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Nationwide Fuels

Heating Oil FAQ

We've collected all the questions that we regularly receive about heating oil, the liquid fuel used to heat homes and businesses across the country!

Frequently asked questions about heating oil

Heating oil is a classification of liquid fuels used to heat homes and businesses across the UK. These fuels are a common alternative to mains heating in off-grid homes, commercial premises and even in large public buildings.

Nationwide Fuels have been supplying heating oils across the country for over 60 years, helping to keep our customers warm. In that time, we’ve also been able to answer the many questions that we’ve received about the fuel.

So, whether you’re a regular heating oil user who’s looking to improve your knowledge of this essential fuel, or are about to be a regular user, these FAQs should have the answers you need.

Our heating oil experts have been answering customer’s questions on home heating oil and industrial heating oils for many years. In order to help many more people, we’ve put together many of the more commonly asked questions our team receives in order to help many more people. Of course, if you cannot find an answer to your questions below, you can always give our helpful and knowledgeable heating oil experts a call on 0330 678 0880 and we’ll be happy to help!

  1. What is heating oil?
  2. What’s the difference between IHO and home heating oil?
  3. What can you use heating oil for?
  4. What are the different types of heating oil?
  5. Is kerosene a heating oil?
  6. What colour is heating oil?
  7. Can kerosene be used in engines?
  8. Are heating oil fumes toxic?
  9. Is heating oil safe?
  10. Is heating oil the same as diesel?
  11. How is heating oil made?
  12. Where can I buy kerosene?
  13. Who can buy heating oil?
  14. Who invented kerosene?
  15. Why is kerosene not used in cars?
  16. Will heating oil damage a diesel engine?
  17. How much does heating oil cost?
  18. Do I need a licence to buy kerosene? 
  19. Can I use HVO fuel in my heating system?

What is heating oil?

Heating oil is the name given to liquid fuels that are used in heating applications, both in homes and commercial premises.

The main types of heating oil are kerosene, diesel and industrial heating oil (IHO). Kerosene is typically used for domestic heating, whilst diesel is mainly used in the agriculture sector and IHO is the preferred heating oil for businesses, public buildings and commercial spaces.

What’s the difference between IHO and home heating oil?

Industrial Heating Oil is a unique blend of heating oils and high-quality additives, designed to be a direct replacement for diesel in heating applications. Our high-quality IHO provides all the usability benefits of using diesel for heating but at a much lower cost. Find out more about IHO by visiting our industrial heating oil page.

Home heating oil is a blanket term for the two heating oils used in domestic settings: kerosene and gas oil. Your heating system will determine which heating oil you need.

What can you use heating oil for?

Heating oil is burned in oil-fired boilers, providing heat and hot water to large commercial premises and homes that aren’t connected to the national grid.

Heating oil cannot be used to power vehicles, no matter if they are off-road or roadgoing. You also can’t use heating oil in mobile or static engines.

What are the different types of heating oil?

There are several different types of heating oil, including:

For more on any of these fuels, please visit their product pages.

Is kerosene a heating oil?

Yes, kerosene is a heating oil that’s mainly used to provide heat in off-the-grid homes across the UK, and by some businesses for commercial premises.

Kerosene is also sometimes known as kero, 28 second oil, lamp oil and boiler fuel.

At Nationwide Fuels, we also offer carbon clean kerosene – a cleaner-burning version of kerosene that reduces the build-up of deposits in your boiler.

What colour is heating oil?

The colour of your heating oil depends on the type of oil used by your boiler.

Kerosene is a pale yellow colour whilst gas oil is dyed red.

Can kerosene be used in engines?

It’s illegal to use kerosene as a fuel in any vehicle, at any quantity, without a licence from HMRC. These are typically only granted for vintage vehicle owners or owners’ clubs, where the vehicles require a kerosene-road fuel mix.

Are heating oil fumes toxic?

Heating oil is a controlled oil, and as such, should be handled with extreme care by a responsible user.

The fumes can be potentially toxic and can become flammable when mixed with air. We advise all of our customers to maintain safe and secure storage for their fuels, and offer a range of fuel maintenance services to help protect them and the environment.

Is heating oil safe?

Heating oil is a perfectly safe fuel provided that you treat it with care.

You should always ensure that your boiler, fuel storage tanks and any associated infrastructure is maintained to a high standard, as with any heating system.

Is heating oil the same as diesel?

No, heating oil isn’t the same as diesel.

Heating oil is a blanket term that’s used for a number of fuels that can be used for heating; kerosene, gas oil, IHO and carbon clean kerosene.

Whilst gas oil is sometimes known as red diesel, it’s not the same fuel that you’re able to buy from fuel stations across the breadth of the UK. Gas oil is a rebated fuel, so is prohibited for use in road vehicles.

It must also be noted that IHO is not to be used as fuel for a road vehicle, off-road vehicle, vessel or any other machinery that is not an excepted machine and is intended for heating purposes only.

How is heating oil made?

Heating oil is made by a process known as fractional distillation.

Crude oil is heated and fed into a fractional distillation column, where the different products – diesel, petrol, kerosene and more – vaporise and pass out of the column into condensation tubes. These “distilled” products are then collected and refined for further use.

Nationwide Fuels Fractionating Column

Where can I buy kerosene?

Nationwide Fuels is a registered supplier of kerosene, red diesel and a wide range of liquid fuels, oils and lubricants. You can get an online fuel quote or order your kerosene today by calling our heating oil experts on 0330 678 0880.

Who can buy heating oil?

Anyone can buy heating oil for their home or business, but you may have to fill in an RDCO form when you make your purchase. You should only buy your fuels from HMRC registered companies.

Nationwide Fuels can supply IHO in 205-litre barrels, or in tanker deliveries of 500 – 36,000 litres or more. We only deliver a minimum of 1000 litres for home heating oil, and can only deliver it in the north west of England.

Order your heating oil today by calling our heating oil experts on 0330 678 0880.

Who invented kerosene?

It’s widely accepted that modern kerosene was discovered by the Canadian scientist Abraham Gesner in the 1840s, but similar liquid fuels have been traced back to the ancient Persian empire and Chinese Ming Dynasty.

Why is kerosene not used in cars?

There are a number of reasons why kerosene isn’t suitable for use as vehicle fuel.

The main reason is that it doesn’t burn in the same way as diesel or petrol, and requires a number of additives which aren’t present in the fuel. Crude oil also contains far more petrol and diesel than any other distillate – including kerosene. This means that petrol and diesel are not only better suited to modern engines, but are far more readily available.

Some vintage cars actually need some kerosene in their fuel mix, but owners are only able to use kerosene in their cars with a special licence from HMRC.

Will heating oil damage a diesel engine?

Diesel engines are designed to run on diesel, not heating oil, and you will encounter issues if you use the wrong fuel.

If you’ve filled your tank with kerosene by mistake, both the AA and the RAC both have advice and guidance on what you should do next.

However, if you’ve accidentally filled your diesel vehicle with red diesel you should inform HMRC immediately. They will be able to direct you on the next steps.

How much does heating oil cost?

Heating oil prices fluctuate regularly, based on factors that are out of your, and our control.

For the most up-to-date prices for your heating oil delivery, call our heating oil experts today on 0330 678 0880.

Do I need a licence to buy kerosene?

There’s no licence required to purchase kerosene, but you should always buy your fuels from HMRC-registered suppliers like Nationwide Fuels.

You will however, be asked to fill in a RDCO form as it’s a rebated fuel – this is information that’s collected by HMRC to ensure that the fuel is being used correctly.

Can I use HVO in my heating system?

HVO fuel is a cleaner burning, renewable and sustainable alternative diesel that could replace diesel, IHO and kerosene in heating applications – and cut up to 90% of harmful greenhouse gas emissions in the process.

Fuel suppliers are campaigning for HVO to become a recognised low-cost solution for heating oil users who are looking for affordable ways to reduce their environmental impact.

If you have any further questions about heating oil, whether that be home heating oil or industrial heating oil. Call our knowledgeable heating oil experts today on 0330 678 0880 to get your questions answered and request a quote.

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