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What makes up a good oil central heating system?

A good oil-fired central heating system will contain the same controls as a modern gas-fired system.

What type of boiler should I have?

Modern oil-fired boilers can be highly efficient and manufacturers claim net seasonal operating efficiencies of up to 97 per cent. As with gas boilers, condensing boilers are likely to offer the greatest efficiency, and there are now over 90 "A" rated models on the market. From 1 April 2007 it will be mandatory to install condensing oil boilers to comply with Building Regulations. You can check how a boiler rates by visiting the SEDBUK website, but it is worth noting that non-condensing boilers have their rating capped at 85.7 per cent for the purposes of the SEDBUK website database, even if test results have shown an efficiency above this.

Oil-fired combination boilers are also available, providing hot water on demand without the need for a hot water tank. However, it is fair to say that they are a bit slower to provide hot water than some gas combi boilers, and that they are not always recommended except for smaller households.

Oil boilers are available with both balanced flues (where the air for combustion is drawn in through a pipe concentric with the extract flue) and with open flues, where the air for combustion is drawn from the room in which the boiler is sited. Although Building Regulations permit both types of boiler to be located in domestic garages, we recommend that only balanced flue boilers are used in those areas. Most modern boilers use a pressure jet burner; although some vaporising burner machines are still available on the market, they may only be fitted into a limited number of locations.

What type of oil should I use?

Almost all UK domestic central heating systems use 28sec oil, which is sometimes known as kerosene. This fuel burns more cleanly than heavier oil products such as gasoil, which is also known as 35sec heating oil. Kerosene can also be used in kitchen ranges such as AGA cookers.

As the sulphur content of oil has fallen, some domestic oil suppliers have added additional lubricants to kerosene to enable fuel to be pumped to the boiler more easily. This is not usually necessary for most systems, as modern pumps have been engineered to operate effectively with low-sulphur fuels, but if you are unsure if you would benefit from using such fuels, speak to your equipment supplier.

How do I install an oil central heating system?

Although there is no legal requirement for oil boilers to be installed by a specially trained person, we strongly recommend that all servicing and installations are carried out by people registered with Oftec, the Oil-Fired Technical Association.