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If you use oil for heating your home, you may wonder how long home heating oil lasts. If the heating season ends and you have a half tank, for example, will it be okay to use next October or November when it’s time to start heating again? Of if you’ve stopped using home heating oil and switched to another heating source, can you sell the oil back to the supplier?

oil lampThe good news is that home heating oil should last 18 to 24 months, as long as effective additives were mixed with it upon delivery. The most common variety, known as No. 2 heating oil, is essentially the same product as diesel fuel, except diesel has additives intended to boost effectiveness in motor vehicle engines during cold weather. So if diesel fuel has an effective lifetime of a year and a half to two years, then No. 2 heating oil should, too, but only as long as the proper additives were introduced.

Can Products Extend Oil Storage Life When Added Later?

Products intended to boost the combustion and octane properties of both diesel fuel and home heating oil should be added at delivery, not at some later point. You should contact your reliable oil delivery company to make sure they add proper products as the fuel is being delivered.

Whether an additive mixed into the home heating oil at a later time can extend its effectiveness is doubtful, according to authoritative sources. Most of these products are intended as preservatives rather than rejuvenation agents.

Basically, there’s no evidence to support the theory that introducing a diesel fuel or heating oil additive years later is going to magically turn old, sludgy oil into something that will work effectively.

What Happens to Heating Oil in Long-Term Storage?

It essentially deteriorates, and this is why:
• Bacteria found in all heating oil tanks work on the oil to break it down.
• Water that finds its way into the tank, as well as acids that form in the tank, will break down the oil. Depending on what’s in the water, this effect can be more pronounced.
• Rust, sludge and crud that may form in the tank will erode the quality of the oil over time.
• Believe it or not, all sorts of undesirable chemicals get dumped into old oil tanks. These can include old paint, used motor oil, paint thinner, gasoline, wood preserver — you name it. If at some point that tank gets put back into use, it’s nearly impossible to clean it so it won’t contaminate heating oil that gets placed in it.

Used Heating Oil Isn’t Necessarily Bad Oil

Heating oil that has been stored for a long time theoretically can be re-refined and used for a limited number of purposes, but it’s really not a realistic scenario when you’re talking about the relatively small amount of residual oil that might be left in a residential heating oil tank. Your best bet is to call your heating oil company and ask them to take the old oil and dispose of it.

Your Options With Unused Heating Oil

Oil-burning stoves and furnaces aren’t so picky that they won’t use a wide range of heating oils with regard to quality and age. Additive-enriched home heating oil that’s older than the aforementioned 18- to 24-month lifespan might still burn, but there’s no guarantee you can rely on it or that you won’t lose heat and have to arrange an emergency service call. The benefit of saving on 100-200 gallons of heating oil, when the consequence could be a very expensive service call and ample inconvenience – and potentially frozen pipes – probably isn’t worth the gamble.

When you do call your oil company to have the unused oil removed, make sure you mention when you bought it. You don’t want it to be resold to someone else who thinks it’s usable heating oil. Among the benefits of having the old oil removed is that you eliminate the risk of damaging leaks on your property. It’s not wise to leave old oil in an abandoned oil storage tank.

For more information on how to store home heating oil and how to arrange to have it removed, please contact us at Griffith Energy Services, Inc. We proudly serve Baltimore and the wider Mid-Atlantic region.

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