The Potential Rise of Biomass Boilers

It’s only now that biomass boilers are starting to come into fashion and, considering the figures, it’s no surprise that they are.

log pile

First it was the famous solar panel initiative, now the UK government seems to be moving in a different direction with the Renewable Heat Incentive. Just like the solar panels scheme which compensated households for the energy that was generated, the RHI aims to do the same with other technologies and domestic properties are set to benefit in spring 2014.

At the moment, there are four solutions that are going to be included; air source heat pumps, biomass boilers, ground source heat pumps and solar thermal systems. It’s the biomass element that this contribution is going to concentrate on, or more specifically, wood burning boilers. For years they have threatened to break into the market, although there has always been something that has been holding them back. Now, with the introduction of the RHI and other smaller factors, there is a belief that this could become a serious rival for the standard boiler.

Like with anything that occurs in the green industry, it remains to be seen whether it will take off. Many were convinced that the Green Deal would transform the country, but at the time of writing the situation is somewhat up in the air. However, in a bid to at least try and form a case for biomass boilers, here are four reasons why the omens at least look positive.

Reason #1 – The Choice

Several years ago, biomass boilers were out of the question for a lot of households simply due to aesthetics. They were regarded as a traditional item, only reserved for those homes which possessed a rustic interior.

Nowadays, the situation has changed completely. For example, if you were to look at these Hunter stoves at the Stove Site, it’s clear to see that modern alternatives have hit the market and many of these would look stylish in even the most contemporary dwelling.

Therefore, the first point is that wood burning stoves are more accessible than ever before and if someone is building a new home, it could be argued that they are a much more stylish option than the traditional boiler and will make a feature of the property.

Reason #2 – The Cost

Another issue related to accessibility is the cost of the boilers. Unfortunately, they will still be out of reach for a lot of households, with the Energy Saving Trust suggesting that the typical biomass boiler system will cost between £7,000 an £13,000. However, this is still a reduction on what they used to be and as the Hunter stoves demonstrated a few paragraphs ago, it’s now possible to pick up a system for as little as several hundred pounds. It’s the installation of the device into the property which is where the big expense comes, as does the cost of a fuel store which a lot of people forget.

The fact that the RHI allows households to access a grant of £2,000 for the installation of the boiler makes a significant difference, though. It again makes the boilers more accessible and removes one of the biggest stumbling blocks that has been part of the industry for years.

Reason #3 – The Savings

It wouldn’t be green if there weren’t big savings, and this is the issue which the government are trying to sell the most. If your home runs an electric heating system the savings can be up to £630 per year, while the few that use LPG will be saving almost £800. Unfortunately, the savings tend to be less than £100 for those gas-based systems, although for most people this will still equate to a month’s worth of use.

Reason #4 – The Payments

Finally, this is where the real benefits of the RHI kick in. For some, the savings of wood burning boilers are simply too small to legislate for thousands of pounds worth of investment. This is something the government have seemingly realised, with the RHI scheme rewarding those who do invest in such a system with seven years of payments.

For starters, anyone who installs a meter or monitoring device with their boiler will immediately qualify for £200 per year. From this point on all additional earnings are calculated by a tariff, which currently stands at 12.2p/kWh. Households won’t be paid exactly according to this rate though, with the final total being an estimate based on the heat demand indicated in the Energy Performance Certificate. Naturally, this is going to vary between properties, although the government have suggested that the typical householder could make £1,300 per year from RHI.

As such, we’re talking an average income of £1,500 from wood burning boilers when you add the “monitoring fee” – and that’s forgetting the savings. Such sums would only be paid for seven years but simple maths indicate that most homeowners will make a profit over this period of time.

A Closing Thought

It’s only now that wood burning boilers are starting to come into fashion and having looked at the above figures, it’s no surprise why. Companies are now starting to realise that demand is set to rise, with the amount of different stove styles highlighting this.

Of course, there can be drawbacks with these systems and they are not for everyone. You have got to factor in the cost of the wood itself and whether or not you have the space to store it. However, if you are contemplating a new boiler system, the rewards on offer courtesy of the RHI means that the biomass boilers option must be at least considered.

Article written by Mike Richardson

Image by Horia Varlan

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