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What is difference between kerosene & heating oil?

Kerosene and heating oil -- more formally called No. 2 fuel oil -- are both combustible hydrocarbon liquids, but they are chemically different because they result from different steps in the refining of crude oil. As a result, the two are generally used for different purposes.

Chemical Differences

As chemical substances, kerosene and No. 2 fuel oil have different maximum distillation temperatures: 204 degrees Celsius for kerosene and 338 degrees Celsius for No. 2 fuel oil. They also have different "flash points," or temperatures at which it's possible for the substances to ignite when mixed with air: the lowest is 37.8 degrees Celsius for kerosene and 52.2 degrees Celsius for No. 2 fuel oil.

ASTM Standards

ASTM International, which publishes industrial standards for worldwide use, classifies kerosene and fuel oil No. 2 as distinct materials. Kerosene must meet the ASTM D3699 standard, while No. 2 fuel oil is defined by ASTM D396.

Different Uses

For more than a century, kerosene has been used as a light source when burnt in small lamps. It is also used domestically in cook stoves and space heaters. No. 2 fuel oil is also used in domestic settings, but typically burnt to heat interior spaces, hence the common name "heating oil." Sometimes No. 2 fuel oil is burnt to heat smaller commercial spaces as well.

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About the Author

Dees Stribling has been a freelance writer based in Chicago for over five years and is a widely published real estate and business writer. He has edited magazines focusing on real estate, business and the fire service for over two decades. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from Vanderbilt University.