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Heating oil explained Use of heating oil

Heating oil is mainly used for space heating. Some homes and residential commercial buildings also use heating oil to heat water but in much smaller amounts than what they use for space heating. Because cold weather affects heating demand, most heating oil use occurs during the heating season—October through March.

Annual residential heating oil (distillate fuel) consumption peaked in the 1970s and has declined nearly every year since. Most replacement heating systems in existing homes and heating systems in new homes use natural gas or electricity.

Who uses heating oil?

In the winter of 2022–2023, about 4.96 million households in the United States used heating oil (distillate fuel oil) as the main space-heating fuel, and about 82% of those households were in the U.S. Northeast Census Region.1

Some commercial and institutional buildings use heating oil directly in space and water heating equipment and in combined heat and power plants. U.S. commercial sector distillate fuel oil consumption peaked in 1984 and has generally declined each year since then.

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1 U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook, Winter Fuels Oulook, Table WFO1, March 2023.

Last updated: April 19, 2023, with data available as of March 2023.