anne on our About Us page.