What is biomass and how is it used as a fuel?

In general terms biomass is biological material that comes from living sources such as plants or trees and in relation to biomass for heat generation the main source is wood, which is burned in the form of pellets, woodchips or logs to produce heat and hot water through central heating and other heating systems, in much the same way that a gas or oil fired boiler would do.

The carbon dioxide that is emitted from wood when it is burned is equal to the carbon dioxide that the tree has absorbed from the atmosphere during its life, which makes it a sustainable product as long as another tree is grown in its place to continue the cycle. Because it is a renewable energy, the government has introduced an incentive to encourage the use of biomass for heat and power in our homes and businesses. This incentive is called the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) which is available to both domestic and non-domestic customers. More information on the RHI can be found on our dedicated page.

Is a biomass heating system right for me?

As a general rule of thumb it is our opinion that if your property is on mains gas, then biomass would not be a cost effective alternative heating solution. The properties that benefit the most are those which currently rely on an electric or oil fired heating system.

If you are considering a biomass boiler you need to be aware that they are larger than traditional boilers and you will also need some space to be able to store a reasonable volume of wood pellets/chips, which must be undercover as the fuel will burn far less efficiently if damp and will be useless if it gets very wet. In order to deliver the wood fuel, your property will need to be accessible to a delivery lorry.

As well as storage you would need to check if your existing plumbing can work with a new boiler and you may need a new flue or a new lining for your existing chimney. The Carbon Trust has produced a biomass heating user guide for non-domestic properties and the Energy Savings Trust has a biomass guide for domestic properties