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Biomass heating – a quick guide

Is biomass heating right for your business?

If you’re looking for a low carbon, low-cost way to heat your business, then a biomass boiler may well be on your list of potential solutions.  But what is biomass heating and is it something that you should consider? In this quick guide, we’ll cover the basics to get you up to speed.

What is biomass heating?

Essentially, biomass heating is the burning of wood or plant matter to generate heat. Its fuel can take the form of logs, pellets or wood chips. These biofuels provide the largest form of renewable heating throughout Europe and a large proportion comes from sustainable forests, where every tree is replaced after it has been removed.

A biomass boiler typically operates just like a conventional gas boiler, where the water is heated and distributed around your premises to provide hot water and heat via radiators. In industrial workshop settings, this can also be done via fans.


The benefits of using biomass in business

Biomass is a renewable and sustainable fuel with lower carbon emissions than those associated with traditional fossil fuel.

Biomass boilers can provide higher temperatures when compared with heat pumps.

The boilers are an easy replacement for a conventional gas system with no need to change the radiators. They have a 20- to 30-year life span, compared to a traditional gas boiler which would last between 10 and 15 years.

Biomass heating can provide an excellent solution in rural areas where there is no gas supply.

Biomass boilers are an excellent way to make use of waste wood.

What are the key considerations when thinking about biomass heating?

When deciding if a biomass boiler is going to be right for your business there are a number of things to think about. You are going to need space, and not just for the boiler that is likely to be bigger than a comparative gas boiler.

It is important to also have plenty of room for your fuel, whichever you choose to use, and your fuel store must be kept dry.

You also have options when it comes to loading the fuel into the boiler. You can install an automatic hopper or auger that you can load up and your fuel of choice will be delivered at the correct rate.

The other alternative is to manually feed in the fuel, but this will require manpower and potentially extra staff.

Another thing to consider is who will be carrying out the day-to-day maintenance and cleaning. Biomass boilers can prove to be more labour intensive than a standard gas boiler.  Some of the more expensive systems are self-cleaning, but if that is outside of your budget, you will need to have a regular cleaning regimen. The ash needs to be removed once a week, while also checking there are no blockages or build-up of residue. Yearly inspections by a qualified engineer are also recommended.

One of the biggest decisions to make is about the type of fuel you will use (whether pellets, logs or chips). These can be selected to suit your location and/or your heating requirement.


  • Pellets have high calorific value (resulting in more heat being released), are produced using waste raw timber, such as sawdust, and are easily transported. Storage and delivery systems need to be carefully designed to avoid moisture, and also to ensure the pellets are not broken up in to dust upon delivery.
  • Logs require careful management to ensure wet fuel does not cause problems to the internal boiler mechanics. Logs are often sourced by labour-intensive cutting and stacking by hand and require dry storage for more than a year before use.
  • Chips can be less expensive than pellets, as they often have a greater moisture content, which reduces the calorific value.

Bear in mind that not all areas have suppliers nearby and you need to know fuel will be available for the lifetime of the boiler.



How much does it cost to install a biomass boiler in my business?

That depends on what you need it for…are you heating a two-bedroom holiday cottage or a 50-bedroom hotel? You could be looking at spending up to £100,000 if your premises are at the bigger end of the scale. But biomass boilers have an enviable lifespan, so it’s important to calculate the outlay over the 20-30 years they are expected to last.

While initial investment costs can be relatively high when compared with other options, you could apply for an interest-free Scottish Government SME Loan to help with the finances.

When it comes to the fuel, the pellets, logs or chips are cheaper per kW than gas, oil or electricity. And if you have access to free raw timber, there won’t be any fuel bills to pay.

Would a biomass boiler be right for my business?

Biomass boilers are favoured by businesses with big premises where space heating and hot water are required throughout the building, including:

  • Care homes
  • Hotels and holiday parks
  • Private schools
  • Factories
  • Leisure facilities
  • Community halls
  • Garden centres and agriculture businesses
  • Golf clubs
  • Estates
  • Sites with multiple buildings

They are particularly suitable for older buildings with listed status that can’t make extensive glazing or insulation improvements.

Frequently asked questions about biomass

  • Is biomass heating expensive? It’s true that the initial installation costs are higher than a traditional boiler, but you have to look at the ongoing savings you’ll be making with an efficient biomass system. You should see a big difference in your monthly energy bills. And with the help of a Scottish Government interest-free SME loan, you can spread the capital outlay.
  • Is biomass more environmentally friendly than fossil fuels? Yes, burning biomass releases carbon, but the pellets or logs have already spent a lifetime absorbing CO2 so it is creating a balance. And, in many cases, where trees have been cut down to create the fuel, they will be replaced, so the process can start over.
  • Are biomass boilers labour intensive? They don’t need to be. It’s important you find the right system that works for you and your business. Including a hopper or an auger feed will allow the boiler to run around the clock with no daily intervention. And the boiler will probably tell you when you need to empty the ash every few weeks.

See what other businesses have done

We have worked with several businesses that have installed biomass boilers and have gone on to make big savings. Click below to read their stories:

You can arrange a free assessment here

If you are a Scottish SME and would like to know if a biomass heating system is a good option for your business, we are here to help. We can arrange for an independent consultant to visit your site and make recommendations for free. You can arrange a free assessment here.