Oil heat is ubiquitous in the US Northeast, with 82% of households using oil as their primary energy source, which amounts to 5.5 million residents. In addition to the residential use, 35% of commercial fuel oil use is also in the Northeast. But outside of the Northeast, other forms of energy are dominant, including solar and electric. Why is there such a concentration of oil heat in the Northeast?
Oil Heat in America – A Quick History
The cause of the Northeast’s reliance on oil heat is rooted in America’s history, specifically the development of the Northeast as a center of population growth and industrialization.
In the 1800s, homes in the Northeast were wood or coal heated, which presented many challenges to homeowners. Many of those homes were owned and occupied when oil began to replace wood and coal in the 1930s. Oil heat offered several distinct advantages over coal and wood.
- Storage and safety
- Heating quality
Homeowners no longer need to worry about storing dirty coal or wood in their homes. Coal was highly flammable and messy. Conversely, oil trucks could fill oil tanks, which took up less space and were generally safer.
To keep a home warmed using wood or coal, the furnace always had to be refilled. With oil heat, the supply was constant. Homeowners no longer needed to constantly, literally fuel their fires.
Oil produces more heat than either wood or coal furnaces.
Oil was inexpensive and affordable when many homeowners were considering converting.
These distinct advantages of oil heat over wood or coal meant that there were rapid conversions to oil-fired furnaces, particularly as companies who previously supplied coal now became home heating oil companies.
Some might assume that there are no other viable alternatives but this would be incorrect. Natural gas accounts for about 50% of the nation’s energy supply, but it hasn’t significantly penetrated the Northeast market. Natural gas dominates the US energy supply due in part to the prevalence of natural gas fields throughout the Western part of the United States. The lack of natural gas distribution infrastructure has helped contribute to the continuing domination of oil heat as the energy source of choice in the Northeast.
COD Home Heating Oil
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