Although global temperatures have increased in the past few decades, most households still need some form of heating in winter, and this is particularly true in the UK. Our wet climate can lead to a pervasive damp that is difficult to dispel without central heating. Anyone who has tried to dry washing indoors in winter will testify to this.
The last few years have seen a lot of growth in more sustainable methods of heating, with many people turning back to wood or biomass as a renewable fuel, preferable over oil, gas or coal. However, while the idea of burning wood brings campfires and roaring open hearths to mind, the modern reality is a far more efficient system which can be used to heat a whole household, while still retaining some of the cheer of a traditional open fire. Biomass boilers and stoves often use wood or plant material which has been processed into chip or pellet form as well as the traditional wooden logs.
When it comes to the difference between boilers and stoves, biomass boilers are larger, are designed to run the central heating system and can either be automatically fed or manually fed with various types of wood or biomass material. Currently, the most popular variety of biomass boiler is the type that is automatically fed with wooden pellets. Biomass stoves are generally smaller units used to heat a single area of the building, although in some cases they can also be connected to the central heating system.
The advantages of installing a biomass boiler or stove revolve around both sustainability and economy. Despite the initial installation costs, biomass boilers and stoves usually result in overall lower running costs for a household. The wooden fuel is usually cheaper than the oil or gas-based alternative. Furthermore homes that use a sustainable method of heating can receive funding from the UK government's Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). Even if the construction of your home makes it impossible to convert the whole central heating system to run with a biomass boiler, it may still be possible to install a biomass stove to heat one or more rooms and/or a hot water tank.
On the financial side, typical installation costs for a biomass boiler in an average home range between £9,000 and £21,000, including installation, flue service, fuel store and 5% VAT. Research commissioned by the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) found that average costs per kW of peak heat output vary between £945 for a smaller system (10-20kW) and £568 for a larger system (20-50kW). Then there is the cost of the fuel itself. When it comes to wood pellets, if you have room to store several tonnes of fuel, you can keep the cost down to around £220 per tonne. If you have less storage space and are therefore obliged to receive smaller and more frequent deliveries, you can expect to pay around £240 per tonne. Despite this, the annual cost of wood pellet required to supply a typical household’s heating and hot water needs for a year is likely to be just under £1,200, depending on various factors.
On the practical side, the costs and effort associated with installation will vary according to the unique layout and conditions in your home. When it comes to maintenance, it is important to keep the boiler or stove clean and free of ash. However, biomass burners are generally very efficient so the ash volume is low and will not need to be emptied more than once a day, and usually far more infrequently. Storage of the fuel must be in a dry place to avoid the pellets disintegrating.
If you are seriously considering installing a biomass boiler or stove, we at Franck energy can offer knowledgeable and friendly help and advice. We can support you from the start in assessing what type of biomass solution would be the best fit for your unique living conditions and budget, as well as helping you to sift through suppliers and installers. Let us take the stress out of your decision to save money and live a more renewable life. Contact our friendly team today for an initial consultation.