Help & Advice

Heating System Advice

You can make the fuel you buy go further by making sure your heating system is working as efficiently as possible. If yours is an older system, it might well be worth looking at updating it – especially as there may be various grants available to help with the cost.

Upgrading your Boiler

If your boiler’s over six years old, replacing it with a modern condensing boiler can significantly improve your energy efficiency. Condensing boilers recover waste heat that normally passes out into the air, making them up to 97% efficient as opposed to the 60 to 70% efficiency of an older boiler. That not only dramatically reduces carbon emissions, but could also save you money on your energy bills.

Upgrading your system controls

Accurately controlling the temperature throughout your home helps reduce energy wastage, letting you focus the heat in the rooms you use most and keep others cooler and also adjust each room’s temperature quickly and easily – for example, reducing room temperatures by 1°C can save you up to 10% on your annual fuel bill.

It’s a good idea to upgrade your heating controls when you have a new boiler. There are a wide range of controls available including smart controls.

Frequently asked
questions

Why do liquid fuel prices vary so much?

There are many factors which affect heating liquid fuel prices many of which are outside of the control of the distributor.

Economically, the main reason for variation comes from upstream costs such as crude liquid fuel price and downstream costs such as refining costs and secondary distribution. In addition, $/£ or € currency variations also impact on the final price of fuel.

Only a certain amount of each product can be refined from crude and the UK’s refineries don’t produce enough kerosene – 60% has to be imported primarily for aviation use. NOTE: Only 5 of the 6 UK refineries sell kerosene into the domestic market.

It is a global market and demand for kerosene is high. It’s also used as aviation fuel and so the heating market is competing with that market. Prices are set on the international market and don’t necessarily reflect the crude price exactly.

That’s why the price of diesel can be different from petrol – because they have different supply/demand balances which impacts their global traded prices.

Periods of high demand means supply terminals can struggle to cope and distributors have to go further afield to get product. Liquid fuel prices at the supply terminals change daily. When distributors are quoting for liquid fuel that they won’t be delivering until a long time ahead, they don’t know what the price of that liquid fuel will be to them. So, in a rising market, they have to factor in the price it might be at the time of delivery if the upward trend continues or a global incident pushes the price up.

In addition, operational factors affect prices. For example, periods of high demand can create temporary supply shortages in the supply chain which can push prices up especially for unplanned deliveries. Conversely, prices can be lower during quiet periods as suppliers try to encourage orders and continue to utilise their assets.

Customer requirements can also increase costs. For example – emergency (same day) deliveries, difficult locations, deliveries at specific times, aborted deliveries (e.g. a locked or unsafe tank, or an unsafe access for the driver) and quantity delivered can all adversely affect the efficiency at which a distributor can operate, which increase costs.

How can people spread the cost of their fuel?

  • Most distributors offer a monthly payment scheme.
  • When starting such a scheme, customers are advised to start during periods of low demand to ensure that a surplus can be built up before the first order.

People can either save up themselves or talk to a distributor regarding a monthly payment plan where their fuel consumption is agreed in advance and the yearly cost spread over 12 months. Customer can check their account balances regularly and if they are in credit have the balance returned to them promptly.

Our only advice would be that people start such plans in periods of low demand to enable a surplus to be built up before the first delivery.

I can’t afford my next delivery, what should I do?

Your first step should be to contact your nearest Citizens Advice. They will check that you are in receipt of any benefits to which you are entitled.

I can’t afford to pay for my last delivery what should I do?

In the first instance contact your distributor as soon as possible to apprise them of the situation. Most distributors will try to come up with a payment plan for the outstanding money if at all possible.

Unsurprisingly it is far better to ensure that you do not find yourself in this position. There are options to spread fuel payments (see above) so that you do not need to pay out large lump sums at one time.

Why is the cost of fuel collected from a distributor’s yard more expensive than having a delivery made?

  • Kerosene yard sales are not common because they are expensive to operate.
  • Trading standards approved pump.
  • Staff and staff training
  • Prices still low when compared to buying premium paraffin from hardware stores for £2-3 per litre

Whilst it is difficult for us to provide detailed responses to individual cases without a thorough understanding of all the issues concerned, we can offer the following general comments;

Kerosene yard sales are not common. This is because yard sales are quite expensive to run. Also, the operator is under a duty of care to ensure that the fuel taken away is in a suitable container. If a customer needs to purchase the container when they buy the fuel, the containers (usually 20 litres) cost around £4.00 to £8.00 each plus VAT. Whilst they can be reused, they do have a limited life as the seal on the neck does deteriorate over time due to wear and so they will need to be replaced.

The supplier has to provide, maintain and have trading standards approve a dedicated pump and probably even dedicated storage for a kerosene tank as it is not always feasible or good practice to connect a pump to a very large bulk tank.

Finally, distributors operate with a minimum level of staff so that when a yard sale is made a specially trained member of staff will often be taken away from their normal duties to provide the service.

Most distributors are set up for bulk deliveries not for dispensing small deliveries into containers. The cost of the delivery being recovered in the number of litres delivered, 500 litres will allow for a much smaller pence per litre charge for a bulk delivery.

I read that I should buy liquid fuel early for winter, but isn’t this just the industry scaremongering?

  • Distribution companies are, in general, much busier over the winter period as this is where there is peak demand.
  • But buying liquid fuel before this peak period customers can;
  • Ensure that they receive their liquid fuel in good time.
  • possibly pay less as prices can be higher as demand increases.
  • Should bad weather or supply problems occur then customers will not be panicking and waiting for fuel to be delivered.

The consumer heating liquid fuel market tends to be a ‘spot’ market. Customers can shop around and buy from whoever they want. They are not tied to a single supplier by a contract as they are for gas and electricity and LPG. It is therefore a highly competitive market.

Factors increasing costs when bad weather hits

  • Prioritising people who have run out means that routing is not as efficient.
  • The extra pressure on supply means drivers are queuing at terminals to collect product.
  • If local terminals run out of product, distributors have to travel further afield to collect, increasing costs.
  • Bad road conditions increase delivery times.

UKIFDA and its members have also, over the last few years, been running a campaign to educate people to think ahead, order liquid fuel early and be prepared for bad weather situations.

For people wanting to find their nearest UKIFDA Member, UKIFDA has set up a special area on www.ukifda.org for consumers to easily find their nearest liquid fuel distributor.

If the winter weather is really bad, how can I ensure I get enough liquid fuel to keep warm?

Bad weather plays a major part in backlogs on deliveries. The tanker drivers really put themselves out to get supply to as many people as possible in the difficult conditions.

The UKIFDA advice is to be patient and trust your regular UKIFDA supplier. Tell them when you will run out so that they can prioritise. Explain your circumstances honestly. in previous winters, a number of customers who told their supplier they had run out actually had plenty of liquid fuel when the delivery tanker arrived. This makes things worse for those who have genuinely run out.

It would also help to ease the situation if customers who currently have a good supply of liquid fuel in their tanks delay until the current backlog of orders has been dealt with rather than order a top-up of their tank at the moment, when they don’t really need it.

If one of your household members is aged 75 or above, then you will be eligible to sign up for the UKIFDA Cold Weather Priority scheme. Details of the UKIFDA Members running this scheme can be found at www.ukifda.org

UKIFDA and its members have also, over the last few years, been running a campaign to educate people to think ahead, order liquid fuel early and be prepared for bad weather situations.

For people wanting to find their nearest UKIFDA Member, UKIFDA has set up a special area on the www.ukifda.org website for consumers to easily find their nearest liquid fuel distributor.

My boiler has broken down and the repair man or service engineer has said that your fuel is to blame what’s wrong with your fuel?

Fuel is produced to the appropriate British standard.

The overwhelming majority of assertions of ‘bad fuel’ are usually as a result of poor customer storage rather than poor fuel being delivered. Customers should have the condition of their tanks check regularly for water, dirt and bacterial growth.

Whilst it is true that off specification fuel can cause boiler problems it is seldom the real cause for breakdowns. Fuel is delivered in huge batches to import supply terminals or is manufactured to British standards in refineries both of which mean that the quality of the fuel remains very consistent.

Where boiler problems arise, which are attributable to the fuel, it is almost always due to problems with the householder’s storage facilities. Most householders do not undertake any maintenance of their tanks interiors which means that over time undesirable contaminants such as water (from condensation), particulate matters and even biological growth can develop to the point where the boiler is unable to properly burn the fuel.

Therefore, householders should have their storage facilities regularly checked for water and other contaminants as well as the condition of the tank itself so that problems can be recognised early and dealt with appropriately. An OFTEC registered technician should be able to carry this work out on your behalf.

If you still believe that the issue lies with the fuel, then please contact your supplier who should be able to help with your questions. UKIFDA Members also have recourse to Alternative Dispute Resolution https://www.utilitiesadr.co.uk/

My repairman/service engineer tells me that there is a lot of water in my tank which can cause issues in normal weather or freeze in winter. Have you been delivering water in with the fuel I pay for? What help and advice can you offer?

The short answer is no. There are a number of causes for having water in your oil storage tank – but it is highly unlikely to have been delivered with the fuel.

Water has a low solubility in liquid fuel so if it was present in your delivery the product would be noticeably hazy and immediately fail to meet the British Standard that demands liquid fuel must be bright and clear. Furthermore, delivery tankers are not flushed with water or water-based cleaning agents; and the majority of delivery pumps automatically stop if water is detected. Condensation build up or rainwater entering the storage tank are the most common causes of water in your tank.

Condensation Build Up

This happens when there is a temperature difference between the inside of the liquid fuel tank and its surroundings. Think carefully about where to place your tank as, for example, having minimal shade and being in direct sunlight can lead to a greater build-up of condensation in the storage tank. You should also store the tank away from an exposed area or large overhanging trees that may drip onto your tank as rainwater can also be an issue.

Rainwater

Rainwater can enter the tank if the openings are left open, the seals are faulty or damaged, or the tank has rusted over time causing it to split or crack. One of the best ways to prevent rainwater getting into your tank is to have your tank regularly serviced by a professional heating engineer. An engineer will check your heating equipment and tank as well as carry out a test to see if water is present – as water sinks to the bottom of a tank, it is not possible to tell if water has got in simply by looking. By taking preventative action, any water that is detected can be pumped out

Looking After Your Tank in all Seasons

Winters in the UK and Republic of Ireland are usually mild enough to not pose a risk of freezing in tanks, but water or sediment can sometimes get inside an oil tank (as outlined above) and then freeze, causing problems with the flow of fuel to the boiler. We appreciate the concerns of homeowners who are reliant on heating oil, worrying that a temperature drop could mean a frozen fuel tank. However, it is only really when temperatures plummet to around -39 degrees Celsius or -12 degrees Celsius if you use Gas Oil, that problems could arise. At this extreme temperature, oil can become waxy with crystals forming on the surface that disrupt the flow. Kerosene is less likely to form crystals even in freezing conditions and you can buy additives to help prevent crystals forming.

Water in the storage tank is far more likely to be a cause for concern than savagely cold weather in winter.

Maintaining and annually servicing your tank will ensure it is in good condition, minimising the likelihood of problems arising during winter. It also means, should there be a build-up of condensation or rainwater, this can be removed before it has a chance to cause damage or disrupt your heating supply.

If you have any concerns there may be water in your tank or you’re experiencing issues with your heating, arrange for an OFTEC-registered engineer to investigate the situation for you. An annual inspection of your tank by a qualified OFTEC registered engineer is essential, as any water can be identified and removed, and filters and pipelines can be checked and changed if needed. To find an OFTEC registered technician for maintenance of your storage tank and boiler, and to solve any heating-related issues, visit www.oftec.org

There have been liquid fuel thefts in my area. How can I protect myself?

Fortunately, there are things you can do to reduce the risk of liquid fuel theft. UKIFDA has the following advice for consumers.

If your tank has a lid, fit locks. This may be a legal requirement for some tanks. Your tank installation engineer or fuel delivery company will be able to advise you.

Consumers with the ‘vent and fill’ design should fit the lockable cap designed to secure this type of container. Of course, locking your tank may prevent your supplier from filling your tank if you’re not at home, so make sure your supplier has a key or code for access.

Monitor your liquid fuel tank on a regular basis. Remote electronic liquid fuel level gauges are available which will set off an audible alarm if the liquid fuel level in the tank suddenly drops or falls below a quarter full. These gauges can be located in the kitchen or perhaps a utility room to warn of any potential problem of unexplained fuel loss.

If you belong to a neighbourhood watch scheme you can discuss this issue of liquid fuel theft with your group co-ordinator so that everyone can be vigilant.

If the need arises to replace your tank, consider where you position the tank and make more secure. But remember to leave clear access for the delivery man at the fill point and the gauge can be seen.

You MUST never lock or block the tank vent/ breather, as this will cause the tank to split and cause further damage.

Consider fitting CCTV to monitor the tank. Security lights can also have a very positive effect and make any property a much harder target for the thief. It’s not always necessary to floodlight the area with high power beams, as a subtler level of lighting may be all that is needed. Low energy “dusk till’ dawn lights positioned close to the tank should, in most cases, provide sufficient light to illuminate any suspicious activity. This type of light can be both effective and inexpensive. High powered lights can be used but care should be taken not to cause any nuisance to neighbours or road users.

Consumers in isolated locations, especially with tanks sited near the road should be especially vigilant. Rural areas are quieter and less frequently patrolled by police than their towns and cities, so homeowners need to look out for each other. Lookout for suspicious-looking individuals and vehicles, particularly vans, on both yours and your neighbours’ properties. If you’re particularly concerned, consider relocating your tank to an area that is more secure, remembering to leave it accessible for deliveries.

Further help can also be found at www.ukifda.org

What are the pros and cons of using online 3rd party fuel providers

On the surface, you may think that using an online third-party comparison site will save you money as well as time – but in reality, the situation is more complex and there are strong arguments for using your local UKIFDA heating oil distributor instead.

Online third-party fuel providers are essentially third-party online brokers, comparing prices for you before contacting a heating oil supplier on your behalf to deliver your placed order.

These companies don’t have tankers or tanker drivers and therefore lack the means to deliver the oil themselves. This means that although they don’t have many of the costs that distributors incur, they also don’t have the freedom to prioritise your order and will make arrangements based on the schedule of the local supplier.

When it comes to costs, for a heating oil distributor expenses such as fuel price, staff costs, operating and logistics costs, are affected by the general economy. When the weather is bad, demand increases which puts a strain on the supply chain as well as individual supplier – distributors need to pay overtime to their staff who are coping with the increased delivery demands as well as worsened delivery conditions.

Local distributors have depots and tankers operating and primed for deliveries – extreme weather ultimately increases the cost of the heating oil as each distributor needs to recoup their costs through the price of the fuel. However, bad weather situations are thankfully rare and, in such situations, UKIFDA members do all they can to help their regular customers.

It is important to remember that, throughout periods of high demand or extreme weather, oil distributors will prioritise deliveries based on their customers and not the customers of third-party brokers – which is why UKIFDA encourages heating oil users to build a relationship with a local supplier.

There are, of course, still advantages for using an online third-party fuel provider instead of your local UKIFDA supplier. Pros include convenience of ordering, saving time by ordering online and being able to compare fuel prices easily.

However, many UKIFDA members now have their own online portals that enable you to enjoy the best of both worlds – to use a local supplier and still shop around, to do some research, compare prices and order online.

There is a facility on www.ukifda.org to find your nearest UKIFDA members, who all follow a Code Of Practice and Customer Charter, providing you with reassurance that the supplier will operate to the highest standards of safety and customer service.

By getting to know your local supplier, you can inform them when your oil tank is low and when you’re likely to run out so that they can prioritise delivery for you when you need it most and when it is most convenient for you.


Deprecated: Directive 'allow_url_include' is deprecated in Unknown on line 0