Heating Oil Explained – An Easy Guide
If this is the first time you have approached buying heating oil, then you may be a little overwhelmed with all the information that is being thrown at you. To make things easier for those that are new to heating oil, we have boiled down all the information you need about heating oil into this helpful guide.
- What is Heating Oil?
- How Do I Buy Heating Oil?
- How Much Heating Oil Can I Order?
- What are the Different Types of Heating Oil?
- Is Home Heating Oil the Same as Kerosene?
- When is the Best Time to Buy Heating Oil?
- How Much Heating Oil Does a House Use in a Year?
- Why Use Heating Oil for My Central Heating?
- What is Gas Oil Used for?
- What is Kerosene Used for?
- How is Kerosene Made?
- How Many People Use Home Heating Oil in the UK?
- Regulations for Storing Heating Oil
- A Brief History of Kerosene?
- How Heating Oil Changed the Oil Industry?
- The Flash Point of Heating Oil?
- Heating Oil Spec Sheets?
What is Heating Oil?
Heating oil is the name used for heating applications in central heating systems. There are two types of heating oil – gas oil and kerosene. Gas oil (also known as red diesel and 35-second oil) is generally for commercial and agricultural use. Kerosene (also known as home heating oil or 28-second oil) is a lighter oil that is used in many homes.
Buying heating oil is a simple process. However, due to the size of heating oil storage tanks and the quantity of fuel they store, your domestic or commercial heating oil will need to be delivered by a fuel supplier. Before you run out, call your fuel supplier ahead of time and schedule a delivery to your property. You don’t need to be home either, so long as your oil storage tank is in an accessible location.
When it comes to knowing how much heating oil is the best amount to order, our fuel team can help. Typically, home oil storage tanks hold around 1,000-litres of oil and it’s always best to order before the tank is empty to prevent being caught in the cold with no central heating. However, most fuel suppliers will have a minimum order; at Crown Oil, we supply a minimum of 500 litres of heating oil.
Businesses usually store anything from 1000-litres to much more, depending on the site – a pub or smallholding will not need more than a 1,000-litre tank, while office buildings and other commercial sites will have far larger requirements for their industrial heating oil.
- Gas Oil: most commonly known as red diesel or 35-second oil. The latter name is in relation to the distillation process. It’s most commonly used in the commercial and agricultural industries and is cheaper than road diesel (derv) because it’s a rebated fuel.
- Kerosene: is sometimes known as 28-second oil or home heating oil. Kerosene is primarily used for home heating and is considerably lighter than gas oil. The standard grade of kerosene means it meets BS 2869 Grade C2 specifications (more simply it can be called C2 kerosene).
- Premium Kerosene: this is a higher grade of domestic oil than standard kerosene as it’s lighter, as well as having other benefits. It meets BS 2869 C1 specifications and is often call C1 kerosene.
- Kleenburn Kerosene: this type of heating oil is a lot cleaner when burning which is less polluting than normal kerosene. Kleenburn kerosene is slightly higher in price, however; it’s a lot safer for the environment and helps keep emissions low, which is especially helpful for companies.
- Furnace Fuel: furnace fuel is usually required in municipal buildings like schools and colleges. It’s fully compliant to BS EN 2869, Class D parameters, which is the British Approved Standard for heating oil. It can be used in all commercial boilers.
Kerosene is the most widely used fuel used in domestic central heating systems in the UK, so we often refer to it as home heating oil or domestic heating oil. It’s chosen for its winter performance, affordability, and because it offers a cleaner and more efficient burn compared to diesel.
Read our kerosene guide to learn more about this oil.
Generally speaking, summer is the best time to buy heating oil. You can usually expect the price to go up during periods of high demand, such as in the winter, when the majority of homes are filling their tanks to stay warm. If you’re eager to save on your heating fuel costs, then ordering ahead of the cold months is the best time to buy heating oil. In fact, the average national price of heating oil in August compared to December in 2016-2019 varied by 14%, a huge price difference!
Heating oil prices are also tied to the price of crude oil, so whether you’re looking for commercial heating oil or domestic heating oil, the cost of your order will vary daily and at different times of the year. That’s why we can’t offer fixed heating oil prices on our website. Simply call our team today on 0330 123 1444 for a quick and competitive heating oil price.
Off the grid homes usually have an oil tank with around 1,000-litres of heating oil storage capacity, which is enough to see most people through a fair few months to even the whole year. But we know that if you’re about to move into one of the 1.5 million homes that rely on an oil-fired boiler, knowing how quickly you burn through heating oil allows you to estimate how much you’ll need to see you through the year. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to give an actual figure, because it depends on a number of factors, such as:
- The size of the house
- The age of the house
- How many rooms you warm
- How warm you want it
- How long you want your home warm for each day
- Whether you use your heating throughout the year or just in the coldest months
- How well insulated your house is
- Efficiency of your boiler (impacted by when it was last serviced)
Estimating how much oil you need to heat your home allows you to plan for when you need to place your next order. We suggest ordering your oil in plenty of time ahead of the winter period when demand is high to ensure your tank never runs dry.
If you’re moving into a home with an existing boiler, your best bet is to ask the current owners how much oil they burn through and use that as a guide for your consumption.
However, to get a rough idea of how much kerosene your home will consume annually, you can use a simple calculation: divide the kilowatt-hours of use you get from your heater every year by how much energy a litre of kerosene gives, which we know is 10.35KWh.
Formula for calculating heating oil consumption
[kWh of house’s yearly energy consumption)]
[kWh in a litre of kerosene (10.35kWh))] = litres required per year
To give you the best estimate we can, we used four typical annual heating consumption estimates: low, medium, high, and very high. With these, we calculated how much kerosene such households would go through typically in a year. The result tells you how much you need to fill your heating oil tank, of course, if your usage is somewhat similar to the average UK household.
Table of heating oil requirement by usage type:
See the table below to see a broad estimate of where your kerosene-reliant home might fit in in terms of annual heating oil usage.
|Usage profile||Estimated heating energy consumption (kWh)||Estimated annual home heating oil consumption (litres)|
Assumptions we made:
- 10.35 kWh energy output per litre of kerosene
- Between 15,000 – 25,000 kWh of energy required for heating
- Homes are relatively well insulated
Based on the UK average energy consumption, a house with low energy consumption (and this can include a small household or a frugal larger household) might require 1,400-litres of heating oil to get them through the year. Others may find they need less or more. These are estimates that take into usage habits, which are very relative.
1.5 million homes choose kerosene for their heating system due to the fact the fuel burns cleanly, efficiently and it also has good winter performance. Meanwhile, gas oil is often the preferred heating oil for businesses due to its cost-effectiveness and availability to the market.
What is Gas Oil Used for?
While being used for commercial and agricultural use, gas oil most commonly fuels such equipment as cranes, tractors, generators, and bulldozers.
Outside of commercial and agricultural use, gas oil is often used to power generators at festivals and carnivals.
Gas oil is cheaper to use than road diesel because it doesn’t have the same level of tax attached to it. Having said that, it’s important to remember that it is illegal to use gas oil in a vehicle that is used on public roads.
What is Kerosene Used for?
Kerosene is primarily used in home heating systems that are fuelled by an oil boiler. It is currently the most common form of domestic oil in Ireland, as it is widely used in cookers and boilers.
Over the years, the production of kerosene has become an easier process. Kerosene is produced through a process called fractional distillation, which involves separating the compounds of crude oil.
This process creates a clear and thin oil which is 0.82 g/cm³ in density. This clear and thin oil is Kerosene.
Here is a diagram of a fractionating column to illustrate how kerosene is collected:
Around 1.5 million homes are currently using kerosene in order to heat their homes. As you would expect, the vast majority of people require their home heating oil supply to be topped up during the winter months when they are using their boilers more.
Kerosene still remains a popular choice for home heating, mainly because it is quite cost-effective and is reasonably safe to use.
If you are going to be storing heating oil at your home, then it’s important that you meet regulations set by the government.
The home storage regulations apply to oil storage tanks that hold up to 3,500-litres. If your tank holds anything higher, then you will have to follow the business regulations.
If you’re getting a tank installed at your home for the first time, then you will have to make sure that the person performing the installation is registered with the Competent Person scheme. If you don’t get someone who is registered with this scheme, you will have to go to your local council authority for a Building Control Notice. You will also likely have to pay for an inspection.
For more information, consult the government website.
Kerosene was first discovered in 1846 by Abraham Gesner, a geologist who unveiled his discovery in a public demonstration. He showed a captive audience how he could heat coal and then distilled a fluid that he said would be ideal for lamp fuel. He coined the phrase kerosene.
Gesner had only one problem. Distilling kerosene from coal was very expensive, making it very difficult to put into production. However, Gesner knew that he could use albertite, which would make production considerably cheaper.
Unfortunately for Gesner, he was unable to secure permission to use albertite in his current location of New Brunswick. He attempted to get permission through the court, with no success.
Gesner did not give up. He moved to New York in 1854 where he was able to get backing for his project from businessmen. They created the North American Gas Light Company and kerosene went into production for the very first time.
The discovery of kerosene played quite a large part in changing the oil industry. Before kerosene was discovered, whale oil was used in order to heat homes.
Whale oil was extracted with the use of crude oils. It was also colourless, so a dye had to be added to it to distinguish it from gas oil. When kerosene went into production in 1846, it replaced whale oil as the leading home heating oil.
Because of the difference in viscosity, gas oil and kerosene both have different flash points:
|Gas Oil||56 °C|
|Kerosene||38 – 43 °C|
We have a list of specification sheets for gas oil and kerosene. See below.
- Gas Oil Class A2 Spec Sheet
- Gas Oil Class D Spec Sheet
- Gas Oil EN590 Spec Sheet
- Kerosene Premium Class C1 Spec Sheet
- Kerosene Regular Class C2 Spec Sheet
For more information about the different specs and standards of fuels and heating oils, read our guide to fuel specifications.
If you have any further questions about heating oil for your home, business or other commercial buildings, give our heating oil experts a call today on 0330 123 1444. You can also request a quote and place orders using the same number.