How Long Does Heating Oil Last

If your home heating system runs on heating oil, you may be wondering if that oil you added last fall is still good. The simple answer is that home heating oil is typically good for around 18-24 months. But there are a couple additional things to consider when it comes to determining how much heating oil you’ll run through in a single winter and whether it will be good for up to two years.

Is Your Heating Oil Ready for Another Winter?

If you filled your heating oil tank last fall and have oil leftover after the winter, it’s very likely that it will be ready to go for next year. Heating oil lasts at least 18 months and up to two years, even if it’s sitting inactive in your oil tank for most of the spring and summer. You can add new oil on top of last year’s oil and that won’t cause any problems for your heating system, either.

That said, it’s important that the heating oil is clean and free of impurities, which can lead to clogs in your oil line and damage of the mechanical parts. If you’re wondering whether leftover oil can be used for another season, it’s important to check that the oil in your tank is clear in color and flows freely.

On top of that, a bad smell is a dead giveaway for heating oil that can no longer be used. Old oil with impurities can be colonized by bacteria, which turn your heating oil into an unusable sludge. That sludge also gives off a strong and unmistakable odor when you open your heating oil tank.

If you do have impurities or sludge in your heating oil, you’ll want to remove the old oil. But, before you add new oil, you’ll want to have your oil tank cleaned so the same problem next season.

How Much Heating Oil Will You Use?

It’s also important to think about how much heating oil you’ll use in comparison to the size of your oil tank.

Most homes have a 275-gallon oil tank, although yours may be larger or smaller. As an estimate, you can expect to use about two gallons of heating oil a day to keep you home at a comfortable temperature when the outside temperature is around 50°F. At that rate, a full tank would heat your home for nearly five months before you need to replace your heating oil.

However, most areas get much colder than 50°F during the winter. Your home will burn through seven gallons of heating oil per day when the temperature dips to 20°F. For the same 275-gallon tank, that means you’ll need to plan on a refill roughly once per month. Thankfully, extra-cold and extra-warm days tend to balance themselves out over the course of a whole winter, so a 275-gallon tank may be just enough to get you through the entire season with very little oil leftover.

Of course, these estimates can vary a lot. The amount of heating oil you use will depend on how well insulated your home is, how cold outside temperatures get in your area, and how many hours per day you run your heating system.

In most cases, heating oil lasts up to two years before going bad. That means that heating oil leftover in your tank from last winter will be fine to use. Just be sure to check for impurities or a bad odor before topping off your tank with new oil.

Interested in learning more about heating oil vs. propane to heat your home?  Check out this great resource here.

Just looking for an emergency back up heating option? Check out our recent post on Kerosene Heaters vs Propane Heaters here.

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