June 15, 2020

How long is my heating oil good for?

Did you fill your oil tank up at the very end of the heating season, and now the oil is just sitting, unused in your tank? Are you wondering if it has a shelf life – is my oil still good, can it go bad, will it hurt my furnace to use “old” oil, am I going to have to have it pumped out?

These are all very common questions to ask. The short answer is that heating oil is typically good for 18 to 24 months inside of your home’s oil tank. As long as your tank is in good condition, clean, and free from impurities your oil should flow just fine and be safe to use again during the next heating season. Also, you don’t need to have a full tank either – if you have a partially full tank left in the Spring, that oil should still be just fine come Fall.

There are a few factors that can affect if your oil goes bad:

  • The condition of your tank. Most oil tanks today are located in your home’s basement, which does help protect them from the elements, but they still age and can corrode over time. The oil can become contaminated by rust, water, dirt, and debris which can cause your oil to “go bad”.
  • Even though your tank is likely to be in your basement if an extremely low temperature occurs it could cause your oil to coagulate. In a gel state, it’s not safe to use because it can clog your lines and filter. It can be warmed back up, and once it’s back to normal consistency, it should be usable again.

Often times if your oil has gone bad, you may be able to tell by the smell. Heating oil that has bacteria in it and forms a sludge has a very foul odor. If you are questioning your oil, you can remove the oil tank cap and see if the oil smells bad. Of course, if you aren’t sure, you should always call a professional to come inspect your tank.

During the peak heating months – October thru March – you never have to worry about using the oil in your tank since your heating system is running pretty consistently. Mid-April thru September are when most furnaces sit idle and the demand for oil drops along with the price. During the off season is a great time to buy oil and you’ll have a full tank before the next heating season, and you’ll have saved a few bucks.

Are you concerned the oil in your tank may not be useable? Give us a call, we’re always happy to make a service appointment!

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