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Home Heating Oil in the United States

There are 107 million American households, families living in private, detached homes … in attached (one wall) single family homes … in co-operative apartments (primarily in large cities) … in condos … in townhouses … in pre-fabricated homes … in trailers, too – and they all require heating.

The vast majority of these homes are heated by natural gas. Consumers who use natural gas pay a monthly fee to the gas company, generally a massive utility with a state-awarded contract that gives it the right to provide gas to tens of thousands of consumers in their homes in a given area or region.

Home Heating OilBut, there is another way that consumers receive heat to warm their homes. It comes from oil. Currently, there are about 8.1 million households in America that receive oil from individual, private distributors. The heating oil which is actually known as distillate fuel oil is, of course, a petroleum-based product produced in the United States and abroad. Countries that produce home heating oil for United States residents include Canada, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Venezuela.

Clearly, the home heating oil industry has a role to play in American commerce. With more than eight million households dependent on distillate fuel oil, the industry is critically important to the economic health of the country.

Home heating oil prices tend to fluctuate, based primarily on the cost of crude oil — the product that comes out of the ground in its natural state before it is refined and converted. Consumers who depend on home heating oil generally need to refill their tanks as frequently as four or five times during the fall and winter seasons (a period of several months) during which time the weather is cold and heat is important.

The oil is delivered by refineries (located all over the United States) to individual home heating oil distributors by a variety of means – pipelines … barges … tankers … trucks … even rail cars. The individual home heating oil companies then deliver the heating oil to their customers by truck. It’s that simple.

Prices tend to move up and down based on market forces and a variety of other reasons including, of course, the cost of crude oil. It is, by no means, the only contributing factor … even if it is an important one.

Homes that use oil instead of gas tend to be older and are almost always single family units. Apartments, townhomes, new single family homes are almost always set up to receive gas heat. Yet, many believe, and the home heating oil industry will tell you, that oil is the less expensive, more economical way to keep your home warm when the weather turns cold.

That may be true, but when your home is already set up to receive gas, not oil, it can be expensive to fully convert from gas to oil. That may be the primary reason why many homeowners don’t convert to the cheaper energy. It costs too much to get started.

It doesn’t matter. While gas heating will continue to be the preferred choice of most Americans, oil heating will always have those who favor it. The home heating oil industry will continue to flourish for that reason.
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