If the time has come to look into a new heating system, you may have found yourself considering biomass. While having a gas boiler has long been the most popular option, people are now keen to look into the green credentials of their heating system. It is not just about being environmentally friendly though: given all that is to come with rising energy prices, many are seeking ways to cut their fuel bills too.
So, if you looking at abandoning your combi boiler and exploring biomass, what do you need to consider? Read on as we share all that you’re going to need to know about biomass boilers and if they are the right choice for you.
What are biomass boilers?
When you first look at a biomass boiler you’ll see that there are plenty of similarities with a gas boiler. Both are a vital part of your home as they are both used to provide you with heating and hot water. The difference between a biomass boiler and the boilers that you are probably used to is the fuel that is used. Rather than burning gas, a biomass boiler burns wood pellets that have been sustainably sourced.
One of the attractions of a biomass boiler is the impact on climate change. These boilers are shown to be carbon neutral. While they release carbon while the fuel is being burnt, this is offset by the amount of carbon that the trees absorbed while they were growing. Given that this country discards over 8 million tonnes of wood every year, it makes sense to use this for fuel. For one, there are the environmental benefits and, secondly, it removes our reliance on other countries for the supply of gas.
The workings of a biomass boiler
The workings of a biomass boiler almost mirror what is seen in a traditional boiler. Fuel is combusted to produce heat. This heat is then used to produce heating and hot water. Perhaps the biggest difference that you see between a biomes boiler and, say, a combi boiler, is the size. A biomass boiler needs to be significantly larger to hold the wood pellets: these obviously take up more space than gas.
More space may also be required for an automatic feed hopper. This stores wood pellets and feeds them into the boiler when needed. This is a must in terms of convenience. Space is also needed for you to store wood pellets or logs. Logs can be used in most biomass boilers and can prove to be a cheap alternative. These can even be free depending upon where you live and your surroundings.
A biomass boiler will produce ash due to the pellets or logs that are burnt. The amount produced is minimal, but you will need to clear this to keep your boiler working at its optimum. You can expect to need to empty the ash every four weeks or so.
Biomass vs traditional heating systems
There can be a little argument when it comes to the green credentials of a biomass boiler vs that of a gas boiler. The first is carbon neutral and can’t be beaten. However, one of the biggest influencing factors when it comes to boiler installation is the running costs. The good news is that biomass is pretty favourable here too.
You can check running costs by visiting the Biomass Energy Centre. One thing to note is that the savings that are already available are likely to increase substantially over the coming months. With the energy price cap due to be increased imminently, there is already talk of a second increase in October 2022.
What if I don’t have room for a biomass boiler?
The reality is that biomass boilers are substantially bigger than a gas boiler and so you may not be able to fit one in at home. If this is the case, it is common for people to look into standalone wood-burning stoves. These are only used to heat a single room, but they can help to reduce your reliance on our boiler.
It is possible, with a standalone stove, to fit a back boiler. This allows you to use the heat that is being produced in other rooms. It can be used for heating or hot water, but not both. Regardless of how it is used, your stove will need a vent that is designed just for the use of wood-burning appliances. It is possible to use your existing chimney with some inexpensive adaptations.
Can I get money towards a biomass boiler?
If you decide that a biomass boiler is the right option for you then you may be able to get assistance towards the cost of installation. Funding is available through the Domestic Heat Incentive Scheme (please note this scheme comes to an end on 31/03/2022). However, any funds that you may be entitled to are paid to you quarterly over a period of years. This means that you will still need to find the money upfront.
Just how much you will be awarded will depend on the energy efficiency of your home before the biomass boiler is installed. An EPC will be carried out to grade this, and this will then be used to determine your payment.
Pros and cons of a biomass boiler
Just like any heating system, there are pros and cons to weigh up when looking at a biomass boiler. Here’s a look at the main ones that you should consider:
The pros of a biomass boiler
- The fuels used in a biomass boiler are environmentally friendly and do not contribute to carbon dioxide emissions. What is emitted during the burning process is offset by what was absorbed as the tree was growing
- When you compare the cost of a biomass heating system with solid fuel or electricity, even before the price cap changes, you can save up to £400 a year on fuel costs
- A ready supply of logs can see you heating your home for free
The cons of a biomass boiler
- Biomass boilers are large and are not suitable for all homes
- You will need to consider storage space for fuel
- The upfront cost is significant. A biomass boiler with an automatic feed can be as much as £11,000