What is a biomass boiler? Are they worth the investment in the UK? And what financial assistance is available?
In this guide, we’ll explain what a biomass boiler is, how it works and why now is potentially a better time than ever to invest in one.
Let’s jump in…
What is a Biomass Boiler?
Biomass boilers work by combusting sustainably sourced wood pellets to produce heat for your home.
This is very similar to the way that conventional gas boilers work, providing you with space heating and hot water.
Biomass boilers are a sustainable and carbon-neutral alternative to gas boilers.
Wood pellets are a renewable fuel source, so biomass boilers are a great way to reduce your carbon footprint.
Biomass boilers are a sustainable and carbon-neutral alternative to gas boilers, helping to prevent long-term climate change.
The carbon dioxide released during the combustion of wood pellets was actually absorbed while the tree was growing, making them carbon neutral.
This is a significant advantage over fossil fuels, which release carbon that has been trapped underground for millions of years. Biomass boilers are therefore a great way to reduce your carbon footprint.
Annually, almost 10 million tonnes of waste wood is sent to landfill, which could instead be used to fuel our homes using a biomass boiler, so not only are they better for the environment, but they also help the UK to reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfill.
How do Biomass Boilers Work?
Biomass boilers work by burning waste wood matter and outputting the resulting heat to heat our homes, just like a conventional boiler that heats water.
The most common biomass materials used include wood pellets, chips, logs or other biological materials.
The wood material is placed into the biomass boiler either by hand manaully, or with the use of an automated combustion chamber feeder, where they are then ignited.
Unlike conventional boilers, biomass boilers are much larger, which is one of their key differences.
The major reason for this is that wood waste by its very nature is bulky and therefore requires a large area to be stored and burned during the combustion process.
Biomass boilers with an automated feeder or hopper also contribute to their large size, this is where the wood is stored and fed into the combustion chamber.
This can help save time and make owning and using a biomass boiler much more convenient.
Biomass boiler owners typically also have a wood storage shed on their property and nearby to the biomass boiler itself.
This allows large volumes of wood to be stored and used as needed. It also allows homeowner’s to buy wood well in advance of price fluctuations, which also has its advantages.
How do Biomass Boilers Compare to Traditional Heating Methods?
Is a biomass boiler cheaper to run than a gas or oil boiler? What about solar?
Table showing the relative price comparison of biomass and other types of fuel:
|Fuel Type||Price per Unit||kWh per unit|
|Wood Chips||£150 / tonne||3,500kWh / tonne|
|Wood Pellets||£250 / tonne||4,800kWh / tonne|
|Natural Gas||15.2p / kWh||1|
|Heating oil||90p / litre||10kWh / litre|
|Electricity||52p / kWh||1|
What Funding is available for Biomass Boilers?
As of October 2022 the main government funding that can be used for a new biomass boiler installation is referred to as the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS).
This new funding replaces the former Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive scheme and is £5,000 subsidy towards the cost and installation.
However, please note that the grant only covers biomass boilers in rural locations where the property is not connected to the gas grid.
You’ll need an emissions certificate to show that polluting emissions are kept at a minimum. You’ll not be eligible if the biomass boiler is for a self-build property.
How much are Biomass Boilers in the UK?
In the UK, a biomass boiler costs around £5,000 for a standard, standalone biomass boiler.
However, for a more convenient automated biomass boiler featuring an automatic hopper you are looking at around £12,000.
Please note that this does not include the cost of the wood storage shed, which can cost in the region of £1,000 to £4,000.
What are the limitations of biomass boilers in the UK?
Like any type of heating system, biomass boilers do have limitations, these include the following:
- More maintenance – biomass boilers need regularly maintenance, not only do they need to be loaded with biomass fuel i.e. wood, their ash bins also need emptying, typically once a month.
- Storage space – since biomass boilers require a regular supply of wood, you need adequate space to store the wood e.g. a wood storage shed.
- Like every type of fuel, the price of wood is not static and does fluctuate.