Heating oil prices drop to an eight-year low in Ulster
Home heating oil prices have hit an eight-year low, it can be revealed.
The good news will bring some early Christmas cheer to the average homeowner in Northern Ireland as it means an annual saving of £500 to heat their property.
Industry sources have also said that despite a hike in demand during the recent cold snap, prices have remained stable.
The average cost for 900 litres has been slashed in half and is currently sitting at around £250 compared to £500 for the last five years.
It's another boon for local consumers as the festive season gets under way, coming as it does only days after the price of petrol slipped below £1 a litre - and stayed there - for the first time in eight years.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, price comparison website boss Michael Toner said it was a good time to stock up.
"The price of 900 litres has dropped by £12 since Sunday from around £257 to around £245," he said.
"That is completely unheard of at this time of year and by far the lowest we've seen it in nearly eight years of price monitoring.
"No one is currently predicting that oil prices are due to go up significantly this winter, though it's impossible to say whether prices will level off or go down further.
"We would encourage people to take advantage of low pricing by stocking up and ordering in quantity - for example opting for 900 instead of 500 litres."
He added: "Average customers, who use around 1,800 litres a year, could save over £500 annually if prices remain as low as they are now."
A straw poll of home heating oil companies by the Belfast Telegraph yesterday saw prices vary by almost £30.
At Click Fuels, for example, householders could get 900 litres for £221.13, whereas the same amount cost £250 at McKibben Fuels.
The cost of 500 litres was coming in at £126 and and £145 at each of these suppliers respectively.
Mr Toner, who runs cheapestoil.co.uk, said consumers could save money on home heating oil by having fewer deliveries per year.
He also advised paying by debit rather than credit card to avoid surcharges imposed by credit card companies.
A fall in heating costs will be welcome news for Ulster's hard-pressed consumers in the run-up to Christmas.
It comes amid speculation that petrol prices could drop to 89.96p a litre due to a slump in the cost of a barrel of oil, which recently hit a seven-year low of $36.33.
An AA spokesman said the lowest that retailers could go and still make a profit is just under 90p per litre.
Prices are falling because Saudi Arabia and Russia have refused to cut oil production despite falling demand.