Did you know that 16% of domestic properties are not connected to the mains gas grid? That means that about 1.3 million people are off-grid and are using an alternative fuel to power their homes. The vast majority of these people are using either oil or LPG. If you’re one of them, you’re probably wondering if you’re using the right kind of fuel for you and your needs. More importantly, should you change from your existing fuel? And if so, is it going to be expensive and difficult to do so?
In this blog, we’re going to be looking at the differences between oil and LPG. By giving you the pros and cons of both, you can weigh up which one is right for you. Rest assured, whether you decide to switch fuel or continue using your current one, you can rely on us at Northern Energy to be here for you.
What is Oil? And what is LPG?
Both Oil and LPG are liquid fossil fuels that are burnt in a boiler to create heat and hot water.
But there are important differences between the two.
Let’s start with home heating oil. The kind of oil used for heating off-grid homes is kerosene (also known as home heating oil or 28-second oil) which is produced by heating crude oil. It’s different from the type of oil commonly used by businesses and farms which is called gas oil (as well as red diesel or 35-second oil). Home heating oil is a lighter oil, and as the name implies, is used for heating your home. It can also be used to fuel range cookers too.
Now, what’s LPG? First, what does LPG stand for? Well, it’s short for Liquid Petroleum Gas. Which is a colourless gas made from hydrocarbon that comes in a pressurised liquid form. LPG itself is usually collected as a by-product of refining crude oil, though it can also be extracted from natural gas streams or petroleum. If you’re asking yourself 'is LPG propane or butane?', the answer is it’s both, just in two slightly different forms.
LPG is a great choice if you want to not just heat your home but also cook with gas as you can use it for both.
How are LPG and Oil delivered and stored?
Oil and LPG are both stored in a tank, which is usually located in your garden, though you can, if you wish, have it buried underground to hide it - subject to regulations. Both oil and LPG refills are delivered in the same way by wagon. This is parked as near as possible to your tank and then the driver uses a long hose to fill it.
One big difference is that you will own your oil tank while your LPG tank will usually be rented from your fuel supplier. The maintenance of your oil tank will be your responsibility, whereas your LPG tank will be maintained by your LPG supplier. If you decide to switch your LPG supplier, your new supplier will purchase your tank from your out-going supplier so there will be no disruption to your supply. Here at Northern Energy we make the whole changing process a breeze by handling all the paperwork as well as ensuring your switch is hassle-free.
Both type of tanks can have telemetry systems installed to alert you and your supplier when your fuel’s running low. Which is ideal if you don’t relish the thought of traipsing out to your garden over winter to check your LPG or heating oil tank gauge. And with us at Northern Energy, our automatic refilling service means we keep you topped up, giving you peace of mind so you don’t need to worry about checking your tank or running out throughout the year.
Which is greener?
LPG is considered to be a cleaner fuel than oil. This is because it gives off less harmful emissions when it burns. In fact, it produces 12% less CO2. It also gives off almost no black carbon, better known as soot, which is thought to be the No.2 contributor to global warming. It’s also worth mentioning that LPG produces 90% less carbon monoxide and 50% less smog than using mains gas.
What are the installation and running costs of Oil and LPG?
Whether you’re using domestic heating oil or LPG, you’ll first need a tank to store your fuel. The big difference as already mentioned is that you need to buy a heating oil tank whereas you usually rent an LPG storage tank. The cost for heating oil tanks and their installation varies depending on which particular one you go for and who you use to install it, but prices can vary from £1500 to £2,000+. Alternatively, an LPG tank is supplied and fitted by your fuel supplier with the rental for the tank spread out over the length of your contract. Rest assured your LPG supplier will ensure that all LPG tank installation regulations required by UK law are followed.
You can have either an underground LPG tank or an underground oil one if you wish (subject to you having the space), so you won’t lose garden space or have the view from your window spoilt. They come in varying sizes, with each having their own additional cost to ‘hide’ them from view.
Then, there is the installation cost and efficiency of each kind of boiler. An LPG combi boiler is usually a cheaper option and is simpler to install. It’s also a more compact boiler if you’re stuck for space, and is thought to be quieter when running. An oil combi boiler on the other hand is very efficient, converting over 90% of the fuel into energy.
It's also worth mentioning that LPG boilers tend to have lower servicing costs. This is because they don’t produce soot, so can’t get clogged up over time. Although if you’re using oil, there are also optional heating oil additives you can put in your tank that can make your boiler more efficient and less likely to breakdown, reducing costly repairs and the need to call out an oil heating engineer. Get in touch for more information!
What’s the future of Oil and LPG?
A big consideration for which fuel you choose is what tomorrow holds for it. Unfortunately, we can’t speculate on how prices will change as this is dependent on a number of different factors around the world. But we can look at alternatives for each that are on the horizon.
In the case of home heating oil, you can look forward to switching over to Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) in the hopefully not too distant future. This renewable fuel reduces CO2 emissions by up to 90% and will work in an existing boiler and tank with the same efficiency as domestic heating oil – so no expensive retrofitting is needed, making it a viable alternative for the future.
LPG has the same bright outlook in the shape of BioLPG. Again affordable, efficient and convenient, it is identical to LPG and as such this is a ‘drop-in’ solution which means it can be used in your current LPG system. The difference is that it also reduces CO2 emissions by up to 90%. And at the same time produces the same low SOx, NOx and PM emissions as normal LPG.
With both BioLPG and HVO, they can be blended with traditional LPG or heating oil meaning you don’t need to empty or clean out your tank before you start using either of them.
We hope this blog has given you a better insight into the two different fuels and what the differences are between them. Hopefully you can now make an informed decision about which one is right for you. And remember, if you’re still not 100% sure, we’re here to help. Our highly trained team are happy to answer any questions or queries you might have about oil or LPG.
For heating oil enquiries, just give us a call on 01423 770 666, or for LPG call 01423 772 789.