Cosy up in the country
PUBLISHED: 13:20 03 March 2015 | UPDATED: 13:20 03 March 2015
Keeping your home warm can be hard work if you live in one of the county's more rural locations, but new technologies can make a big difference, explains Tim Masters
Rural homes across Essex are benefitting from the lowest oil prices in four years and predictions show this trend is set to continue. But, did you know, there are several steps you can take to make your home more energy efficient and reduce your energy bills even further?
In the beautiful Essex countryside there are a large number of homes off the gas grid and the vast majority of them — around 23,000 — use oil for central heating. Many of these rural properties are much older and typically have poor insulation, which makes them harder to heat effectively.
The good news is that oil is the only heating fuel to have fallen in price over the past four years and it is significantly cheaper than the other off-gas grid options — such as LPG and electricity. In fact, oil prices have dropped so dramatically over the past few months that costs are now on a par with mains gas and there are no signs this position will change in the near future.
But this is only part of the story, with homeowners having further opportunities to reduce their bills still further by making energy efficient improvements to their homes. OFTEC, the UK trade body for the oil-fired heating industry, makes it clear that oil users can take further measures to save money, become more energy efficient and reduce their carbon emissions, and with the recent significant fall in oil prices, now is the perfect time to use some of that spare cash to make a wise investment.
How can you make your home more energy efficient?
n Consider upgrading to a modern, high efficiency oil boiler which can save the average household up to 20% on fuel bills and drastically cut carbon emissions.
n Ensure your boiler is serviced by an OFTEC registered technician once a year who will make sure the system is working correctly and efficiently.
n Improve your roof insulation as this is where most of the heat is lost. Other areas of significant heat loss are outside walls and downstairs flooring.
n Install double glazing and thicker curtains to reduce heat loss from windows.
n Bleed your radiators to make sure you are getting maximum heat for your money.
For more information and advice on getting the most from your oil heating, visit www.oilsave.org.uk.
Paul Bird is group pensions director at News UK and lives in a six-bedroom house in Essex, built in the mid-1980s. He has found a way to significantly reduce his heating bills — and cut carbon emissions at the same time — by making his home more energy efficient.
Paul explains: ‘We moved into our house around 15 years ago and had been considering for some time how to improve our energy efficiency. The house is not connected to mains gas and came with an old oil central heating system. It seemed to be getting through a lot of oil and it would often take a long time for the house to warm up. It was also quite loud and dirty and so, in January last year, we decided to take the plunge and invest in a modern, condensing oil boiler.
‘Once we had our modern condensing boiler, installed by Paul Wareing Plumbing & Heating in Colchester, the benefits very quickly became clear. The most immediate difference we noticed was how much quieter the system was. It heated the water faster and the house warmed up far more quickly. We also don’t need to keep the heating on as long, so the new system is clearly more energy efficient.
‘Having had the new condensing boiler for over a year now, we’ve noticed huge savings on our fuel costs. We usually fill up the tank before Christmas but, last year, when we checked we were amazed to see that we still had around half a tank left. By this point oil prices were so low that we discussed whether it was worth buying another half a tank of oil, but in the end, when it became clear that oil prices were staying low, we decided to wait until the new year.
‘Before we upgraded we did look at moving to a renewable system under the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme, but decided this wasn’t for us. Our main concern was the huge upfront cost of installing solar panels, which would have required us to take out a loan, and we were not convinced the system would pay for itself, even with the RHI payments, as it’s still a relatively new technology. Boilers, on the other hand, are robust and tried and tested.
‘We are incredibly happy with our condensing oil boiler and it’s a great relief to know we’ve got a really modern system that is efficient and, most of all, reliable. Looking back on it, the decision was a no-brainer. By upgrading our system and making our house more energy efficient, we have saved huge amounts of money, especially as the price of oil has dropped so much, and also reduced our carbon output, which is an added bonus.’