Benefits of Biomass
Should I get a biomass heating system?
What are the benefits of biomass boilers?
There are many benefits associated with installing a biomass boiler system in your home or business property and they are becoming increasingly popular in many states:
Carbon emission depletion.
Biomass fuels produce a fraction of the Carbon emissions of fossil fuels making them a carbon lean technology. The process of burning a fossil fuel releases the stored carbon that was contained inside it, millions of years ago, back into the environment. Biomass fuels are what are known as contemporary carbon which means that when they are combusted they release the same carbon levels that were recently consumed by the growing plant, meaning that the carbon levels are consistent and sustainable. This only works when the fuel source is replaced when the plant matter / fuel is harvested. The best way to achieve this is a rotation system which some biomass fuel stockists advertise as carbon neutral.
Some biomass boilers can be smoke free or at least fall below the stipulations for biomass burners in smoke-free zones. At present there are very few of these biomass boilers that fall into this category.
Biomass is good for local business.
Biomass can be sourced from within the US. There are many regions in every state that provide a good resource for biomass and the carbon friendly credentials depend on having a local source of fuel. This offers security of supply but also cuts down on the emissions caused by transporting fuels from abroad. Sourcing fuel locally can also help state businesses and contribute to the local economy.
Biomass boilers offer fantastic efficiency.
Modern biomass combustion systems are highly sophisticated, offering combustion efficiency and emission levels comparable with the best fossil fuel boilers. Using modern technology, they can currently operate at 90% efficiency which is vastly higher than conventional boilers and electric heating systems. Like heat pumps and other renewable heating sources their efficiency also depends on how energy efficient your property is. The type of system you use, its flue and the air flow around the boiler are all aspects to consider as well. Most properties will benefit from additional energy efficiency work before the system is installed.
Biomass boilers are efficient because they do not waste fuel and heat, ash can be disposed of easily and the CO2 that is created through the combustion process is equal to that consumed by the tree / plant matter or that would be released by the rotting matter after its natural expiration.
To get the best from your boiler you should make sure you get a long standing company with a good reputation, preferably a company that specialises in this type of renewable energy source.
Biomass boilers integrate with other heating systems.
Biomass boilers can completely replace existing fossil fuel (gas, oil, LPG) boilers and provide all your space, under floor and water heating requirements but can also be integrated with a gas boiler or electric fire. Assuming that Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs) are fitted, then the TRV will shut off as the room is warmed up by the biomass heating system. Many people prefer this type of warmth to that of a radiator as it is considered to be more ‘cosy’. You should ensure that your fire is installed by a competent person as this is a legal requirement and should ensure the installation is safe.
Biomass boilers offer fantastic financial benefits.
Biomass boilers benefit from the federal tax credit of 30% and many states have their own incentives in place as well as low cost loans. Biomass fuel prices are much more stable than that of fossil fuel and generally much lower. With a biomass boiler you can help protect yourself against fossil fuel and electricity price appreciation.
Buying biomass fuel in small amounts may prove expensive so having a large storage facility that can hold several tonnes can significantly lower your fuel expenses.
Many boiler types require very little maintenance. Like any other boiler they should be serviced by a qualified service engineer. This said they generally require less maintenance than standard boilers and more general inspection to make sure they are functioning correctly. A visual inspection of the boiler and fuel feed system to check lubrication of bearings and to empty the ashbin will be required usually on at least a weekly basis. If the boiler is not fitted with automatic flue cleaning, then regular cleaning of the flue tubes is required using a flue brush.
Some biomass boiler systems can be fully automated and require virtually no user input. They can have automatic ignition and thermostatic control plus an integrated hopper which automatically tops up the fuel. They can then hold enough fuel in the burner and shoot for more than a few days needs and are topped up from the hopper that can hold anything up to a years’ supply.
Drawbacks of Biomass boilers
There are, however, certain drawbacks which must be born in mind, such as:
- Relatively high initial cost for system and installation, especially when compared with other energy savings measures such as insulation though incentives are available including the federal tax credit
- Biomass systems are not a DIY job, and as such need to be installed by a qualified heating engineer
- Some systems such as log-fed boilers require a high level of human input
- Biomass boilers require a large amount of free space for the unit and fuel, and are therefore unsuitable for smaller properties, flats, as well as urban areas (this is changing though with manufacturers bringing smaller internal hopper fed boiler systems to market)
- The fuel must be delivered
- Fuel availability can be limited in some areas
- More maintenance and cleaning is required than for other renewable heat energy technologies such as heat pumps
- Check what warranty is associated with your boiler and who is responsible for fixing it should it go wrong. Assess the lead times of repairs carefully and factor this into your decision about which boiler to go for. (Also consider the size and reputation of the manufacturer, are they likely to go out of business and what are the availability of parts for their units).