Costs, savings and maintenance

The Renewable Heat Premium Payments scheme is providing a grant of £950 towards your system's installation costs now, and from 2013 the Renewable Heat Incentive will be giving you regular payments for generating heat using the system.

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Costs

The National Energy Foundation estimates you should expect to pay around £1,500 for a new log burning  stove or £2,000 if you want to use the stove to heat water, with pellet burning stoves costing around £4,300.  However, some good stoves can be as little as £500. A  pellet boiler with an automated feeder for an average sized home should cost around £11,500 including all costs. Log systems are slightly cheaper than pellet systems, but these will need to be fed by hand. The RHPP is currently paying £950 toward the cost of installation if your system heats water.

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You’ll also need to budget for the ongoing cost of using wood as fuel, the price of which varies with fuel type and quantity bought. All fuel types are cheaper if you can buy them in bulk and store them – getting several tonnes of pellets delivered by tanker will cost you around £190 a tonne which is cheaper than buying smaller bags of 10-15kg. Logs are generally cheaper than pellets but their price varies with the stockist you use.

You can find supplier listings on the following sites among others:

  • Big Barn - finds suppliers closest to your post code
  • Log Pile Website - which provides information on all aspects of wood fuel burners

Maintenance

There is a certain level of ongoing maintenance required:

  • Clear all old ash from your system regularly, both external and internal. Some systems have self-cleaning mechanisms to clear internal ash, but if not you will have to shut the system down to clean it
  • Keep a stock of fuel replenished and at an accessible distance
  • Check that there’s an adequate supply of air to keep your fire burning strongly and efficiently

It is important to establish a good source of fuel particularly ahead of the winter months. Wood must be dry before use, and you’ll need a dry, airy and adequately sized storage area.

Saving

The Energy Saving Trust suggests that a 3 bedroom semi detached house replacing an electric system with a pellet central heating system could save in the region of £580 per year – and with the Renewable Heat Incentive and RHPP (RHI) this will increase your savings.

If you replace solid fuel or oil heating you could save between £280 and £300 per year respectively.

Estimate how much you can reduce your heating costs

Replacing a coal or electric heating with a biomass system can save a significant quantity of carbon dioxide – up to 9.5 tonnes per year in some cases. 

FAQs

What is the annual maintenance cost of a biomass system?
Typically the annual servicing for a biomass system starts at around £150.00 but this will depend on the make and model.
Can you burn straw as biomass for heating?
Yes, you can burn straw pellets in some models.
Can you burn plastic for heating?
Yes, this is possible, but you will NOT be allowed to due to Environmental Agency policies.
What moisture content should the pellets be in order for them to burn?
Again, this depend on the manufacturer, but in general, wood pellets should be around a maximum of 10 - 12 % water and cereals 14 - 16 % to burn. But the lower the moisture content the better.
How often do biomass systems need filling?
This would depend on how often the boiler is used and the heat demand. The hopper may need filling anywhere between every couple of days if the demand is high to once a week if it is just ticking over. Attaching the boiler to a fuel store means filling less often, and you can buy automatic (self-filling) systems with a hopper.
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