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Oil bill will give you a chill when you turn the heating back on ... so it's time to shop around again

Brrrr. It's that time of year again. As the autumn moves in (without there ever having been a discernible summer), it's already time to think about putting back on the heating.

And with so much focus on gas prices rising recently, little thought has been spared for those still stuck with buying oil.

As customers go to fill their tanks they'll get a fright as the rising prices have hit hard. A recent survey by the National Consumer Agency on home heating oil found that the average price for 1,000 litres of kerosene is €818.

Of the 24 areas they surveyed round the country variations of up to €70 were found, so it's worth shopping around, although competition keeps prices tight.

In conducting a survey of various prices available to Irish consumers, we found just €11.80 in the difference between the cheapest and most expensive in our table (see below) -- not the greatest saving ever found, but for those who need to make every penny count, it shows there are at least some savings to be made.

Oil suppliers are as open to haggling and negotiation as anyone else in business, with some offering discounts for paying online, or upfront if you can afford it.

We used a great comparison website -- www.whichoilsupplier.ie -- to check out the latest prices. It is updated regularly so have a look before you order.

Like any other investment, it's important to forego the lazy option of selecting the first suplier you find and instead play one off against another. If you were quoted a cheaper price elsewhere, point it out -- and you just might see some movement on the price offered. It's not just about the price of oil -- it's what you do with it. Here's how to make your fill go further:

•Service your boiler regularly. Just like a car, it becomes inefficient if you skimp.

•Lower your thermostat. A 1pc reduction from say 20C to 19C saves 10pc on your heating bill.

•Use the 30 minute rule: have the heating knocking off a half hour before you go to bed and coming on a half hour before you get up in the morning.

•Take showers instead of baths. This will reduce your water rates when they're introduced next year.