Biomass boilers: Key questions to ask your biomass installer

Popular biomass solutions

With the popularity of burning locally grown wood fuel, and the keen incentives available under the Renewable Heat Incentive, it is no wonder that Biomass solutions for some have become popular and installation numbers are on the increase.

This week we give you some helpful tips to try and determine if the technology, and your installer, is right for your project.

Ask your biomass installer: Have they experience of your boiler and do they offer local support?

One of the trickiest aspects to get right is to find an installer who has experience installing boilers and knowledge of the product they deem suitable for your home. This may seem like an odd statement, but not all biomass boilers are the same and they all have different functions/features and preferred installation standards. Make sure the installer has at the very least installed the same type of boiler as the one they are proposing to sell you; and can give you previous clients to speak to. That way you are less likely to be a biomass installation “guinea pig”!

Also make sure the installer is local (or within at least a 30 mile radius) so that the installation can be correctly supported if a problem arises that needs a quick response.

Ask your biomass installer: Will the system be integrated into my existing system?

A subtle, but important point which many customers get caught out by is ensuring that the installer will be fitting a system that requires no other tradesmen. Some installers cost for the boiler, fuel hopper and a tank to put lots of hot water into but won’t have costed for the integration of the system into your home heating. In which case you need to find a plumber, spend more money and wonder how you ever misunderstood they weren’t doing “everything”! Make sure you clarify exactly what is being quoted for as early as possible.

Ask your biomass installer: What fuel type is right for me?

Make sure that your chosen installer explains fully the pros and cons of different fuel types to you. There are a few to choose from; chip, pellet, log or even something more exotic but your installer will be advise based on your specific situation and hopefully point you towards some local fuel suppliers.

Fuel supply and minimising the distance the fuel transported is important to many people as well as ensuring the price is right and the quality of fuel is high. Find out who others use or visit http://www.bigbarn.co.uk/logpile/indexen.php to find your local supplier.

Ask your biomass installer: How much space do I need for fuel storage?

With the choice of different fuel types comes the requirement for differing amounts of fuel storage. Solid fuel takes up more space than you may initially imagine, but the key is to try and store as much fuel as possible on site to reduce the need for expensive fuel delivery costs. The volume of fuel required depends on the output of the boiler and can be simply calculated. With a bit of number crunching and discussion with the installer appropriate volumes and storage spaces can be decided upon with ease.

Ask your biomass installer: How much automation do I want?

Solid fuel biomass boilers have an inherent level of automation involved in the transport of the fuel into the burner to ensure they can correctly operate. In addition there is cleaning and ash removal to consider too.

Depending on the level of involvement you want with the technology affects the boiler type, fuel choice and space for ancillary equipment such as pumps and services. At one extreme is a simple log gasification boiler that you have to manually load on a daily basis and the other is a fully automated hopper that fuel is extracted from by auger or pneumatic hose and fed straight into the boiler. Of course this all has an effect on price but make sure you communicate clearly the level of interaction you are happy with or else you may get a nasty surprise later on down the line.

If however you are still unsure as to which renewable technology, biomass or otherwise, is right for you do feel free to get in touch. As always feel free to leave a comment too. What other questions would you ask?

Doug Johnson

Doug is a chartered mechanical engineer and has had the pleasure of being involved in the UK renewable sector since 2008. With wide-ranging operational and design experience in both the domestic and commercial sectors across a wide range of recognised technologies he hopes to be able to share his experience to help enlighten and save you hassle along the way.