Is a Biomass Boiler suitable for my Property?
Biomass boiler systems are not suitable for every property. Given the high space requirement compared with conventional fossil fuel boilers small urban and suburban properties (especially flats) are highly unlikely to be able to accommodate a larger biomass boiler, hopper and buffer vessel, and are therefore better suited to other renewable energy technologies such as solar PV and solar thermal or even a wall mounted air source heat pump.
Even with those urban and suburban properties that do have enough space for the biomass installations, there may still be access issues when it comes to taking delivery (and more importantly storage) of the wood fuel, normally delivered on a standard sized pallet.
For homes and businesses with the requisite space, however, biomass boilers are likely to be suitable and can provide substantial financial savings, as well as a significantly lower carbon footprint. Biomass systems with an output of 5kW to 500kW can be used in a variety of settings, both residential and commercial, from a small office building to large buildings such as hospitals, schools and prisons. Biomass boilers are also a particularly attractive option for properties with no mains gas supply.
Large biomass systems are also a viable option for community and communal housing renewable energy projects, and may be eligible for grants and low cost loans from federal or state sources. There is also the opportunity to take advantage incentives such as the federal tax credit and other state reductions.
Individual factors will apply to every proposed installation site and may impact upon the system’s viability, so it is always a good idea to discuss your property’s specifications and requirements with a qualified biomass heating installer (who may also undertake a survey) before taking a final decision. For larger installations (or indeed all installations) it is always advisable to undertake a feasibility study before making final decisions on biomass systems.
Integrating a Biomass Boiler with existing systems
As with any other type of boiler, it is quite possible and normal to integrate a new biomass boiler into a property’s existing heating system by connecting to radiators, water tanks and under floor heating. The boiler can either be controlled using your existing control panel, or a new one can be installed.
All biomass systems use a flue (like a duct or chimney) to release the gases produced during combustion. Flues can in many cases be placed inside your property’s existing chimney, though minor work may be needed in order to line it. Alternatively, the flue can be installed outside, although this may require planning permission.
If your property does not have an existing wet heating system or if it does have one but it is in need of being replaced, it may be very costly to install this and a biomass boiler may not be suitable. If this is the case, it may be better to consider an air-to-air heat pump.
Another necessary consideration is the availability of space for the boiler, fuel store, flue and other parts in and around the property. Given that biomass boilers tend to be much larger than conventional fossil fuel boilers, it may be necessary to either construct a separate boiler house or extend the existing building.
The suitability of biomass systems for each property depends on individual factors, however, and it is always a good idea to discuss your plans with a qualified installer and/or heating engineer before making any final decisions.
It is also possible to install a biomass system as backup in order to supplement your existing boiler, though this will not offer such a large reduction in terms of carbon footprint.
Planning permission associated with installing a Biomass Boiler
In the case of small domestic and business installations, where the aesthetic impact is limited, biomass heating systems are unlikely to have problems from state or even federal legislature that would prohibit installation. It is nevertheless always a good idea to check with your local governing body prior to installing any kind of renewable energy technology.
Find local installers for biomass boilers in your zip code.