Jan 03

What is a biomass heating system, and do they save you money?

If you are looking to install a new boiler for your heating and hot water, then you may want to consider a biomass system. A new boiler is an expensive investment. In fact, apart from kitchen and bathroom renovations, it’s probably going to be one of the most expensive investments you make in your home.

When choosing a new boiler, you’ll want to consider factors such as, reliability, efficiency, size/space, hot water production, energy bills, and more. In addition, you may also want to take into account your carbon footprint and support renewable energy sources. Biomass boilers offer an environmentally responsible heating solution for the home.

According to The Renewable Energy Hub, biomass fuels produce a fraction of the Carbon emissions compared to fossil fuels. Biomass heating systems are an environmentally friendly solution, and this alone makes them an attractive solution for heating the home.


What is Biomass?

Biomass is biological material derived from plants or organic matter. The most popular source of biomass fuel for the home is wood, but biomass also refers to certain crops, manure and some types of waste residue. Biomass is a renewable and sustainable source of energy used to create electricity, heat and other forms of power.

A biomass heating system is wood-fuelled, and burns either wood pellets or logs to provide heat in a single room, or power central heating and hot water boilers.


What is biomass power and how is it sustainable?

Biomass power is a carbon neutral energy generated from renewable organic waste. When burned the energy is released as heat. Wood is considered a sustainable energy source because the CO2 absorbed by trees when they are growing is approximately the same as the CO2 emitted when the fuel burns. The process is sustainable as long as new trees are planted to grow in place of those used for fuel.


What is a biomass heating system?

There are many wood-burning heat generators on the market, which fall broadly into two categories. The two main types of biomass heating appliance are:

  1. Room heaters, which only provide heat to the room in which the appliance is installed. They are typically referred to as ‘wood burners.’ Most have a glass-fronted door and burn manually loaded logs.
  2. Biomass boilers connect to a central heating system and heat the whole property through radiators or underfloor heating. Most biomass boilers burn wood pellets or wood chips. The loading and lighting of these boilers can be automated, though manual loading biomass boilers are cheaper.


Why should I consider a biomass heating system?

WoodWhether you are looking to heat a single room, or the whole of your home, wood fuel is a great option. Biomass provides a cost effective and sustainable heating solution.

Switching to a renewable energy heating solution could mean you qualify for Government subsidies. The Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is a Government financial scheme to promote the use of renewable heat and drive forward the uptake of renewable heat technologies in homes across the UK. The scheme is administered by Ofgem.

In order to qualify for the domestic RHI you’ll need to have a Green Deal Assessment, which analyses your property’s home energy requirements. You also need an EPC, Energy Performance Certificate, which essentially defines your property’s heat load.  Emission levels are required to be below a certain level, and the installation and installer of your biomass boiler heating system must be Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) certified (or certified by an equivalent scheme).

Those eligible for RHI will receive subsidy payments over a period of seven years from joining the scheme. Room heaters (wood burners heating a single room) do not qualify for the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) payments.

The advantages of biomass heating systems include:

  • Environmentally friendly.
  • Biomass is a carbon-neutral form of energy, and helps with the disposal of wood and waste.
  • Reduces carbon dioxide output.
  • A great way to dispose of waste wood.
  • Locally sourced biomass fuel is good for the local economy.
  • Biomass is less affected by fluctuations in the energy market than oil and gas.
  • Qualification for the RHI scheme will help repay your initial investment in a shorter time.


Other considerations when choosing a biomass heating solution

  • Adequate air supply and ventilation are essential in the form of a flue, and possibly additional vents. An existing chimney may need to be lined.
  • You’ll need a reliable source of wood fuel, preferably from a local supplier. If you are switching to biomass heating for environmental reasons, you’ll need to ensure your wood is from a sustainable source.
  • You will need to ensure your boiler and flue meets current UK building regulations.
  • Biomass boilers are much bigger than conventional boilers, and you’ll need an outbuilding or a covered space to store your wood pellets/fuel. Buying biomass fuel in small quantities may prove expensive, so having a large storage facility will lower your fuel expenses.
  • Unless your boiler is fully automated, you will be required to feed it with fuel.
  • Planning permission may be required.
  • Biomass boilers can have a relatively high initial cost for the system and installation.
  • Biomass boilers need regular cleaning and maintenance to function at their optimum efficiency.


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