Here in the UK, there are a whole host of ways in which you can heat your home. There are standard methods like gas central heating and electric storage heating; renewable methods such as solar power or air source heat pumps; and off-grid options including LPG, biomass or heating oil.

Gas is the most common source of heat for homes. However, this requires your home to be connected to mains gas.

If your home is off-grid, you’ll need to rely on alternatives. In this instance, homeowners either opt for renewable energy, LPG or heating oil – but which is the most affordable plumbing and heating supply off-grid?

Currently, around 1.5 million homes rely on domestic heating oil and it is, without a doubt, the most cost-effective option.

If you’ve just moved into an off-grid home which has an oil heater or you’re thinking of transferring to a domestic heating oil system, here at Western Fuel we can give you all of the advice and guidance you need to make sure you’re getting the most low-cost heating solution. Below we explore what heating oil is, how it works and why it’s beneficial for both your home and your bank balance.

What is home heating oil?

In short, a home heating oil system is an oil-fired boiler that heats water in order to power central heating and the hot water source in a house.

The boiler used for a heating oil system is a highly efficient modern condensing boiler, as opposed to the standard boiler you’d have using mains gas. Condensing boilers tend to be floor standing and need to be plumbed in, so it pays to bear that in mind when considering a heating oil system.

There are two main types of domestic heating oil – kerosene and gas oil. Kerosene is more commonly used as it is far more efficient and also safer.

With either type of heating oil system, the oil is stored in a heating oil tank. Some people opt to bury their oil tank underground, however, an above ground tank is easier to access for your heating oil company.

When you have a heating oil system, you need the support of a heating oil supplier. They will service your tank and boiler, as well as fill up your oil on a scheduled basis.

This is what sets heating oil apart from gas heating or the other alternatives, and why it is ideal for heating homes in rural areas which aren’t in close proximity to mains gas.

How does it work?

Oil-fired heating systems are designed in various ways, however, the most common type in the UK is the ‘pressure jet’ design.

This is when the heating oil stored in the main tank is pumped through a nozzle under pressure (hence the ‘pressure jet’ title). The result is a finely atomised fuel which then mixes with the oxygen in the air.

This flammable mixture is then injected into the burner and when you ignite the boiler, the mixture generates a highly efficient burning flame.

Heating oil systems are ‘wet’ heating systems meaning that when the hot exhaust gases from the flame pass through the heat exchanger – usually a copper coil – energy is transferred to the water circulating through it and this heated water is then distributed throughout your home via radiators.

Much like standard heating systems, you can reduce costs and save energy by turning your thermostat down, however overall, the running efficiency is higher so you’ll get better value for money even if it’s turned up.

Benefits of heating oil supplied by a heating oil company

We’ve already started to touch upon some of the many benefits of heating oil, so let’s take a look at some more important benefits that an oil-fired system can offer you and your home.


Over the years, heating oil technology has improved greatly and experts now regard it as one of the safest ways to heat a home. There is a very low risk of explosion as the furnace is designed so that it won’t get hot enough to cause a fire.

If you maintain your heating oil tank properly, it will not produce any visible smoke or noxious fumes. Furthermore, unlike in a gas heating system, the chance of carbon monoxide poisoning is extremely rare and with regular maintenance checks from your heating oil supplier, you will further minimise the risk.

You should arrange for a heating oil specialist to check the condition of your tank and thoroughly clean it to remove dust and debris on an annual basis. Your heating oil professional will also inspect the tank for any leakage and ensure the in-built safety controls are functioning as they should be.

Throughout the year, you can take some precautions yourself, such as installing an alarm that sounds when the tank has been overfilled. Make sure you’re aware of oil leaks and, in the event of a leak, save your heating oil company’s number on your phone so you can call them immediately.


Heating oil systems are also famed for their efficiency as you get a good return on every unit of energy.

Condensing boilers, which are used in heating oil systems, are around 90% or more efficient, whilst gas furnaces run at around 77% efficiency and electric systems at only 31%. This means that for every pound you spend on heating oil, you’ll get around 90p’s worth of heat and hot water in your home.

Heating oil tanks also have longevity. The average life expectancy of a heating oil system is around 30 years or more if they’re properly maintained. Your standard gas furnace, on the other hand, could only last for half of that time.


As well as saving energy in your home, heating oil systems are also environmentally efficient. They are extremely clean and give off almost zero emissions, with the newest systems ‘reburning’ fuel which lowers their carbon footprint even further.

As it stands, oil is already a fairly sustainable fuel, but sustainable technology experts are now researching the use of lower sulphur oil blends which can be mixed with renewable biofuels, which would minimise the environmental impact of heating oil systems further still.

When maintained properly, the oil in a heating oil system will burn cleanly as the soot remains inside the tank- if your tank or system is emitting visible fumes, you should call a heating oil specialist immediately.


Heating oil is regarded as one of the cheapest home heating systems available and whilst mains gas systems can be minimally cheaper, as a non-renewable fossil fuel, natural gas is in a competitive global market where prices are constantly increasing. The annual costs of heating oil are consistently lower than LPG or electricity – the Which? Guide estimates that the average yearly cost for heating and hot water using heating oil in the UK is £552. LPG averages at £793 per year and electric central heating sits at a whopping £2,456 on a standard single-rate tariff.

When it comes to installing a heating oil system, the set up can be relatively expensive as you need to invest in both a modern condensing boiler and a large oil tank. However, the efficiency of the system makes it far cheaper to run long-term and if you buy your tank outright, you won’t need to pay an ongoing tank rental fee.

Tanks tend to be covered by a warranty and most modern tanks are now ‘bunded’; they are effectively a tank within a tank, massively reducing the risk of damage and oil spillage which could be costly.

The price of heating oil itself fluctuates, so it’s best to shop around a buy heating oil when it’s at a lower price. Over the past year, domestic oil prices have typically levelled out between 50p and 60p per litre.

The cost of oil is influenced by various factors including the time of year, weather conditions and global, national and local supply. To find out whether it’s a good time to buy heating oil, simply ask your heating oil supplier.

Whilst they’ll stay on top of the current financial climate of the oil industry and adjust their costs accordingly, they’ll also arrange a payment plan for you so that you can predict your own costs.

Despite these variations in price, a heating oil system can and will save you expense. Their highly efficient nature means that you get great value for money and will spend less over time than you would with gas or electricity.

On top of this, if you’re passionate about looking after the planet, then a heating oil system could be your contribution to reducing carbon emissions.

Western Fuel: Trusted heating oil suppliers in the South West

To ensure your heating oil system is running safely, cleanly and cost-effectively, you’ll need a reliable heating oil supplier who can provide you with affordable oil and maintain your system at a competitive price. Here at Western Fuel, we are the go-to supplier of heating oil in the region.

Our knowledgeable team will put together a payment and refuel plan for your home and will always be punctual and professional. However much oil you need and whatever time you need it, we will deliver on time to ensure your home is up and running once more.

To switch to cost-effective home heating oil, or to discuss your current heating oil system, give us a call today on 01278 431451 or email One of our helpful, locally-based team will be more than happy to help.