More than eight million homes in the U.S. are estimated to use home heating oil as their main source of fuel to heat their homes. Most of this usage comes during the colder months for October through March, depending on where the household is located, with the Northeastern states using the most oil.
A recent newcomer to the heating oil choices is biodiesel heating oil. Biodiesel home heating oil is a blend of a biodiesel oil and regular heating oil for homes that contains less sulfur than normal home heating oil. Regular oil is allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency to have no more than 3,000 parts per million of sulfur in it.
The problem with some biodiesel home heating oil is that it is not regulated and the exact mix of biodiesel and regular home oil can vary from two percent biodiesel to 20 percent biodiesel. The percentage makes a difference as to how much sulfur it contains, with the higher amounts of biodiesel in the mix having less sulfur content. However, higher blends that get closer to 100 percent have the disadvantage of sometimes breaking down the rubber that the hoses, gaskets, and seals in your oil burner could be made of, even though up to 100 percent diesel can be burned in most oil burners, it is not recommended for that reason.
Biodiesel is a bit more expensive, costing about five to 35 cents more per gallon, depending again on the mix of regular and biodiesel fuel.
What are the benefits of biodiesel?
One of the main benefits of using biodiesel despite the higher cost is that due to the lower sulfur content it runs much cleaner than regular home oil. It also helps reduce the demand for foreign oil supplies in the U.S. Regular home heating oil also requires a higher burning point, so it uses up more oil at a faster pace.
One interesting note is that with a little bit of preparation and the addition of a few chemicals, you can make your own biodiesel fuel from vegetable oil. Some people even ask restaurants for their used oil and strain it to use in this process. You should, however, make sure to do this properly and follow directions carefully before trying this process at home.
Advantages of Biodiesel Home Oil
• It can also be burned in just about any type of oil burning furnace or boiler
• It reduces harmful hydrocarbon and particulate emissions into the atmosphere
• It burns cleaner so you can clean your furnace less often
• It is less toxic
• It’s biodegradable
• It puts less cancer causing materials into the air
• It’s a renewable and domestically made fuel source.
Disadvantages of Biodiesel Home Oil
• More expensive than regular home heating oil
• It’s not available in all areas yet
• Has to be used up within six months of purchase or it breaks down
• Could dissolve sludge in tanks and fuel lines, which will clog them
• In higher percentages it breaks down rubber parts
• Must be stored in tanks indoors if temperatures are expected to get to -11 degrees F.
All in all, the choice is up to you whether or not to use biodiesel fuel to heat your home, but it is one of the more modern choices that are available if desired.