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.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

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.

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