Biomass (Biofuel) Heating Systems
Biomass are wood-fuelled heating systems burning wood pellets, chips or logs to provide warmth in a single room or to power central heating and hot water boilers.
A stove burns logs or pellets to heat a single room and may be fitted with a back boiler to provide water heating as well. A boiler burns logs, pellets or chips, and is connected to a central heating and hot water system.
The benefits of Biomass Heating
- Low Cost - Cheaper than other heating options.
- Grants and Incentives can save and pay you £££’s - You could benefit from the Governments Renewable Heat Premium Payment and the Renewable Heat Incentive.
- It is a ‘Green’, Low Carbon Option - The carbon dioxide emitted when wood is burned is the same amount that was absorbed over the months and years that the plant was growing. The process is sustainable as long as new plants continue to grow in place of those used for fuel. There are some carbon emissions caused by the cultivation, manufacture and transportation of the fuel, but as long as the fuel is sourced locally, these are much lower than the emissions from fossil fuels.
Savings and Earnings
Financial Savings - If you replace a gas heating system with a wood-burning system you might save £100 a year, but if you are replacing electric heating you could save as much as £580 per year.
CO² Savings - Carbon dioxide emissions are very significant, around 7.5 tonnes a year when a wood-fuelled boiler replaces a solid (coal) fired system or electric storage heating.
Typical savings by installing pellet central heating in a typical 3-bed semi-detached house with basic insulation:
|Fuel Replaced||Expected Saving||Expected Carbon Dioxide Saving|
|Electricity||£630 a year||7.5 tonnes a year|
|Oil||£270 a year||3.9 tonnes a year|
|LPG||£790 a year||3.6 tonnes a year|
|Coal||£270 a year||7.7 tonnes a year|
|Gas||£90 a year||3.1 tonnes a year|
You may be able to receive payments for the heat you produce from a wood boiler through the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). Find out more at www.gov.uk.
Green Deal Finance and Renewables
Biomass Heating System are eligible under the UK government’s Green Deal which is a financing mechanism that lets people pay for energy efficiency improvements through savings on their energy bills. Visit www.gov.uk/green-deal-energy for further information.
Wood fuelled boilers, stoves and room heaters should be kept clean and swept regularly to remove ash and have the flue pipe swept regularly. Some appliances have self-cleaning systems built in An annual maintenance check is required.
Choosing a Biomass Heating System
- Boiler or stove?
Boilers can be used in place of a standard gas or oil boiler to heat radiators for a whole house, and to heat the hot water. Stoves are used to heat a single room, usually in conjunction with other heating systems, but may also have a back boiler to provide hot water.
- Chips, pellets or logs?
Chips are not suitable for heating a single house, but can be used to heat larger buildings or groups of houses. Pellets are much easier to use and much more controllable than logs; pellet boilers can run automatically in much the same way that gas or oil boilers operate. Log-burning stoves and boilers have to be filled with wood by hand; most pellet and chip burners use automatic fuel feeders which refill them at regular intervals. Logs require considerably more work, and you will need a lot of logs to heat a whole house, but they can be cheaper than pellets if you have a good local supply.
Biomass boilers are larger than gas or oil equivalents and you need space to store fuel.
- Flues and Ventilation
You need a flue which meets the regulations for wood-burning appliances; a new insulated stainless steel flue pipe or an existing chimney which will normally need lining to make them safe and legal.
- Do you need permission?
All new biomass heating systems have to comply with building regulations and permission may be required.
For more information refer to the Energy Saving Trust booklet ‘A buyer's guide to wood-fuelled heating.’ Visit www.energysavingtrust.org.uk
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An individual pellet stove will cost around £4,300 including installation. Installing a new log stove will usually cost less than half this, including a new flue or chimney lining.
For boilers, an automatically fed pellet boiler for an average home costs between £7,000 and £13,000 including installation, flue, fuel store and VAT at 5%. Manually fed log boiler systems can be slightly cheaper.
Pellet costs depend mainly on the size and method of delivery. Buying a few bags at a time makes them expensive. If you have room for a large fuel store that will accept several tonnes of pellets at a time, delivered in bulk by tanker, you can keep the cost down to around £190 per tonne in most parts of the UK.
Logs can be cheaper than pellets, but costs depend on the wood suppliers in your local area, as they cost a lot to transport. If you have room to store more than a year’s worth of logs you can save money by buying unseasoned logs and letting them season for a year. Search for wood fuel suppliers in your area at the Log Pile website.