Your basket is currently empty!
Biomass Boiler Guide
Posted by: Richard Firth on: 5 October 2021
A biomass boiler has the same function and mode of operation as a conventional gas boiler. However, instead of burning gas or oil to heat your space and water, it burns biomass, which are sustainable plant materials. These plant materials are mostly wood chips and pellets, which can generate heat or electricity for your home.
They are a low-carbon and renewable energy sources designed to replace coal, gas, and oil burners. When you replace fossil fuels with wood, you help in the fight towards climate change. The wood is carbon neutral as the carbon dioxide it releases when it burns is what the tree absorbed when it was growing.
The Greenage estimates that about 8.5 million tonnes of wood finds its way into landfills in different parts of the UK. Instead of filling up landfills, the wood can go into biomass burners or can be used in standalone stoves.
Biomass boilers are relatively big. These boilers burn wood pellets, which need more space than gas, and thus the big size. In homes that need a lot of hot water, the boiler needs to be big to hold a large volume of fuel.
You can convert biomass to energy through any of the following methods:
There are different materials that can be used to produce fuel.
These sources include:
If you are using pellets for your biomass boiler, you will receive pellets once or twice a year in your silo tanker. If you have a room of about 4.5 square metres, you can keep enough pellets to warm a single-family room for a year.
From the storage room, the pellets move through a pellet feed into the boiler. The boiler burns these pellets to produce heat. What remains after the combustion process is ash, which is only 0.5 percent of the weight of the original wood. In some biomass boilers, the system connects to a buffer storage that reduces the emissions from the system and increases the efficiency of the system.
The ash is released as waste from the boiler. By using biomass boilers instead of coal boilers, you reduce the carbon emissions by up to 10.8 percent every year. When you replace a modern combi boiler, you reduce carbon emissions by up to 2.6 percent every year.
Wood Chips: Wood chips are ideal when you need a more affordable biomass option. However, the wood chips are larger than pellets, making them more challenging to store. Again, boilers that burn these chips need more frequent maintenance routines.
Wood Logs: Wood logs are huge. You can choose a biomass boiler that uses wood if you have free supply of wood. However, you have to manually feed the wood into the burner, which makes your work more challenging.
Wood Pellets: These are the easiest to use and the smallest of these three fuels. Pellets are compressed shavings and sawdust from wood. The main advantage of these is that biomass boilers can automatically feed them into the boiler from the storage room. When buying wood pellets, you need to understand the size of the pellets, moisture content, and the shape that your boiler requires.
There are a number of advantages to burning wood instead of fossil fuels.
Below are some of these advantages:
High Initial Cost of Installation – You will need between £4,000 and £21,000 to install biomass boilers, depending on the type or size of boiler you choose. Although the running cost will be lower than that of gas boilers, most homeowners may not have enough money to install the boilers.
Space Intensive – Unlike gas boilers that only need a gas cylinder, biomass boilers need a small room where you can store the pellets, chips, or logs. This space need to be near your main house, especially when you use a pellet feeder to automatically run the biomass boiler.
You May Have to Cut Down a Tree – Although you can use tree prunes, trees that die, sawdust, and other waste products from trees and plants, sometimes you may have to cut down a tree. If everyone is to adopt the system, so many trees will be cut. To make the boiler as carbon neutral as possible, homeowners need to plant a tree for each tree they fell. Trees take a long time to grow, and it is advisable that only trees that are near the end of their life cycle are cut down.
When you burn wood, it releases smoke, which is not good for the environment as well as for our health. Modern boilers have a buffer storage that ensures the emissions from the boiler are minimal.
Biomass boilers can be manual or automatic. The manually-fed boilers cost between £4,000 and £10,000, depending on the size and the design. While these are affordable for many households, you have to manually feed the pellets into the boiler every day. If this is an inconvenience you are willing to take, then you can install a manual boiler.
Automatically-fed boilers are more costly and can go up to £21,000. These boilers will save you the hustle of feeding the pellets manually. The cost of biomass boilers is high, considering that you only need about £2,000 to install a gas boiler.
The upfront costs might scare you, but running the biomass system will save you money in the long run. If you need to save money over a long period, you can go for a biomass boiler. Wood chips costs about 2.90 pence per kWh while pellets cost about 5.99 pence per kWh. This is in comparison to gas, which costs 4.17 pence, oil at 4.81 pence, LPG at 7.19 pence, and electricity at 16.36 pence per kWh.
With biomass fuels, the cost does not fluctuate that much from one year to the next. This is unlike the price of gas that rises by up to 10 percent every year. With biomass fuels, you will need to buy the fuel in bulk every year or twice a year.
You may want to check the price of pellets and chips per tonne to see which is more cost-effective. Wood chips are more affordable than pellets. While wood chips cost about £59 a tonne, wood pellets cost about £245 a tonne and wood logs cost about £99 a tonne. Wood logs can be the most cost-effective if you live near a forest where there is free access to logs.
The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) rewards people who heat their homes through renewable energy, such as biomass. Once you install biomass (or any other form of renewable energy for heating your home), you receive quarterly payments that run up to seven years. Other sources of renewable energy that benefit from RHI payments include:
You will receive payment for every kilowatt-hour your system produces. Households that produce more usable energy from biomass boilers will receive more payment. The payments received for each renewable heat source are different and are reviewed four times a year.
Currently, biomass received the lowest tariff per kilowatt-hour produced. You will get 6.97 pence for every kilowatt-hour produced in your home with biomass. Other sources offer more money at 10.85 pence per kWh for air source heat pump, 21.16 for ground source heat pump, and 21.36 for solar thermal.
If you install your biomass between now and 2022, you will benefit from RHI. After that, the Clean Heat Grant will take over. The Clean Heat Grant will offer households with renewable sources of energy up to £4,000.
Unlike gas boilers, a biomass boiler takes so much space. You need a separate room to install the biomass boiler and store the wood pellets or chips. Here are some of the components of the boiler system:
Biomass boilers can be installed in a garage. If there is no space in your garage, you might need a room designed for the biomass system. However, if you have to heat the water in a room away from the main house, the pipework can cost a lot for homeowners.
If you are looking to reduce your carbon footprint, a biomass boiler can be a great choice for you. If you have the space, and you can meet the upfront costs, then biomass boilers can be a great choice for you. There are people who believe that burning wood is an archaic practice, but it is more efficient and more sustainable than burning fossil fuels. It is also an inexpensive way to heat a home and heat water at home.
Before you consider the installation of a biomass boiler, note that you will need the following:
If you are already connected to the gas network, you might feel as if it is cheaper to continue using a gas boiler. After all, natural gas offers a clean way to heat a home without producing fumes. However, the supply of natural gas gets low from year to year and leads to an increase in natural gas prices by up to 10 percent each year.
If your home meets all the qualities above, you can install a biomass boiler and start cutting down your carbon emissions. In the long run, the biomass boiler helps you receive the huge upfront costs.
If you have a manual biomass boiler, you will need to load it manually and clean it every week. Such systems require frequent check-up and maintenance to ensure they are in good working condition. If you have an automatically-fed biomass boiler, you will not need to spend so much time feeding it manually or cleaning it every week. After the system burns wood pellets, it releases ashes automatically.
After installation, most systems do not need extensive work done on them. Instead, the systems have a high temperature output and most radiator systems will be sufficient to heat the rooms. If you already have radiators for other heating systems, they will be enough to heat your rooms.
When shopping for a biomass boiler, consider the biomass material available in your area. If you have access to free wood logs, you might need to pick a boiler that burns logs. These logs are challenging to carry and store, but they are ideal if you can get them free.
If you do not have access to logs, consider which is the most cost-effective between pellets and chips in your area. From there, consider the size and shape of the room you want to heat. The bigger the house and the rooms, the bigger the size of the biomass boiler you need to install.
You should also consider the nature and effectiveness of the insulation you already have and the heating requirements of different rooms in your home. You might need to review the insulation because picking a larger biomass boiler means you have so much energy going to waste.
You can have air or hydro heating from a biomass stove. In air heating, the stove will heat the room you place it in. In hydro heating, the stove carries hot water through the plumbing system and heats the entire house.
VIVA Training Academy is committed to renewable training for new and experienced gas engineers who want to expand their service to meet the Net Zero target by 2050. Our renewable courses are designed for existing building services installers, providing a relatively easy way to gain the necessary qualifications to future-proof your business.