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Is biomass heating suitable for urban flats?

Posted by FairEnergy . on 1 February 2013 at 12:10 pm

Q: Is it possible to install biomass heating systems into blocks of flats?

A: The short answer to this is yes.So long as there is suitable space that can be allocated to the scheme, inside or outside, a suitable pellet, wood chip or even log system can be designed to supply heat through a central duct to provide energy to the entire building, with each flat independent from the next.

Depending on whether the flats are fitted with combi-boilers offering instantaneous domestic hot water from the boiler source, or if the boiler feeds a separate cylinder for this need (backed up with immersion probes), there is a solution which can be designed into the scheme to run a more efficient replacement system and benefit from the renewable heat incentive (RHI).

The current boiler in each flat would be replaced with a plate heat exchanger (PHE) or a heat interface unit. These gives an indirect heat transfer between the hot water coming from the boiler in the central duct and each individual flat's heating system. The PHE is smaller than most domestic boilers and normally fits in exactly the same spot so there is little need to alter pipework inside.

So long as the block has a minimum of two separate council tax bands over two properties the RHI commercial rate is paid to the owner under the ‘complex installation title’. There is a reduction in the pence per kWh available where the biomass installation exceeds 200kW as it then is deemed as a medium scale installation and the tier 1 payment reduces from 8.3p kWh to 5.1p.  

200kW is roughly suited to 18-20 flats and so long as a separate block is fed heat by a separate boiler in a separate plant room, regardless of who the landlord is, it is looked on as a separate scheme and so qualifies for the higher rate tariff.  If a scheme is installed into a block of apartments only 1 heat meter is required to become eligible under the RHI’s guidance notes, however, it is likely that the landlord will wish to bill tenants independently, therefore additional meter’s should be fitted into each apartment connection so billing is made easy and is made independent of individuals uses and requirements.

Follow this link for an interactive diagram displaying how urban district heating schemes are made possible.

Picture: Fair Energy district heating diagram

About the author: Fred Thomson is a technical surveyor and John Fursdon is a senior technical sales consultant at Fair Energy

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

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2 comments - read them below or add one


ClaytonComment left on: 25 September 2015 at 9:13 pm

     I am considering buying a flat  with a central biomass boiler. I have read they are not very reliable. Also they are,most  efficient when running 24/7 which I imagine it will not be in the summer. Can anyone throw any light on the current reliability of these large domestic systems: the likely cost per KWH for energy and, as there is a central gas boiler back up,  can I assume they wil use this in the summer. The company do not seem very forthcoming with any of this detail. They either do not know, or do not wish to say.

any feed back appreciated.

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whirlstonandreComment left on: 28 February 2013 at 8:15 am


I am very pleased to leave my comment here. This article is quite interesting. wood pellet mill machine

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