Top Ten Things to know about Oil Boilers

When contemplating a heating system upgrade homeowners usually have two options: gas or oil heating.

Both options are capable of firing up your boiler and keeping your home nice and warm during cold season, both have their pros and cons, which should be considered before making a decision. The following are ten things you need to know about oil-fired boiler systems for your home.

1. Oil Boilers in the UK

In the UK, oil is usually used in ‘wet’ heating systems where the oil-fired boiler will heat the water that provides central heating with the help of radiators placed in a home, along with hot water. There are over four million households in the UK that are not on the main gas network, so you wouldn’t be alone if you chose an oil-fired boiler system for your home. The information provide here will hopefully enable confused homeowners to make a better decision when choosing a boiler system.

2. Fuel Accessibility

One of the main differences between an oil boiler and a gas boiler is that the former has to be delivered to you by road and stored in a tank which is either bought or rented from the supplier, while the latter can be obtained from an existing gas connection. There are two options to buy heating oil: cash on delivery (COD) or seasonal delivery contract. The first option is the cheapest, only requiring that you have enough cash to make the payment for the oil that’s been delivered. With the delivery contract, the homeowner agrees on the price before the start of the season. The supplier then guarantees that the homeowner will always get enough oil for their boiler, and will estimate the consumption to schedule regular oil deliveries.

3. Two Types of Oil Boilers

Oil boilers come in two types – heat only and combination condensing boilers. The oil fired combination boilers have an internal hot water storage tank that supplies hot water, instead of getting access to water on demand, as it is gas boilers.

4. Oil Boiler Energy Efficiency

According to OFTEC the running cost for higher efficiency boiler is £942 per year. Since the new law passed in 1 April 2007 all the new oil boilers need have a Sedbuk energy efficiency of 86% or higher. There are exceptions to the rule which deems lower efficiency permissible. However the reality is that only condensing oil-fired boilers meet such an energy efficiency target. Usually, a new condensing oil-fired boiler will have an efficiency of 92% to 93%, compared with 85% for a new non-condensing boiler and 60% to 70% for older systems.

An oil boiler purchased from a well-established company should be just as efficient as a gas powered boiler system, if not more. Oil is highly efficient as a fuel and gives you good return on every unit of energy. To improve the efficiency of oil boilers these tips should be followed:

  • Room thermostats should always be used
  • Thermostats and the boiler needs to be wired in an interlock in order to stop short cycling when either hot water or room heating is not required
  • The hot water tank must have a cylinder thermostat
  • Hot water and heating always must be programmed separately
  • Thermostatic radiator valves must be placed on radiators

5. The Oil Boiler Cost

According to Which? magazine the average cost of oil heating for a three-bedroom house is around £1,355. This compares to between £770 and £950 for gas boiler. However this also depends on the efficiency of your boiler, and £1,300 for liquid petroleum gas (LPG). Furthermore, oil boilers can cost anywhere between £1,180 and £2,700, depending on the oil boiler manufacturer, model and capacity.

6. Recycling Waste to Create Heat

One of the main advantages of an oil boiler is that it offers higher efficiency since it is able to recycle the waste gases that build up in the flue, leading towards more energy production, which in turn, improves a home’s heating and hot water production.

7. Oil Boiler Flue

Oil boilers can be fitted with open flues it is recommended that a balanced flue be used since it is far more efficient and versatile. A flue is a pipe or duct designed to connect heating appliances to fresh air and allow combustion gases to be released safely. This way of allowing combustion gases to be released from boilers is most often referred to as ‘balanced flue’ or ‘open flue’.

8. Hot Water Storage

Both oil powered and gas powered boilers work in the same way except for the fact that an oil boiler also features a hot water storage tank, which stores hot water for later consumption, while a gas boiler relies on on-demand water heating. The average oil tank in size ranges from 1000 litres (220 gallons) and 1360 litres (300 gallons), with some larger domestic tanks having a capacity of up to 2500 litres (550 gallons). The tanks can be made from steel, fiberglass or a combination of the two materials.

9. Types of Heating Oil

There are two types of heating oil used in domestic heating, gas oil and kerosene. The most common oil-fired boilers used in the UK run on 28sec oil, which is also known as Kerosene. 28Sec oil burns very clean and leaves minimal deposits when it comes to smoke or soot. The ‘Sec’ part of the oil description refers to the thickness of the oil. It refers to the time it takes for a ball bearing of a certain size and diameter to pass through a set distance of the kerosene. The other type of heating oil is gas oil which is also known as 35-second oil or red diesel. This is a heavier oil generally used in old agricultural or commercial boilers.

10. Service and Maintenance

If your boiler is not serviced annually it will be at a higher risk of breaking down. However, you should not only be worried about the cost of fixing your oil boiler but also about risks to your health. As with any fossil fuel burning appliance, poor or inadequate servicing can cause the generation of carbon monoxide. All components of the boiler should be checked, cleaned or replaced if required to ensure the boiler functions at optimum levels. Even the tank should be checked for water contamination. Also, filter elements will require cleaning or may need to be replaced. It is also important to get the boiler checked for oil leaks. If the boiler is not serviced regularly, long term damage may occur resulting to you having to spend more money. A well maintained oil heat system can last for up to 20 years.