What is it?
Biomass falls into two broad categories: woody (forest residues and energy crops like miscanthus, willow) and non-woody (animal waste and high energy crops like rape). For domestic use of biomass, the fuel used is usually wood pellets, wood chips and logs.
How does it work?
There are two main ways of using wood to heat you home:
- A standalone stove burning logs or pellets provides space heating for a room. Some can also be fitted with a back boiler to provide water heating as well.
- A boiler burning pellets, logs or chips connected to a central heating and hot water system.
Log burning stoves and boilers have to be filled with wood by hand. Some pellet and chip burners use automatic fuel feeders which refill them at regular intervals from fuel storage units called hoppers.
Is it suitable?
You'll need a large dry area close to the boiler to store your wood. Ideally this should be close to where the wood is delivered to your home to minimise the distance you have to carry it.
You need a vent which is specifically designed for wood fuel appliances, with sufficient air movement for proper operation of the stove. Your existing chimney can be fitted with a lined flue, which is relatively inexpensive.
Can you comply with safety and building regulations? If you live in an old or unusual home this may be an issue. For more information, see Part L of the Building Regulations, England.
Do you live in a smokeless zone?
If so then wood can only be burnt in certain exempted appliances. For more information see smoke control area rules.
Do you need planning permission?
You need to talk to your our planning team (01304 872428) if your flue will extend 1m or more above the height of your roof, or your home is in a Conservation Area or World Heritage Site and you plan to install a flue on the principal elevation visible from a road.
What are the benefits?
Savings in CO2 emissions are significant - up to 9.5 tonnes per year when a wood boiler replaces a solid (coal) fired system or electric storage heating.
The carbon dioxide emitted when wood fuel is burned is the same amount that was absorbed over the previous months and years as the plant was growing. As long as new plants continue to grow in place of those used for fuel, the process is sustainable. 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.
If you replace solid fuel or electric heating you could save between £170 and £390 per year. However if you replace a gas heating system with a wood burning system you may end up paying more for your fuel.
If you have your own supply of wood fuel then this can significantly reduce your costs.
- Burning wood can be a convenient means of disposing of waste that might otherwise be sent to a landfill site.
- Burning wood produces less ash than coal.
- Wood burning stoves can add aesthetic value to a room
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