With the increase in properties being built in rural locations more homes are remote from the gas mains and oil fired boilers are a viable home heating alternative. Recently oil fuel prices have been very high, as have gas prices, although for most of the past ten years it has been significantly cheaper to run than bulk LPG or bottled gas and, in many circumstances, cheaper than electricity or anthracite.

If you are buying a home that has oil central heating, or if you are looking to install or upgrade an oil-fired boiler system you should consider the facts detailed below.

What are the components of an oil central heating system?

An oil-fired central heating system will have the same heating controls as a modern gas-fired system. You should ensure that it has:

  • an adjustable room thermostat which is located in a well used living room, not the cold hallway or a little used room
  • thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) on the radiators to allow you to have control over room temperatures
  • an electronic timer with separately programmable hot water and room heating programs for the seven days of the week
  • a thermostat on the hot water tank cylinder to properly control the water temperature
  • the boiler and heating thermostats wired correctly to prevent short-cycling in the system when there is no demand for either hot water production or room heating

What type of oil fired boilers are there?

Once again the development of oil-fired boilers has shadowed the development of gas-fired boilers and there are many similarities.

Oil fired Condensing Boilers: From 1st April 2007 it has been mandatory to install condensing oil boilers to comply with the latest Building Regulations. More manufacturers are adding oil condensing boilers to their ranges all the time.

Combi or Combination Boilers: Oil-fired combi boilers are available, providing convenient hot water on demand, when you require it, without any need for a hot water tank, saving space in your home. However, it should be noted that that they are often slower to produce the required hot water than some gas combi boilers, and that they are not always recommended in larger households. This is addressed through a combi boiler holding a reserve of hot water within the casing although this reduces the energy efficiency performance of the boiler.

Oil boilers can be purchased with balanced flues (where the external air for combustion is drawn into the boiler through a pipe concentric with the boilers extract flue) and also with open flues, where the required air for efficient combustion is drawn from the actual room in which the oil boiler is positioned. Although the national Building Regulations allow for both types of oil boiler to be installed and located in domestic garages, experts actually that only the balanced flue type oil boilers are used in those areas.

Are Oil Fired boilers as efficient as gas boilers?

Similar to gas fired boilers modern oil-fired boilers can be very efficient and manufacturers list operating efficiencies spanning up to a highly efficient 97%. As with gas boilers, condensing boilers are likely to offer the greatest efficiency due to capturing the heat from the exhaust gases, and there are now many Sedbuk “A” rated models on the market.

What type of oil should I use with an oil-fired boiler?

Almost all UK domestic central heating systems use kerosene (28sec oil). This fuel is selected as it burns more cleanly than the much heavier oil products such as gas oil (35sec heating oil). The lighter formulation produces cleaner exhaust gases.

As the sulfur content of modern oil products has fallen, some of the domestic oil suppliers have now added additional lubricants to kerosene with the goal of enabling the fuel to be pumped to the oil boiler more easily. Older pumping systems could struggle to pump oil over a distance or in cold conditions. This is not usually necessary for newer systems, as modern pumps have been engineered to operate effectively with low-sulfur fuels.

Is oil less friendly to the environment?

A high-efficiency modern oil boiler can provide an environmentally friendly heating system as an alternative to gas, especially for properties that are not connected to the gas main. As with all home or business heating systems, regular maintenance and boiler servicing will help the boiler operate more cleanly and efficiently.

If you are focused on minimising carbon emissions, you could also consider complementing an oil central heating system with one of the latest wood-burning or pellet stoves, using sustainable wood fuel. Another alternative is to consider using Solar Water Heating panels, that should be able to provide up to half your homes hot water requirements.

Are there special installation requirements for an oil fired heating system?

Contrary to the situation with gas, although there is no statutory requirement for oil boilers to be installed by a specially trained person, it is recommended that all servicing and installations are carried out by people registered with Oftec, the Oil-Fired Technical Association who are experts in the requirements of oil boilers.