The Economic and Environmental Impacts of Oil

Used oil is the largest, single source of water pollution in the U.S. One gallon of used oil can contaminate one million gallons of water – a year’s supply for 50 people – and create an eight-acre oil slick on surface water.
Nearly 20 years ago, the U.S. Congress approved the Used Oil Recycling Act which established a mandate for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that used oil recycling is, “consistent with the protection of human health and the environment.” The act also recognized the benefits of used oil recycling on small-quantity generators and small businesses.
Many states have also adopted guidelines for the collection, recycling, and burning of used oil, and UOMA supports and applauds these actions. However, there is still more work to be done and more gallons of used oil to burn.

Clean Energy Incentives for
Burning Used Oil

Improper disposal is a tremendous waste of potential energy:

One gallon of used oil contains about
140,000 Btu of energy – about the same heating value as new oil.

UOMA estimates that improperly disposed of used oil could produce enough energy to heat 360,000 garages each year.
It has never been easier or more economical to start burning waste and used oil. With new tax deductions and increased energy incentives available for businesses, now might be the perfect time to purchase a waste-oil heater or boiler and start recycling your used oil on site.
Since 1982, UOMA has advocated for the safe and efficient, on-site recycling of used oil as a fuel in a used-oil heater or boiler. We’ve built a robust community of partners and members that are committed to advancing the technology around the safe burning of used oil and educating businesses within different industries of the benefits to on-site recycling of used oil.

Tax Credits and Grants in the
United States

Under Section 179 of the IRS Tax Code, waste oil heaters are tax-deductible. Section 179 allows business taxpayers to deduct the entire cost of qualifying equipment (up to $1,040,000 for 2020) off their tax return. Qualifying equipment includes waste oil heaters.
UOMA supports efforts by state and federal governments to make the burning of used oil more accessible for economic and environmental reasons. At the state level, tax credits, grants and other funding sources are available in various states.

Technology and Safety for
Used-Oil Heaters and Boilers

Constant improvements in the design of used-oil heaters and boilers in the last decade have increased their efficiencies and reduced emissions. Studies demonstrated that used-oil heaters and boilers are economically and environmentally sound investments.
UOMA members have their heater and boiler units tested for safety by independent laboratories such as Underwriters’ Laboratories (UL) and the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), and each used-oil heater and boiler comes with a safety rating. Automatic fuel cutoffs and other safety features, in combination with servicing and operational guidelines, ensure that all used-oil heaters and boilers function safely, cleanly and efficiently.

Three Simple Rules for Used Oil Heaters

The U.S. EPA established simple guidelines for the environmentally sound, economically beneficial practice of recycling used oil on-site as a fuel in a used-oil heater or boiler:


The heater must burn used oil generated on-site or collected from do-it-yourselfers


The heater must be vented to the outside air


The capacity of the heater cannot exceed 500,000 Btu/hour

The Used Oil Glossary

There is a lot to understand when it comes to used oil and used-oil recycling. To help clarify the most common terms, reference the glossary below.
Authorized Distributor
Person or business certified and trained to sell and service specific products.
British Thermal Units; a unit of thermal energy.
Flue from the furnace or boiler which creates draft and allows gases to escape.
Cradle-to-Grave Liability

The legal liability of a material from its generation to disposal regardless of third party involvement.

Energy Retention Disc

A composite material formed in the shape of a disc which is placed at the back of the combustion chamber for the purpose of capturing heat and to aid in heat dispersion.

EPA Approved
Accepted and endorsed by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Fuel Oil
Accepted and endorsed by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Heat Exchanger
A device which transforms cold, ambient air through the furnace into hot air, transferring it back into the room as hot air.
Metering Pump
Any regulated pump which transfers oil from a storage tank to the burner.
Is a forging process in which the dimensions of an item are altered using a die or dies, into which the item is forced. May also be referred to as Swedging.
UL Listing
Underwriters Laboratories; the trusted resource across the globe for product safety certification and compliance solutions.
Used Oil
Any petroleum based or synthetic oil that has been used and is no longer suited to its original use. Often used interchangeably with “waste oil.”
Waste Oil
Any petroleum based fluid or synthetic oil that has become unsuited or unwanted for its original purpose through use or handling.
Waste Oil Burner
Any piece of equipment that heats, ignites, and combusts waste oil and is attached to a waste oil furnace or waste oil boiler.
Waste Oil Furnace
Any piece of equipment that utilizes waste oil as a fuel source to warm the contents of a forced-air heating system.
Waste Oil Heater
Any piece of equipment that utilizes waste oil as a fuel source to warm the contents of a forced-air heating system.