As we move towards a more sustainable future, the focus begins to turn to what we can do within our own home to make a difference.
From installing photovoltaics on the roof to grey water recycling, we are all finding more and more ways to reduce our carbon footprint.
When it comes to boiler solutions, the options are usually between biomass boilers, fuelled by wood pellets or traditional gas boilers powered via mains gas.
This article will discuss the key differences between the two options and looking into the benefits of each.
Pros & Cons of Wood Pellet Boilers
If you are looking to invest in a new boiler and you’re looking into a biomass boiler, a key difference that you must take into consideration is the cost. With typical gas boilers being £2,500, the biomass boilers can cost around £7,000.
Something to consider however, is if properly maintained, your biomass boiler will have a life expectancy of 18-20 years, double the average 10 year life span of a gas boiler.
As long as your biomass boiler is MCS-accredited, you will be eligible for RHI (renewable heat incentive) if your boiler is in a domestic environment. This incentive that has been introduced pays you for ever kilowatt-hour of heat produced.
The benefits of the renewable fuel used for the biomass boilers is what gives them the real edge over the fossil fuelled gas boilers. Whilst biomass does come from the burning of biological materials such as quick-growing trees or fuel grasses, the amount of carbon dioxide they release is actually only ever the same amount as the levels absorbed via photosynthesis during its lifespan, essentially leaving biomass as a carbon-neutral fuel.
Meanwhile, it is commonly acknowledged that fossil fuels produce high levels of carbon dioxide, not to mention they are being used at a quicker rate than we are able to replenish the supplies, which have taken millions of years to build up.
It is these two different fuel types which most define the boilers, but it is not just about the type of fuel each one uses, it is also about the acquisition of said fuel.
In order to run a biomass boiler, you must have a way of fuelling it. Whether you are purchasing wood pellets or creating your own. If you have your own supply of wood, you can actually run your own boiler at zero cost or you can buy wood pellets easily online!
You will also need to place your biomass boiler close to its fuel supply, as the boilers will require refuelling regularly. Typical biomass boilers will need refuelling every 3-4 days, however, if they are installed with ‘auto-feed hoppers’ our boiler will only need refuelling ever couple of weeks. Meanwhile, the conventional boiler will simply need connecting to a mains gas supply via a gas pipe.
On top of having to build a store for your biomass boiler and its fuel, you must take into account the size of these boilers. Standing at 1.2 metres high on average, the biomass boilers are actually roughly double the size of the average gas boiler. With all this in mind, it is important you have adequate space to install a biomass boiler.
With any boiler, servicing and planned maintenance is of the utmost importance. Ensuring you’ve got a healthy boiler can help them run more efficiently and cheaply, not to mention improve its life span.
With conventional boilers, it is recommended that a Gas Safe engineer services them for you on a yearly basis. With biomass boilers, the maintenance is easier but required more regularly. Due to the combustion of biological mass, there is a by-product of ash. This will build up and needs to be emptied and cleared away while a conventional boiler does not need cleaning in this way, nor does it produce a visible by-product.
With all of these aspects considered, biomass boilers are a great step toward a more sustainable future. Whilst they do have a higher initial cost and require man power for cleaning and refuelling, the real benefit is that these boilers do not have a harmful impact on the environment or our future in the way the gas boiler can.
However, space is a particularly important consideration to take if you are looking into this option. If you live in a town house, this probably is not the option for you right now. But with technology being developed every day, it is likely something more robust in size and suitable for all homes will be on the domestic market soon.
With biomass boilers being comparable for efficiency with conventional gas boilers (both have efficiency levels between 88%-91%), there is clearly not much in it when it comes to getting the most for your money. The key difference however, is that with MCS approval, the biomass boilers can work with the RHI to provide you a very healthy return on your investment.
Advantages of Biomass Boilers at a Glance
- Wood fuel is cost effective
- Wood pellets are small in size
- Wood pellets are environmentally friendly
- Wood pellet boilers are energy efficient
- Wood pellets are a renewable energy source
- A Wood pellet heating system supports local economies
Disadvantages of Biomass Boilers at a Glance
- Wood pellet boilers require frequent maintenance
- Storing of wood pellets requires large storage space
- Initial cost of investment