How to conserve energy and save on energy costs in the home this winter
With winter hovering just over the horizon, now is the time to start thinking about how to conserve energy and save on energy costs in your home this winter. There are plenty of great things you can do to help lower your heating bills a bit this season. The following is a list of some things you can start to do now, to prepare for winter; and a few things you can do once winter is here, to keep your bills low and your wallet a bit fuller!
Look after your heating systems
One of the first things you can do is make sure that your heating is properly maintained. Not only will this help keep you safe, but it also will ensure that it is working at maximum efficiency. You will also want to have your heating system serviced to ensure that it is working at its best, so that you do not waste any energy.
Secondly, you can invest in a thermostat that lets you schedule your heating needs. For instance, during the day while you are not home, you can lower the temperature in your house and then schedule it to kick in a little higher before you arrive. You can also lower the heat at night while you and your family are sleeping. By lowering the temperatures while the home is not actively in use, you can help reduce the amount you spend on heating this winter.
Of course, insulation is a big issue, so before winter arrives you may want to take a look around your home to make sure that all of your window seals and door seals are properly in place and in good condition. Energy efficient curtains can also help keep warmth in and keep the cool air from penetrating. Remember, any draft will increase the energy that your heating system has to produce to keep the house evenly warmed.
If you have not yet looked at your loft, you may want to take a look at loft insulation and cavity wall insulation. In an effort to conserve energy across the country, the government is now offering grants to help offset the costs of insulating your home. It is estimated that adding insulation to your home can help reduce your energy consumption by as much as 15%, making it well worth the investment in just a couple of years. Additionally, if you plan to sell your home down the line it will help increase its value, which is a nice bonus.
And last but not at all least look for a good fuel provider who is not going to charge you an arm and a leg. Thompson Fuels constantly reviews their prices to make sure that their customers are getting the best deals on home heating oil, coal and bottled gas. Order online today for the best prices in Northern Ireland.
Best home systems available today
If you looking at a home heating system, you will basically have three choices to consider for heating your property. Most of these choices are dependent on the fuel source that you want to use; oil, gas, or electricity. Some people also use liquid petroleum gas. Of course, what you use to heat your home will often depend on where you live, since some areas may not offer some fuel choices; the following guide will walk you through each type of home heating system so that you can make the right choice for your home. Here are just a few facts about each of these home heating systems.
One of the most common ways to heat a home is with an electric central heating home system. As the name suggests, this home system utilises electricity to heat a home. It is also a great choice for those who are not on the natural gas grid because almost nobody is not on the national electricity grid. However, if you are going to choose electric central heating you want to make sure that you are paying a fair tariff. You also will want to look into an electric home system that utilises storage heaters, as these stock up energy during the cheaper night time rate and then use it throughout the day.
Another, perhaps more efficient fuel to choose, if you are not on the main gas grid, is oil. An oil home heating system is considered a wet system since the oil is burned to help heat water which then sends out its heat via radiators. One thing nice about oil is that it is delivered and then stored in a large tank, so you can buy a bulk supply of oil at a lower cost in many cases. By doing this you can pay for your heating costs up front and get a lower rate.
Finally, the most logical choice for those who are on the gas grid is of course, a gas central heating system. This is also a wet system since the gas boiler heats water which is then sent throughout the home via radiators. You can still take advantage of gas if you are not hooked up to the gas network by having liquid petroleum gas, also known as butane, delivered to your home. The advantage of choosing gas is that it is a highly efficient heating fuel that offers a great return on energy.
Brexit and Oil prices – What Brexit could mean for oil prices
The Friday after the Brexit vote revealed that Britain would leave the European Union, oil prices settled at 5% lower than they had been. This immediately spurred concern that oil prices would drop, putting to an end the three-month long recovery that was being experienced by the global oil markets. This is not the first time that financial markets worried about the implications of the Brexit vote, but was the first indication that perhaps they had not thought about all of the risks that would be involved with the ‘leave’ vote actually winning.
The dollar index saw a jump of about two percent immediately following the leave vote, which is the highest it has jumped since 2008 when the financial crisis occurred. At the same time, the pound dropped to the lowest it has been in 31 years, following the announcement by Prime Minister David Cameron that he would be stepping down due to the vote. The dollar starting to rally as a result of the news means that oil (and similar commodities that are counted in greenbacks) will become much costlier for those who use the euro and other forms of currencies.
Oil market analysts however attempted to look at Brexit with a more well-rounded view that was less alarmist, explaining that Brexit is a historic event that is not something that can be considered ‘finished’ anytime soon, just because the vote is over. However, just because the implications of Brexit will take a while to sort out, does not mean that the oil markets are going to stay in turmoil for a long period of time. There is no reason to think that a financial meltdown will occur from the Brexit vote, and the UK and the EU do not appear to be anywhere close to a collapse.
Proof of this can be seen in current oil prices which have seemingly held their rates. While they fall to their lows after news of the leave vote, for the past month they have largely held higher than the original drop. It is possible that Brent will trade lower according to some oil analysts, and the worst may still be to come, but once that occurs there is no reason to believe that oil will not settle back in at a more comfortable spot on the market. The truth is, on a global scale, the situation remains unclear – but for consumers of heating oil, it’s business as usual.
Oil versus gas – why oil is the better choice
Choosing a fuel to use to heat your home is a very important decision. Not only is heat important to make sure that your home stays a comfortable place of shelter, but it is also a main household bill that should be carefully considered. There are many reasons why oil is the better choice when it comes to choosing a fuel source to heat your home. Here are just a few factors to consider if you are looking at oil versus gas as a heating source.
First of all, you may be surprised to learn that heating oil supplies are actually quite plentiful, despite the fact that the news would have you believe there is a shortage. Renewable biofuel options are helping to add additional sources to an already very large sustainable supply. This means that oil is easily available and is not going to run out anytime soon. Natural gas is not a renewable source of heating, and that actually makes it more likely to run out.
Second, contrary to popular belief, heating oil is less expensive than natural gas, even though most people seem to think it’s the other way around. In fact, statistics prove that for the past 22 years, heating oil was less expensive. This makes it a great choice for those who want to keep their household budget under control. Plus, if you already have a heating oil system, it just makes sense to keep it, because it could cost you a five figure sum to convert to natural gas!
Following up on this point, there is no reason to convert a heating oil system to natural gas, because the newest technologies have allowed most oil heat appliances to last over three decades – if they are maintained properly. That means you can get 30 years of use out of your heating oil system, and they are evolving and becoming more and more advanced. On the other hand, a natural gas furnace on average lasts from 11 to 14 years.
Finally, if you need one more reason to choose heating oil over natural gas, consider this: heating oil is a clean fuel. The oil that is used today produces almost zero emissions, and most new oil system technologies actually re-burn fuel, recycling it and reducing emissions overall. A properly maintained system will burn very cleanly, meaning that you will help keep the world green by making a smart heating decision.
Top tips to help you get the best out of your heating system and save money this summer.
1. Check your stock of oil – have you got any room for a summer top up? Please note we will not however fill your fuel tank completely full during hot weather as fuel must have room to expand.
2. Keep between fifteen and twenty inches of oil in the bottom – emergency deliveries are expensive and you also run the risk of disrupting the sediment that settles at the base of your tank if you refill it when it’s too low, which can clog up your supply pipe and lead to costly repairs
3. Consider your future oil requirements now, and look to buy as much as possible during the summer months when prices are often lower than in winter.
4. Ensure you order your heating oil from us as we are a NIOF Member (Northern Ireland Oil Federation) and we adhere to the NIOF Code of Practice.
5. Thompson Fuels offer monthly payment schemes, and summer is the best time to start one off. Speak to our friendly team for advice.
6. Check that your oil tank is as secure as possible against oil theft. Measures you can take include installing a tank lock, an alarm that goes off if your tank leaks, CCTV and security lights.
7. Make sure that your insurance policy covers your oil tank – most home insurance policies do not include this in the standard cover. You need to be covered for loss of fuel through theft and oil spills, and the environmental clean-up of your property and any adjacent land in the event of a leak.
8. Inspect your tank regularly and have it serviced annually by a qualified oil-fired heating engineer. If your oil tank needs replaced, again, talk to our friendly team and we can supply and install a brand new tank for you at a very competitive price.
Tips for Boiler Efficiency and Maintenance
Given the high prices of fuel, you want to make sure that your boiler is always running at its peak efficiency so that you are getting the largest return for your hard earned pennies. If your boiler is running at its best, then you will be able to heat your home without spending too much extra money in the process. Here are just a few of the best ways to make sure that your boiler is running at peak efficiency.
First of all, you need to make sure that you have reduced any excess air that may be building up during the combustion phase. When more air is used during combustion, the air will be heated and then discharged back out. This can cause some dangerous scenarios over time as well, so it is important your fuel air ratio is correct.
Second, you may want to think about installing an economiser on your boiler. This is a way to make sure that heat transfer is properly being taken care of within the boiler. The tubes can help by circulating the feed water, or by circulating the boiler water.
Safety & Efficiency
Third, you need to make sure that your boiler stays efficient, and also safe, by making sure that all scale and deposits are reduced. When these start to build up on a boiler they can lead to a reduction of the steel’s strength, overheating, and can even cause the boiler to crack. This will be taken care of by regular maintenance of your tank. If you regularly have someone out to check out your tank, then it will not be a worry.
This leads into the fourth thing you can do to increase the efficiency of your boiler, which is have it regularly maintained. Regular maintenance performed by a professional will help ensure that your boiler is safe and running at its best. A boiler engineer will come out and check all of the connections to make sure they are sealed, and all pieces to make sure that everything is working properly. Replacing anything that may be ageing on a regular basis will keep the machine working smoothly for many more years.
Finally, you need to think about reducing blow down and recovering some of the waste that occurs during this process. When the blow down is complete, boiler water is sent into the drains. During this process, steam is created from the water evaporation, and this steam causes the water to become concentrated inside of the boiler. Therefore, some water is drained, so if you can control the draining you will be ahead. You also can recover some of these wastes by utilising heat exchanger tubes, blow tanks, or other pumping solutions.
How to protect your oil tank from thieves with our Oil Tank Security Tips
Hopefully you will never be the victim of heating oil theft, but unfortunately from time to time it does happen, and may have even occurred in your community. Follow our Oil tank security tips, if you want to make sure that you are never a victim, then there are a few steps you can take to make sure that you protect your oil tank from thieves. There are many ways to protect your oil tank that range in difficulty, from easy, to those that require a bit of planning, so at the very least you should take advantage of the easiest ways to make sure that your oil tank remains off limits to others.
First of all, when you actually buy your oil tank, consider where you’re going to place it with some care. While your home and land may restrict your options, it is best to try to place your oil tank away from any external doors or gates, and place it in a spot that cannot be seen by those travelling on the road. Placing it close to your home is a good idea since it will be within your line of vision, and will deter some thieves who will look for an easier target elsewhere.
Second, you should install a security light that can sense movement near your heating oil tank. This way you can see your tank, and the lights will act as a deterrent for a nervous thief.
You can also protect your heating oil by adding some basic protection measures to your tank. For example, place a sturdy lock on the fill cap, and possibly even the vent cap. You also could place a security cage around the tank and cover up any exposed pipes.
If you live in a high theft area you may want to consider installing a CCTV system, and make sure to place a sign on your gate that informs would be thieves that you have it. A cheaper way to get similar, although not as foolproof results, is to place a Beware of the Dog sign on the gate as well. Most thieves prefer to target homes without dogs for obvious reasons!
You can also try to hide your heating oil tank with greenery, which is a great option for an avid gardener. Try rose bushes, holly, and other plants with prickles or thorns around the tank to deter thieves. As an added bonus, they may snag some evidence that will help you catch any thief that does try to steal your heating oil!
The Best Fuel for an Open Fire
When it’s cold outside and you can’t wait to feel warm again, there is nothing quite so welcoming as a roaring fire. Even in homes that have central heating, many people are still appreciative when they go somewhere and see a real fire burning. Older people still reminisce about how their parents would toast crumpets by putting them on the end of a toasting fork and hold it close to the blaze. Often the crumpets were burned in places and not cooked in others, but they got eaten just the same!
Coal and the Atmosphere
Nowadays you cannot burn old-fashioned coal in most parts of the UK due to concerns about polluting the atmosphere, and the effects of smog in the 1950’s. Despite all the changes, it is still possible to have a welcoming open fire once you know where to get the best type of fuel.
There are different smokeless coal products available, including nuggets, Wondercoal, and Small Calco. If you have a glass fronted fire, you need different smokeless products including large Aga Nuts and Furnocite. The best smokeless coal products have statutory approval for use in smokeless fuel areas, and are always available. Coal is generally the fuel most associated with an open fire, for two reasons; it is more traditional, and it throws out more heat than most other fuels.
There are certain areas of Northern Ireland that are not smoke free zones and where people may have old fashioned coal. Ordinary coal is quite expensive, as most of it now has to be sourced abroad.
Fuel briquettes are often made from wood mixtures, peat or turf. The main problem with briquettes is that they don’t throw out quite as much heat as specially treated smokeless coal. When you choose products that don’t produce as much heat as coal, you may end up using more of that type of fuel.
Blocks and sticks of wood are fine when used in an open fire. Although wood does throw out a fair amount of heat, it burns down faster than coal, which means you will use more.
Advice and Delivery
Thompson Fuels can advise you on what type of fuel you can burn, and will deliver to your door, depending on where you live. It’s usually possible to deliver at very short notice, which is a bonus when the weather has been particularly bad.
Keep your boiler functioning all year round
Plenty of us in the modern world have centrally heated homes, and the majority use gas boilers to deliver both heating and hot water. If you don’t live near a mains gas system, or if you are not keen on gas heating, then you may have oil fired heating and hot water. In order to keep things running smoothly when they’re needed most, certain precautions are always a good idea, including regular servicing.
Whether your heating system is oil or gas fired, you need to take care of the boiler. Failure to undertake a few simple checks could mean an expensive repair bill, as well as a lack of heat and hot running water.
As the weather starts to get warmer in late spring or early summer, a good many people will turn off their central heating. If you do this, it is always a good idea to switch it on for a short while every two weeks as this is better for your boiler – it also means that if a problem develops, you’re more likely to catch it early on than you would be if you hadn’t switched it on at all. You only have to run the boiler for five or ten minutes as this will clear any dust or grit that may have built up. Turning it on may be a nuisance in particularly warm weather, but doing this means that the system will run more efficiently.
Looking after your boiler doesn’t have to be a hard task, and giving it some care and attention could prevent expensive and possibly dangerous problems later on. Check that the area around your oil boiler is kept clear at all times; items that are too close to your boiler should be removed, as even small objects could be hazardous. It is also common sense to make your boiler easy to access for checking and servicing, and you’re more likely to check and clean around it if it’s easy to get to.
If you have to replace your boiler due to a lack of care, not only are you likely to feel fed up, it could be very expensive. It’s much cheaper, and safer, to have the boiler checked by a professional plumber once a year. A qualified person can give it a thorough check and clean, and it’s worth the money because it could extend the life expectancy of your boiler by several years.
Best type of fuel to use on an open fire
An open fire is a great decorative piece and a great source of heat that is quickly becoming more and more popular in homes across the country. However, the number one question that most people have after installation is this; what type of fuel is the best choice for an open fire? There are a handful of different fuel sources that are all great to burn on an open fire, but they each have their own set of attributes. Therefore, it’s useful to look over the benefits of each, to see which aligns most closely with your own open fire goals.
Coal is easily the most popular choice of fuel for open fires because of its rustic appeal, but it is also popular because it burns for a great deal of time. However, if you choose to use coal, be aware that you will need to sweep out your chimney twice a year.
The same is true of wood, which also gives off a rustic ambience. Many people prefer wood because they can source it on their own. Before burning, make sure that the wood does not have a chemical coating on it. The heat output is not as high as coal or other solid fuels, but when you combine them, the fire will stay lit for longer and still give off the perfect ambience. Wood does not create much pollution, making it another excellent choice.
Blocks, also known as instant fire, are very popular because they are easy to light and burn for quite some time. Both the ignition material and fuel are wrapped into the packaging, so all you have to do is light the block and then sit back and enjoy the fire for a few hours.
Turf, which is essentially just peat, has a historically rich history as it was the main source of heating in Ireland in the old days. The benefit of turf is that it is a smokeless fuel, and it is much cheaper than wood or coal.
Turf can also be purchased in briquettes, which are simply compressed turf that is formed into a block after shredding. It is convenient to have the bricks ready to go to be tossed into the fire, and of course they are also smokeless. In addition, it burns at a much slower rate than coal or wood, making it a great source for a longer fire – although it does not emit as much heat.