November 10, 2016
To help you get the most from your heating oil and make your home as energy efficient as possible, we’ve put together this guide full of our top tips. Read on to find out how you could save money when buying your heating oil and make energy-efficient home improvements that will help to reduce your heating bills in the long term.
Track of the price of heating oil
The price of heating oil fluctuates with the global markets; tracking these fluctuations can help you to buy your kerosene at the best price.
If you want to know more about when is traditionally a good time to buy your heating oil to ensure you’re getting the lowest price, make sure to check out our complete guide to heating oil prices.
Join a heating oil buying group
Joining a heating oil buying group can offer some great benefits. However, they do also have their drawbacks, so we recommend doing your research before joining one to ensure it is right for your circumstances.
Take a look at our guide to community oil buying groups where we look at the pros and cons of community oil buying groups.
Consider a premium heating oil
Just as premium road fuels can improve your car’s performance and MPG, premium heating oils can reduce the energy bills of an average sized family home by up to 10%.
A premium kerosene such as K+ heating oil that has been treated with special additives will burn more cleanly and efficiently than standard heating oil. This will not only help to reduce your annual energy bills, but also help to prolong the lifespan of your oil boiler.
Protect your heating oil from thieves
Heating oil theft is a common problem among the rural community, and although it is difficult to stop it altogether, there are a number of steps you can take to ensure your oil tank is as secure as possible. Have a read of the guidance we’ve put together in our heating oil theft prevention guide to ensure you’re fully protected.
Improve the energy efficiency of your home
To ensure you’re getting the most from your heating oil, you should also make sure your home is as energy efficient as possible so the same amount of kerosene goes further. The older your home, the less energy-efficient its design is likely to be, and the greater savings you can expect to make with these improvements.
Properly insulate your home
If you’re looking to improve the energy efficiency of your home, your first step should be making sure it is well insulated. Insulating your loft, wall cavities, and floors will help retain heat within your home, saving you money. Draught-proofing is another simple solution that will save you hundreds of pounds on your energy bills over the years.
How much will insulation save you on energy bills?
To illustrate just how cost-effective insulating your home can be, here’s a breakdown of the savings you can make by installing each kind of insulation.
Roof and loft insulation
Hot air rises, so thoroughly insulating your roof and loft is the natural place to start when you’re looking to improve your home’s energy efficiency.
According to the Energy Saving Trust, loft insulation up to the recommended standard of 270mm will cost approximately £300 to install in a typical semi-detached house and lead to savings of £140 a year. After 10 years, this means the average semi-detached house can expect to save around £1,100.
It should be noted that you can cut the cost of loft insulation by fitting it yourself, giving you an even better return on investment. If you aren’t planning on walking in your loft or using it as storage space, this is as easy as laying a few layers of insulation roll or panels over the joists (the beams that make up the floor of the loft) and stapling them down.
If you will need to walk over the floor of your loft, the upgrade will be a bit trickier, as you’ll need to lay mineral wool between the joists, followed by a layer of insulation boards topped with wooden boarding.
If you’d rather have a professional install your loft insulation for you, you can use the National Insulation Association website to find an accredited installer near you.
Cavity and solid wall insulation
When it is warmer in your home than it is outside, you can lose substantial amounts of heat through your external walls if they aren’t properly insulated.
Cavity walls are made of two layers of brick with a gap between them. These provide more insulation than solid walls, which are simply made of a single layer of brick.
If your house was built before 1919, it is likely to have solid external walls. These will cost more to insulate, but you’ll also make greater savings on your energy bills each year by doing so.
According to figures from the Energy Saving Trust, it costs around £475 to insulate the cavity walls of a typical semi-detached house. This will lead to an anticipated saving of £155 a year — that's a total saving of £1,075 after a decade.
If your property has solid external walls, you can either insulate them from the outside or the inside. External solid wall insulation is the most popular option, as insulating the inside of the walls makes the affected rooms slightly smaller.
While there are many factors that affect the price of having your solid walls insulated, external insulation generally costs between £8,000–£22,000, while internal insulation costs between £3,500–£14,000. According to the Energy Saving Trust, this will reduce the typical semi-detached house's heating bills by around £260 a year.
Another way of cutting down your energy bills is insulating your floor. Older homes are likely to have suspended timber floors, and mineral wool insulation can be fitted underneath the floorboards and suspended from the joists with netting. You can also help draught-proof your house by filling in any gaps between the floorboards and skirting boards with decorator’s caulk.
If you’re not sure what kind of flooring your home has, check for airbricks (ventilated bricks) at the bottom few rows of bricks in your external walls — these are needed to prevent wooden floorboards from rotting.
If you have solid concrete floors, rigid insulation board can either be laid on top of the floor, or the concrete can be excavated and then re-laid with the insulation under the surface. While the former option is cheaper, it will raise the height of your floor — this may affect skirting boards, plug sockets, and doorframes.
It should be noted that there’s no need to insulate the floors of upstairs rooms unless they’re above an unheated space, such as a garage.
If your home has suspended timber floors, it will typically cost between £300–£750 to have them insulated. Solid concrete floors, on the other hand, will cost around £1,000–£2,000 to insulate. According to figures from the Energy Saving Trust, this will save the typical semi-detached household around £40–£55 a year.
Draught-proofing your home
While every building needs to have adequate ventilation to prevent condensation and damp, the airflow into your property should always be controlled. Unwanted draughts can significantly reduce your property’s energy efficiency.
An easy and affordable way to cut down your energy bills and make your heating oil go further is, therefore, to thoroughly draft-proof your home. Depending on how insulated your property already is, this simple upgrade — which you can perform yourself in an afternoon — could potentially save you up to £50 a year on your heating bills.
Common areas where you’ll find draughts include:
- windows and external doors,
- loft hatches,
- suspended floorboards,
- pipework leading outside, and
- ceiling-to-wall joints.
The materials needed to draught-proof these areas can be picked up from any good DIY store and will come to a few hundred pounds at the very most. The more draught-proofing your property requires, the more money you’ll save on your energy bills each year.
If you have a fireplace you rarely use, you should make sure to draught-proof that as well. Fireplaces are specifically designed to draw air up and out of a building — as fireplaces are usually found in main living spaces, this means you’re more likely to turn the heating up to compensate for the lost heat, raising your energy bills. It is possible to get removable chimney draught excluders which block off your chimney stack and improve your home’s energy efficiency but can be removed whenever you want to use your fire.
If there are any rooms in your house that you don’t keep heated, such as a garage or spare room, you should install draught excluders on the doors and keep them closed.
When you’re draught-proofing your home, you should be careful not to block any intentional ventilation, as every property requires a certain amount of fresh air to flow in and out to prevent damp. Make sure to leave extractor fans, external airbricks and wall vents, and window trickle vents unobstructed so the air within your home is still circulated.
If your home currently has single-glazed windows, you could significantly cut your annual energy bills by replacing them with double-glazed units. Just how much will depend on the size of your home — use the Glass and Glazing Federation’s energy savings calculator to see how much you can expect to save.
While it can cost thousands of pounds to have all the windows in your property replaced, double glazing has a lifespan of around 20 years, so you’ll recoup the costs several times over during its full life.
When upgrading your windows, keep in mind that not all double glazing is created equal. Manufacturers can submit their products to be evaluated by the British Fenestration Rating Council (BFRC), who will mark the product with an energy rating from A+ to G. Find your nearest BFRC-approved supplier on the BFRC website, and buy windows with an A+ rating for the maximum level of energy efficiency.
How to run an energy-efficient household
Once you’ve made these improvements to your home, it will be significantly more energy-efficient, and your heating oil will go a lot further. However, there’s still plenty you can do on a day-to-day basis to reduce your energy bills.
Wrap up warm
While it may sound obvious, it is worth mentioning that you should wrap up warm before turning your heating on when the temperature drops. Donning a few extra layers and cuddling up under a blanket could be all it takes to keep warm, and while you should always be comfortable in your own home, this can be a great way to cut down on your energy bills at the beginning and end of winter when temperatures aren’t too low.
Make sure all windows and doors are closed
You may leave your bathroom or kitchen windows open to release condensation, but during winter it is important to close these as soon as possible.
As previously mentioned, you should also make sure you keep internal doors leading to unoccupied rooms closed at all times. This will stop as much heat from leaking into these unused spaces as possible.
Bleed your radiators
To make sure your radiators are working as efficiently as possible, you should bleed them every year. This is a simple maintenance task you’ll be able to perform yourself in no more than half an hour — all you’ll need is a radiator key (which you can pick up at any DIY store if you don’t already own one) and a cloth to catch any drips.
Turn off your central heating, and insert your radiator key into the first radiator’s valve. Hold a cloth underneath the valve to catch any escaping liquid. Slowly turn the key anti-clockwise, and you should hear a hissing sound as the trapped air escapes. Once there is no more air left in the radiator, dark liquid may start to leak out — at this point, you should quickly close the valve and wipe up any liquid with a cloth.
After you’ve bled every radiator in your home, your central heating system will run much more efficiently, as your radiators will be able to fully heat up.
Have your oil boiler serviced
Having your oil boiler serviced every year will ensure it is running at maximum efficiency, helping to save you money on your heating bills. Oil boilers should always be inspected by an OFTEC-certified technician — find one who operates in your local area on the OFTEC website.
If your boiler is 10–15 years old, you should consider having it replaced even if it is in full working order, as a more recent model will be significantly more energy efficient.
If you live in Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, or the east coast of Scotland, you can take advantage of oil boiler servicing and breakdown support from our own OFTEC-certified engineers.
Heat your home the smart way
The World Health Organisation recommends that all occupied rooms are kept at 18°C, apart from the living room, which should be kept at 21°C. To ensure your comfort in the most economical way possible, you should time your heating to only come on when you need it.
Over the last few years, there have been some developments in thermostat technology that can help you significantly reduce your annual energy bills. Known as ‘smart thermostats’, these clever bits of tech allow you to control your central heating remotely using an app on your smartphone or tablet. The latest generation of smart thermostats can even learn your habits and preferences, and completely automate heating your home in the most energy-efficient way possible.
This tech can cost a few hundred pounds to buy and install, but it can help you make savings on your annual energy bills. However, the claims about how much these products can save you on the manufacturers' websites often use best-case-scenario figures as a comparison, so they should be taken with a pinch of salt if you are already quite conscientious with your heating. That being said, the level of control offered by these smart thermostats can help you slash your energy bills, and having one installed may even increase the sell-on value of your home.
No matter how smart your thermostat is, you can save money by making sure to keep the radiators turned off in any rooms that you don’t use. If this is a guest room, remember to turn it back on if you have guests staying over and then turn it back off once they are gone.
While it can be difficult to get your washing dried in the winter if you don’t have a tumble dryer, you should avoid covering your radiators with your washing, as this will trap the heat and prevent your house from warming up. Your clothes will take longer to dry on a clothes horse placed in a warm room, but this will be a lot more energy efficient.
Follow the advice presented in this guide and hopefully you will be able to make some savings on your heating oil and energy bills for years to come, as well as increase the sell-on value of your home in instances where you have made the recommended home improvements.
If you’ve got any questions about getting the most from your kerosene, oil tank or oil boiler, get in touch with an expert member of our team today.
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