Biomass boiler installation – your questions answered

How do biomass boilers work? Are they eligible for the Renewable Heat Incentive? How big is a biomass boiler? We’ve tried to answer your most frequently asked questions here, but please don’t hesitate to get in touch to talk things through in more detail.

How do biomass boilers work?

Instead of burning environmentally damaging gas or oil, biomass boilers burn natural materials – typically logs, wood chip, wood pellets or cereals – to heat your home and hot water. To find out more, visit the How biomass boilers work page.

How much does a biomass boiler cost?

The cost of a biomass boiler depends on the size of your home and whether you want it to provide all of your home’s heat and hot water – the smallest boiler starts at around £3,000, while a typical domestic installation to look after all of your domestic heating and hot water needs comes in at about £11,500. These figures are only ballpark estimates – the best thing to do is get in touch and talk to us about it. We’d be happy to give you a free, no-obligation, no hard sell quote for your home.

Does the government offer any grants or financial incentives?

Yes. If you don’t have access to natural gas,your MCS-approved biomass boiler installation will earn you money for every kWh of heat generated. This money is tax-free, and will be paid straight into your bank account every quarter for 7 years and could total over £4,000 a year. It’s all thanks to the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive. See Save with biomass boilers page for more information on the savings you can expect to see, and to find out more about the Renewable Heat Incentive, read our domestic RHI blog article.

How much could I save with a biomass boiler?

How much you could save on your energy bills depends on how the system you are currently using is fuelled – it could be up to £2,200* a year. Check out our Save with biomass boilers page for full details.

How much can a biomass boiler reduce my home’s carbon output by?

The reduction in your homes’s CO2 output can be significant – if your biomass boiler replaces a coal fired or electric heating system, you can save up to 9.5 tonnes* of carbon a year.

*Source: Energy Savings Trust, October 2011

How do I know if my home is suitable for a biomass boiler?

If you’ve got space for the boiler – about the size of a washing machine – and somewhere to store the biomass fuel – around 7m2 of dry storage, within 15 – 20 metres of your boiler – you’re good to go.

Will I need planning permission or a building warrant?

As long as your house is unlisted, you won’t need planning permission for the boiler itself, but you might need it if you plan to build a boiler house or fuel silo, need to raise the height of your chimney above 1m or live in a Conservation Area or World Heritage Site and the flue would be visible from the road. All installations require a building warrant – we can help you with both planning permission and building warrants.

How big is a biomass boiler?

Not nearly as big as people imagine – a standard domestic biomass boiler is about the size of a washing machine, so quite easy to fit into your home. Don’t forget that you’ll also need to factor in storage for the solid fuel.

I live in a smokeless zone – can I still have a biomass boiler?

You can, but wood can only be burned in certain exempt appliances. We can help you make sure you stay the right side of the law.

Will it look after all of my heating and hot water needs?

Yes – when sized properly, a biomass boiler will take care of your home in the same way that a traditional boiler does. It just takes care of the planet a lot better at the same time… The average house uses around 23,000 kWh of heat a year for heating and hot water – a 15kW biomass boiler in a reasonably well insulated home should be able to produce all of this.

How controllable is the temperature?

Very. A biomass boiler can be used to regulate the heat of your home to within 1 degree – they use a fully automated control system that allows you to control the temperature, fuel used and operating hours on a timer.

Can I use a biomass boiler with a solar thermal system?

These two technologies work brilliantly together – solar thermal panels are the most energy efficient way to generate hot water during the summer months, and in the winter your biomass boiler can be programmed to cut in if your solar thermal panels aren’t generating sufficient heat for your water.

Can a biomass boiler be connected to my existing heating system?

Yes, a biomass boiler slots into your system easily, just like replacing any old boiler with a new one. It might be necessary to add a heat plate exchanger between the biomass boiler and the rest of your system, as biomass boilers operate at much higher temperatures than fossil fuelled boilers, but that’s the only slight complication.

Do biomass boilers smell or smoke?

Not at all – biomass fuel is burned in a closed, flued system and a biomass boiler is therefore no smellier or smokier than a standard gas boiler.

Are biomass boilers noisy?

No – a biomass boiler makes no more or less noise than your standard gas boiler.

Are biomass boilers as safe as gas boilers?

The government wouldn’t be incentivising people to put biomass boilers in their homes if they weren’t completely safe. A biomass boiler is no more ‘dangerous’ than a gas-powered boiler, however any process that involves combustion in the home comes with a small level of risk. Just as with gas boilers, these risks are mitigated by the quality of the biomass boilers we install, the safety measures they include and our commitment to safety and service every step of the way.

Is burning wood environmentally sound?

Wooden biomass fuels are classed as carbon neutral. While they’re growing, trees absorb CO2. When they die, this is released back into the atmosphere. This CO2 would make it back into the atmosphere whether the dead wood was left to decay on the floor of a forest, or burned in your biomass boiler – it makes no difference at all, hence the carbon neutral status.

Is it ethical? Does the demand for wood fuel threaten woodlands?

Not at all. Quite the opposite in fact – as well as creating a commercial use for timber by-products that would otherwise end up in landfill, the demand for biomass provides financial support for woodland management activity. When managed properly, every woodland can provide a sustainable yield of timber that can be harvested indefinitely without posing any threat to the future of that woodland.

Where do you buy biomass fuels from?

Biomass fuels are readily available – a quick Google search will point you in the direction of your nearest supplier – or you buy high quality wood chip from Lime-Circle and we’ll deliver it to your door.

Is biomass wood fuel expensive?

No – in fact, when you look at the annual savings, it’s significantly cheaper than using oil, LPG or electricity to heat your home and marginally cheaper than using gas. Given the way fossil fuel energy prices are rising, we’re expecting the savings gap between biomass and traditional fuels to widen significantly over the coming years – and the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive will make sure your system pays from October 2012.

How often do you have to load the boiler with fuel?

Obviously this depends on the time of year and the demands placed on your boiler, but typically you’ll end up refueling your biomass boiler once a week or so.

How often do you have to empty the ash?

Again, this depends on the time of year and the demands placed on your boiler, but most people find themselves emptying the ash bin once a fortnight. It makes a brilliant fertiliser for your garden…

Do biomass boilers need any special maintenance?

Not especially. You’ll need to load the fuel hopper and check the flue is clear every week and empty the ash bin every couple of weeks, but then they just need an annual service, like any other boiler. We offer your first annual service totally free of charge, and after that charge a servicing fee – currently £150 + VAT at 5% only.

How long does a system take to install? How messy will it be?

We don’t like to hang around – your new biomass boiler installation will be up and running in 3 – 4 days. You’ll be without heating or hot water for a day – sorry, it can’t be helped – but to sweeten the pill, we make a point of leaving homes exactly as we found them. Better than that, actually – we leave houses clean, tidy and with a smaller carbon footprint.

Do your biomass systems come with a guarantee or warranty?

Yes – all our biomass systems come with a manufacturer’s guarantee, and as we only work with reputable companies and quality parts you can rely on this. We will also cover your whole installation with a two-year, no questions asked guarantee covering our workmanship. We take pride in our work so we’re pretty sure you won’t see us again unless you take us up on our free first annual service offer.

What happens if I move house?

It’s unusual for people to take their biomass boiler with them when they move, though not out of the question. Instead, most people simply enjoy the fact that their home is likely to sell for more money than a house without a wood fuelled heating system, based on a MORI survey that shows that people expect to, and are happy to, pay around £10,000 more for a property with environmentally sound heating.