What is heating oil?
Many people that aren’t connected to the national gas grid have heating oil.
Around four million households in the UK are not connected to the national gas grid and rely on heating oil, liquid petroleum gas (LPG), electricity or renewable sources to heat their homes. The key difference between energy from the grid and heating oil (as well as LPG) is that heating oil is delivered by road and stored in a tank.
If you have just moved into a new property and have an oil boiler, your house runs on heating oil.
Types of heating oil
Two types of heating oil are used for domestic heating:
- Gas oil – also known as 35 second oil or red diesel. This is a heavier oil generally used in older boilers, in agriculture or commercially.
- Kerosene – also known as 28 second or heating oil. This is a lighter and cleaner fuel and the most common type used in homes in the UK.
If you’ve just moved into a property, the type of oil you will need is determined by the type of heating system already installed in the house. If your boiler or tank is not labelled clearly, ask the previous owner what type was used. If they can’t help, a technician registered with Oftec (the oil-fired industry trade association) should be able to tell you.
Heating oil costs can vary, depending on where you live and the time of year you order
If you are able to choose which type to use, kerosene is the more efficient fuel. In cold weather it is unlikely to ‘wax up’ (form crystals that stop it from flowing as easily) until it reaches around minus 39 degrees (although check with the supplier on the type you’re getting, as this can vary).
You can buy a premium type of kerosene, which contains additives – this makes it burn cleaner and therefore more efficiently. Premium kerosene usually costs around £20 to £30 more than standard kerosene (based on 500 litres). You can also buy additives yourself, which cost around £15 for a bottle that will treat 1,000 litres of heating oil.
For certain appliances, such as an Aga, you are required to use additives – you should be able to find this out from the manufacturer.
Heating Oil Prices
In January 2016, a litre of kerosene cost around 32p per litre on average, according to Sutherland Tables, which collects domestic fuel pricing data. But prices are fluctuating and have been falling over the last year – in January 2015 it was 46p per litre.
Prices also depend greatly on where you live in the UK, the time of year you buy and the amount you buy.