Heating Oil or Mains Gas?

We are currently renovating a property and are in the position of having the choice of either a mains gas or kerosene boiler.  Mains gas is obviously much more convenient but is there a way of comparing the cost of the different fuels?  I have seen various figures for the energy content of kerosene in kilowatt hours but are gas boilers more efficient than oil boilers?
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  • Ebe_Scrooge
    Ebe_Scrooge Posts: 7,320
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    That's pretty comprehensive reply from lohr500 :)
    And I have to agree - all in all, there's little to choose between the two purely on a "running cost" basis.  What may sway it for you is the initial capital investment (getting a gas supply installed vs getting an oil tank installed).
    Arguably you could say that gas is slightly more "convenient" in terms of not having to monitor your fuel level, and having to remember to fill up the tank.  The flip side is that you're free to shop around every time you order, effectively giving you the freedom to switch suppliers more often than if you're in a 1 year contract (or whatever) with a gas supplier.
    The one thing none of us can predict is how the relative costs of oil vs gas may change in the future.  Could you argue that oil is more freely available than gas, so we're not just reliant on Russia for our supplies?  Dunno.  (I know that we don't only get gas from Russia, but hopefully you get the gist of my thinking).
    It's a tough call.  Right now, all other things being equal, I'd say it's six and two threes.
    Would ground-source or air-source heat pump be a viable alternative?  I know it can be tricky to retro-fit these systems and it needs changes in the way the system is designed, but if you're doing a renovation then it may be an option?  I don't know much about those systems, but it's something to perhaps look into?
  • NedS
    NedS Posts: 3,500
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    edited 16 January 2023 at 5:59PM
    I would add that although oil may be cheaper than gas right now, it's not always been that way - gas is obviously way more expensive than previously at the moment due to the war in Ukraine.
    The other consideration would be ease of sale of the property. Although we have oil, and purchasing a property with oil would now not phase us, I can imagine it may put off some buyers, especially in an area that has mains gas ([rhetorical] why would you not be on gas?). Although maybe the current plans to phase out gas boilers may actually make oil more attractive if the alternatives are not so appealing.

  • Apodemus
    Apodemus Posts: 3,384
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    NedS said:
     Although maybe the current plans to phase out gas boilers may actually make oil more attractive if the alternatives are not so appealing.

    The legislation is almost certainly going to apply equally to new gas and oil boilers.
  • Apodemus
    Apodemus Posts: 3,384
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    Apodemus said:
    The legislation is almost certainly going to apply equally to new gas and oil boilers.

    Apparently, us oil users will be switching to Hydrotreated Vegetable oil ...

    That's a slightly different point/question.  Oil boilers may be able to run on HVO if/when it becomes widely available, almost in the same way that future gas boilers may be able to run on Hydrogen, if/when that becomes available.

    New legislation is a completely different matter, and the legislation that went out to consultation, would ban the installation of both gas and oil boilers, except for specific properties where there was reason for a specifc exemption to be applied.  From memory, I believe it also indicated an end-point after which existing installations would no longer be permitted.
  • Apodemus
    Apodemus Posts: 3,384
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    edited 7 November 2023 at 3:51PM
    Apodemus said:
    That's a slightly different point/question.  Oil boilers may be able to run on HVO if/when it becomes widely available, almost in the same way that future gas boilers may be able to run on Hydrogen, if/when that becomes available.
    I don't think there's much to do a boiler to convert from Kerosene to HVO, though draining and refilling the tank would be a bit of nuisance!

    Would one even need to?  I would have thought that HVO would be completely soluble in kerosene and that there would simply be a period where the mix in the tank changes from 100% kerosene to 100% HVO? 
  • lohr500
    lohr500 Posts: 923
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    As far as I can gather from the Grant oil boiler technical website, for their boilers that will work with HVO, switching involves the need for a new nozzle and adjustments to the high pressure oil pump setting.

    So I'm not sure how they would perform with a changing kerosene/HVO mix in the main tank.

    I suspect it will be a case of running the tank as low as possible on kero, then filling completely with HVO to minimise the mix.

    But I am no expert.
  • VetDad said:
    We are currently renovating a property and are in the position of having the choice of either a mains gas or kerosene boiler.  Mains gas is obviously much more convenient but is there a way of comparing the cost of the different fuels?  I have seen various figures for the energy content of kerosene in kilowatt hours but are gas boilers more efficient than oil boilers?
    Depending on your location as well as accounting for the install costs of various systems, have you looked at a heat pump, solar and batteries, if you did that a lot of your energy usage for most of the year would be free going forward and during the winter you could draw power on cheap night rates and use that to run the heat pump as required, if you are doing a lot of work on the property depending on external works a ground source heat pump would be the best option as you will get a higher COP and so more energy output for input.
  • Apodemus
    Apodemus Posts: 3,384
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    Phil, that is interesting, but I wonder if we are getting into confusing territory on fuel nomenclature.  Riello may be using the term bio fuel to mean "traditional" first-generation biodiesel, which is an entirely different beastie to HVO.  My understanding is that Biodiesel is much more prone to problems of water absorption and microbial growth than HVO, which is why the specification is normally at 7% maximum for biodiesel, while HVO can be used at 100%.  
  • Apodemus
    Apodemus Posts: 3,384
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    Yes, the standards seem to be a real nightmare to make sense of.  In practical terms, I have always understood kerosene and diesel to be almost completely interchangeable, with the exception of lubricating ability (and taxation!). 

    Since I already put an additive into my CH Kerosene to improve the lubrication on the fuel pump and have once (in extremis) resorted to using diesel in place of kerosene, I'm pretty sure that I could use HVO in my Rayburn with minimum changes.   Since the viscocity is slightly different, then for efficient combustion it makes sense that for longer term use, the fuel pressure might need to be corrected and the nozzle(s) changed to ensure the correct spray pattern, but these are easy routine service tasks.
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