Oil heaters ignite oil in order to produce heat for either heating rooms or, in the case of larger applications, heating water tanks for hot water. The oil is kept in nearby tanks for water heaters and pumped in as needed, while more portable heaters have their own tanks built into the system. Oil heaters are designed to function safely and some homeowners prefer them for their cost effectiveness, but they do have issues, especially older heaters or those that are mishandled. These issues can create dangers for people nearby.
Oil soot is a mixture of exhaust fumes and contaminants that can build up over time. This becomes a problem with large oil heaters that need to vent through a nearby chimney. The soot builds up in the chimney and has an extremely corrosive effect. As the soot corrodes the metal and grows thicker, it becomes more likely that the deposit will catch fire and present a serious fire hazard for the entire house. Heat from the venting exhaust can be enough to light these soot layers, and they tend to burn hot enough to spread the fire through the rest of the house. Homeowners should always have venting systems cleaned to prevent this problem.
Carbon monoxide is one of the fumes produced by oil when it is burned for heater. In ventilated spaces with small heaters, carbon monoxide poisoning rarely occurs, but in small, enclosed rooms or with large heaters, there is a possibility that a carbon monoxide leak, which could prove very dangerous. Leaks occur when homeowners do not vent the oil heater properly. Because the gas is odorless and clear, homeowners may not be aware of a problem until it is too late.
Oils spills can occur in a variety of ways with an oil heater. For large heaters, the oil lines bringing oil in can spring leaks. With smaller, portable heaters, they tip over and oil can sometimes leak out of the side. This oil will ruin nearby materials, especially absorbent materials, and it creates a fire hazard.
If homeowners have underground oil tanks, they could spring leaks as well and leach fuel into the soil. This threatens the surrounding environment and can poison plants and animals or even leak into the water table. This is very expensive for the homeowner, who must pay for an examination of the surrounding area and professional cleaning.