Below are some FAQ’s and their answers that you may find being asked by both customers and the media.
Q: How can people spread the cost of their fuel?
- Most distributors offer a monthly payment scheme.
- When starting such a scheme customers are advised to start during periods of low demand to ensure that a surplus can be built up before the first order.
People can either save up themselves or talk to a distributor regarding a monthly payment plan where there fuel consumption is agreed in advance and the yearly cost spread over 12 months. Customer can check their account balances regularly and if they are in credit have the balance returned to them promptly. Our only request would be that people start such plans in periods of low demand to enable a surplus to be built up before the first delivery. One or two companies are now offering fixed price deals for heating oil where the cost is fixed for 12 months.
Q: I can’t afford my next delivery, what should I do?
Your first step should be to contact your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). They will check that you are in receipt of any benefits to which you are entitled.
Some buying groups are now joining forces with credit unions which provide small loans at low interest rates for consumers. Again CAB should be able to advise on where such schemes operate.
Q: I can’t afford to pay for my last delivery what should I do?
In the first instance contact your distributor as soon as possible to apprise them of the situation. Most distributors will try to come up with a payment plan for the outstanding money if at all possible. Where this is not possible or where a repayment plan is defaulted, then the distributor may take legal action for the recovery of the monies owed.
Unsurprisingly it is far better to ensure that you do not find yourself in this position. There are options to spread fuel payments (see above) so that you do not need to pay out large lump sums at one time.
Q: If the winter weather is really bad, how can I ensure I get enough oil to keep warm?
FPS advice is:
Be patient – trust your regular supplier. Tell them when you will run out so that they can prioritise.
Explain your circumstances honestly. Last winter, a number of customers who told their supplier they had run out actually had plenty of oil when the delivery tanker arrived. This makes things worse for those who have genuinely run out.
Don’t try to bully or be rude to your supplier’s sales staff. They are doing their best to help everyone get the oil they need.
The FPS and its members have also, over the last few months, been running a campaign to educate people to think ahead, order oil early and be prepared for bad weather situations.
We must emphasise that customers need to think about ordering early each year before the bad weather hits. Suppliers are usually less busy in this period and able to offer better value than in the peak periods of December, January and February.
It would also help to ease the situation if customers who currently have a good supply of oil in their tanks delay until the current backlog of orders has been dealt with rather than order a top-up of their tank at the moment, when they don’t really need it.
Our members understand that times are hard financially and people may feel they have to wait until they can afford it before ordering fuel, but a lot of oil distributors run payment schemes. These schemes enable customers to have bigger, less frequent deliveries but then spread the payments out over the whole year, helping both financially and ensuring homeowners don’t run out of fuel when the bad weather hits hard.
Q: Who do your members buy the crude oil from and then what is their role? Do they buy barrels of crude from UK outlets and then take them back to regional depots to process and distribute?
Distributors buy the refined product (kerosene in the case of heating oil) from the refiners and importers. They have no dealings with crude at all. They collect kerosene from the refineries and terminals and either take it directly to the customer or many have their own, intermediate storage. However, as distributor will rarely have more than four or five days’ storage capacity at NORMAL order levels.
Q: My boiler has broken down and the repair man has said that your fuel is to blame what’s wrong with your fuel?
Whilst it is true that off specification fuel can cause boiler problems it is seldom the real cause for breakdowns. Fuel is delivered in huge batches to supply terminals and is manufactured to British standards in refineries both of which mean that the quality of the fuel remains very consistent.
Where boiler problems arise which are attributable to the fuel, it is almost always due to problems with the householders storage facilities. Most householders do not undertake any maintenance of their tanks interiors which means that over time undesirable contaminants such as water (from condensation), particulate matters and even biological growth can develop to the point where the boiler is unable to properly burn the fuel.
Therefore householders should have their storage facilities regularly checked for water and other contaminants as well as the condition of the tank itself so that problems can be recognised early and dealt with appropriately. An OFTEC registered technician should be able to carry this work out on your behalf.
Q: My repair man tells me that there is a lot of water in my tank, have you been delivering water in with the fuel I pay for?
The short answer is no. The principal sources of water in oil storage tanks are rainwater and condensation, with condensation being the more common. Rainwater can enter a tank if openings in the tank are left open, seals are faulty or damaged or the integrity of the tank has been compromised by rusting or by perforations, cracks or splits in the body of the tank. Condensation will often occur naturally as the result of temperature differences between the tank/oil and the surroundings.
It is most unlikely to have been delivered with the fuel. Water has a very low solubility in fuel oils and, if present in a dispersed form, would create a distinctly hazy product that would immediately fail to meet the specified criterion for the product, which is required by the British Standard to be clear and bright. Delivery tankers are not flushed with water, or water-based cleaning agents, and oil distribution facilities are fitted with high off-take points and comprehensive water trapping and filtration systems. It is part of a delivery driver’s training to ensure that all of the openings used when filling a tank and gauging its contents are closed securely after the filling operation has been completed. Also most delivery pumps will automatically shut off if water is detected.
Q: Some oil heating repair engineers have reported calls from families whose heating has packed up – because the oil has “frozen” in the bitter weather. What help and advice can you offer?
Almost all domestic central heating boilers in the UK run on kerosene (BS2869 Class C fuel). This fuel remains fluid in temperatures well below those we are experiencing in the UK.
Recent reports of problems with fuel flow may be due to water in the storage tank as a result of condensation over the years. This water may have entered the fuel line from the tank to the burner and is turning to an icy slush, blocking the feed line or the filter element and restricting the flow of oil to the burner.
Good tank husbandry is key and ensuring water is removed and filters changed on a regular basis is part of the maintenance and inspection process.
A minority of burners installed in commercial sized properties in the UK operate on gas oil (also known as red diesel) which is a different fuel from kerosene and can, in extremes of temperature such as those currently being experienced, form wax type crystals that block pinch points such as fuel filters or small bore burner feed lines.
Tank husbandry is part of the answer to preventing problems caused by crystal formation. Thought should also be given to ensuring the tank is not sited in an area exposed to the wind in order to reduce the effect of wind chill. Pipework and other restrictions in the burner feed lines such as filters should be protected wherever possible and not exposed to the elements.
We suggest that customers speak to their regular heating engineer who services their boiler, should they experience such a problem.
A list of boiler technicians can be found at: OFTEC
The option to spread the cost of their heating oil is important to so many families. Click here to find out more about Barton Petroleum’s Heating Oil Payment Plan.