Oil-based fuels have been used by human societies for thousands of years to provide heat and light to homes, businesses, and public areas. Burning oil is a well-established method of creating a prolonged flame that will remain constant without requiring a constant top-up of fuel, like wood or coal fires. Even in modern times, fuel oil furnaces are a common method of heating one’s home, due to their reliability, safety, and the cleanliness of the fumes. Two of the most commonly used fuel oils in home heating systems are kerosene and heating oil. But what’s the difference?
Kerosene, also referred to as lamp oil, 28-second fuel, and paraffin, is still used today in kerosene lamps and heating systems. Kerosene is more viscous than standard heating oil, giving it a higher “flash point”, the temperature at which enough fuel is evaporating to ignite in the air. Kerosene’s flash point is around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning it can still be at risk of combusting in some of the hotter places in the world. Due to its high viscosity, kerosene isn’t as badly affected by the cold weather and won’t gel up like heating oil, meaning it’s less likely to clog up your system and can be stored in outdoor tanks with ease.
Heating oil is also known as gas oil or diesel oil, and is comparable to diesel. Usually, home heating oil will have a higher density than classic diesel, but heating oil can be used to power diesel engines with no issues. Heating oil is often the cheapest option of the fuel oils, as it is readily available on the market, making it ideal for people looking to heat their homes on a budget. Heating oil has a flash point much higher than kerosene, at roughly 140 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning it is very rare that it is hot enough to make the fumes combustible. Heating oil safe to store and use, but is less refined than some other options, meaning impurities like sulphur can be present, which produce harmful fumes when burned.