29 June 2020
All about oil heating

All about oil heating

We explain what heating oil is, how it heats your home, the pros and cons of oil heating, and essential servicing information so you can stay safe and warm in your home.

Oil-fired central heating is the second most popular type of home heating method in the UK. The majority of homes use gas – 85% compared to oil’s 6% and electric heating’s 6%. However, in Scotland, oil is more widely used than other areas of the UK – about twice as popular. This is due to its usage across rural areas and islands.

If you’re thinking about replacing your heating system and considering oil as your heating fuel or you’re moving into a new home with oil-fired central heating, this article will help.

If you can’t get mains gas, using an oil tank to heat your home is a great option. At the time of writing (June 2020), heating oil prices are at their lowest for three years. Find out more in our previous article.

About oil central heating systems

Types of domestic heating oil

There are two main kinds of domestic heating oil; kerosene and gas oil. Kerosene is usually better value because it’s more efficient. However, it is more expensive than natural gas. If your home is on the gas network, gas is typically a better option. Learn more about gas heating.

How oil-fired heating works


Oil is delivered by lorry and pumped into a tank, so you’ll need to make sure your tank is accessible. Tanks are usually located close to your house in a garden or behind a garage out of sight. They are normally bought or rented from your supplier.


Boilers for oil-fired heating come in two flavours; heat-only and combination condensing. Most oil combi boilers have an internal hot water store to supply domestic hot water, rather than the instantaneous heating more common in gas combi boilers.


Heating oil is generally used in a “wet” heating system; an oil-fired boiler heats water, then provides central heating through radiators and hot water to the taps in your home.


The average annual cost is £830* for both heating and hot water using heating oil in the UK when consuming around 17,000 kWh's worth per year.

* Source: Sutherland Tables, January 2020

Pros and cons

Benefits of oil central heating include:

  • It’s often the cheapest option in rural areas where there is no mains gas
  • It’s a reliable, efficient option when you need to heat a building that is off the grid or cannot be connected to mains gas
  • It’s easy to control
  • It provides heat on demand
  • If you’re not happy with your supplier or their prices, you can simply choose a different company for your next delivery
  • The carbon emissions are lower than coal
  • It’s a very efficient heating fuel; you get a good return for each unit of energy used
  • As long as you keep an eye on the amount of oil in your tank and order your next delivery in good time, you’ll have a constant supply of fuel
  • Some modern systems will automatically notify your supplier that you need a delivery
  • Your supplier may let you spread your payments over a few months

Of course, there are drawbacks to every kind of heating system. Here are some common disadvantages of oil heating:

  • You will need a large and sometimes unattractive oil tank in your garden or somewhere on your property (although hidden underground tanks are now available)
  • Prices can rise if demand is high (for example, if there’s a long, cold winter)
  • Suppliers set their own price and can ‘hold you to ransom’
  • Oil isn’t as convenient as electricity or gas because you keep an eye on the level to see how much you’re using by checking a gauge that’s usually outside
  • You must remember to order a refill in time before your supply of oil runs out
  • You have to be in your home when the delivery comes (which will probably be during working hours)
  • Your supplier can insist on being paid for the whole delivery on the day
  • New installations are complicated, time-consuming, and expensive
  • Your boiler and tank will need servicing each year (but we can help!)
  • Oil heating is a fossil fuel and has higher carbon emissions than gas

Servicing your oil heating system

Get your heating oil tank serviced and check it regularly to avoid a leak. Ensure your boiler is serviced annually. As with any heating system, servicing is an essential maintenance task that will save you money in the long-run.

An expert oil heating engineer can check your whole system to ensure it’s running as efficiently as possible, and spot any potential issues before they develop into significant problems.

You can contact us to arrange a service or repair for your oil heating system.

Replacing your oil heating

What should you think about when buying a new oil boiler? There’s a lot to think about when choosing a suitable boiler for your home. Here are just some of the things you’ll need to consider:

  • The type of boiler
  • The number of rooms in your home and how big they are
  • How much hot water you use
  • How cold it is where you live
  • The heat output capabilities of the boiler
  • The heat loss of your home (which depends on how good your insulation is)
  • Your budget

Replacing oil with gas

Are you thinking about replacing your oil system with gas? Our engineers have significant experience with both gas and oil heating systems and can perform a whole system replacement. Contact us about a heating system replacement.

We’re here to help with your oil heating

Our experienced heating engineers can perform assessments of your oil heating system to see where you could save money. We also provide oil heating servicing and oil heating repairs right across the East Coast of Scotland.

We are fully OFTEC registered for oil central heating and hot water system repair and servicing.

If you still need some advice, call our friendly team on 0800 3899 463 (Mon to Fri, 9am to 5pm) for help, or use our online enquiry form.

Written by Kingdom Gas Services team