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We all know that there are issues with our reliance on fossil fuels to power our heating and hot water systems. But what is the solution?
Hydrogen boilers are one solution that’s currently being researched, and you may see boilers being advertised that are already capable of using a 20% hydrogen/80% gas mix. An alternative solution comes from biomass boilers.
It might also be that you’re not on mains gas and biomass fuel provides a different option for home heating systems. But how much does a biomass boiler cost?
Right now, the popularity of renewable heat boilers is still relatively low, and their upfront cost is much higher than a gas combi boiler.
But there are other savings to be made and grants to be had that could mean that a biomass boiler works out to be much cheaper than you might think.
Biomass boilers are very similar to conventional gas boilers in that they provide heating systems for your home.
However, instead of using gas, oil or other fossil fuels, in the combustion process, they instead use sustainably sourced biomass fuels made from wood.
We all know that there is a huge push for each of us to reduce our carbon footprint to prevent long term climate change.
When burning biomass as a source of heat rather than fossil fuels, it’s considered to be a carbon-neutral process. That’s because the carbon dioxide that’s released during the combustion was absorbed while the tree was growing.
As we’ve already mentioned, the cost of a new biomass boiler is higher than a comparable gas boiler replacement such as a combi or system boiler for a home.
But, the costs of gas is going up and don’t forget that there could also be funding options to help with the cost.
Then, on top of the cost of the new boiler, there are also biomass boiler installation costs to consider as well.
A standalone domestic biomass boiler suitable for a small home will cost around £4-6,000. If though you’re looking for an automatically fed pellet boiler then the cost is going to be closer to around £11,500.
When you compare biomass new boiler costs & prices, you should check whether you’re comparing like for like, so is it a biomass boiler or a biomass stove.
The stove will just provide heat and so are often much cheaper. But, if you also need biomass fuel to heat a hot water system, then you will need a biomass boiler.
To ensure that the boiler meets your needs, it’s important to make sure that you consider what your heating and hot water needs are before you get a biomass boiler installed.
There are also some additional considerations that we’ve detailed below that may not have been a consideration for a gas boiler when it comes to installation costs.
A larger home will need more heat to keep it at a comfortable temperature and that’s going to need a larger biomass boiler.
If you’re just looking at a biomass stove as a standalone supply of heat, maybe as a focal point in a room or to top up the heating, then that’s going to be much cheaper.
Biomass boilers can be fed the fuel manually or automatically. When pellets or chips are being used as the source of fuel, then you can get automatically fed pellet boilers that use a vacuum to pull the pellets from bulk storage to the boiler and so ensuring a constant supply of fuel.
Manual feed is cheaper than an automatically fed boiler, but it will mean lifting each sack of pellets and pouring the contents into the biomass boiler.
If you don’t already have a suitable shed or garage, then, no matter the fuel type you go for, you’re going to need somewhere to store the fuel deliveries.
Remember that if you’re using pellets then the storage needs to be somewhere that it will stay dry.
With fuel costs being much cheaper when you purchase biomass fuel in bulk, the storage may need to be larger than you think!
If the plan for installing a biomass boiler is for it to connect to your central heating system then you do need to consider that its size is much bigger than a conventional gas boiler or even an oil boiler.
The means that a biomass boiler is often located in a separate outbuilding and with that, comes additional costs.
In addition to the cost of purchasing the boiler you then also need to consider biomass fuel prices along with somewhere to store it. No matter the fuel type you go for, they will need a dry storage area and buying in bulk will mean lower costs.
There are three different types of wood fuel that a biomass boiler might run on. Not all boilers can use all three types so it’s important that you check what type of wood fuel is needed.
Then there’s also the big consideration of fuel storage space which might be an additional cost to factor in.
This is the most common type of biomass fuel currently used in the UK. They produce heat at a consistent rate and are clean to handle and manage.
Although you might think they are made entirely from wood, they’re actually made using a range of plant-based materials, including:
The pellets need to have a moisture level of between 5-10% to ensure that they bind together.
If the moisture goes over this level then there’s the risk of mould and fungal growth as they begin to decompose. The pellets are around 5 to 6mm in diameter and are up to 39mm long.
This consistency in dimension reduces the chances of jamming or clogging problems in the wood pellet boilers.
Because wood pellets produce around 5000kWh of energy per tonne giving them a higher energy density than other types of biomass.
An average home will use around 10 tonnes per year though that does depend on the size of the home and how well insulated the property is.
Wood pellets typically cost £150 – £250 per tonne. This is typically different to choosing or calculating the boiler size required for a domestic boiler.
Wood chips have lower running costs when compared to pellets, and you’ll be able to get a tonne for an average cost of around £60.
However, they do have a lower energy density than pellets and produce around 3,500 kWh per tonne meaning that it will cost more to get the same level of heat when compared to wood pellets.
Because there aren’t issues around decomposition, wood chips are made from any types of wood as long as the moisture level is below 30%.
The chips are generally no larger than 3mm and that’s to prevent issues with wood chip boilers becoming jammed.
There are two options here, biomass logs and raw logs
Logs for a biomass boiler are manufactured using the same methods as for wood pellets; they’re just larger. The size of the log is generally 50cm long and between 12 and 15cm in diameter.
Raw logs are those which haven’t gone through a manufacturing process, so there may be greater variation in size. This might mean that they need chopping before they can be used in a biomass boiler.
They do need seasoning, and this takes one year for softwood and two years for hardwood. It’s also important that the wood is a renewable fuel source, so it comes from a sustainable environment and is free from paint or preservatives.
In terms of moisture content, that should be less than 20%. When unseasoned wood is used or when it’s contaminated with paint, the efficiency levels are reduced and it also produces large volumes of ash, tar and soot.
Of the three different biomass fuels, logs have the lowest energy density and produce around producing 2-3,000 kWh per tonne.
The running costs of the log option is around £125 per tonne. Around 10 tonnes of logs will be needed to provide heat for a small home over a 12 month period.
You can expect your biomass boiler to have a similar level of efficiency to modern condensing gas and oil boilers.
That then gives them efficiencies of over 90%. However, because they don’t burn fossil fuel, your carbon footprint is going to be much smaller
If we look at some of the top-selling biomass boilers their efficiency levels are:
Then there’s also the added bonus, that the ash left behind by the biomass fuel can be used as a fertiliser for you the garden. That then means that you’re achieving much closer to 100% efficiency just by using the fuel in different ways.
The key saving with a biomass boiler comes from the significant lowering of your carbon dioxide emissions. And that saving could be up to 15.4 tonnes a year—when compared to conventional boilers such as a comparably sized gas boiler.
When it comes to how much money biomass boilers might save you on your energy bills, then there are a few more things to consider.
The type of fuel currently being used is a key factor in what the potential savings will be. That’s because if you’re replacing a gas heating system with a wood-burning one, then the saving might only be around £70 per year.
If though you’re replacing an old electric heating system, well, then the savings could go all the way up to £880 per year.
Whatever the fuel being used, it’s essential that the home is well insulated. In fact, we’d suggest that this is in place before you even consider installing a biomass boiler.
That way you have the best possible potential of making a cost-saving as well a reducing your CO2 emissions.
To provide you with a rough idea of the type of saving that biomass boilers can provide then we need to look at the different fuel types:
Fuel bill savings – £490 – £880 per year
Co2 savings -9,700 – 15,700 kg/year
Fuel bill savings – £130 – £140 per year
Co2 savings – 5,600 – 8,200 kg/year
Fuel bill saving – £970 – £1390
Co2 savings – 5,300-7,800 kg/year
Fuel bill saving – £300 – £460
Co2 savings – 10,100 – 15,400 kg/year
Fuel bill saving – £10 – £70 per year
CO2 savings – 4,600 – 6,800 kg/year
How much maintenance is needed will depend on the complexity of the biomass boiler. If you’ve gone for one of the biomass boilers with high levels of automation, then there may be relatively little to do.
At the other end of the market, with a more manual biomass boiler installation, then you may need to allocate more time to its maintenance.
Just like conventional boilers, biomass boilers will need an annual service and the local installers will be able to help you with that.
However, wood chip feeders do have a tendency to become jammed, so you may need to call out the engineer more often to sort out that problem.
Biomass boilers generally need to be cleaned and have the resultant ash removed. This can usually be done weekly but that does depend on how much biomass fuel that you’re using.
In winter, for example, if the biomass boiler is on all day, then you may need to clean and remove the ash on a daily basis, especially for smaller domestic biomass boilers.
As ever whether it’s a traditional gas system or a biomass boiler, it’s important to check the manufacturer’s instructions.
If you need financial support to help install a new boiler, then there are grants available that might be a possible source of funding.
The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) provides financial help for people who are interested in becoming more environmentally friendly.
The scheme is funded by the UK government with the aim of encouraging more domestic heating consumers to invest in renewable heating sources including the biomass heating system.
Unfortunately, this scheme is only available to people who own their own home or if you’re a private or social landlord. New-build properties are not normally eligible grants towards the biomass boiler cost though if you’re building your own home then you might b able to get funding.
Before submitting your application for a renewable heat incentive, you will need to apply for your home to be assessed under the Green Deal Assessment scheme. This will ensure that it meets all requirements for the installation of a renewable heating system.
If you’ve already installed biomass boilers you’ve not missed the boat. You can still apply for the RHI funding as long as you can prove that you meet their criteria.
The aim of the RHI is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the effects of climate change by investing in renewable energy sources. So, that includes helping people to move away from the more conventional boilers that most of us have installed.
It’s estimated that you could save nearly 15 tonnes of CO2 emissions every year, by swopping a traditional solid fuel burner for a biomass boiler.
If you are over the age of 60 or receive benefits, then you could qualify for a 5% VAT reduction on your wood-fired boiler.
This might be a reduction on the whole product or just on the installation costs; this depends on the price of the project. More details of this scheme can be found on the government’s website.
Whether you’re looking at biomass, wind energy or one of the best combi boiler options to generate heat for your home, it’s important to ensure that it meets your needs at a price that’s within your budget.
If you need helping to find a new boiler, then we can help. We’ll search our database for the best fit and then provide a fixed price for a range of heating options.
With the ability to book next-day installation, you could be enjoying the benefits of your new boiler quicker than you think!
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