Biomass Heating

A biomass boiler could save you around six or seven tonnes of CO2 a year, and reduce your annual heating bills

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What is biomass?

Biomass is a type of fuel produced from organic materials, either directly from plants or indirectly from industrial, commercial, domestic or agricultural products. Domestic biomass fuels usually take the form of wood logs, chips or pellets. It falls into two main categories:

  • Non woody biomass includes animal waste, industrial and biodegradable municipal products from food processing and high energy crops like rape, sugar cane and maize.

  • Woody biomass includes forest products, untreated wood products, energy crops and quick-growing trees like willow.

How does it work?

Biomass can be used to heat a domestic property in two ways:

  • Biomass boilers can be connected to central heating and hot water systems. They are generally bigger than 15kW and are fuelled with pellets, logs or chips.

  • Biomass stand alone stoves can be used to provide space heating for one room, which are fuelled by logs or pellets. However, only pellets are suitable for automatic feed. Generally the output is 5-7 kW in, and some models can be fitted with a back boiler to heat water.

What does it cost?

Systems vary in complexity from a standalone stove, which will heat a room and cost around £2,500, to a wood pellet boiler with an automated fuel supply that can run your central heating or heat water, and will set you back £6,000. It could also give you an annual saving of £300-£350, meaning it will pay for itself in 10 years.

How ECO is it?

The system is effectively carbon neutral because the CO2 released when it’s burned is equal to the amount absorbed by the tree during its lifetime. A biomass boiler could save six or seven tonnes of CO2 a year, compared to fossil fuel-generated electricity.

Grants

The Low Carbon Buildings Programme offers grants for 30 per cent of the cost of boilers and 20 per cent of the cost of stoves.

PROS

Good to retrofit because it can hugely reduce your home’s CO2 output (boilers account for about 60 per cent of domestic carbon emissions - a pellet boiler can slash this by more than 50 per cent).

  • You may be eligible for a grant from the Low Carbon Buildings Programme.

  • Biomass harnesses energy from products that are often disposed of at landfill sites.

CONS

  • Biomass boilers aren’t cheap – they cost around £6,000.

  • You will need hopper to store fuel, which cost about £3,000.

  • Lots of storage space is needed and a wide drive or road for home deliveries.

 

Is it suitable for my home?

Fuel - You must have adequate storage space for the fuel, appropriate access to the boiler for loading and a local fuel supplier.

Flue - The vent material must be specifically designed for wood fuel appliances and there must be sufficient air movement for proper operation of the stove.

Planning - If the building is in an area of outstanding natural beauty or is listed you will need to seek advice from your planning department before fitting a flue.

Regulations - Installation must comply with all safety and building regulations.

Smokeless zones ­- Wood may only be burnt in exempted appliances, under the Clean Air Act.

 

 

Useful Contacts

Biomass Energy Centre: www.biomassenergycentre.org.uk
Low Carbon Buildings Programme: www.lowcarbonbuildings.org.uk
Energy Saving Trust: www.energysavingtrust.org.uk
Windhager: www.windhager.com

 

Words: Dominic Murphy  Image: Windhager


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