An oil fired boiler is a heating system component that is not very common in modern homes. In an oil fired boiler, oil called heating oil is burned to heat water which is then pumped throughout the home to provide heat.
Oil fired boilers do provide a lot of heat and until the 1970s they were a very common heating system throughout the United States and Canada. Today, oil fired boilers are only found in a few areas such as New England. In the Western US and Canada, oil-fired boilers have almost all been replaced by propane or natural gas fired boilers.
Limitations to Oil Fired Boilers
The major reason why oil fired boilers have largely disappeared is the high cost of the heating oil used. Natural gas and propane are cheaper and easier to use. Natural gas has the advantage that it requires no tank or truck delivery.
Heating oil has to be stored in a costly underground tank and delivered to the home by truck. This adds to the cost of the oil and limits its use. Unlike propane tanks, which sit on the ground, heating oil tanks were often buried which adds to the cost of heating oil.
The added costs have simply driven oil fired boilers out of the market in most parts of the US. In some areas it is no longer possible for homeowners to find a dealer willing to deliver heating oil.
The only place where oil fired boilers are still widely used is in the Northeast. In some states such as Massachusetts there are still many older homes with oil fired boilers.
Waste Oil Fired Boilers
A new kind of oil fired boiler that has appeared in recent years is a waste oil boiler. A waste oil boiler burns waste oil products such as used motor oil or cooking oil.
The advantage to a waste oil burning boiler is that it is far cheaper to operate than a traditional oil fired boiler. The reason for this is that the fuel for the waste oil fired boiler is effectively free.
A common use for such a boiler would be to heat a garage where used motor oil for fuel is available at no cost. Another place where such a boiler could be used would be in a restaurant where used cooking oil could be burned for fuel.
It probably wouldn’t be practical to use a waste oil fired boiler in most homes because home owners wouldn’t have enough waste oil. Some public buildings like schools could use waste oil boilers because governments could get a supply of waste oil. A school boiler could burn both waste cooking oil from the school kitchen and waste motor oil from the garage.
The only way a waste oil burning boiler would be economical is if a large supply of waste oil is available. An alternative to a waste oil burning boiler would be a boiler that burned both fuel oil and waste oil. In such a boiler the fuel oil could be augmented by waste oil when it was available.