Biomass boilers for farms: your FAQs

We’ve tackled some of the questions we’re often asked by farmers and growers here – to properly discuss the financial and operational benefits of installing a biomass boiler on your farm, call 0115 952 0263 or 07890 022002, or use our contact form.

How much will a biomass boiler cost?

It depends on your farm’s individual heat requirements – a small biomass installation costs around £30,000, while a large installation can cost upwards of £55,000. Between the savings on fuel and the government’s generous RHI payments – which are guaranteed for 20 years – you can expect your boiler to pay for itself in between 2.5 and 5 years, giving you many, many years of pure profit.

How much could my farm save on its fuel bills?

Again, this depends on the size of the boiler you’re replacing and the fuel source. Replacing an oil boiler on a small farm with biomass will save you around £2,500 a year on fuel. Doing the same on a large farm will save you around £6,500 a year.

Does the government offer farmers any grants or incentives?

Yes. Your farm’s biomass boiler installation will qualify for the government’s commercial Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, which pays you for every kw of heat your boiler generates. These payments are paid tax-free every quarter and are guaranteed for the next 20 years.

Will a biomass boiler work alongside my current pipe work and heaters?

Yes, in most cases it’s just the heat source that needs replacing – we’ll take out your farm’s old boiler and put in a new biomass boiler.

I might need to add additional heating load to the installation in the future. Is this possible and what will it to do to my RHI payments?

Yes it’s possible – and under RHI guidelines extra load can be added at your current tariff level, so even if there’s no tariff at all when you add the extra load, you’ll benefit from your original tariff rate.

Is a wood chip boiler hard work to live with?

No. A chip (or multi fuel) boiler is no more or less hard work than a pellet boiler. You can have a blown delivery of fuel and the boiler feeds itself just like a pellet boiler. The main two differences are that chip is a little more bulky and nearly half the price. 

Will the price of biomass fuel go up?

This is obviously not an easy question to answer, but fossil fuel resources are finite and so will ultimately attract a higher price than renewable wood fuels. However, if it’s something you’re concerned about or the prices do rise unsustainably, farmers can always grow their own energy crop – fast growing willow will provide you with your own fuel to burn in less than three years. 

Is biomass suitable for grain drying?

Absolutely. Biomass works very well for grain drying as it has high flow temperatures. The hot water can be passed through heat exchangers to provide hot air for raised floor drying, or an underfloor-type heating solution can be installed.

What if the Renewable Heat Incentive tariff levels fall?

Your boiler is tied to the tariff applicable at the time of your application – you’ll receive this rate for 20 twenty years and it’s tied to inflation.

What if my boiler breaks down – can I replace it?

Yes – but not at the same RHI tariff level. The RHI guidelines stipulate that if the boiler is changed then the tariff that applies at that point should be adopted. It’s therefore critical to fit the best possible boiler in the best possible way, to ensure your heat source lasts as long as your RHI agreement.

How do I relight the boiler?

The ETA range of boilers that we prefer to install operate totally automatically. It lights itself when you need heat and the boiler will even email you when it needs its fuel topping up – it’s a very clever bit of kit…

Do biomass boilers need any special maintenance?

They’re slightly more labour intensive than a gas or oil boiler. 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.

Do your biomass systems come with a guarantee or warranty?

Yes. As well as coming with a manufacturer’s guarantee, we’ll also cover your whole installation with a two-year, no questions asked guarantee covering our workmanship. Because we take care over our installations and real pride in our work, we’re reasonably confident you won’t see us on site again until your first free annual service.