Heating Oil – A Brief History

If you live in the eastern United States there is a great chance you have had an oil furnace at some time in your life. Or at the very least someone you know does. These furnaces burn heating oil and do so in a safe and efficient way. The oil comes from petroleum just like your motor oil and gasoline do.

Heating oil is chemically very similar to kerosene. It has a high flash point and stores a great deal of energy. When heated it will combust and release this stored chemical energy. It burns relatively clean and when markets are right, can be very affordable. 

So, when did we start using petroleum oil to heat our homes? Where was it first discovered? Here are some great points to help you get a big picture of the history of heating oil as we know it:

  • 1840s: Crude oil is first discovered in Pennsylvania.
  • 1865: John D. Rockefeller establishes the Standard Oil Company.
  • 1914-1918: World War I increases the demand for heating oil.
  • 1970s: The oil crisis causes a sharp increase in the price of heating oil.
  • 1980s: The price of heating oil begins to decline again.
  • Today: Heating oil is used in millions of homes and businesses around the world.

If you have a small home or business you can heat it for the entire winter on a tank that costs about $450 USD. YOur average heat pump can run you much more than that. Like all fossil fields, heating oil is priced upon supply and demand. Unfortunately, sometimes the market is manipulated by the producers for political reasons.

Use in the United States

As a standard example, heating Oil in Lynchburg, Va. is used by approximately 10% of residents to heat their homes. Depending on how rural or urban an area is can be a determining factor to the overall %. For instance, apartment buildings and condos in very urbanized areas don’t use heating oil. They are almost exclusively heated with an electric heat pump. The state of Virginia as a whole heats their home with oil heat to the tune of 5%

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