Wood-fired boilers could soon pay their own way
Biomass boilers are firing interest for those who rely on oil, thanks to news of a Government incentive scheme. Sharon Dale reports.
WHEN Karl Brown bought a farmstead in need of renovation, he knew he had to find an alternative form of heating or face astronomic oil bills.
The solution for the house, and the barns and stables he may use as holiday lets, was a biomass boiler.
“We looked at ground source and air source heat but the house 30 windows and there are six buildings so neither of those systems could generate enough heat. That’s when we turned to biomass,” says Karl, of Hornby, near Bedale.
The 100 kw boiler is 5ft by 4ft and is housed in an old stable. It runs the radiators and the hot water on wood pellets, which are fed in automatically from a storage hopper holding ten tons of the biomass.
The pellets cost between £5,000 and £6,000 a year and are cheaper than oil, which would’ve cost £8,000 a year.
But it is the Renewable Heat Incentive from the government that offers the greatest return. Karl receives between £9,000 to £10,000 a year and the scheme runs for 20 years.
“The boiler cost £55,000 for installation and pipework and plumbing to the buildings, but it should pay for itself in just over ten years thanks to the RHI payments. That and the fuel savings have made it really worthwhile. It’s also very low maintenance,” he says.
As Karl’s system runs more than one building, it is classed as commercial and is eligible for the non-domestic RHI.
There is no such incentive for domestic boilers as yet, though the government has promised to launch one in April next year.
The new scheme has fuelled interest from homeowners who rely on oil or LPG. Domestic biomass boilers cost from £15,000 and the new RHI scheme, which will run for seven years, could generate £3,500 a year for the average four bedroom home.
Simon Cross, commercial director of Ixus Energy, which specialises in biomass boilers, says: “The previous government introduced the RHI for commercial biomass and waiting for it to be extended to the domestic boilers has been very frustrating. It’s also had a depressing effect on the market but now we are confident the scheme will be introduced in April.”
Those who invest need to research the product and buy well. “We get our boilers from Austria and Sweden where the biomass boiler is an established technology. Unlike gas boilers, which are much of a muchness, there is a huge variation in the quality of these appliances,” says Simon. “You get what you pay for People who have bought cheap boilers are now paying the price.”
www.ixusenergy.comk; www.rhincentive.co.uk; www. energysavingtrust.org.uk
Q: What is the cost of a biomass boiler and where do I put it?
A: For a four-bed detached, the cost is between £15,000 to £20,000 depending on how easy it is to connect to the existing pipework. You need space for the boiler and the pellets so people often install them in the garage, though they can go in a utility room. Most homeowners can expect RHI payments to cover the installation costs over the seven year payback period and there will also be considerable savings on your energy bills. Q: What is the RHI? A: The domestic RHI, which should be available from April 2014, is a government incentive helping homeowners improve their green credentials by subsidising the cost of biomass boilers. The government will pay 12.2p for every kilowatt hour of heat produced. For a four bed detached that should equate to about £3,500 a year. The scheme is for a system that heats a single domestic property and all homeowners, landlords and selfbuilders will be eligible to apply. To be eligible for the RHI you will need an MCS (Microgeneration Certification Scheme) registered company to carry out your installation.
Q: Are the boilers easy to maintain?
A: A pellet boiler can operate unattended if it has a fuel feed, but weekly visual inspection is recommended as well as emptying of the ashbin every couple of months. A log boiler is manually fed and you can end up wedded to it.
Q: What can you burn in a biomass boiler?
A: The majority of systems operate on woodchips, logs or wood pellets. Financial savings on fuel will vary. Replacing an oil-fired heating system with a woodchip boiler is likely to achieve savings of up to 60 per cent on fuel bills, whilst replacing oil with a pellet boiler will save around 30 per cent. Those currently heating with LPG will achieve even better savings.
Q: Where do you buy the pellets and will there be a shortage when the new RHI scheme is introduced?
A: The price of biomass fuels like wood pellets is much more stable than fossil fuels, it has risen by five per cent over the last ten years while oil has doubled. Even if UK producers decide to hike prices, distributors will buy the pellets from Europe.
HIGH WATER MARK: The Water Tower at Moor Monkton has been completely refurbished and its decor was designed by Natalie Murray-Hurst from Harrogate’s Murray Hurst Interiors. The tower commands magnificent views across the countryside near York.
GETTING WARMER: Biomass boilers could cut the cost of heating your home if you rely on oil or LPG. A new RHI scheme offers an incentive.