An introduction to biomass boilers
Biomass boilers are a low-carbon and renewable energy source which burn biological plant material – predominantly wood – in order to generate heat or both heat & electricity for combined units. Biomass can be used to heat spaces and water for homes, businesses and communities and can replace existing coal, gas or oil boilers.
The history of biomass heating systems
Utilising the heat energy in Biomass material is an age old practice. It started when we learned to harness fire to our benefit. Wood is the oldest and widest used fuel source and is still used worldwide to provide heat for a range of purposes. As we learned to use biomass to create a more efficient fuel we have developed a range of biofuels. This creation of biofuels using plant or animal matter that are converted into fibres or industrial chemicals has become the second biggest use of biomass today. Biofuels are classified into two main categories. As an example of biofuels such as bioethanol can be produced by first generation biofuels that are derived from sources such as sugarcane and corn starch.
The way that we burn biomass and the efficiency of the systems that harness its heat energy have evolved. Now we have highly efficient systems designed to heat whole properties through radiators and under floor heating systems; they can heat the water we use at the same time and provide heat for cooking. Modern boiler systems can be self-loading, incorporate climate control at the touch of a button and can self-ignite on a timing system much like a standard gas boiler.
How do biomass boilers work
There are two main ways in which biomass heating systems work. Firstly a standalone stove that burns logs or pellets to heat a single room; these stoves can also be fitted with a back boiler to provide water heating as well. Secondly a biomass boiler that can burn pellets, logs, wood chips or other biomass fuels. These boilers are usually connected to a central heating and hot water system.
Types of biomass system and their various components
There is a vast range of biomass boilers and other biomass heating systems currently available, from fully automated biomass boilers to small pellet stoves. These various systems offer you a clean and carbon friendly solution to your heating needs. There are many biomass fuel types that various biomass systems utilise to provide heat.
Benefits and drawbacks of biomass boilers
There are many benefits to exploit from biomass heating systems; in this section we explain what these benefits are and how you can achieve them. Firstly biomass heating systems can help you lower your property’s carbon emissions; biomass fuels produce a fraction of the carbon emissions of fossil fuels and when used in a sustainable, managed way they can even be carbon neutral.
Biomass boiler system cost
They are not cheap, costing up to three or four times more than a standard fossil fuel boiler. However, once installed they can significantly lower your heating bills and help protect you from ever rising fuel costs. Factor in the RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive) and they become even more appealing. Fuel prices can vary depending on availability and other factors.
We also provide detailed information on a great range of finance options and financial aids that can help you with the sizable initial investment of your proposed system – finance for biomass.
Biomass boiler maintenance
Generally, very little maintenance will be needed on your biomass heating system but it will be more than that of their gas and oil counterparts. The How do biomass boilers work section will guide you through your system’s maintenance requirements. Whilst a lot of this can be done by the system’s owner, a qualified profession should look over your system on an annual basis.
Financial benefits of biomass heating systems
Biomass stoves and boilers can save you money on your energy bills and can be considered to have a pay-back period due to this and the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive. It is worth considering that the amount of savings offered by such a system often depends on the property’s individual specifications and your individual heating demands.
The domestic RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive) will pay you 12.2p per kWh of thermal energy your system produces. However to qualify for this payment mechanism your system will need to conform to a range of criteria.
If you want to find out about the government’s Green Deal or the government’s RHPP scheme then click Green Deal and RHPP.
Biomass boiler efficiency
Biomass boilers when they are correctly installed and maintained can have an efficiency of around 80-90%, significantly higher than many conventional fossil fuel boilers. The main variable when looking at how efficient your boiler will be is the fuel type.
Is a biomass heating system suitable for my property?
Whilst the beneficial impact of a biomass stove system may vary depending on its usefulness in the proposed property, a biomass boiler system is not always suitable for a property. The high space requirement compared to conventional fossil fuel boilers can mean that a biomass boiler system will not be preferable to a standard boiler system. Access issues for getting fuel to the boiler system may also rule out some larger properties.
Are biomass boilers worth installing?
To evaluate the information contained in this module we ask the question ‘Is a biomass boiler system worth installing?’ Generally, a correctly sized and installed biomass boiler system in a well-insulated property, combined with a good local and sustainable fuel source can definitely present a sound long term investment option when replacing an oil, LPG or electrical heating system and a great method of reducing your property’s carbon footprint.
District and community biomass solutions
This section explains all about the benefits of centrally distributed, shared and large scale heat distribution systems powered by biomass. These work out not only extremely efficient but highly profitable in the long run.