Are biomass boilers worth it?

Biomass boilers offer a great heating solution that really does pay for itself and then some. Combined with the great savings to be made with biomass fuels and the government’s domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), it really does make sense to look at biomass for your home.

Biomass boiler – a Straight Alternative to Oil or LPG

For those off-grid properties, biomass is a much cheaper fuel to run your heating on when compared to heating oil or Calor gas. Even when compared to heat pumps, the closest renewable competition, biomass generally wins.

While you can install a heat pump (air source or ground source), there is a difference when compared to biomass (heat pumps operate at much lower temperatures), which will mean that you will have to slightly change how you distribute your heat – by increasing the size of your radiators and / or consider installing underfloor insulation (the latter is not mandatory).

Biomass Boiler

Therefore the big advantage over heat pumps is that you can install a biomass boiler with your existing radiators and hot water system as they operate at high temperature and do not require as big an output to provide the same volume of useful heat.

Even if you are on grid, you can still benefit from a biomass boiler – as long as you have the space and are not in a clean air zone (it is very restrictive to use in urban areas of London). Even comparing the cost of gas to biomass fuel can be favourable, especially when you factor in the RHI payments.

Insulation not as important

As mentioned, heat pumps are the other way to get RHI-funded heating, but because they produce lower grade heat, they don’t tend to work well with a traditional radiator system. In these cases, you will probably need to install additional insulation to bring the heat demand right down to be worth it.  Insulation is cost effective if you have a cavity wall property, but if it is of solid wall construction then you will need to consider getting expensive insulation, and the costs will start to add up.

Biomass has the added advantage of not needing a super insulated house – although we advise on always trying to get the best possible insulation. Where heat pumps rely on high quality insulation to function effectively, costing thousands of pounds, biomass will work well in any home, with just your basic loft and cavity wall insulation. In fact, you will actually get more money as part of the RHI when your property requires more heat to warm it – but loft and cavity, if recommended on the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), must be installed!

How much can I earn on the RHI for Biomass?

The RHI will pay you 12.2p/kWh and the amount you get will depend on the heat demand on your EPC. A typical property with a heat demand of about 20,000 kWh will receive more than £2,400 a year; or £17,500 over a 7 year period. That’s a lot of money and will cover the cost of the installation well before the end of the life of the boiler.

To demonstrate how the RHI payments can work with real properties out there, we have selected a range of properties we have assessed and have summarised the typical heat demands and therefore the expected payments.

House type Typical Heat Demand RHI (7 Years)
Terraced House (D Rated) 10,000kWh £8,400
Semi Detached 3 Bed (D Rated) 20,000kWh £16,800
130m2 Detached 4 Bed (E Rated) 25,000kWh £21,000
300m2 Modern Detached House (B Rated) 20,000kWh £16,800
300m2 Detached House(E Rated) 50,000kWh £42,000

In reality, to see how much your property will get, you need to look at the last page of your EPC. Look at the heat demand combined with the water heating requirements then multiply by the tariff (12.2p/kWh). Generally speaking, smaller terraced properties are unlikely to have the space required for one of these boilers, but for larger properties, the returns are very generous.

How do I claim for the RHI payments?

Getting the RHI is really easy. You will need the installation to be done by an MCS accredited installer (you can find an MCS installer here), and a Green Deal Assessment carried out on the property. It is just worth noting that a Green Deal Assessment will produce for you an EPC and the Occupancy Assessment – so you will then be able to see the heat demand on the certificate that is produced.

Please note: if the assessment recommends loft or cavity wall insulation, you will need to get these installed; otherwise, it is just a case of making the application if you have those in place already (i.e. the EPC will not have these as recommendations).

Can we help on the RHI application process for the biomass boiler?

Absolutely! As a Green Deal Advisory Organisation and experienced energy consultants we can deliver both the Green Deal Assessment (EPC & Occupancy Assessment) and help on putting you on the right track with the RHI application.

Installing a Biomass Boiler

Are you thinking about installing a biomass boiler? We have scoured the country for the best tradespeople, so that we can make sure we only recommend those we really trust.

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