Frequently Asked Questions
About Heating Oil
Domestic oil is a liquid petroleum product refined from crude oil which has a low viscosity. It is this quality that makes it ideal for use as a domestic fuel.
The use of domestic heating oil dates back to 1840s America when M.A. Fessler invented an oil burner to take advantage of the crude oil reserves being extracted in California.
Later, he founded the company Fess System Co., which started the modern oil industry as we know it, creating and selling refined oil products to heat homes and power transport and industry.
Learn more about domestic heating oil in our guide.
Heating oil is predominantly used with a heating oil boiler, which heats the radiators in your home. It can also be used with an oil-fired range cooker, such as an Aga or Rayburn.
It is illegal for heating oil to be used on public roads as red diesel and kerosene are subject to lower tax rates than diesel sold at petrol stations.
Domestic heating oil has remained popular as a source of fuel ever since the 1840s due to the many benefits it offers:
Safe: Kerosene has a low risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and is viewed as one of the safest fuels you could have in your home. It’s also incredibly stable, making it safe to transport.
Efficient: Home oil is the most efficient form of fuel available. This is because it burns at such a high temperature that a lot of heat can be produced from burning a small volume. New A-rated oil-fuelled boilers can produce up to 97% efficiency, making oil a more economical fuel than others.
Affordable: Domestic oil is traditionally cheaper than LPG, and cleaner and easier to use than solid fuel.
Reliable: Domestic heating oil is chosen for its strong winter performance, making it a reliable option for heating homes, especially in the chillier seasons!
There are two types of domestic heating oil: gas oil (aka 35-second oil) and kerosene (aka 28-second burning oil). Although kerosene is by far the most common form of heating oil, the type you require depends on the oil heating system installed in your home, so it is always important to consult the labels on your oil boiler or tank.
If you have the option of using either fuel type, kerosene is preferable, as it is cleaner and more economical. You can even buy premium kerosene, which contains additives that make it burn more efficiently.
Domestic oil is also known as kerosene, home heating oil, burning oil, and 28-second burning oil.
The average UK gas customer consumes approximately 14,000 kWh per year. This is equivalent to around 1,400 litres of heating oil. Calculate approximately how much domestic oil you’re using by following our step-by-step guide.
Most domestic tanks have a capacity of 1,000 to 2,500 litres — check the label if you aren’t sure of yours.
Filling your tank to capacity can be cheaper and more convenient, and helps prevent the build-up of harmful condensation in the summer. This will require a bigger financial outlay, but Rix offers an Easy Payment Plan that allows you to spread the cost across the year.
The minimum order for heating oil is 500 litres.
Kerosene, paraffin or gas oil are used for domestic heating.
In the UK, most homes that have an oil-fired central heating system use kerosene. However, some older systems still use gas oil; a heavier, less efficient fuel also used to power tractors and agricultural machinery.
If your oil boiler is old, or you’re moving to a property with an old oil heating system, you may still need gas oil. Mainly, however, when we talk about heating oil, we’re referring to kerosene.
Paraffin is premium kerosene which burns even more cleanly than the standard product. Our brand of premium kerosene is called K+, and although it costs slightly more, it can help your boiler to run more efficiently and reduce service costs.
Buying your Heating Oil
Unlike many other suppliers in England, Wales and Scotland, Rix Petroleum is an independent, family-owned company with a rich heritage for developing loyal, trusted relationships with our customers. We make it our priority to provide a friendly, reliable, flexible and competitive service for all of our customers. However, don’t just take our word for it, read our customer reviews. Rix Petroleum has a number of depots located throughout the UK ensuring our staff have the local knowledge you need from your oil supplier.
There are a variety of ways to pay for your oil. 1. Pay online with a debit or credit card (debit cards are free, however credit cards do carry a small surcharge) 2. By telephone, call your local depot team and pay by Visa, Mastercard or Switch 3. Budget scheme – Rix offer an easy payment budget scheme that allows you to spread the cost of your heating oil over the year. Please call one of our team for more details. Please note: our budget scheme is only available to homeowners.
Heating oil is typically cheapest during the summer months, when demand is lowest. Buying at this time also ensures you’re prepared for any cold snaps.
However, we realise not everybody can fill their tank in the summer, so our advice would be to order it as early as possible before winter arrives. Prices and overall demand will still be lower, so you will avoid long waits to get your heating oil, which can sometimes happen if it snows or it’s around Christmas.
This is very difficult to predict, as the price of heating oil is affected by a number of external factors, such as global demand, natural disasters and conflicts.
Fuel prices fluctuate depending on a number of factors, but heating oil is always competitively priced, and often the least expensive option — especially if your household is off the national gas grid. You can find out more by reading our heating oil price guide.
Locking in the price of your heating oil makes it easier to budget, and could save you money if prices rise. However, you will be worse off should the prices drop.
Yes. Ordering more heating oil typically lowers the price per litre. Ordering just 500 litres at a time puts the cost up for you and for us. Use our instant heating oil quote tool to see the difference in price the more you order.
If your heating oil system is installed and maintained properly, the risk of an explosion or fire is extremely low.
You should be suspicious of an oil leak if you notice any of the following:
- Heating oil levels dropping more quickly than usual.
- A strong smell of oil around your tank or inside your home.
- Black stains on your tank supports or the ground.
Oil leaks are a risk to public health, so they require immediate action. Follow the guidelines below:
If there is a strong smell of oil in your home:
- Keep your home well-ventilated by opening windows and doors.
- Call your fuel supply company or tank supplier for guidance.
If oil has soaked into the ground or entered the watercourse:
- Call the Environment Agency incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60.
If there is oil on the ground (non-organic:
- Do not attempt to clean the spill with detergent, as this can worsen the pollution.
- Do not wash oil into grids, as this pollutes the watercourse.
- Absorb spilled oil with sand.
- Call your fuel supply company or tank supplier for guidance.
If you find a leak site on your tank:
- Use a bucket to collect any leaking oil.
- Apply leak-sealing putty to seal the hole. On plastic tanks, rubbing a bar of soap across the puncture can also provide a short-term solution.
- Call your fuel supply company or tank supplier for guidance.
Heating Oil Tanks
The average customer uses around 1,400 litres of heating oil per year, while the minimum order for heating oil is 500 litres. Most domestic tanks have a capacity of 1,000 to 2,500 litres.
There are different types of heating oil tanks available: single-skin, double-skin and integrally bunded.
- Single-skinned tanks offer only one layer of protection against an oil leak. For this reason, they are usually installed in a secondary containment system: a reinforced concrete or masonry bund.
- Double-skinned tanks, aka twin-walled tanks, have two layers to help protect against an oil leak. It is recommended that these are also installed in a secondary containment system.
- Integrally bunded tanks offer the best protection against an oil leak, as the attached bund can hold 110% of the inner tank’s capacity as well as the fittings.
- Underground tanks require professional construction and may require planning permission.
Oil tanks are made of plastic or steel. Plastic tanks require less maintenance and are less vulnerable to failure. However, thieves can drill into plastic tanks to siphon off oil, so steel tanks are more secure.
Assuming compliance with building regulations, oil tanks can be installed outdoors, indoors or underground.
Most householders install their oil tank outdoors, where it is easy to maintain. To reduce the risk of being targeted by thieves, you should place your tank where it is out of sight of the road but visible from inside your home. We also recommend installing flood lighting around the area your tank is located.
Installing your oil tank indoors helps protect it from damage and theft. Plus, the higher temperature boosts burning efficiency and reduces the risk of freezing. You can install your tank indoors if:
- The tank capacity is 3,500 litres or less.
- There tank has secondary containment.
- The tank alone is within a one-hour fire-resistant chamber.
- The tank is located at the lowest possible level.
- There is ventilation to the outside.
Installing an oil tank underground saves space, but it also makes it harder to maintain. You can install an oil tank underground if:
- The tank is specifically constructed for underground use.
- Recommendations in the Environment Agency’s Pollution Prevention Guidance note PPG 27 are followed.
- Any necessary planning permission is obtained.
Heating oil tanks usually have a lifetime of 15 to 20 years. Some tanks come with a 10-year guarantee.
Contact Rix and we will send out one of our OFTEC-qualified engineers. If you need a replacement, Rix stocks 250 models of both plastic and steel fuel tanks with capacities up to 50,000 litres. Placing the utmost care and attention to our impact on the environment, we will dismantle and dispose of your old tank in the most environmentally friendly way.
You should have your heating oil tank and oil boiler inspected at least once per year by an OFTEC-qualified heating engineer.
You should also regularly perform visual inspections, and general upkeep:
- Remove debris from the external bund.
- Close access points when out of use.
- Clean any oil spillages made during delivery.
- Check for oil stains on the supports or ground.
- Check for bulging, cracks, rust or discolouration on the tank.
- Check that all connections are secure.
- Treat and paint steel tanks as required.
Seek professional advice from an OFTEC-qualified engineer or registered company if you notice anything of concern.
If you run out of heating oil, contact your local depot as soon as possible.
At all times we will endeavour to get your oil delivered to you quickly and efficiently but please be aware that this could take a little longer when fuel demand is at its highest, such as at Christmas time.
All of our depots stock Emergency 25 litre drums of heating oil, which you can pick up by visiting your local Rix Depot. Simply contact them in advance and they will get it ready for you to collect.
The paraffin in heating oil can freeze and clog your line, potentially preventing you from heating your home. To reduce the risk of this happening, you should insulate your tank and pipes, and have your oil filter installed indoors.
You can also purchase additives that lower the freezing temperature of heating oil, or purchase pre-treated oil. Another option is to install an electric heat sheet that warms your tank when the temperature drops, although this is relatively costly.
Having your heating oil tank installed indoors is the most effective way to prevent freezing.
In high temperatures, heating oil can evaporate through air vents. However, it is unlikely that you will lose a significant amount of heating oil through evaporation.
Without proper maintenance, bacteria can grow in your heating oil. This forms a sludge that corrodes your oil tank and pipes. An unusual smell is an indicator of bacterial growth.
Regular water removal and oil filtration will help prevent your heating oil going bad. You can also use additives to reduce the risk of bacterial growth.
Kept in the proper conditions, heating oil should remain usable for around 10 years.
You can find your nearest oil disposal service provider via the Oil Bank Line website, or by calling 0800 66 33 66.
Alternatively, contact your local authority for guidance.
Fuel tanks can contain thousands of pounds worth of heating oil, which is at risk of being stolen.
With fuel tanks also comes the risk of oil leaks, which have the potential to cause hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage.
Most home insurance policies do not cover heating oil tanks, so we recommend that you check with your home insurance provider to ensure that problems with your heating oil system and oil tank theft are covered. If not, companies such as Bluefin offer oil boiler insurance.