We use cookies to allow us and selected partners to improve your experience and our advertising. By continuing to browse you consent to our use of cookies. You can understand more and change your cookies preferences here.

Home & garden.

19 October 2021

What is heating oil?

We talk you through the basics of heating oil, including the different types, what they're used for and how to choose the right heating oil for your home
SI
Sarah Ingrams
Family warm at home in bed 451062

More than a million households in the UK are not connected to the national gas grid and use heating oil to heat their homes. 

The key difference between gas from the grid and heating oil (as well as LPG) is that heating oil is delivered by road and stored in a tank.

If your home has an oil boiler, it runs on heating oil. 

See the most reliable oil boilers based on ratings from owners and heating engineers.

What type of home heating oil do I need?

Two types of oil are used for domestic heating:

  • Kerosene heating oil – also known as 28-second or heating oil. It's the most common type used in UK homes and lighter and cleaner than gas heating oil.
  • Gas heating oil – also known as 35-second oil or red diesel. It's usually used in older boilers, agriculture or commercially. 

If you've just moved into a property with an oil boiler, the type of heating oil you will need is determined by the type of heating system already installed. If your boiler or tank isn't labelled clearly, ask the previous owner what type they used. 

If they can't help, ask a technician registered with Oftec (the oil-fired-industry trade association).

If you're able to choose which type of heating oil to use, kerosene is the more efficient. In cold weather it's unlikely to ‘wax up’ (form crystals that stop it from flowing as easily) until it reaches around -39°C (although check with the supplier, as this can vary). 

See more tips on maintaining and fixing heating oil problems

Should I buy premium kerosene heating oil?

You can buy a premium type of kerosene that contains additives – this makes it burn more cleanly, and therefore more efficiently. 

Premium kerosene usually costs around £20 to £30 more than standard kerosene (based on 500 litres). You can also buy additives yourself, which cost around £15 for a bottle to treat 1,000 litres of heating oil. 

For certain appliances, such as an Aga, you have to use additives. Ask the manufacturer.

How much is heating oil?

The price of heating oil fluctuates. It hovered between 30 and 35p per litre in 2016, shot up to nearly 55p per litre in late 2018, stayed at around 50p per litre until January 2020, and dropped dramatically to 25p per litre in the summer. More recently it's around 46p.

Find out what affects the price of heating oil and how to get the best deal in best heating oil prices