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Heating oil explained Use of heating oil

Who uses heating oil?

About 5.7 million households in the United States use heating oil as their main space heating fuel.1 Some households also use heating oil to heat water but in much smaller amounts than what they use for space heating. Some commercial and institutional buildings also use heating oil for space and water heating.

Because space heating is the primary use for heating oil, demand is highly seasonal, and it is affected by the weather. Most heating oil use occurs during the heating season (October through March).

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Most residential heating oil consumers are in the Northeast

About 20% of households in the Northeast Census region use heating oil as their main space heating fuel, and they account for about 80% of the U.S. households that use heating oil for space heating.1 In 2017, about 3 billion gallons of heating oil were sold to residential consumers in the Northeast, or 85% of total U.S. residential heating oil sales. In 2017, about 35% of total commercial sector consumption of heating oil was in the Northeast.

The number of houses with heating systems that use heating oil is declining because homeowners are increasingly converting to other types of heating systems. Most new homes use natural gas or electricity for heating.

1 U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook, Table WFO1, January 2019.

Last updated: February 1, 2019