Biomass Boilers

Considering buying a Biomass Boiler to go green? Or maybe you'd just like to save some money. Find out what you need to know about biomass systems in the UK.

What are biomass boilers?

More and more homes are installing biomass boilers for the purpose of heating. They work by burning wood, animal waste, food or high energy plants to generate heat and energy and can be linked up to the hot water or central heating systems. There are many different types to choose from, depending on your requirements, and can also be used for commercial and industrial establishments as well as domestic applications.

What are the advantages?

For many the concept of using Biomass technology to heat their homes offers the ideal "green" alternative to the traditional CO2- producing, fossil-fuel guzzling options we have relied on for most of our lifetimes.

There are many advantages to biomass boilers such as being a good way to use up wasted wood or other natural products. This means less of it can go into landfills, which we are running out of in the UK. They also have another environmental benefit as they produce a lower amount of carbon dioxide than fossil fuels do, impacting less on the process of global warming.

Trees and plants actually take in carbon dioxide whilst they are growing, so as long as more are planted to replace the ones cut down, it should counteract the volume of emissions produced upon combustion. Biomass boilers cost much less to run than conventional alternatives so can save you a lot of money on your monthly energy bills. They have a high efficiency so do not need much maintenance done to them which makes things simple and hassle free.

Any drawbacks?

a Biomass boiler is larger than a traditional gas or oil-fired model it will need to be located in a larger area. Fuel-storage facilities will be required nearby. A regular supply of biological matter will be needed to generate the system. Yet, any reputable supplier and installer would be happy to offer advice on the technical requirements and suggest suitable solutions.

Governmental and business backing for biomass systems

In May 2012 the Coalition Government published their Biomass initiative which they propose will lead to the creation of 50,000 new jobs and should ensure the future of UK security against any forthcoming energy crises; the policies have been welcomed by both the ETI (Energy Technology Institute) and the Combined Heat and Power Association although both have cautioned that the current Government stance on certain energy issues need to be strengthened to ensure an adequate delivery of the new initiative.

Where the Government has led the way so the financial institutions have followed; May 31st 2012 brought a statement from the Managing Director of Lloyds Banking Group, Chris Heathcote, that the company would be investing £333 million in renewables over the coming 18 months.

Speaking to Bloomberg, Mr Heathcote stated that they would be focussing their investments on Biomass, solar, and offshore wind power, adding, "Things are looking interesting for Biomass but we are slightly cautious as it is still early days."

Many global financial institutions are also showing interest in the investment potential offered by green renewable technology with US banking giants JP Morgan and the Bank of America both pledging to invest in the growing clean energy sector. The Cooperative Bank, a long-term advocate of environmental issues and ethical banking, has also recently announced their intention to invest £700 million in Biomass and other renewable energy programmes.

Biomass boiler costs

Costs for a domestic pellet-fed boiler for an average-sized house will start from £4,300, double the price of a traditional log burner; for an automatic-feed model which will save the exertions of having to feed manually, costs start from £11,500 including installation, flue, and fuel store.

Pellets to fuel the Biomass system are cheaper if purchased in bulk and are available from £190 per tonne in most areas of the UK; the householder must ensure that there is adequate space to store the necessary fuel. These boilers can be hungry beasts and need constant feeding! Logs provide a cheaper option but you must have a guaranteed, reliable supply; the wood should also be of good quality and well-seasoned to ensure that the system will operate effectively.

Annual savings, both financial and in terms of CO2, emissions can be considerable:

- By replacing electricity with Biomass expect £580 and 7.5 tonnes of CO2 savings per year.
- For oil £280 and 4 tonnes of CO2.
- For coal £300 and 7.5 tonnes of CO2.
- For gas £100 and 3 tonnes of CO2.

The Government is running the Renewable Heat Premium Payment initiative (from 1/5/2012 31/3/2013) which offers homeowners up to £950 towards the installation of a Biomass boiler; the payment is dependent on meeting certain criteria and subject to the availability of on-going funding.

There are also plans to launch the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) in the summer of 2013; this scheme is intended to offer an income from the generation of renewable energy similar to that provided by the Feed-in-tariff scheme for solar installations.

Things to consider before installing a biomass boiler

You need to decide whether you have enough room within your home, or business property, to install a biomass boiler. Check the size of your existing boiler and compare it to the biomass one you are considering purchasing. The frequency of the times you will have to refill your boiler with wood will depend on several factors.

This includes the size and model of it as well as what fuel is used. How well your house is already insulated and the size of the property will also play a part in it. Boilers that use wood pellets are generally easier to look after and less messy, because they do not churn out as much ash as other types.

Some also produce a lot of smoke or noise so you need to remember to check this before you purchase. You need to look into where you will buy your fuel from and if there is a place located nearby. Research the costs for this as well to see if you can afford it on a long term basis.

Please speak to one of our Eco Experts about what type of system may be right for you.

Spread the Word!