Follow these 10 great biomass tips to really make the most of your biomass system.
If you intend to get an automated wood heating system to replace a your existing boiler and heating system, forget using a log boiler or a woodstove. These won’t be for you. If you don’t object to a little daily loading up with logs and de-ashing, and if your lifestyle permits you to regularly tend to such tasks, then this is a good option for you.
If you are lucky enough to have your own healthy supply of logs and you fit the criteria of Tip 1, a log boiler can be a really worthwhile investment with return rates of between 12-20% IRR.
An important biomass tip is to always begin with the fuel when looking at getting a wood heating boiler. A key first step is to decide whether you want to use logs, wood pellets, or wood chips. Each of them has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Pellets are the most convenient and compact of the three, and they are still made and delivered in a carbon-friendly way. They are, however, more expensive than the other two options. Also consider whether you can get your fuel delivered simply and economically. If the only way to get fuel into a storage silo is via a chipper (£35,000 or £250 per day), manually, or via a pallet truck and builder bags, prices can bump up significantly and become quite considerable.
Make sure to get advice on wood fuel handling, choice, and design from an independent and experienced person. Around half of wood heating system issues arise because a mistake has been made in relation to the fuel used.
Almost all wood boiler systems will operate better if they are linked to an accumulator tank. This aids to balance out the peaks and troughs of demand and to provide a little more gusto during the peak loads.
Sizing your boiler is an operation in science, judgement, and experience. Try not to go with suppliers who offer ‘over-size’ boilers rated above your peak load just to maximise your RHI income. This can lead to some serious problems in light load conditions and will wear out the boiler. For a log boiler, a boiler sized at about 80% of peak load with an accumulator tank of 50 litres per kilowatt of the boiler is about the right size. Pellet boilers with an accumulator, which react faster to load demands, should be sized at around 75%-80% of the peak load. The Carbon Trust offers a free biomass decision support tool. Check it out for more assistance in making a decision.
There are many pieces of advice and which can help you when running a woodstove, including these biomass tips. Most issues will arise from using the wrong fuel for the boiler or from paying over the odds at a garage forecourt. Buy wood locally and request logs for an open fire which have been barn dried for two years to ensure a good burn. Softwood and chestnut logs are not great options as they tend to spit, but they can be used in woodstoves when blended with other hardwoods. Also, pick up a good axe and bowsaw and teach yourself to use them well.
We currently have more than enough wood fuel for heating here in the UK, in the form of pellets, chips, and logs, but we must plant more trees at seriously consider energy crops such as SRC willow and miscanthus. However, the biggest problem in UK woodland today is its perceived low value and the fact that it is not well managed. Try engaging with local woodland owners, as some will offer ‘sweat for logs’ incentives which will also give you practice with a saw and axe.