There is a lot of confusion amongst consumers about the similarity between home heating oil, also known as red diesel fuel, and automotive diesel fuel, known as diesel #2. Much has been said about using red diesel fuel in diesel automobiles, but consumers are warned that although there are few chemical differences, there are legalities to consider.

Heating Oil vs Diesel Fuel

Red diesel fuel is used as a home heating oil. It is chemically similar to automotive diesel #2, but significantly less expensive to purchase by consumers. Since home heating oil is taxed much less than diesel #2, a red dye is added to the fuel to differentiate the lower-taxed product from the higher-taxed one.

How is the Red Dye Used?

Law enforcement agencies are aware of the similarity between home heating oil and diesel #2, and they know that consumers might purchase the less costly heating oil to use as automotive fuel in their diesel cars. To discourage that behavior, a red dye is added to the product to mark it as heating oil. Highway police officers throughout the country are equipped with red dye indicators that quickly identify the illegal fuel. Motorists who are caught using it will subsequently be prosecuted for fuel tax evasion.

Residential Uses for Red Diesel Fuel

The red-dyed fuel is sold wherever homes are heated by heating oil. Heating oil vendors transport the oil in tanker trucks to the individual homes, where it is pumped into heating oil storage tanks to be used by oil furnaces.

Commercial Uses for Red Diesel Fuel

Commercial use of red diesel fuel is far-reaching. Construction companies use it in their off-road diesel engines, such as in bulldozers, backhoes, cranes, bobcats and diesel generators, to name a few. Farmers benefit from the lower cost of red diesel fuel by using it in their tractors, harvesters and any other diesel-powered equipment on their farms and in their fields. Certain aviation fuels are red-dyed diesel fuel, and even road shows, carnivals and county fairs may legally use it in their diesel engines as long as they are not used to transport their equipment over public roads.

The Many Names of Red Diesel Fuel

Depending on which industry uses red diesel fuel or in what part of the country it is being discussed, it goes by a variety of names. It will be referred to by its industry references, such as gas oil, generator fuel, medium diesel or heating oil. It will also be called by its more casual names like cherry, 35 seconds, digger and many others.