What is Biomass?
Biomass is a heating system that can be fuelled by wood, pellets or chips. When these are burned, the same amount of carbon dioxide emits as while the plants were growing. Because of this, biomass is classed as carbon-neutral/renewable energy, meaning it has no or little adverse effect on the environment.
Biomass can be used to heat one room or fuel a boiler or heating system.
What are the benefits of Biomass?
- Biomass is more eco-friendly than many other heating options
- You could receive government incentive payments such as RHI
- Depending on the heating system you are replacing, you may save money compared to your old heating system. Your initial survey should be able to calculate estimated savings for you.
- Although prices vary, Biomass fuels are often cheaper than other fuels and heating options.
Which system is for me: chips, pellets or logs?
There are several factors to consider when deciding between using chips, pellets or logs for your heating system.
- Space: how much space do you have to store fuel? You can have less space dedicated to fuel storage but then it will cost you more when purchasing fuel as you’ll have to pay for smaller, more frequent deliveries. You will need a minimum amount of storage for the fuel in any case, and it will have to be in a location convenient for feeding the system (if applicable) and also for deliveries of fuel.
- Flue: you will need somewhere to install a compliant flue for a wood-burning system. This can be an existing chimney (although it may need to be lined to comply with current regulations) or merely an external wall.
- Location: if you are having a log system, you will need to consider local suppliers and whether there is someone who will deliver to you. The other systems have nationwide delivery options from national suppliers.
- Maintenance: How much work are you willing to put in to maintaining your system? Log-fires require ash removal before every use. Log-burning systems will need to have ash removed at least weekly (between daily and weekly). Other systems will require ash removal and cleaning less frequently but at least twice a year. How often they will need to have ash removed and cleaning will depend on what fuel they use and whether they have a self-cleaning system or a system for compressing ash. You will also need to have your chimney swept at least once a year and twice a year is recommended for wood burning systems.
Are there other things I need to consider when thinking about having Biomass installed?
- You need to comply with all current Building Regulations.
- You should have your system installed by a competent installer.
- If you have a thatched roof please see the HETAS website.
Savings and earnings?
|Existing system||Savings per year||RHI income per year|
|Electric storage heaters||£340 – £650||£2,135 – £3,390|
|Non-condensing oil (older)||£335 – £470||£2,135 – £3,390|
|Non-condensing LPG (older)||£950 – £1,435||£2,135 – £3,390|
|Coal||£265 – £425||£2,135 – £3,390|
|Non-condensing gas (older)||£25 – £80||£2,135 – £3,390|
The savings figures above assume an insulated house as insulation is always recommended to reduce heat loss and maximise energy efficiency and savings. If your house is not currently insulated you will have to have cavity wall insulation and loft insulation of 270mm or more.
You can use the costs above to calculate the payback period on your system. This means how long it will take for the savings (including incentive payments and fuel efficiency) of your system to equal the cost that you pay upfront for your new system. To calculate your payback period, take the cost of your new system including installation and divide it by your estimated annual savings.
For example, if you had a £16,000 pellet system installed, replacing a non-condensing LPG system, even at the lowest estimated savings of £3,085 per year, you would achieve payback in just over 5 years. Once you achieve payback, any additional savings you make are a bonus to you for as long as you have the new system!