Biomass Boilers

What are Biomass Boilers and how much they can save you?

What is Biomass?

Biomass is a collection of energy sources made from living or recently living organisms. The most used and ancient of these sources is wood; people have been burning wood to cook food and heat their homes for hundreds of thousands of years.

Wood fuel biomass boilers make very efficient use of this energy, converting up to 95% into usable heat. Correctly managed, biomass is a sustainable fuel that can deliver a significant reduction in net carbon emissions when compared to traditional fossil fuels.

Although burning wood releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, it is offset by the carbon dioxide absorbed in the original growth of the wood, or captured in the growth of new trees to replace those used. As a result of this, using wood for heating results in low net ‘life cycle’ carbon emissions relative to conventional sources of heat such as gas, electricity or oil.

How do Biomass Boilers work?

An Ecovision biomass boiler can replace your existing fossil fuel boiler or boilers with one that runs on wood fuel. This is then connected to your current heating system and is controlled either by your existing heating controls or a new control panel with full weather compensation.

Three main types of fuel are used in biomass boilers, logs, wood pellets and wood chip. The biomass fuel is loaded either manually or automatically. Most leading biomass boilers automatically control the amount of oxygen that is put into the burn chamber and depending on your heating and hot water requirements at the time,  can slow down the rate of burn to maximise fuel, ensure efficiency and keep running costs to a minimum.

Log Boilers

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Log boilers can be manually or automatically fed heating systems and can use many different types of timber. Typically they are filled once a day to once a week, depending on the season, and provide heating and hot water to multiple buildings. The fuel is burned in a chamber and the gasses that are produced are further burned to generate up to 1,200 degrees in the burn chamber, the heat is then transferred to your water system and transmitted through your radiator system – a much more efficient way of using wood than a traditional log burner.

Logs are easily available, especially in rural locations or from your own woodland or wood supply and can now also be obtained from many suppliers in towns and cities. To ensure your boiler does not produce steam and reduce the life cycle of your boiler, the moisture content of the timber should be below 25% (air dried).

Although logs are in the burn chamber, leading log boilers can control the burn rate automatically by motorised valves called primary and secondary air actuators. They close off to reduce air intake to the fire, decreasing the ferocity of the burn and making the fuel last longer.

When the system is in low demand, a fully-loaded burn chamber can burn for as long as 15 hours and in effect ‘tick over’,  feeding a hot water buffer tank so everything is fully charged and ready when needed.

Pellet Boilers

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Pellet boilers are often smaller and more compact than traditional log boilers, delivering more energy and can easily have fully automated fuel delivery. Wood pellets, which have usually been manufactured from by-products of various wood industries, are sucked into the boiler through a vacuum tube which can pull pellets from up to 20 metres away, giving great flexibility with the placement of a fuel store compared to woodchip. As the ash is removed automatically and is minimal in nature, a wood pellet boiler is a clean, reliable and convenient way to heat your property.

Pellets have a moisture content of 6-10% and require less storage space than logs or chips, as they have a higher calorific value for the same volume. Pellet systems are generally fully-automated, with the pellets sucked by vacuum straight into the boiler from the store.

Chip Boilers

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Within a wood chip installation the boiler is installed adjacent to a chip store where an agitator will move the chip through to the boiler via an auger.

Wood chip is timber that has been shredded in a chipper. It is an easy fuel for automation, with a conveyor belt or screw-feed taking the chips straight from the store into the boiler. Like logs, the chipped material needs to be dried to achieve a low moisture content of less than 35%.

Chip systems are inexpensive to run, however, initial capital outlay is slightly greater than pellet solutions. This is because it has some additional parts to provide fuel delivery from store to boiler. A biomass boiler will start on demand according to your pre-determined time settings in much the same way as a conventional gas boiler would.

Frequently Asked Questions

Biomass Boilers can reduce your annual heating and hot water bills against fossil fuel alternatives and often pay for themselves within the grant period set out within the Renewable Heat Incentive (7 years of payments for a domestic property).

However, each and every property is different so upfront cost, bill reduction and your ROI is never going to be a one answer fits all. The best way to find out how much a Biomass Boiler can reduce your heating and hot water bills is to speak to us directly for a free no obligation quote.

What is the Renewable Heat Incentive?

The RHI is a Government backed scheme which pays the owner of a renewable technology, such as a heat pump, for generating renewable energy on site. To qualify for these quarterly payments, which last seven years, you will need to use an MCS accredited company – such as Ecovision – and ensure your MCS accredited product is installed to MCS standards.

The MCS (Microgeneration Certification Scheme) is there to ensure the system is safely installed by professionally qualified installers and performs to the standards required by the Government.

Learn more about the Renewable Heat Incentive here…

How often does a Biomass Boiler need refilling?

This can vary depending on the size of your usage, fuel type and heat load requirements, however fuel stores should be built relevant to these factors, often resulting in a re-fuel 3-4 times a year.

Do I need planning permission to install a Biomass Boiler?

Planning permission is not currently required to install a biomass boiler, however it may be required when building a boiler house or fuel silo and flue.

If you are lucky enough to live in a conservation area, an AONB, or your building is listed, you are likely to require planning permission and or listed building consent. Ecovision can assist in the planning process. Learn more about Ecovision’s services…

Can I change the temperature within my home with Biomass?

Just like fossil fuel boilers, a biomass boiler can be controlled based on heat demand.

Do I need to coordinate any other trades on site?

No, Ecovision can undertake the entire installation, providing the complete design, supply, installation and commissioning of the system, without any need for third parties or subcontractors.

During Ecovision’s many years of business we have found the biggest issue for customers is ensuring that everyone knows what and when their responsibility starts and ends. We have found that by offering the complete installation we ensure that we remain in control of the whole process as well as being entirely responsible for the successful completion of the installation with our in-house installers reporting directly to Ecovision.

What maintenance does a Biomass Boiler require?

Biomass boilers can operate unattended though will require inspections on a frequent basis, a visual inspection of the boiler and fuel feed system, checking the lubricant of bearings and emptying of the ash bin.

How do I apply for the Renewable Heat Incentive?

The RHI is administered by Ofgem and as the owner of the system, you will need to make the application for the RHI. We will of course ensure you have all the required paperwork to successfully complete this; this is supplied as part of your handover pack and we will be on hand to help at any point throughout the process.

Learn more about the applying to the Renewable Heat Incentive here…

Or make your RHI application directly here…

Will Biomass work with my existing heating system?

Yes, very similarly to any other boiler. However, as many biomass boilers operate at very high temperatures, much higher than an ordinary boiler, additional equipment may be necessary.