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When did oil heat become common?

My house (owned since 2011) is currently heated by natural gas probably since the 80s (the last boiler had a 1984 date code). There are remnants of an oil tank that was properly decommissioned.

The house was built in 1935 and I'm wondering if the original boiler was coal. How common was oil in 1935?
Steaming along slowly in Wharton, Morris County, NJ.


  • sonofaplumber
    sonofaplumber Member Posts: 52
    Does this oil tank look like a common one you would see in use today? I would think that would be a big indication on the history of it. Very possible your 80's boiler had a conversion done from oil.

    Most households went coal > oil > gas in the city and fireplaces (wood heat) > oil > lp in the country (like mine)

    I've seen old 55 gal drums used as kerosene tanks suspended by wooden stands commonly in basements for cook stoves, lamps and such back when coal was in use (1920-30's homes) maybe that is what you are seeing?

    Wasn't alive within 6 decades of that time frame so I can't directly answer your question haha.
  • SteamedInWharton
    SteamedInWharton Member Posts: 62
    edited October 2015
    Sorry never actually saw the tank (underground), just the ends of hoses noticed by my home inspector and the town still had the permit to decommission on file.

    I should clarify: I "know" the home must have had oil heat in the 70s or 80s. I'm just wondering if the history was coal -> oil -> gas or oil -> gas.

    There are a few odd things about this steam setup that make me wonder if it was a coal boiler: large (3") risers feeding 2" pipes, a much higher water line (at least 4" higher than it is now), and I can't seem to figure out how an equalizer would have been piped in (maybe it didn't have one).
    Steaming along slowly in Wharton, Morris County, NJ.
  • Brewbeer
    Brewbeer Member Posts: 616
    Oil started being commonly installed in the 1930s around these parts (Springfield Mass), and became more widely accepted following WWII.
    Hydronics inspired homeowner with self-designed high efficiency low temperature baseboard system and professionally installed mod-con boiler with indirect DHW. My system design thread: http://forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/154385
    System Photo: https://us.v-cdn.net/5021738/uploads/FileUpload/79/451e1f19a1e5b345e0951fbe1ff6ca.jpg
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,077
    edited October 2015
    Look for a coal room built into the basement, at least the size of a large walk in closet. It would be of unusual and robust construction. maybe concrete block/brick interior walls. And it would of had an outside coal shoot window for unloading a truck. It could be a window now or closed up. About 2' square or less.

    And if you can see the floor the concrete there would be a little beat up. Any little pulleys mounted on the ceiling for chain control?
  • OuterCapeOilguy
    OuterCapeOilguy Member Posts: 46
    The first (somewhat) practical oil burners began appearing in homes during WW-1, if I'm not mistaken these were vertical rotary burners. 1926 saw the introduction of the Williams Oil-O-Matic low-pressure air atomizing burner, and the high-pressure Quiet May appeared around that time as well. At one time, there were probably 20-30 brands of oil burners. Most of them were used in coal-to-oil conversions, and many of the boilers and furnaces manufactured in the mid-'30's through the '50's could be set up for coal, oil or gas.