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What are the heating fuel oil alternatives ?

Last updated on 20 September 2018

The Belgian federal and regional energy agreement provides for the creation of a national 'energy transition' plan for 2050, which hints at a ban on the sale of fuel oil boilers as of 2035.

Fuel oil (also known as 'heating oil', 'diesel oil', 'diesel fuel' or 'biomass') combustion indeed emits more CO2 and particulate matter than equivalent fuels.

So let us examine various alternatives...

Alternatives to fuel oil

1. Natural gas

Do you want to connect a new gas boiler to your underfloor heating pipes and your existing radiators? Contact a professional who will be able to check that this is feasible, and provide a quote. This alternative is obviously the least complicated, provided that there is a gas network near to you.

Choosing natural gas in Brussels: how it works

The gas network supplies everywhere inside the Brussels area. For this reason, converting your heating system to natural gas is the simplest alternative to fuel oil. Cost of the work: from € 3,500 + labour.

Is your building not connected yet? Connection to the gas network will cost you approximately € 400 extra.

2. Heat pump

Heat pumps are an economical and environmentally-friendly heating method that extract renewable heat energy from the air and transform it into electrical energy.

Advantages:

  • Heat pumps produce domestic hot water for a low price (1kWh of electricity is produced for 3kWh of heat energy captured from the atmosphere);
  • 1kWh of electricity is four times more expensive than 1kWh of gas. As heat pumps extract energy freely available in the air, they are a very competitive heating system.

Drawbacks:

  • Heat pumps produce hot water for heating that is less hot than that produced by a conventional boiler. A heat pump is ideal for underfloor heating, but in other situations it will require the installation of radiators;
  • To benefit from its full potential, your home must be well insulated;
  • Heat pumps cost twice as much as a conventional boiler to install.

Finally, be aware that a range of different heat pumps exist:

  • air source heat pumps;
  • ground source heat pumps (you might consider this option if you have a sufficient amount of land);
  • natural gas heat pumps;
  • 'plug-in' heat pumps that operate at high temperatures (up to 65°C), meaning they can quite simply replace your boiler (expect installation to cost approximately €14,000);

3. Wood pellet boiler

Since these operate within the same temperature range, a wood pellet boiler can replace your gas or oil-fired boiler without the need for a complete conversion of your installations.

However, you will need to have a place for bulk storage (and an automatic feed screw), which means that this alternative can only be envisaged if your cellar is free from damp.

Perhaps you live in a small property? If you are looking for a small auxiliary heater that is inexpensive and environmentally-friendly, a manually loaded pellet boiler stove could be for you. However, you will need to refill the tank every other day, and even with this system a little storage space will be required.

Pellet boilers are twice as expensive as gas boilers, both to purchase and to install. On the other hand, 1kWh produced by burning pellets currently costs around half as much as 1kWh produced from gas.

4. Gas cogeneration

Gas cogeneration or the 'simultaneous production of heat and electricity, is a system that performs well and provides good value in communal housing (as it does for large-sized boilers, therefore).

5. District heating

If you have one in your neighbourhood, district heating is a system that supplies heat to your property via a simple connection to an underground pipe (exactly as for water, gas and electricity).

6. Electric heating

Electric heating, whether direct or via storage heaters, is very expensive to purchase and install. This is all the more true since separate night-rate and night-only rate electricity, ceased to exist. This is therefore an option best avoided…

When should I replace my old fuel oil boiler?

If your oil-fired boiler is over 15 years old

Then you are legally required to have its condition assessed.

Even if your boiler is still working correctly, it uses and emits an enormous amount of energy and pollution. If you remove your old fuel oil boiler immediately and replace it with a more efficient model (or with a completely different heating system), you are guaranteed to save money on your energy bills.

If your oil-fired boiler is under 15 years old

Check how it is performing at its obligatory annual inspection, and start putting money aside now to anticipate the cost of replacing it in the future.

Did you know?

In Belgium, 1.7 m households still use fuel oil to heat buildings or run motor vehicles, and in Brussels, 16% of heating systems still operate using this fossil fuel.

In Brussels, energy bonuses and incentives are available to help you switch to a different heating system.

 

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