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Use Bio-Heat as a substitute for #2 Heating Oil

Posted on | April 20, 2010 | 5 Comments

New York City has over 960,000 buildings.

Only 9,000 of them (less than 1%) use the dirtiest heating oil (grades #4 and #6). But those 9,000 buildings are responsible for over 86% of the soot and ozone pollution in the air.

These particulates contribute to the failure of New York City’s air to meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards and the failing grade received from the American Lung Association’s State of the Air Report not to mention all the unnecessary cases of childhood asthma in New York City’s kids.

What is this dirty heating oil?

Generally speaking, when crude oil comes off the boat into the refinery, the sludgier oil (called residual oil) sinks to the bottom while more refined products, which are less viscous such as propane, gasoline, kerosene etc… (called distillates) rise to the top.

#6 oil is barely refined sludge.  It’s the least expensive of the heating oils and has the highest fuel content which starts to explain why people continue to use it.

It is solid at room temperature.  This means that the entire oil tank must be kept to at least 90 degrees at all times in order for the oil to burn properly.  #2 oil, while more expensive per gallon, burns much cleaner, doesn’t require any additional energy to make the combustion process work properly and typically requires less maintenance than boilers burning #6.

Environmental Defense Fund, with support form the Urban Green Council issued a very informative report called “The Bottom of the Barrel:  How the Dirtiest Heating Oil pollutes our Air and harms our Heath” including a great interactive map showing all the buildings currently using #6 and #4 oil.

Another benefit to #2 oil is that you can burn bio-diesel and your boiler won’t know the difference.

Before you start yelling at me, let me just say that bio-diesel heating oil substitute is not made from corn.  The ethanol that you are thinking of is a gasoline substitute. The bio-diesel fuel I’m talking about is made from used restaurant grease that would have been otherwise dumped into the waste stream.

The major supplier of bio-diesel for heating fuel is Tri-State Biodiesel.  If you visit their homepage you can buy fuel or sign up for cooking oil collection – they already collect from over 2,000 NYC restaurants.

Biodiesel can be used alone or mixed in any amount with petroleum diesel fuel. A typical blend of  20% biodiesel with diesel fuel is called “B20,” a 5% blend is called “B5″ and so on.

To incentivize bio-heat, New York State currently offers heating oil customers an income tax credit of 1 cent per gallon of biodiesel used for Bioheat (i.e. 20 cents credit per gallon of B20 Bioheat; 5 cents per gallon of B5 Bioheat).  This incentive brings the cost of bio-heat down slightly below the cost of #2 oil.  (For a 1-2 family home, the tax credit could be around $300, for a 50,000 SF multi-family building, the tax credit might be in the range of $6,500 depending on the efficiency of the building and the heating system).


5 Responses to “Use Bio-Heat as a substitute for #2 Heating Oil”

  1. Gina
    April 26th, 2010 @ 8:35 pm

    We purchase home heating oil for our 2-family home from Tri-State Biodiesel and have been very happy with the prices and performance of the oil.

  2. Anig
    June 28th, 2010 @ 2:23 pm

    We purchased home heating oil for our 2-family home from X and have been very unhappy with the prices and performance of the oil.

  3. One % of
    September 27th, 2010 @ 5:26 pm

    [...] her piece Use Bio-Heat as a substitute for #2 Heating Oil, the architect Ellen Honigstock of The Toeprint Project points out that, with respect to oil heat, [...]

  4. Larry
    September 27th, 2010 @ 5:30 pm

    Mayor Bloomberg wants to clean the air by restricting cigarette smoking. I don’t smoke, but I think he should restrict burning #4 and #6 oil.

  5. Larry
    September 27th, 2010 @ 5:31 pm

    Do any buildings burn coal?


Established in 1999, Ellen Honigstock Architect PC is a full-service architecture and energy auditing firm based in DUMBO, Brooklyn.

Our solutions are environmentally conscious and the criteria we use are based on national standards developed to bring long-term saving, efficiency and well-being to our clients. Over 35 years combined experience building in New York City gives us an edge in meeting tough schedules and navigating the city's complicated requirements.

About Ellen:

As the Residential Green Building Advocate for the Urban Green Council since 2007, Ellen has been promoting sustainability in the residential marketplace in NYC.

In the position of Chair of the Homes Subcommittee the NYC Greening the Codes Task Force, Ellen has been heavily involved in recommending new green policy in NYC as related to updating building codes, rules and regulations.

Ellen teaches Building Science, Building Envelope, Water Conservation, Indoor Air Quality, Quantifying Energy and Green Building Plans at the 1,000 Green Supers program for The SEIU Local 32 BJ Thomas Shortman Training Fund.

Registered Architect, NY, NJ, CT
LEED Accredited Professional
BPI Certifications:
Building Analyst
Energy Efficient Building Operator
Multi-Family Building Analyst

Ellen Honigstock, LEED AP
Ellen Honigstock Architect PC
45 Main Street #806
Brooklyn, NY 11201
(212) 228-1585


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