Consumer: Join the club to ease oil costs
Oil has almost tripled in price over the last decade so it's no wonder householders struggle to meet the cost of heating their homes.
Last month the average bill for 900 litres set users back £520-plus; a sizeable sum that can be hard to come by all at once.
And that's precisely why some people are turning to community home heating oil buying clubs to save them money in these straitened times.
One advocate of group-buying is Raymond Gormley who, as part of the East Belfast Oil Club, recently made a fourth collective purchase last month.
"Once again we managed to get a great deal for our members based on the lowest quotes from 45 oil suppliers and various websites," Mr Gormley said.
"All in all, 24 members were involved this time with a total oil order of 12,350 litres and it worked out costing everyone 56p per litre.
"Collectively the group saved £262.10, which is, on average, £11.91, and it meant that individually customers saved between £9 and £26 each."
He added: "If these prices are compared to people filling up 20-litre drums at service stations at a cost of 70p-a-litre or buying emergency oil drums from service stations priced at £1-a-litre, the savings are much greater."
Mr Gormely said that last November 31 members of the club ordered 17,100 litres of home heating oil at a cost of 55.5p per litre.
On that occasion the group collectively saved £425.10.
That equals £13.71 on average, or an individual saving of between £12 and £30.
Approximately 68% (495,560) of households in Northern Ireland use home heating oil compared to just 4% elsewhere in the UK. We also normally use our heating around 65% of the year due to the local climate, which can be very expensive due to fluctuating costs.
Home heating oil prices vary depending on market conditions such as changes to the international price of crude, refining fees, marketing and distribution costs, the profits of refiners and wholesellers and the time of year, and competition from suppliers across the region. "By bringing together the collective buying power of users of oil-fuelled heating, householders across the county can avail of competitive prices to reduce their heating bills by setting up oil buying clubs," said Mr Gormley.
"They are a great way to save money on fuel costs.
"And they help the environment by cutting down the number of tanker journeys on roads, as well as offering support for people struggling with fuel bills."
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