Despite the use of gas-fired boilers in most UK homes, around 4 million homes are not connected to the main gas network. Thus roughly 1.5 million households heat their homes using oil.
Another reason for using oil for central heating is areas where the gas network was installed recently, and surrounding properties are not yet connected.
How does Oil Fired Central Heating Work?
Oil fired heating systems deliver heat in three ways – steam through radiators, warm air through vents, or hot water through baseboards.
A thermostat will sense the room temperature has fallen below its setting, before sending a signal to your heating system to generate heat for your home.
Once the oil boiler engages, heating oil will travel from the tank to the burner via a pump, where it turns into a mixture of fine mist and air. This mixture is then injected into the burner where the combustion chamber ignites.
Types of Heating Systems
Water-based and warm air systems work differently. Water-based systems have two main types – hot water systems and steam systems. Water heats up in a cast iron or steel boiler before its distributed throughout your home.
- In hot water systems, heated water circulates through radiators or baseboards
- In a steam system, water turns to steam before rising through the piping to the radiators.
In a warm air system, the furnace heats air, before a blower sends the heated air through the ducts and out the vents in your floor or walls. The air is then drawn back into the furnace through a return duct in a continuous cycle. Waste gas from the combustion will exit the system through a flue pipe.
Switching to Oil Heating
Oil heating systems make both economic and comfort sense. Before you decide to make a switch, a careful assessment of conversion costs is important.
Many people realise much later that the conversion cost of natural gas, electricity, propane or wood is much higher than initial estimates.
Here’s a checklist that can help you weigh the economics and comfort sense of switching:
- Cost estimates of tank removal and disposal
- The cost of comparable new heating systems and the fuel choice. Find out if there’re any special savings one can make
- Compare efficiency ratings of the equipment and heat output
- What are the installation costs?
- Research fuel prices
- Get the whole price inclusive of distribution charges, storage, delivery, and debt-reduction
- Research other fuel providers – do they keep their promises, are your neighbours happy using their services?
For most households, efficiency measures such as upgrades and conservation techniques have the potential for great energy savings and higher returns on investment.
Cost of Installing Central Heating
Upgrading to central heating can save hundreds of pounds in heating bills per year. Apart from the complexity of laying the copper pipework for the heating system, this is a relatively straightforward task for an expert installer.
A two-story 4-bedroom home would take the engineering team about 5 days to complete the installation.
Zoning heating controls are important for energy efficiency. The controls separate different parts of your property into different heating zones. The system treats each floor as a separate heating zone, and only supplies heat to specific floors at set times.
How Much Does it Cost to Install an Oil Furnace?
Despite being a less common residential heat source, an oil-fired furnace is still a good investment for your home. It’s a good choice for increasing your HVAC system’s power and efficiency. Although oil furnaces are less efficient than gas and electric options, they cost 10% to 25% less and still provide enough heat.
Size and output of the furnace will depend on the size and age of your property. The average cost of installing an oil fired central heating in a four bedroom home can be up to £5,000.
You’ll also need to consider removal and disposal costs. Additional components such as a HEPA air cleaner can be added to a standard gas furnace – but they can be harder to coordinate with oil furnaces. Note the extra components will cost extra, though extra features can lower your monthly energy bills.
Buying and installing an oil furnace may be cheaper than other energy options, but maintaining it can be expensive.
Most oil-fired burners in the UK and Ireland run on kerosene by default. As a result, gas, oil, and diesel can fuel oil-fired home heating systems. Note that diesel or gas oil cannot fuel condensing boilers. Use them only on outdoor boilers that are fitted with a conventional vertical flue.
It’s important for a qualified boiler engineer to carry a kerosene boiler set up. Kerosene burners have a preheater installed to help lower the viscosity of the fuel and ease the workload on the pump. Since kerosene is a cheaper alternative, burning diesel/gas would make economic sense if you buy the fuel in bulk.
How long does a Boiler Last?
This question doesn’t have a straightforward answer. The millions of perfect boilers around the world from a technical view are likely to last 30 years or more. Despite the occasional breakdown, the main reason you would consider a boiler replacement is a breakdown needing parts that are no longer available.
Pros of Oil Central Heating
- The high efficiency of oil will give you a good return on every energy unit
- Modern condensing boilers which use hot flue gases are 90% more efficient than standard boilers
- The price of heat oil can fluctuate due to surges in demand, weather conditions and political unrest
- Since oil delivery is by road, there’s a possibility of running out as you wait for the next shipment
- Most condensing oil-fired boilers are floor standing. They need plumbing to allow acidic condensate fluid to drain out
- Oil produces carbon dioxide which is harmful to the environment.