What Is Biomass?
Biomass is living or recently living organic material. When using biomass material to provide heat and hot water for your premises,
the fuel source is frequently wood in the form of logs, wood chippings or pellets, however, materials like straw and miscanthus can also be made into biomass fuel pellets. Biomass material has used carbon from the atmosphere to grow and releases the stored carbon when it is burned. If the crop or trees used for biomass are replanted the system stays in balance and sustainable for future use. Using locally sourced biomass to reduce transport and distribution energy costs is also important to keep this a low carbon footprint method to heat your business or home.
What Is A Biomass Boiler?
A biomass boiler can provide central heating and hot water for your premises, in place of an oil, LPG, gas or other type of fossil fuel boiler. Keep in mind that you will need to store the biomass and have sufficient access for deliveries of it – a major change in operating requirements for those who are used to mains gas. The efficiency of a biomass boiler is comparable or even better than even a gas or other fossil fuel boilers, typically over 90% efficient.
Fit A Biomass Boiler.
Fitting a biomass boiler is relatively easy, but you will need sufficient space for it. ‘You could fit one of our smallest pellet boilers in a small plant room or boiler room or even in an utility room,’ says Simon Forshaw, Director of Planet Energy Ltd. ‘But you still need to find room to store pallets of pellets somewhere else.’ A larger log boiler would need a space of around 3 x 4m, so may well need to be fitted in an outbuilding.
Get professional advice when you’re choosing a biomass boiler. ‘You do need a qualified installer to ensure that your boiler is sized appropriately for your property,’ says Simon Forshaw of Planet Energy. You can install one yourself when you are self building, but contact building control at your local authority to ensure the work complies with building regulations and planning permission might also be needed for the flue.
The Energy Saving Trust recommends that a biomass boiler is installed by a MCS (Micro-generation Certification Scheme) registered or RECC certified installer.
Get The Right Pellets.
Bear in mind that pellet boilers are designed for specific pellet types, so make sure you match up your boiler and your biomass. All fuel suppliers are required to be registered with OFGEM and there is a standard pellet called ENPLUS that you must use to conform to the warranties for the boiler. Bad fuel will wreak havoc with your boiler and will cause breakdowns and corrosion over a period of time, so never burn poor fuel. Wood chip boilers are more appropriate for commercial applications. If you live in a smoke control area, something you can find out from your local authority, you will need to buy an emissions exempt appliance to burn biomass. There’s a list available from DEFRA.
What Will It Cost?
As well as being bigger in size, biomass boilers are more expensive than those that use fossil fuels. An automatically fed pellet boiler for an average home costs around £13,500 including a fuel store, fuel delivery mechanism and installation, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
When it comes to running costs, guidance figures from the UK Forestry Commission Managed Biomass Energy Centre will give you the latest prices to compare biomass favourably with other fuels, with wood chips costing 3.5p per kWh; wood pellets 4.7p per kWh; natural gas 4.8p per kWh; and heating oil 5.8p per kWh.
Keep in mind, though, that these figures aren’t the final cost of the heat in your home, this depends on boiler efficiency among other factors. Costs will also vary regionally, or with quantity of fuel ordered, delivery distance and so on. Without a supply of your own you could pay more for wood fuel like logs than you would for mains gas, however, you should save a good deal in cost against oil, LPG, solid fuel or electric heating.