Well, it’s winter here in South Africa now and the temperatures are dropping to between 6 and 10 degrees Celsius on some days. You know what that means? It means warm clothes, tons of hot chocolate, and heaters are on – a lot!
Now, last year we used halogen heaters; they’re relatively cheap and they do a good job warming up the place but the halogen bulbs don’t last long. To avoid this, we switched over to oil heaters for this winter. Since the heaters are going to be on regularly – it being cold and all – so I got to wondering…
How long does heating oil last? If it’s been treated with the proper additives and stored properly (in a garage or shed, away from heat, on a flat surface), then heating oil should last on average 18 – 24 months.
Commonly Used Oil: Variety No. 02
No. 02 heating oil almost the same as diesel fuel – the obvious difference being that diesel is meant for car engines. This difference stems from the additives used to preserve the oil but in general; you’re looking at diesel fuel which has a shelf… erm… storage life of between 18 and 24 months.
If that’s the case, it stands to reason that heating oil – which is basically the same thing with different preservatives – has the same lifespan.
Factors that influence the amount of oil you use are varied but generally they include:
- The temperature: if the temperature is very low (i.e. 10 F or 15 F), you’re going to use more oil to generate heat.
- The size and design of your house. If you’re in a small house and you’ve got good, strong insulation; you won’t use a lot of oil heating up the place. On the other hand, a larger house with bad insulation will need more oil to heat up.
- The condition of your oil heater. If your heater or furnace is in good condition (it’s clean and functional) it will fulfill its purpose without difficulty. On the other hand, if it’s not; it will likely not perform as well as it would have.
- The duration in which you are home. If you’re going to be out for most of the day, then leave the heater turned off and turn it on when you come home.
Degradation of Heating Oil
When you put your heating oil in long-term storage, it will degrade over time. This degradation is caused by a handful of factors including:
- ❌ Bacteria in the tank.
- ❌ Water finding its way into the tank.
- ❌ Rust and sludge inside the tank.
- ❌ Reusing a tank that’s had other chemicals in it.
The extent of the degradation depends on how badly the tank has been contaminated. If a tank has been used to store other substances / chemicals, it becomes almost impossible to decontaminate the tank for reuse.
You can get rid of water and rust, but traces of any other chemicals you’ve stored in a tank will linger and contaminate the oil.
Reusing Old and Unused Heating Oil
Old oil can theoretically still be used but the amount is usually miniscule. It’s not really feasible to go through all the trouble of refining this tiny amount of oil which can only be used in a limited capacity.
If you’ve got oil that you haven’t used yet, you can use it in oil stoves and furnaces; they aren’t particularly fussy about the oil used but the older the oil is the less reliable its likely to be. You may find that using older oil causes more problems than it solves.
So let’s recap:
- Heating oil has a lifespan of 18 – 24 months.
- It’s basically diesel fuel with different preservatives.
- Heating oil can degrade while in long-term storage.
- Old oil can be refined and reused in a limited capacity, but tends to be problematic.
- You can use unused oil in suitable stoves and furnaces.
Right then, that’s a wrap! In closing, I hope this article was informative and enjoyable. I hope this helps you out a ton! If it’s winter where you are the world, what are you doing? Go back to bed! If it’s not winter on your side of the world… stop bragging about it!
Greg is a South African farmer and homesteader who’s been around animals ever since he can remember. He’s also an avid camper and hiker.