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What to expect from your biomass boiler

Posted by Laurence Jones on 19 August 2011 at 9:27 am

Biomass has an important role to play in the generation of heat for domestic users, according to the Microgeneration Strategy published by the department for energy and climate change (DECC) in June.

It also highlighted the universal requirement for a greater understanding of the ‘durability of microgeneration installations, including key components...  and the minimum requirements for aftercare service and maintenance’.  In light of this, what can the proud owner of a new MCS-approved biomass boiler expect to pay in both time and money?

Life expectancy

As with any solid fuel device, the life expectancy of a biomass boiler relies heavily on the user being engaged with a regular course of servicing and maintenance. Typically you can expect the greatest lifespan from an appliance that has been taken care of: serviced regularly by both the owner (for minor tasks) and a MCS trained engineer.

In the UK, biomass boilers are a relatively new development in the heating market. However, in Europe (especially in Scandinavian countries) many domestic biomass boilers have been in operation in excess of 15 years without need for replacement.

Ongoing costs

There are a number of costs that a prospective buyer should consider. Naturally, the main cost to the user is going to be fuel for the boiler. This is an area to pay particular attention to as buying low-quality wood chip and pellets can damage the boiler and increase ongoing costs and maintenance. Buy certified wood fuel where possible. 

Prices are currently around £185 per tonne for wood pellets and £90 per tonne for wood chips. These figures will depend on where you live, as prices for wood pellets and chips vary considerably.

We (HETAS) recommend in our Biomass installer training that an appliance should be serviced every 12 months as a minimum. This should include smoke draw testing.

You should also aim to have your flue swept and any debris removed from the appliance every six months. Costs vary depending on location and the size of boiler. Users should do the more frequent maintenance tasks, such as emptying fire box ash trays and cleaning the glass frontage, on a weekly basis (frequency depends upon usage). This will help with the life expectancy of the boiler and reduce your costs in the long term.

Kit replacement

There is an increasing variety of biomass boilers on the market these days and it is hard to speculate what common parts will need replacing over the medium to long term. In rare cases, you could expect to replace the occasional motor or perhaps a thermostat. This is all dependent on how fastidious the owner is with maintenance.

Image: A log boiler. Taken from the HETAS Biomass training manual

About the author: Laurence Jones was marketing support officer at HETAS

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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Comments

1 comments - read them below or add one

Judyf2

Judyf2Comment left on: 24 August 2011 at 10:18 am

I'm looking for a pellet burner which will do the job of a Rayburn. I.e. cook, heat water and run about 16 radiators. Any ideas?

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