The cost of fuel and energy is continuing to rise, so it is important to make our homes as energy-efficient and therefore as cost-effective as possible. With heating accounting for over half the average spend on energy in the typical UK household, a good heating system should be a priority.
An effective central heating system in a well insulated property will reduce heating bills and give the house a much warmer, more comfortable feel.
Over four million homes in the UK are not connected to the mains gas supply and must use other fuels to power their central heating and hot water.
A modern oil-fired central heating system can provide a cost-effective alternative and although oil produces more carbon dioxide than gas, a high efficiency boiler offers an environmentally acceptable option where gas is not available.
What is oil central heating?
An oil central heating system requires a storage tank on the property for the oil, which is burned in a condensing boiler or a combination boiler to heat water through a heat exchanger.
The water is circulated round a network of pipes in the house, carrying heat to the radiators; just the same as a gas system.
Since 2007 building regulations have required that any boiler fitted with an oil central heating system must be a condensing boiler.
Modern boilers are highly efficient and some manufacturers specify seasonal operating efficiencies reaching 97%, and there are a variety of ‘A’ rated boilers for oil systems on the marketplace.
You can even check the efficiency of your boiler by checking the SEDBUK (Seasonal Efficiency of Domestic Boilers in the UK) database.
A good oil-fired system should have all the controls associated with gas central heating. The heat should be controlled by a single room thermostat, preferably in a living room rather than a hallway.
Thermostatic radiator valves can be installed allowing greater control over individual room temperatures. The whole system should also be controlled by a seven-day programmable timer, which operates both the heating and the hot water.
Why use oil?
Oil provides a very practical alternative for central heating for those homes, which are not connected to the mains gas supply. Most UK households, which have oil central heating, run the system on 28sec oil (kerosene). The oil is cleaner burning than 35sec oil (gasoil), and has the advantage that it can be used in kitchen range cookers such as AGA’s.
Oil heating also comes with a few drawbacks, and they are worth considering if you are planning to install an oil-fired system. Oil is becoming more expensive and the price is only going to rise, in line with crude oil prices. Your oil tank must be periodically re-filled and deliveries are by road; it is possible that you could run out if you forget to order or a delivery is delayed.
The storage tank must be located somewhere on the property, and can be unsightly to look at. Although it may be more expensive to install, you might want to think about an underground tank.
Oil is not thought of as a clean or environmentally friendly fuel. If you are concerned about your carbon emissions, make sure you get the most efficient boiler possible, to reduce your carbon footprint as much as you can.
DEFRA (the Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural affairs), estimates the carbon content for kerosene heating oil at 0.245KgCO2 per kWh, this is comparable to the figure for LPG of 0.214KgCO2 per kWh, and a carbon content in gas of 0.184 KgCO2per kWh. An ‘A’ rated, high efficiency boiler will help to minimise the difference in the amount of carbon you produce.
The installation of a full oil central heating system including the storage tank, boiler, radiators and controls is a large job, and one that is likely to cost several thousands of pounds. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that the cost would be around £3,500 – £4,500 for the installation of the system; while having the tank installed could cost approximately £2,800.
Any boiler should be checked and serviced annually, so you can include an extra £50 – £100 per year for the cost of maintenance.
How is oil fired central heating installed?
There are actually no recognised certificates or training requirements that a tradesman must adhere to in order to install an oil-fired system. The Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC) is a technical body, which holds a membership of registered technicians and promotes minimum standards for oil central heating systems.
If you are having any work done on an oil system, or having one completely installed, it is recommended to use an OFTEC registered company.
It is advisable to have an oil system fitted with a safety cut off which will operate in the event of a fire, to shut the system down and stop a fire spreading to the storage tank. It may also be worth a call to the local council’s building control office, as there a several conditions over where a storage tank can be sited on a property.
Central heating is by far the most popular type of heating system in use in the UK today. When coupled with good, effective insulation, central heating is a very cost-effective and energy-efficient way to heat the home. Energy prices are increasing year on year and any cost saving measures that can be taken in the home, help to lower the cost of fuel bills, and reduce carbon emissions.
Mains gas is the most commonly used fuel for central heating, as apart from wood, it is generally the cheapest and most environmentally friendly. Over four million properties in the UK are not connected to the mains gas supply however, so there is a need for the use of alternative fuel in these typically more rural areas.
Oil provides a viable alternative as it can be stored in a tank close to the property and power a central heating system in a similar way that gas does. Using a highly energy-efficient condensing boiler will also help to reduce the impact of oil as a less environmentally friendly fuel.