Everything you need to know about Biomass
Biomass is a natural material obtained from living or recently living plant life. Our main source of Biomass is from types of trees that can easily be processed into fuel. We obtain our heat from biomass using specially designed stoves and boilers that can be connected to our existing central heating and hot water systems.
Is a Biomass boiler part of the RHI?
A log or pellet boiler falls under the governments RHI scheme which means the government will pay the owner of the system for every Kilowatt hour of energy produced. This is worked on a tariff basis and the government review the tariffs every quarter and degrees accordingly, separately for commercial and domestic systems.
What are the different types of Biomass?
Biomass is most commonly found in the following types:
Logs – Possibly the oldest form of fuel ever used. Specially designed log boilers allow batches of seasoned logs to be burnt efficiently for long periods of time to supply your heating and hot water needs. Gasification units will also superheat the logs, to produce gases which may burned for heat or electricity generation via a steam turbine. Logs are easily sourced and relatively cheap to buy.
Pellets – Wood pellets can be made from virgin timber, or as a byproduct of waste wood in sawmills and other wood processing industries. The wood is compacted to create uniform, easy to handle pellets that are burned in pellet stoves and boilers. They are a very efficient (>90%) and a very cost effective type of fuel due to their energy density. Haulage costs are minimised due to not ‘transporting water’ associated with high moisture content fuels such as log and chip. Pellets can be fully automated much like oil systems, with remote monitoring of pellet levels so they can be topped up before they run out. Bulk pellet deliveries can then be blown into the silo/pellet store – no mess associated with double handling or use of a bucket. The storage space required is also relatively small.
Boiler breakdowns are minimised due to purity of deliveries (no oversize, stones, or bark). There is also little or no smoke, a low ash output, and low emissions. In comparison to other fuels, particularly waste-based (poultry litter, waste wood etc.) the lifespan of the boiler is significantly longer.
Wood chip – Wood chip is timber that has been shredded in a chipper. It has a lower calorific value than wood pellets, but is often extremely cheap to buy. Wood chip is best suited to commercial installations as it needs a huge amount of space to be stored, and requires frequent inputs for loading.
Where is Biomass suitable?
Biomass is suitable for near enough any property, old or new. A log or pellet boiler is ideal for any system due to its high output temperatures. Unlike heat pumps, a Biomass boiler can be set at exactly the same temperature as your fossil fuel system, so you would never know the difference except for the extra pounds in your bank account!
One downfall with a Biomass system is that you must have available space for both the boiler and the fuel. Just to clarify, a Biomass boiler would not be suitable for a flat or apartment!
How does a boiler receive fuel?
A Log boiler is fed by the owner or tenant of the heating system. Every 1-2 days a batch of logs will need loading into the boiler to supply the hot water and central heating for the property.
A Pellet boiler is very automated in its approach. Pellets can be poured into a small pellet store inside the boiler every 2-3 days by the user. Alternatively, boilers can can receive large amounts of pellets blown into a hopper from a lorry in bulk delivery form. A bulk delivery means that the user has no input in the day to day running of the boiler and it is completely automated. This method requires a large internal or external space to site a Pellet Hopper close to the boiler.
What type of boiler is best for me?
Pellet boilers are the most common type of installation due to ease of use. Pellet boilers are relatively cost effective to buy and are most similar to fossil fuelled boilers.
Log boilers are most suited to people who have a good supply of locally sourced seasoned logs and have time to load there boiler each or every other day.
Where do I source my logs or pellets from?
In recent years the popularity of Biomass has rapidly grown so there are many companies operating in the UK that supply both high quality pellets and logs. Please contact us for a quote for wood pellet fuel, or a list of approved HETAS fuel suppliers.
How much will a Biomass boiler save me?
As biomass is cost competitive per unit of energy with standard fossil fuels, your returns lie in the government incentives you receive. This will vary with different installations, depending on whether it is commercial or domestic, and the tariff band applicable to the installation.