Wood-fuelled heating systems, also called biomass systems, burn wood pellets, chips or logs to provide warmth in a single room or to power central heating and hot water boilers.

A stove burns logs or pellets to heat a single room - and may be fitted with a back boiler to provide water heating as well. A boiler burns logs, pellets or chips, and is connected to a central heating and hot water system. A wood-fuelled biomass boiler could save you up to £880 a year compared to electric heating.

The benefits of biomass heating

1. Affordable heating fuel

Although the price of wood fuel varies considerably, it is often cheaper than other heating options.

2. Financial support

Wood fuel boiler systems could benefit from the Renewable Heat Incentive.

3. A low-carbon option

The carbon dioxide emitted when wood is burned is the same amount that was absorbed over the months and years that the plant was growing. The process is sustainable as long as new plants continue to grow in place of those used for fuel. There are some carbon emissions caused by the cultivation, manufacture and transportation of the fuel, but as long as the fuel is sourced locally, these are much lower than the emissions from fossil fuels.

Costs, savings and financial support

Costs

A biomass pellet stove will cost around £4,300 including installation. Installing a new log stove will usually cost less than half this, including a new flue or chimney lining.
For boilers, an automatically fed pellet boiler for an average home costs between £9,000 and £21,000, including installation, flue, fuel store and VAT at 5 per cent. Manually fed log boiler systems can be slightly cheaper.

Pellet costs depend mainly on the size and method of delivery. If you have room for a large fuel store that will accept several tonnes of pellets at a time, delivered in bulk by tanker, you can keep the cost down to around £230 per tonne in most parts of the UK.

Logs can be cheaper than pellets, but costs depend on the wood suppliers in your local area, as they cost a lot to transport.If you have room to store more than a year’s worth of logs you can save money by buying unseasoned logs and letting them season for a year.

Savings

Savings in carbon dioxide emissions are very significant - up to 15.4 tonnes a year - when a wood-fuelled boiler replaces a solid (coal) fired system or electric storage heating. Financial savings are more variable - if you replace an older gas heating system with a wood-burning system you might save up to £70 a year, but if you are replacing an old electric heating system you could save as much as £880 per year. This table shows how much you could save by installing pellet central heating in a typical four-bedroom detached house with basic insulation.

Financial support for biomass

You may be able to receive payments for the heat you produce from a wood boiler or a pellet stove with back boiler through the UK government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).
This technology is an eligible measure under the UK government’s Green Deal which is a financing mechanism that lets people pay for energy-efficiency improvements through savings on their energy bills.

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