Northern Ireland’s hard-pressed consumers were today given some welcome respite from the blizzard of negative headlines which have accompanied the economic downturn.
After a tough 2008, when hundreds of families struggled to make ends meet, householders are at last set to benefit from a significant reduction in the cost of living.
The eagerly-awaited good news comes in the form of significant falls in fuel, food and energy prices which are set to endure well into the new year.
Even the freezing cold post-Christmas weather won’t dishearten homeowners who will see vast cuts in the savage commodity bills that have blighted the past 12 months.
Home heating oil prices have plummeted to a 16-month low, with customers now paying 50% less to fill a typical tank compared to last summer.
A straw poll of local distributors, published today in the Belfast Telegraph, shows that some companies have knocked 27% (or £110) off their prices in the last 12 weeks, to bring 900 litres down to under £300. It also emerged that home heating oil costs less here than anywhere else in the UK or Ireland.
NIE Energy also offered some cheer by implementing price cuts of 10.8%, while Phoenix Gas has reduced its tariffs by 22.1%, bringing a little relief to beleaguered families across the province.
Exactly six months ago today, the average price of a litre of oil peaked at 65.4p, which saw a 900-litre fill in Northern Ireland cost on average £598, with customers footing bills of over £600.
But as weather forecasters predict one of the worst winters on record, the good news for consumers is that it now costs just £310 on average to fill a typical tank — with some distributors giving their customers even better value for money.
The good news comes as NIE Energy also offered some new year cheer by implementing a price cut of 10.8%, while Phoenix Gas has reduced its tariffs by 22.1%, bringing a little relief to hard-pressed families across the province.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph today, a spokesman for the comparison website www.cheapestoil.co.uk, said that heating a house here costs less than anywhere else in the United Kingdom or Ireland.
“Northern Ireland consumers usually expect to get a raw deal but for home heating oil the good news is that prices here are surprisingly competitive,” he said.
A snap survey of local oil distributors, published today in the Belfast Telegraph, shows that some companies have slashed as much as 27% (or £110) off their prices in the last 12 weeks.
Among the cheapest suppliers was Morgan Fuels, which was charging its customers £297.68 for 900 litres and £173.25 for 500 litres at the beginning of this week.
Also offering very competitive rates were Bangor fuels (where it cost £298 for 900 litres and £171 for 500 litres) and Cheaper Oil (which was charging £298.62 and £170.63 for 900 litres and 500 respectively).
The Belfast Telegraph visited www.cheapestoil.co.uk for the purposes of an investigation into the cheapest oil suppliers across the province. A straw poll featured 10 of the cheapest suppliers online in order to highlight the best deals available for Northern Ireland customers.
For comparison purposes, we also included the online prices supplied by Castlereagh Fuels and Emo Oil, both of whom featured in our top 10 in October, but failed to make January’s listing.
The findings of our survey identified a potential saving of over £28 on 900 litres of oil, and around £20 on 500 litres — just by comparing prices offered by distributors listed on the website. That means an average household using 1,600 litres of oil a year could make an annual saving of about £50, depending on the chosen dealer.
In terms of slashing prices, Lisburn Fuels offered customers the biggest reduction of £110 in the last 12 weeks, after the cost of 900 litres fell by 27% from £410 to £300 between October 15, 2008 and January 5, 2009.
Thompson Fuels slashed £106 off its October price of £417.69 for 900 litres to offer homeowners the same amount for 26% less at £304, while Castlereagh Fuels cut the cost of 900 litres by 25%, bringing the cost of a tank down from £417.69 to £311.85.
Hayes Fuels was offering a 25% reduction on both 900 litres and 500 litres, charging £300 and £177 respectively, while Carlisle Fuels was boasting the fourth best deal on the cost of 500 litres, at £173.
W and M Lorimer, Nicholl Oils and Meekin were all also exhibiting good value by selling 900 litres below the £300 threshold.
Oil Firing Technical Association Ireland spokesman, David Blevings, said that home heating oil prices should remain stable, as global recessionary pressures will keep crude prices between $40 and $60 a barrel during 2009.