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Should I swap my oil boiler for a biomass system?

With many households now feeling the pinch of the cost of living crisis, in particular exceptionally high fuel prices, rural homeowners may be wondering whether now may be the time to switch from an oil boiler to a heat pump. In this article, we take a closer look at oil boilers versus biomass heating systems.

How does an oil boiler work?

An oil boiler works by igniting oil in a combustion chamber. This produces hot gases that are then passed through a heat exchanger (usually a copper coil) to heat water. This heated water is pumped around the home to your radiators, taps and showers when it's required.

How does a biomass boiler work?

Biomass boilers work by burning biological matter and outputting the resulting heat for use in heating systems. Wood pellets, chips, logs or other biological materials are fed - automatically, semi-automatically, or manually - into a combustion chamber where they are ignited. The hot gas and air produced by this process travel through a flue, and are then passed through a heat exchanger, which transfers the heat to the water used in the property’s central heating system. The excess heat can also be stored in a thermal tank, also known as a buffer vessel.

Advantages and disadvantages of a biomass boiler

Advantages of Biomass Boilers

  • Biomass is considered an environmentally friendly source of renewable energy as it can be obtained relatively quickly by replacing or growing new plants or trees.
  • Biomass is also considered a carbon-neutral form of energy because the same amount of carbon dioxide that is released by the burning process is later re-absorbed by growing plants. As well as supplying energy, biomass heating can also help with the disposal of wood and other material waste, adding to the sustainability.
  • Replacing a coal or electric heating system with a biomass boiler can help you reduce your annual carbon dioxide output by up to 9.5 tons.
  • While prices of traditional fuels such as oil and gas are highly volatile, Biomass fuel generally enjoys much more stable prices, so you won’t see your bills increasing sharply. Prices for biomass are generally close to gas prices but much cheaper than electric heating and solid fuel, so a biomass boiler may be a good replacement for those kinds of systems.
  • Biomass boilers and stoves qualify for the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme (RHI), which means you would qualify for periodical payments over several years. This helps repay your initial investment in a shorter time.

Disadvantages of Biomass Boilers

  • Biomass boilers need more space than gas or oil boilers because the system is larger, while you also need space to store the fuel itself, such as a hopper or wood store. It is essential for biomass fuel to remain dry, or it won’t burn efficiently. For this reason, the storage conditions must be considered thoroughly.
  • One of the largest disadvantages of biomass boilers is that the initial investment, including purchasing the boiler and installing it, is higher compared to traditional gas or oil boilers - typically £4,000 - £8,000.
  • Biomass boilers require more work than traditional gas and oil boilers. Unless you have a hopper, you have to continuously supply the system with pellets or chips. Biomass boilers also need to be cleaned regularly, generally once a week.
  • When choosing a supplier, you should consider the carbon footprint and the cost of the delivery itself. You will also need to consider access to your property and availability of a supply.

The final word

If you are looking to make a significant, long term investment in your rural property and are keen to switch to a more sustainable fuel source, it is well worth considering biofuel. However, modern advances in oil boilers mean that they are an extremely attractive choice that is still very efficient and economical.

Considering replacing your oil boiler? Call D.R. Plumbing and Heating, your North Wales oil boiler experts today on 01978 291 923 / 01352 620 125 for a free, no-obligation quotation.

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