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Can I service my biomass boiler myself?

Posted by Trish O'Flynn on 31 January 2017 at 11:10 am

Biomass boilers that burn wood logs, chips or pellets require more attention than gas or oil boilers as build-ups of ash and clinker can stop the boiler working efficiently. Some of these tasks you will need to do yourself, such as regular cleaning and checking.

As with servicing your car, being able to service your biomass boiler yourself depends on the complexity of the installation.

“Most modern biomass boilers have mechanical, electrical and electronic components, so it depends on whether you have the right skills, experience and equipment to do the job. If not, you’ll need to call in a competent professional”, says Mark Howard from Sungift Solar.

But, for those of you who love DIY and getting your hands dirty, in this video SuperHomer Mark Brown demonstrates, step by step, the annual maintenance he does on the wood pellet boiler fitted in 2009 in the five bedroom house in South Buckinghamshire where he lives with wife Liya and their children. The house was built in the early 1980s. This video is nearly 15 minutes long.


What you will need to do a DIY service

Mark Brown started doing the service himself after watching the boiler engineer and he continues to have a professional service every five years using an engineer experienced with his brand of boiler. He uses the following equipment for his DIY annual maintenance: vacuum cleaner, soft brush, screwdriver, wire brush, home-made scoop, 3 in 1 oil, allen key. He also brings in an additional light source so he can see clearly inside the boiler. 

It’s a dirty job so Mark Brown wears old clothes and has heavy duty gloves, knee pads and something comfortable to lie on. You might want to use a face mask and eye protection as well. 

You'll also need to remember these safety measures:

  • ensure the boiler is switched off at the mains
  • allow it to cool down completely (ideally overnight)
  • know where the sprung components are and clean with care.

How to do a DIY boiler service

Once the boiler is switched off and cooled down, Mark Brown shows how he removes and cleans the various boiler parts, as well as the cleaning of the interior. Once the interior is cleaned he replaces the clean parts, taking care that all the parts align. Some parts are heavy.

The cam system for the self-clean mechanism requires lubrication and Mark Brown uses 3 in1 oil. I now takes him about two hours to do the annual maintenance. 

The boiler is now ready to be restarted. It is at this point that a professional service engineer would do a range of combustion tests using a flue gas analyser, a piece of kit that measures how well the boiler is firing.

Mark Howard from Sungift Solar explains: “A professional engineer will interpret the flue gas data relating to the carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and oxygen levels and, if necessary, adjust the boiler to get the cleanest burn”.

Can you DIY if you receive the Renewable Heat Incentive?

Biomass boilers are eligible for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and if you receive RHI you have to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for servicing. This usually involves an annual service using a Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) certified installer.


Video credit: SuperHome 59 on YouTube

Take a look at Mark and Liya Brown’s SuperHome page.

More information about Biomass Boilers and Energy Saving and Renewable Energy on YouGen.

Find a Biomass Boiler installer

You can find an up to date list of local wood fuel equipment and fuel suppliers on our Log Pile database.

About the author: Trish is a web content writer with the National Energy Foundation.

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

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