Heating Oil Use in the UK – is it Safe?

So many of us simply walk up to the thermostat in our homes and adjust accordingly, and that’s because, for most of us in the UK, we’re lucky enough to live in an area that is serviced by a gas mainline system. 

But if you own a business or live in an area that is not serviced by a gas mainline you are probably used to dealing with heating oil as opposed to gas. However, if this is new territory for you, you’re going to need to know a few things about how it’s used, where to get it from and more importantly, a few of the safety considerations you need to keep in mind. If you’re currently considering home improvements, then planning for heating oil storage should be on that list too.


As a general rule, heating oil is one of the safest fuels that you can use around your home or business. You don’t have to worry about oil fumes the way you do about gas fumes, and if your home is smelling like oil – chances are there is something else to blame for it. With that being said, safety is the number one priority at home or work.

Monitoring carbon monoxide

heating oil

While you’re not in danger of falling victim to oil fumes from heating oil and you don’t need to worry about an oil fire, the process that heating oil undergoes while going through your burner can produce carbon monoxide gas. This can be deadly, even though unlikely so you do need to take a few steps to ensure optimum safety. A carbon monoxide detector is inexpensive, simple to install and use and will alleviate much of the potential risks that could be associated with this.

Keep clear of the burner.

Clearly, keeping your distance from the burner as well as flammable material away from your burner is good practice and makes good sense in any event. A minimum distance of three feet should do it and remember to keep your kids informed and educated about safety around the burner too.

Regular inspections

Regular inspections will help you keep safe and help you identify any issues before they become big issues. If you live or work in an area where you’re reliant on heating oil, then you’ll also have various service providers and suppliers that can help you with this.  In the United Kingdom, there are somewhat 1,5 million homes that need heating oil. That translates to about 6 million people if the average home has four people living in it, so if you’re new to this – don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Safe storage

You should never store your heating oil inside the house. Rather, use a shed or garage or simply store your tank out in the garden. You must ensure that the tank is stored in an area away from sources of heat or ignition that could set it alight.

In the United Kingdom, tanks must be stored at least 10 metres from inland or coastal water and 50 metres away from a spring.  You must take care to store your tanks at ground level (or below ground is also acceptable), but in any event, they have to be easily accessible for fuel deliveries or maintenance.

Container rules.

According to the law, homeowners can store up to 30 litres of fuel without having to inform the PEA – Petroleum Enforcement Authority. But some laws dictate the types of containers that must be used depending on the quantity of fuel. You can use a variety of heating oil tanks, you just need to ensure that you’re using the right ones.

Building regulations.

Building regulations cover the legal requirements for the installation of storage tanks in buildings and outside. These rules include compliance requirements like ensuring that all tanks must be stored on surfaces strong enough to support full tanks, the surfaces must be flat and fire resistant.

Tanks must also be at least 1800mm away from potential hazards like doors, windows, appliances and non-fire related structures like garden fences.

It is a criminal offence to keep a tank that isn’t compliant with these laws and if you fall foul, you could be liable for fines and penalties as well as the cost of cleaning up an oil spill. Remember, that ignorance of the law is not a defence, so it is incumbent on home and business owners to ensure that they’re kept well abreast of developments and advances in the legal system.

All in all, heating oil is perfectly safe if a little bit of common sense is applied. Speak to a local supplier to get expert advice and guidance.

Feature image courtesy of pixabay.com

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