Before determining whether there is a difference between home heating oil and diesel fuel, you first need to determine which grade of diesel fuel you are referring to. There are two types of diesel fuel used in vehicles: type 2 and type 1. Type 2 fuel is standard diesel fuel used in warm weather. Type 1 is diesel mixed with an anti-gelling additive when temperatures are cold to help prevent the fuel from becoming thick. In this case we will compare only diesel type 2 with home heating oil. Overall, the differences in these two products are fairly minor.
Adding red dye to heating fuel is the way the government determines if a tax has been added or not. This red dye is not added to Diesel #2. Most diesel engines will run fine on traditional home heating fuel, but if a vehicle is stopped by the police and the red dye is in the fuel, the driver can be fined. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, this fine can be as much as £16,250 per violation.
Buying diesel fuel can cost as much as 30 per cent more than home heating fuel, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. This difference is primarily driven by the tax levied on diesel fuel. As diesel is used primarily in vehicles used on the road, this tax is used to fund road construction and improvements.
Shortages in some types of fuels sometimes results in distributors blending fuels like kerosene, jet fuel and different diesel types with traditional heating fuel into one fuel. This fuel is then sold as home heating fuel. Furnaces that burn heating fuel are more forgiving than vehicle engines are, so this blending is not a problem. Diesel engines require higher-quality fuel so that the fuel burns consistently and generates the proper compression, so this blend would negatively impact the engine's performance.
Preventing engine wear is a critical attribute of diesel fuel. Heating fuel lacks an additive which lubricates the piston and o-rings. Without this lubrication the engine will quickly seize up. Diesel fuel contains this additive. According to Exxon Oil Company, this additive has been required and included for several years.