How much is heating oil per litre?

Kerosene lamp hanging from a wooden beam

Oil boilers can be a cost effective heating solution, but exactly how much can you expect to pay to run one of these appliances? Here, we take a look at the price of heating oil and the factors that impact on this, as well as how much fuel a typical boiler uses. We also examine how long you can expect heating oil to last for and ways you can bring your spending on this fuel down.

How much will I pay for heating oil?

It’s important to realise that there’s no set price for heating oil. The amount you pay for this fuel will depend on a range of factors, including the type of oil you run your appliance on. Options include kerosene, premium kerosene and gas oil (also known as red diesel). These fuels are priced differently. For example, premium kerosene is more expensive that the standard version.

The price of heating oil also fluctuates, so when you buy your fuel will have an effect on how much it costs. Roughly speaking though, you can currently expect to pay anywhere between 45 and 55 pence per litre if you’re buying heating oil for domestic use in the UK.

What determines oil prices?

A whole range of factors impact on the price of oil, and many of these are out of the hands of distributors. For example, the global price of crude oil plays an important role. If the production of crude oil falls and demand remains consistent, prices are likely to rise, and vice versa if there is an increase in global production. Geopolitical factors in oil producing countries can also come into play. If there are conflicts or periods of civil unrest in these areas, this can reduce supply and cause price increases.

Currency values have an effect too. Oil is traded in US dollars, so the exchange rate between the dollar and the pound will influence the price eventually paid by consumers.

Then there are national factors to take into account. If demand for oil goes up in the UK, for example because of cold weather, the price of fuel can climb. Prices are also likely to rise if supply is restricted because of transport issues or other problems. For instance, bad weather can make it more difficult to move oil around, causing a temporary spike in prices.

The amount of oil you order may impact on the price you pay per litre too. If your supplier delivers large quantities to you, typically the cost per litre will be lower than if you order smaller quantities.

How much oil does a boiler use?

Oil boilers burn different amounts of fuel depending on their size, how efficient they are and how many hours they’re used per day. Whether your boiler burns oil simply to provide heating or to provide heating and hot water will also impact on how much fuel it uses. This means it’s very difficult to provide accurate estimates of how much fuel the average appliance burns.

As a very rough guide, a medium sized boiler could use around 3.5 litres of oil per hour when on full, whereas a large appliance might burn around four litres per hour. However, this is when the boilers are working flat out. When the water in your heating system is already hot and your appliance is simply maintaining this level of warmth, they will burn much less oil – and of course there are likely to be times when your heating system is not on at all and you’re therefore not burning any fuel.

The size of your home and how well insulated it is will also have an effect on how much oil your boiler burns. If you have a big and/or poorly insulated house, you’ll need to use your boiler much more than if your property is easy to heat up and keep warm.

This level of variation means that for some households, 1,000 litres of fuel is enough to stay cosy throughout an entire year, whereas for others this may not be enough to get them through the winter.

How long does home heating oil last?

Heating oil lasts for a long time. In general, providing it is stored correctly and contains the right additives, it should remain in good condition for up to 18 to 24 months. However, there are certain factors that can degrade the fuel prematurely. For example, a corroded tank can lead to oil becoming contaminated with rust, and if this vessel isn’t properly sealed, dirt, water and debris can enter it and affect the condition of the fuel.

If you’re not sure if your heating oil has gone bad, get an OFTEC registered technician to come and check it for you. Using contaminated fuel is bad for your boiler, so it’s worth making the effort to get an expert opinion.

How to save on oil heating costs

You might not have any control over the global and national factors that dictate oil prices, but there are a number of things you can do to bring your spending on this fuel down. Here are some pointers to help you cut your heating oil costs.

Be savvy with your shopping

Of course, if you’re running out of oil, you’ll need to buy more. However, by planning ahead, it’s possible to be shrewd with your fuel shopping. Ideally, you should stock up at a time when the balance of supply and demand is in the buyer’s favour. This could be during spells of warm weather when there’s typically lower demand for heating fuel, or when there’s an oversupply on the global market. Buying oil at times like this could save you a significant amount of money.

Shop around for the best deals too, and monitor market trends so that you have a clear idea of what you should be paying for your fuel. This will help ensure you don’t spend more than you need to.

Keep your oil boiler and tank in good condition

It pays to think of your boiler a bit like your car. Just as you take your vehicle for regular services to make sure the engine’s running smoothly and all of its components are in good working order, it’s important to schedule regular check-ups for your boiler. Getting an OFTEC registered heating engineer to service your appliance once a year (or in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines) will help to ensure it operates as efficiently as possible. Make sure the specialist checks your oil tank too to ensure it’s in good condition and there are no leaks.

Regular servicing will mean you get maximum value for money from each unit of fuel your appliance burns.

Make your home more energy efficient

Taking steps to make your property more energy efficient is useful too. For example, there may be ways to improve your insulation. If your home has cavity walls, an insulating layer can be blown into the gap, while if your house has solid walls, you can insulate either the interior or exterior. Solid wall insulation is more expensive cavity wall, but it also brings greater energy savings.

You might want to think about improving your draught proofing as well. This is a quick, easy and cheap way to bring your heating bills down. One tip is to buy special strips to prevent air from getting in and out around your window frames, and you could also get draught excluders for the bottom of your doors. Even things as small and simple as letterbox brushes and keyhole covers can make your home better at retaining heat.

Think about your heating system too. If you only have basic controls, it might be time to upgrade. Your full set of heating controls should include a timer or programmer, room thermostat, boiler thermostat and thermostatic radiator valves. You might also benefit from getting smart heating controls that mean you can manage your heating system remotely from your phone or tablet.

Insulating your central heating pipes with foam tubes could make your system more efficient as well. And, if you notice cold spots in your radiators, try bleeding them to remove trapped air. If your radiators still have cool areas even after you’ve bled them, sludge in your heating system might be to blame. If this is the case, you could arrange a powerflush. This process involves an engineer pumping special chemicals through your heating system to get rid of any debris and sludge.