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Beginners guide to home heating oil and oil central heating

If you are considering moving home and are looking in a rural area, you may find that your new central heating system uses heating oil instead of gas. This can be quite daunting if you've never lived in a home that uses heating oil before so we've put together some frequently asked questions about heating oil and some tips and questions to consider before you buy or rent a home. 


Popular questions about domestic oil.

What type of heating oil do I need? 

Most homes use kerosene which is usually referred to as heating oil or 28 second, although occasionally you will find a system that uses gas oil (also known as red diesel or 35 second oil).  It is possible to buy premium kerosene which contains additives which can make your boiler burn cleaner, but this does cost more than standard kerosene and you can buy separate bottles of additive to add to your tank that are cheaper than buying premium heating oil. 
How often do I need to service an oil boiler?

You should have oil boilers serviced annually by an OFTEC approved engineer. If you have an Aga that is used all year round, you may need this servicing more regularly and you should check with the manufacturer. 

Is heating oil expensive? 

Well it’s a lot more expensive than it used to be but, over recent years, the price hasn’t risen as much as gas and electricity prices. In fact, OFTEC announced on 17th February 2014 that an independent source of comparative UK domestic heating costs has found that heating oil is the only primary heating fuel that has dropped in price over the last three years. Their press release also stated that heating a three bedroom home with a condensing oil boiler averages £1275 per annum compared with gas at £1136. LPG, the other major off-grid fuel, is more expensive at £1923.

Heating oil prices do vary throughout the year with the winter season from October through to March generally being the most expensive time to buy. During the summer when demand is low, prices are usually lower. 

What is a bunded oil tank? 

A bunded tank is simply one that has a secondary containment system so that, in the event your tank is damaged, the leaking oil is contained. Often this takes the form of a second skin around the tank but it could also be a masonry or concrete enclosure. A bunded tank is not essential for all installations but it’s always a good idea to have one as the cost of cleaning up oil spills can be phenomenal.  

Is there a minimum order quantity for heating oil? 

Yes, in UK the minimum order quantity is 500 litres. So, you need to make sure you have enough space in your tank before you order. However, don't let your tank run dry as this can result in blocked filters and problems restarting your boiler if tank sludge gets into the system. 

Questions to ask the owner if you are buying a new home

  1. How old is the oil tank?
  2. Does the oil tank have a warranty?
  3. When was the last time the oil tank was inspected?
  4. When was the last time the boiler was serviced and was it serviced by an OFTEC registered engineer? (Ask to see the service report)
  5. Is the tank bunded?
  6. How old is the boiler?
  7. What is the energy efficiency rating of the boiler? (Note if they don’t know, make a note of the make and model as you can check here)

Questions to ask the owner or landlord

  1. What type of oil does the boiler use?
  2. What security measures are in place to prevent theft?
  3. What capacity is the oil tank?
  4. Are there any special access issues with the oil tank?
  5. Is there a tank monitor? (note that they aren’t 100% accurate)
  6. How much oil do you typically use in a year? What is the typical use over winter?
  7. Are you aware of any oil thefts in the area and does the tank have a lock?
  8. Do you have a copy of the boiler manual? 
Be Observant
When viewing a prospective property that uses domestic oil, it is worth paying particular attention to the following: 
  1. Are there any signs of spills, leaks or oil marks around the oil tank? 
  2. Check around the tank (if possible) for any signs of damage or rust. 
  3. Are there any sooty or smoky marks around the boiler as this may indicate a combustion problem. 
  4. Are there smoke and carbon monoxide alarms?




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