• October 13, 2023

How Heating Oil Works

How Heating Oil Works

How Heating Oil Works 1024 578 Star Oilco

During the colder months, heating oil is a widely used fuel source for residential heating systems. Understanding the processes of how heating oil works can help homeowners make informed decisions, ensure optimal equipment performance, and maximize energy efficiency. 

Production and Composition of Heating Oil:  

Heating oil is a petroleum-based product derived from crude oil. As with gasoline and diesel fuel, it is refined by removing impurities and separating it from other petroleum products. Generally heating oil consists of hydrocarbons, including long-chain alkanes and aromatic compounds although the specific composition of heating oil may vary slightly. 

Storage and Delivery:  

Above ground and underground tanks are typically how heating oil is stored, located on the property where it is needed. The oil is delivered by specialized trucks that transport it from refineries or storage facilities, pumping it from the truck into the storage tank. Tanks are equipped with various protective measures, such as overfill prevention devices and leak detection systems. 

View our heating oil tank chart here.

Combustion Process:

Heating oil operates in a similar manner to other fossil fuels when it comes to the combustion process. The oil is drawn from the storage tank to the burner in the heating system, where it mixes with air and is atomized into a fine spray. This mixture is then ignited by an electric spark or a pilot flame, generating heat that warms the air or water circulated throughout the house. 

Heating oil combustion occurs in a combustion chamber or a furnace. This is where the heat is transferred to a heat exchanger. Afterwards, the heat exchanger transfers heat to air or water, which is distributed throughout the house through ductwork or pipes. The byproducts of the combustion process, including carbon dioxide, water vapor, and small amounts of sulfur dioxide, are safely vented outside. 

How efficient are heating oil systems? 

The energy efficiency of a heating oil system varies depending on the efficiency of the burner and the overall system design. Heat can be most maximized by using high-efficiency burners and making sure equipment has been well-maintained to minimize fuel consumption and reduce emissions. 

Over the years, there have been significant advancements in heating oil technology to enhance the overall performance. Ultra-low sulfur heating oil (ULSHO) has become more common, with sulfur content reduced to less than 15 parts per million (ppm). This significantly reduces sulfur dioxide emissions. Biodiesel blends, made from renewable sources such as soybean oil or recycled cooking oil, can also be mixed with heating oil to further reduce carbon emissions. 


Heating oil plays a crucial role in keeping our neighbors in Portland, Oregon warm and comfortable during the winter months. Understanding the production process, storage and delivery methods, combustion process, and environmental considerations associated with heating oil can help homeowners make educated and informed decisions, ensuring they have an efficient operation with their equipment, and they can even contribute to a greener future. 

Thank you for choosing Star Oilco at your home for education and heating oil delivery services in the Portland, Oregon surrounding area. We’re happy to serve our customers and “Keep It Full”!