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Biomass Boilers in 2024: What, How & Why? + Pros and Cons

Becky Mckay
By: Becky Mckay
Updated: 7th January 2024

Biomass Boiler Guide

Biomass boilers burn a highly sustainable, carbon neutral and renewable fuel in the form of wood. This may feel like a fairly old-fashioned way of generating heat but it’s one of the most reliable. So if you’re looking for a renewable alternative to fossil fuels then a biomass boiler could be a suitable option.

In this complete guide we will cover various topics: what is the best biomass boiler, how to find local biomass boiler installers, as well as biomass boiler advantages and disadvantages.

If you need a little more context before we get to the topics mentioned above, you can read this section on what a biomass boiler is and how it works first.

If you’re ready to start getting a new biomass boiler, Boiler Guide’s network of approved partner installers can offer you the most competitive quotes tailored to your heating situation. This means you not only get accurate and highly specific quotes, but you also save time and money looking for the best installers.

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Which is the best domestic biomass boiler?

To find the right biomass boiler for your home, we need to compare the best biomass boiler manufacturers.

The best biomass boiler manufacturers offer heating systems that will make your home more efficient and reduce your impact on the environment. All while reducing your heating bills.

The best biomass boiler is one that will keep your running costs to a minimum. If you live near a wooded area with free access to wood logs then a log-burning biomass boiler, like the Windhager LogWIN Premium, is a great option.

A great feature of Windhager LogWIN Premium Touch biomass boilers is that they boast a large combustion chamber. This allows them to store more fuel. So you won’t have to worry about refilling it so often.

While you could heat your home for free with wood logs, they take up a fair amount of space. So if you’re looking to save space then consider the alternatives: wood chips or pellets.

One of the best wood pellet boilers is the Viessmann Vitoligno 300-C, which will automatically refill the boiler with fuel when needed - saving you a job.

Best Biomass Boiler Manufacturers Viessmann Froling Windhager Grant Warmflow
Model Vitoligno 300-C T4e LogWIN Premium Touch Spira Zeno
Fuel Type Pellets Chips Logs Pellets Pellets
Output 2.4 – 48 kW 5.9 - 250 kW 13.4 – 50 kW 5 - 72kW 4 - 18 kW
Maximum Efficiency 95% 95% 92% 97% -
Potential Cost £9,000 - £10,000 £8,000 - £14,000 £7,000 - £10,000 £11,000 - £12,500 £7,000 - £14,000

Cost of biomass boilers

At first sight, the costs of a biomass boiler can feel daunting. With prices ranging from £4,000 up to as high as £21,000. Ultimately, how much the unit costs will come down to the type of biomass boiler being installed and the complexity of the installation.
Manually-fed biomass boilers are the most affordable option with prices of around £4,000 to £10,000. While these are cheaper than automatically-fed units, you will have to top the boiler up with fuel yourself. The price of automatically-fed biomass boilers can range from £9,000 to £21,000.

These prices can seem very high, especially when you consider that a gas boiler can be installed for around £2,000. However, the upfront costs don’t tell the whole story. This is because once installed, a biomass boiler can be cheaper to run than gas, oil and electricity. You could also receive financial aid through the Boiler Upgrade Scheme.

Another way to save money on your biomass boiler is by comparing quotes to ensure you get the best possible deal on installation costs. Installation costs can vary a lot from one installer to the next, and it can be difficult to know what a fair price is if you have nothing to compare to. Simply click the button below and we'll provide you with up to 3 free quotes from qualified heating engineers in your area, so you can objectively choose the best deal.

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Biomass boiler grants

The UK government has introduced the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) to help homeowners upgrade their heating system to either a biomass boiler or heat pump. If you decide to install a biomass boiler, you could receive a grant of £5,000 towards the total cost. The BUS will be available until 2025.

Biomass boiler running costs and maintenance

While there are various fuels that can be used by a biomass boiler, the 3 main fuels are wood pellets, wood chips and wood logs. All of these fuel sources could potentially save you money over oil, electricity and even gas.

Wood logs are the ideal fuel for anyone with access to a wooded area. That’s because you could potentially gather them up for free - you just need to know where to look.

Fuel Average Cost in Great Britain (pence per kWh)
Wood Pellets 7.9
Gas 10.3
Oil 9.2
LPG 12.1
Electricity (Standard Rate) 34

Source: The Energy Saving Trust (October 2022)

The fluctuations in price that affect how much gas costs isn’t something that you need to concern yourself with when it comes to biomass fuels.

Unlike gas and electricity, biomass fuel must be purchased in bulk and stored at your home. As a fuel that needs to be purchased in bulk, it’s important to look at the potential cost per tonne. Wood chips are likely to be the most affordable while pellets come at the higher price.

Biomass Fuel Potential Cost (Per Tonne)
Wood Chips £59
Wood Logs £99 (free if you have access to a wooded area)
Wood Pellets £245

As well as fuel costs, you also need to consider maintenance. Similar to gas and oil boilers, most biomass boilers will need to be serviced once a year to make sure they are still working safely and efficiently.

As well as servicing, you'll also need to consider the regular upkeep of your biomass boiler. If you have a manual biomass boiler, this will require a lot more maintenance, as you will need to empty the ash every week. You will also need to top up the fuel roughly every other day. Automatic biomass boilers, on the other hand, are self-cleaning and refuel themselves, saving you a lot of time.

Is a biomass boiler right for your home?

Anyone living in a small home should probably rule out a biomass boiler. If you live in a small 1-2 bedroom home or flat, you’d be better off turning to an alternative renewable technology.

Biomass boilers are best suited to larger properties that take a long time to heat up as burning wood is much more economical and environmentally friendly than gas or oil.

The best way to find out if your home is suited to a biomass boiler is to get the opinion of a qualified biomass boiler installer. Using Boiler Guide, you can get free quotes from up to 3 installers based in your local area.

If your home is suited to a biomass boiler then there are many benefits you’ll be able to enjoy.

However, before being able to commit to having a biomass boiler installed, there are some important considerations to make:

  • You might need a larger heat delivery system (underfloor heating or bigger radiators) due to the lower temperature of water than gas boilers.
  • You'll need sufficient cavity wall, floor and loft insulation to ensure the heat remains within your property.
  • A hot water storage cylinder will be needed to store the domestic hot water.
  • As a result of burning wood, biomass boilers produce ash which will need to be disposed of on a regular basis (an automatic biomass boiler will take care of this for you).

If you’ve accounted for the considerations above then a biomass boiler could be an effective alternative. By burning plant-based organisms, there’s a low risk of us running out of fuel for biomass boilers - more can always be planted. On top of that wood is a very inexpensive fuel for heating your home and can even be free.

As well as lower fuel costs, you could be eligible to receive the grant from the Boiler Upgrade Scheme. So, if the higher upfront price of a biomass boiler, compared to a gas boiler, has put you off, consider the long-term costs involved.

If you have the space for a biomass boiler as well as somewhere to store the fuel then they’re well worth considering. However, with that being said, one last thing you'll need to consider is the installation cost.

Finding a qualified heating engineer for a good price can be a tedious and confusing task, taking up hours of your time. Thankfully, we can help take this weight off your shoulders. By clicking the button below, we can put you in touch with up to 3 qualified installers in your area. This way you can compare their quotes and objectively choose the best one. What's more, it's completely free of charge and you're under no obligation to accept any of the offers.

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Biomass boiler pros and cons

Biomass boilers have various advantages and disadvantages you need to take into consideration before installing one in your home:

Biomass boilers pros and cons

Renewable source of energy

Gas, coal and oil can take millions of years to form. Furthermore, we’re burning through the supply faster than it’s being produced, meaning these sources are becoming increasingly limited. Meanwhile, as long as plants are being planted and growing, there will always be fuel for a biomass boiler.

Efficiency of over 90%

The efficiency of a boiler relates to how much of the fuel is converted into usable energy. And biomass boilers are capable of delivering efficiencies of over 90% - a similar level to modern condensing gas and oil boilers.

Carbon neutral system

When a plant dies naturally, any carbon dioxide it has absorbed during its life gets released into the atmosphere and this is no different to wood being burnt in a biomass boiler. Gas and oil boilers, on the other hand, are increasing the levels of carbon in the atmosphere which is having a negative impact on the environment.

Cheap to run

Compared to other fuels such as gas, oil and electricity, biomass fuel is cheaper per kW. A biomass boiler would be incredibly beneficial to homeowners with a constant supply of wood, as having to think about the price of fuel could soon become a thing of the past.

Requires lots of space

Biomass boilers take up a fair amount of space, needing more than a standard boiler as the fuel is physical. The boilers that are fitted with automated hoppers (which means you don’t have to manually put fuel in the boiler) will need the most space, in the region of 10m².

You’ll not only need room to fit the boiler itself but also somewhere to store the fuel, especially if you stock up to save on delivery costs. A good place would be a garage or under a protective shelter outdoors which will keep the wood dry.

High upfront cost

While biomass boilers are cheap to run thanks to the fuel costs, the appliance itself could cost about 10 times more than a more conventional gas system.

However, until 2025, you could receive up to £5,000 towards the cost of installing a biomass boiler through the Boiler Upgrade Scheme.

Requires maintenance

Depending on whether you get a manual or automatic biomass boiler the maintenance required will be significantly different. The manual models will require you to empty the ash on a weekly basis and the fuel needs to be topped up roughly every other day. Automatic boilers are self-cleaning and refuel themselves thanks to being fitted with a hopper.

What is a biomass boiler and how does it work?

A biomass boiler does the same job as gas and oil boilers - burning a fuel to provide central heating and domestic hot water. Biomass fuel typically includes wooden pellets, chips or logs but can include biological material from plant-based organisms too.

As a standard boiler burns gas or oil, a biomass boiler burns the wood logs/pellets/chips in order to heat the water that supplies your radiators, baths, taps, etc.

A modern biomass boiler has a fuel storage compartment which will automatically feed the wood chips/pellets into the combustion area to be set alight by a probe. As the fuel burns it heats the water via a heat exchanger.

While gas boilers have a constant fuel supply from the gas network and an oil boiler is supplied by a large tanker, a biomass boiler’s fuel needs to be topped up either by hand or by an automatic mechanism called a hopper. A hopper stores a greater volume of fuel and, as previously mentioned, will automatically refuel the boiler as needed, reducing your workload.

As it burns solid fuel, a biomass boiler needs to be manually emptied of ash and cleaned every now and again. Depending on the type of boiler you have and the technology involved this could be once a week or once a year.

A biomass boiler can achieve energy efficiency of 89 - 91%. This matches the high-efficiency gas and oil boilers on the market.

Remember: A biomass boiler is still capable of producing carbon monoxide so make sure you have a detector installed.

Different types of fuel for biomass boilersBiomass boiler fuel

There are 3 forms of biomass boiler with each being designed for the different types of fuel: wood chips, wood logs or wood pellets.

Wood chips

Biomass boilers that burn wood chips need checking more routinely than other fuel types and are trickier to store than pellets. And while they are more affordable than pellets, they’re less efficient.

Wood logs

As the largest type of fuel used by biomass boilers, wood logs must be manually fed into the boiler. And while you could potentially have a free supply of wood logs if you live near a wooded area, this will add to your workload.

Wood pellets

Wood pellets are compressed sawdust and shavings of wood. A biomass boiler with a hopper will automatically feed wood pellets from where they’re stored into the boiler.

With a wood pellet biomass boiler, it’s important to be aware of the shape, size and moisture content suitable for the boiler.

Biomass boiler installation

A biomass boiler needs space. And plenty of it. This is because in addition to the biomass boiler itself, a biomass boiler installation must also include:

Buffer tank (accumulation tank)

Stores hot water and performs the role of a ‘heat storage battery’. Unlike gas and oil boilers, which can fire on and off without any problem, it’s more complicated for biomass boilers because they have to burn the pellets or chips. A buffer tank is necessary as it means the heat can be stored and released to the home later.

Fuel storage

As a physical fuel it must be stored within a container and depending on the type of biomass boiler it will either be automatically-fed into the boiler or you will have to do it manually.

Flue pipe

Waste gases are released out of the property through a flue pipe which can be fitted into a chimney depending on where the biomass boiler will be installed.

Expansion vessel

Contains air and water to maintain the correct level of pressure within the heating system.

Hot water cylinder

The domestic hot water needs to be stored within a hot water storage cylinder.

Due to all of the space required, a biomass boiler would be most suitable for installation in a garage or purpose-built outhouse. Bear in mind that if the boiler is installed externally to the property it will be heating, then pipework will need to travel to the home - which will add to the installation costs.

Installing a biomass boiler can be quite complicated compared to other types of heating systems. That's why it's important to make sure you have a professional and reliable heating engineer who can advise you on what's best for your home for a fair price. Simply click the button below to receive up to 3 free quotes from qualified heating engineers in your area. This way you can choose the best deal and ensure your boiler's installation goes smoothly.

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What is a biomass boiler?

A biomass boiler is similar to the standard gas and oil boilers you find in most homes, but it is fuelled by solid biomass rather than gas or oil. For that reason, it’s noticeably bigger and demands more maintenance.

Biomass is biological material that comes from plants or plant-based organisms. When it comes to domestic boilers this material is usually wood logs, chips or pellets.

Are biomass boilers worth it?

Yes, biomass boilers are worth it for two reasons. The first reason being that biomass fuel is cheaper per kWh than gas, oil and electricity, especially if you have access to free logs. Depending on how much your energy bills currently are, you could make a significant saving.

If you switch from using a LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) boiler to a biomass boiler, you could save around £700 a year, and if you are replacing an electric heating system you could save over £1,000 per year.

The second reason is that burning wood is a carbon neutral process which means it only produces as much carbon dioxide as the tree absorbed during its lifetime, cancelling itself out.

In addition, UK landfill sites take in millions of tonnes of waste wood every year. This means that using wood as fuel is not only healthier for the planet’s atmosphere but will also take the strain off our landfills.

What are the disadvantages of biomass boilers?

One of the main disadvantages of biomass boilers is that they can take up a lot of space, both for the boiler unit itself and the fuel storage. They are also more expensive than gas boilers, however, the running costs are lower.

Furthermore, biomass boilers may not be as good for the planet as we are commonly told.

In order to get the fuel for the biomass boiler, trees must be cut down. We need trees to absorb carbon from the atmosphere. So for a biomass boiler to be carbon neutral, trees will need to be planted to replace those cut down for fuel. However, trees take many years to grow, so if we cannot plant and grow trees at a fast enough rate we are better off not cutting them down to begin with.

Plus, burning wood emits fine particle pollution and other contaminants which are all bad news for the planet. As well as our health.

Are biomass boilers cheaper to run?

Yes, biomass boilers are in general cheap to run. Wood chips and pellets are a relatively inexpensive way to heat your home. Plus, if you live near a wooded area then you could potentially heat your home for free.

Do biomass boilers run all the time?

You can have your biomass boiler running all the time. However, it is also advisable to turn off the biomass system when you have a low heating demand, for instance, during summer.

Is a biomass boiler cheaper than gas?

Yes, biomass fuel is cheaper per kWh compared to gas, oil and electricity. However, the upfront cost is higher.

How often do you fill a biomass boiler?

How often you should fill your biomass boiler depends on your heat demand, the type of fuel and the model of your boiler. As a general rule, you would need to fill it 4 times a week during winter and only every 3rd week in summer.

How much electricity does a biomass boiler use?

How much electricity the biomass boiler uses depends on the type of boiler. You can always ask the installer how much power the boiler needs in order to run the mechanics.

Do I need planning permission for a biomass boiler?

No, normally you would not require planning permission for installing a domestic biomass boiler.

How big a biomass boiler do I need?

The installer will guide you through how big a biomass boiler you will need for your property. As a general rule of thumb: the bigger the house, the bigger the boiler you will need.

Becky Mckay

About the author

Becky Mckay

Becky has been a writer at Boiler Guide since 2021. Her vast boiler knowledge means she’s ready to help with any home heating query, big or small!

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