RURAL residents who rely on winter heating oil are being urged to place their orders early.
Consumers who planned ahead could avoid the pitfalls of ordering heating oil at the last minute, said the Federation of Petroleum Suppliers.
Delivery of late orders could be disrupted by increased demand and cold weather - and prices may be higher, it said.
The federation has teamed up with the government, Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) and others to launch a Buy Oil Early Campaign.
Energy Minister Michael Fallon said: "The message is simple: stock up on heating oil before the winter leaves you out in the cold."
He added: "Previous severe winters show it's better to order early when suppliers have spare delivery capacity.
"Delaying risks longer delivery times especially if cold weather increases demand and disrupts deliveries, particularly in remote and rural parts of the country."
The federation has launched a code of practice to engage with consumers on a fair and consistent basis and implement best practice to raise standards.
Mr Fallon said he would also encourage households to save money on heating by using the government's Green Deal.
This offered a way to pay for energy efficiency measures such as condensing oil boilers and insulation through savings on their energy bills.
"Customers on a low income or in a hard-to-insulate property may be able get additional support through the Energy Company Obligation," Mr Fallon said.
There are other measures consumers can adopt to make buying heating oil more efficient and cost-effective, including advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau.
The website www.oilsave.org.uk lists local distributors so consumers can ring round suppliers in their area to find the best deal and work out a suitable payment plan.
Federation chief executive Mark Askew said: "There are steps people can take if they're worried about the cost of oil, and by planning ahead for this winter payments can be spread across the year.
"Cold weather can arrive without warning and if your oil supplies run low, you may not have enough to keep you warm while you wait for more to arrive.
"This is particularly true in rural areas where distribution can be delayed by cold weather."
While it was easy to put off ordering oil for heating, it was important that consumers didn't leave it too late.
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