Domestic Heating Oil Customers
Oil has typically been a very expensive way to heat a home. However, in recent years, the price of oil has been falling and in May 2016 domestic heating oil was the cheapest fuel for home heating. However, an oil-fired boiler is typically more expensive than an equivalent gas boiler.
There are two main types of domestic heating oil: gas oil and kerosene. Gas oil (known also as red diesel) is used in agriculture and older boilers. Kerosene is more commonly used because it is cleaner and more efficient. It is also possible to pay for premium kerosene or add additives to standard kerosene in order to get a cleaner burn and high efficiency.
For certain appliances, such as an Aga, additives are required – the manufacturer’s instructions will specify these.
Buying domestic heating oil
For most domestic customers, oil will need to be purchased in bulk and stored in an external storage tank. Customers need to be aware that oil prices vary significantly and it is often cheaper to buy your oil in the summer. Some suppliers can offer an automatic top-up of oil-tanks – they will deliver and refill customer’s tanks at set intervals, estimating usage and varying the deliveries depending on the weather – this ensures that the customer never runs out of oil but also ties in a customer to a specific supplier.
There are a number of domestic oil comparison websites, none of which have been formally endorsed by Citizens Advice. The main ones are:
Boilerjuice – www.boilerjuice.com
CheapestOil - www.cheapestoil.co.uk
Fueltool - www.fueltool.uk
Heating Oil Shop - www.heatingoil.co.uk
Once you have the results, it is often worth calling up your usual supplier and telling them that another supplier is offering the cheaper rate and asking them to match or beat this. The heating oil market is very different to the electric/gas market in this regard because you can haggle with suppliers who often have flexibility in lowering their prices.
Some fuel suppliers offer a monthly payment plan. Credit Unions offer loans to cover the initial purchase of fuel.
Oil clubs are groups of people who order their domestic oil together in order to benefit from lower prices. They are often formed in rural areas where households are ‘off-gas’. They are also known as oil-syndicates, oil buying groups or oil-co-operatives. Oil clubs vary in size from small neighbourhood groups to county-wide syndicates.
Members benefit in a number of ways:
- Reduction in unit price – buying in bulk reduces the delivery price for fuel suppliers
- Reduction in traffic from oil tankers through their village – one journey to deliver to a number of houses is better than individual deliveries
- Community inclusion – buying together enhances a sense of community
In general, there is no commitment for oil club members, individuals are still free to purchase oil outside of the oil club.
Community Oil Clubs
Community oil clubs are groups of people who combine their orders for oil. These clubs are often co-ordinated by one person who volunteers to undertake the administration, ordering the fuel and arranging deliveries.
The national Oil-Club – www.oil-club.co.uk
The Oil-Club is a commercial operation which provides a bulk-buying service across local oil-buying groups. The operator of each group is paid a commission (about 1.5p – 2p per litre) for organising the orders and arranging deliveries. There are many ‘clubs’ in the South West that are part of the national syndicate (see www.oil-club.co.uk/search to search for clubs by postcode).
‘The Oil-Club is an independent organisation. We have no links to any of our suppliers. Our aim is simple – reduce the cost on our wallets and the environment as much as we can. Plus membership is free!
The Oil-Club has been running for 5 years. We discreetly manage over 5 million litres of orders per month for our members. We are an internet only organisation in the effort to keep costs low’ (extract from www.oil-club.co.uk).
OFTEC (the trade association for the oil heating industry) has joined forces with FPS to create a new website called www.Oilsave.org which has been set up to help oil heating customers save money and maximise their energy efficiency. The website provides impartial advice, information and access to the best possible service, enabling oil users to make informed choices about their future energy needs.
Further help from an Adviser
For an energy appointment with a local Citizens Advice adviser in Dorset, please call 01929 775500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org