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Opportunities continue for oil-fired market

The current state of the UK oil-fired boiler market provides opportunities for installers to broaden their remit beyond domestic gas-fired boiler installations.

With around 1.5 million domestic boilers sold in the UK each year, it is interesting to note that around 60,000 of these sales relate to oil-fired appliances for installation in homes located in off-main-gas areas. So, while the market for oil-fired appliances is smaller in comparison to the gas-fired boiler market and the sales of oil-fired boilers relatively modest, the potential is quite the contrary.

In actual fact, the market is buoyant with sales of oil-fired boilers in the UK reaching their highest level for five years at the end of 2013. This was encouraging news indeed, especially as the industry had previously experienced a slowing of the oil-fired boiler market, which was due to a variety of reasons.

Victims of success

Firstly, there is the tendency for oil-fired boilers to be victims of their own success. Due to the reliable and long-lasting nature of these appliances, replacement instalments can be few and far between, making it a little more challenging for installers looking for work in this area.

Secondly, a new installation typically only takes place if the existing product becomes unreliable, or develops an irreparable fault. Often we have found homeowners haven’t understood the money-saving benefits of an energy-efficient condensing boiler, leaving them reluctant to pay for a new model until something goes wrong with their existing boiler.

While this makes the oil market sound a little more difficult to tap in to, there is a definite opportunity for installers to educate homeowners about the cost and CO2 savings they could be making if they were to swap their very old boiler for a brand new high-efficiency model. In turn, this can lead to new business opportunities and repeat business for installers in the form of regular service checks, for example.

Off the mains

While a degree of uncertainty perhaps surrounds renewables, oil still remains one of the most suitable fuels for delivering domestic heating and hot water in off-gas mains areas, and continues to present a number of business opportunities. The challenge for manufacturers and installers is identifying the potential for servicing and upselling in this area of the market.

Government initiatives, such as the Renewable Heat Incentive and Green Deal, also have the potential to affect the number of homeowners and what form of heating they choose to heat their “Grand Designs-style” off-mains-gas properties. While challenges exist, there is huge opportunity in the oil-fired heating sector, and manufacturers are increasingly looking to work more closely with installers to keep this industry moving forward.

Martyn Bridges is director of marketing and technical support at Worcester, Bosch Group

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