Biomass is one of the less well-known forms of renewable energy. It might lack the grace and charm of wind or solar power, but it’s an essential additional to the team.
But what is biomass, and how can you use it to keep your house toasty and your showers warm? Let us explain:
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Biomass heating systems are based on the burning of organic matter to create green energy. In its industrialised form this can be a wide range of fuels such as animal or plant waste, high energy crops like Maize or Rape and various types of wood.
In a domestic setting Biomass heating is almost always fed by types of wood. In the few million years humans have been burning wood for heat, we’ve advanced our efficiency a little bit. Open fires are fairly rare these days and largely inefficient, but Biomass heating systems all work on the same basic principle.
Wood burning stoves are mainly used for heating one room or space, and are commonly log fed, meaning the owner puts logs into the stove as it’s burning. On a slightly larger scale, some stoves have a back boiler system which also heats water in a boiler, to be used for the hot water and radiator systems in the house.
Newer innovation has seen the rise of automated pellet boilers, which burn sustainably sourced wood pellets. These are more efficient, and burn very readily. The automated system feeds the pellets over time, to keep the fire burning and consistently heat your home. These will generally also heat the wet heating system.
With many types of Biomass heating system, it can be hard to get your head around what set up will offer you the best energy deals. It’s all dependent on your homes requirements.
A Biomass Boiler works in a similar way to most boiler systems, like Gas or Oil. The burning of the fuel heats water which is then fed into a wet heating system to be circuited around your home, heating radiators or underfloor heating, as well as hot taps. Because the fuel, in this case wood pellets, is significantly larger than pressurised gas the boiler itself is usually much bigger, so the extra space required needs to be taken into account when you compare energy sources.
A boiler will need to be emptied less often than a stove, but you’ll still need to clean out the ash approximately once a month.
The key benefits of a Biomass Boiler are:
Payments on the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme are paid to you quarterly, providing you install a renewable heating source and continue to use fuel sourced from a Biomass Suppliers List accredited company. The funding varies depending how efficiently insulated your home is, and what energy source you’re transferring from. When you’re doing your energy comparison homework, be sure to read through Ofgem’s guidelines on RHI, as this could really affect your calculations on the cheapest option!
Automated Pellet Boilers usually come in between £10,000 and £15,000, If you include the fuel storage area. Costs for the pellets themselves vary depending on supplier and bulk, but you can expect to pay around £300 per tonne.
The savings can be significant when transferring from inefficient older systems like LPG or Electrical heating, but the Energy Saving Trust recommends that newer Gas and Oil systems may work out cheaper per year.
If you’re looking to switch energy in order to reduce your carbon footprint however, Biomass is a great transition fuel that can cut your emissions by 2-4 Tonnes per year on a Gas system, and up to 10 Tonnes per year when compared to a coal fired system.