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Does anyone have a biomass boiler?

(31 Posts)
atticusclaw Tue 17-Mar-15 15:30:27

I am looking at the log gasification boilers since we have our own log supply. We would probably need a 40kw set up with an accumulator tank. Does anyone have a similar set up? How do you find it?

atticusclaw Tue 17-Mar-15 18:58:36


shovetheholly Wed 18-Mar-15 15:01:02

Marking place, and bumping!

atticusclaw Wed 18-Mar-15 17:31:13

Thanks shove There don't seem to be many MNers looking at biomass

engeika Wed 18-Mar-15 17:48:34

smile I am smiling at the thought of "own log supply" - if only! I am in a London shoe box with a concrete postage stamp for a garden.

Good luck OP

TallGiraffes Wed 18-Mar-15 17:56:51

If (and it's a huge if) we buy the house we're looking at, we'd be planning to put one in so definitely watching with interest...

atticusclaw Wed 18-Mar-15 18:11:35

Someone must have one. The first batch of rhi payments have already run out and they've reduced the tariff from 1st April (very annoying since we thought about this a few months ago and then forgot about it) so plenty of people must have installed them.

I think the rhi payments combined with the fact that we don't pay for the wood makes this a no brainer for us but interested to hear how they perform.

unlucky83 Wed 18-Mar-15 18:31:06

Can you get RHI unless you buy pellets from a certified supplier -if you use your own wood? I was told with the highest tariff it was worth installing one and running it for the 7yrs (for the RHI) then pulling it out....
But the problem I thought about was as the demand for pellets increased the price was likely to too...and you would be stuck having to pay whatever the suppliers choose to charge or loose your RHI (so actually lower RHI is probably a good thing - the pellet suppliers won't be able to charge as high a price as they could).
IMO the installers, suppliers etc are aware of the government payments and charge accordingly...take their cut.
I think Solar PV is a good eg - 10 yrs ago when the FIT was higher the cost of installing panels (on my house) would have been between £15-20k but I would have got my money back and a bit more over the 20 yrs, with the lower tariff it is now £6k - and I am looking to get my money back (and maybe a bit more if I use them efficiently) in 20 yrs....
The installers say it is because the panels are now mass produced in China etc and so are cheaper -but from what I've seen etc I don't think they are 1/3 of the price they were...
I think the whole system of encouraging green energy is wrong -it would encourage more people if they could have measures fitted for free/minimum cost (so subsidised) assuming they already had insulated, draught proofed etc and not get any long term payments (and this potentially could help the poorer people in our society - rather than enabling wealthier people to use them to make money)

TallGiraffes Wed 18-Mar-15 18:34:24

Hmm, having to use certified pellets might be annoying. We'd have access to plenty of uncertified ones!

atticusclaw Wed 18-Mar-15 18:39:20

Yes you can use your own logs as long as you're not supplying anyone else who is also on the scheme. We'd have a log fuelled boiler rather than a pellet boiler so one drawback is that its a bit more labour intensive but I am home all day.

We have woodland, mainly oak and birch with some sycamore and a little pine and every year at least three trees come down. We currently have enough wood to keep the biomass boiler going for about two years.

The installation would cost us about £15k but we'd get double that in rhi payments over the seven years. I guess the plus side for society is that we're not using the oil but I see what you're saying in that those who can afford the systems (which are very expensive) are the ones who gain from the payments.

We can't have solar unfortunately since we have too much shading from the trees.

unlucky83 Wed 18-Mar-15 18:44:10

It a year or so since I last looked at them - so they might have changed the rules -but I was told that was the case ...
What I was advised would be a better (I have a supply of free firewood) would be to get a back boiler on my woodburner -tied in with an accumulator tank (the installation of the tank would be subsided by RHI from Solar thermal) which when the stove was on would help with heating water/rest of house...

unlucky83 Wed 18-Mar-15 18:46:35

Cross post ....pesky Dcs distracting me mid post

atticusclaw Wed 18-Mar-15 19:04:57

I think you might have been misinformed unlucky (although I believe you're right and previously you had to be certified in order to use your own wood). Log stoves with back boilers don't qualify under the RHI at all and solar is only covered as long as it doesn't feed into an accumulator tank. It can only provide hot running water. If it feeds into an accumulator that could be used for space heating and not just water heating then it doesn't qualify. Not sure why, it seems silly.

Of course it might be that the companies I have been talking to are incorrect in what they have told me (but this does tie in with everything I have read).

We will probably buy an accumulator with the ability to be connected to solar so that in the future (once the rhi payments are over), we can supplement with solar for over the summer months. I am told though that the accumulators are so good that 1 wheelbarrow load in the summer months will provide more than enough hot water for four days (and it will stay hot)

unlucky83 Wed 18-Mar-15 21:11:15

That's interesting - maybe I was given wrong advice. The person I was talking to was from the Energy Saving Trust (in Scotland) -they came out and did a site visit etc. The accumulator would be used to heat water that ran through it...
It would be a triple/quad coil tank - one coil would be solar thermal, one would be back boiler from woodburner and one coil would be to gas combi boiler (we are on mains gas) - so in summer the solar thermal would be doing most of the work, in winter the woodburner would be helping when on and the gas combi boiler (would save me having to replace one that is only a few years old but can't be used with solar thermal) would be doing the rest - iirc that coil would run through the central heating too -so any heat from the woodburner that heated the accumulator would heat the radiators too. Also an immersion (probably something like an immersun - using excess solar pv electricity generated if possible). In future the combi coil could be replaced with something else - eg biomass or ground/air source etc -depending what happens with the price of gas (at the moment mains gas is still cheaper than say the electricity used for ground source). A 4th coil would give you the option of using mains gas AND something else - if something else came up in the future...
A really complicated system - and I haven't done anything more about it - need to sit down and look at it properly -get people on board - but they would have to be specialists...
If I can't get RHI on the solar thermal really need a rethink. Even ignoring the new boiler I couldn't make solar thermal worthwhile even with RHI and a a 0% loan only saves £60-90ish pa on water heating (so would take almost 70 yrs to cover installation costs with RHI) . Not trying to make money - but don't want to lose any -or at least too much either....

unlucky83 Wed 18-Mar-15 21:14:10

that's 70 yrs WITHOUT RHI!!! -with RHI and noone would be doing it!!!

atticusclaw Wed 18-Mar-15 22:55:14

unlucky83 Wed 18-Mar-15 23:08:40

oh damn'd think the EST would give out better advice....
thanks though - saved me researching only to find it is a complete no go.

atticusclaw Thu 19-Mar-15 09:08:10

It does seem a stupid rule. I suspect its just the additional admin they don't want.

I'm annoyed that if we keep our old oil system as a back up then we have to be metered to reduce the payments to the actual level of use rather than the calculated level of use for the property. This discourages people from being extra efficient and trying to conserve fuel. Preservation of fuel is preservation of fuel whether thats fossil fuel or biomass, surely confused

Maybe we should ditch the oil system (but we have a full tank in the garden plus you never know when you might need a back up, particularly if biomass boilers are prone to break down).

Mamab33 Thu 19-Mar-15 09:15:55

All very interesting nothing to add but will bump for you.

FurbysMakeSexNoises Mon 23-Mar-15 12:30:02

We have just moved into an old farmhouse with an oil boiled so are definitely interested in biomass but since the RHI payments have come down and oil is currently cheaper it's less pressing... Also we'd need one with a hopper as we wouldn't be around enough to keep topping it up. We don't have access to loads of wood either so would need to get the pellets.

Will be following. Solar panels would ruin the appearance of the Georgian bit of the house so we wouldn't consider those, I had wondered about a small wind turbine, has anyone looked into that?

TalkinPeace Mon 23-Mar-15 13:50:16

TBH if you have lots of space, a ground source heat pump dug in under the drive, solar thermal and PV would meet your needs in a much more proven way.

I know of a building that jumped at biomass and now regret it

TallGiraffes Mon 23-Mar-15 14:04:40

Talkin - does a ground source heat pump generate enough heat for old properties though? I had heard they only really worked with super airtight newer buildings.

TalkinPeace Mon 23-Mar-15 14:07:59

Ah, possibly not.

crappyday Mon 23-Mar-15 14:08:23

Tall giraffes my parents put in ground source into their very old house. It's warmer than it had ever been before!
They have PVs to power it.
Did have to dig up a large field.

unlucky83 Mon 23-Mar-15 14:23:37

I looked at ground source but with a straight you don't need a lot of outdoor space.
Firstly it is not cheap - my quote was for about £25k. (But you do get RHI)
Secondly you have to power the pump - with electricity. I was told that for every 4 kw heat energy produced it took 1 kw of electrical energy. For me (on mains gas) electricity is approx 4x the price of would cost the same to run. And standard solar PV doesn't help with that - installs are usually max 4kW and usually produce less than that - and when you need most heat - winter, the sun is less bright and the days are much shorter.
I know when oil was expensive it was worth thinking about if you weren't on mains gas ...but not sure now...
The other thing your insulation and draught proofing have to be good. is best with underfloor heating. If you do have radiators -you might need bigger ones and preferably with 15 mm feeds (so not microbore). The ones that have electrical powered fans to distribute the heat are also recommended. The radiators will be cooler than what you usually get from a standard boiler. The house takes longer to warm up - it isn't very controllable - so better if you are eg in all day.
Finally if you find it too cool it will use electrical energy to make it warmer if you fiddle with the settings it might end up using a hell of a lot of electricity and cost a fortune.
The Energy Saving trust did a report on it - seems the people who found that it didn't reduce bills in general weren't using it 'correctly'...

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