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How Safe is Heating Oil?

Date: September 28, 2018

Happy family

Surveys have shown that while heating oil customers have exceptionally high levels of satisfaction with the service they receive, many people, particularly younger ones, have big misconceptions about the safety of heating a home with oil.*

The truth is, heating oil has always been a remarkably safe fuel. People who understand this say this is a big reason why they choose to stay with oil heat instead of switching to another fuel. As you continue to enjoy the comfort and safety of your oil-heated home, here are a few points to keep in mind:

  • Heating oil cannot burn in its liquid state. It takes an advanced high-tech burner to ignite the oil. Before combustion can occur, heating oil must first be vaporized by your oil burner at temperatures above 140°.
  • Heating oil cannot explode. The fuel that is stored in your tank is very safe. If you drop a lit match into a bucket of heating oil, the flame would go out just as if you dropped the match into water.
  • Modern oil storage tanks have been designed to be virtually leak-proof. Whether your oil storage tank is located in your basement or outside your home, the tanks being installed today are designed with corrosion-resistant materials. Today’s tanks can last for decades. New technology allows for remote monitoring to protect against the rare event of a leak and guarantees that you will always have a sufficient supply of heating oil on hand. Read more about storage tanks.

Staying safe from carbon monoxide

You probably already know that oil heat poses a very low risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. If an oil burner malfunctions (most often due to a lack of maintenance), you will usually see smoke emitting from your boiler or furnace to indicate that something is wrong. Plus, the safety devices in the unit will typically shut the furnace or boiler off.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that oil heat consumers shouldn’t have working carbon monoxide detectors inside their home, especially near all bedrooms. Besides a malfunctioning boiler or furnace, there are many other sources for carbon monoxide leaks, including:

  • operating unvented appliances for long periods of time
  • back drafts caused by pressure imbalances near the heating system
  • leaving a vehicle idling in an attached garage
  • running a gasoline-powered generator in a basement or attached garage
  • a blocked flue

Make sure you check your carbon monoxide (and smoke) detectors regularly to confirm they operate properly!

You will be able to enhance heating oil safety even further by getting system maintenance done regularly. This will ensure that your boiler or furnace operates with optimum safety and efficiency.

*Based on the NORA-funded Oilheat Consumer Research Study.