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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Biomass boilers are favoured by businesses with big premises where space heating and hot water are required throughout the building, including:
They are particularly suitable for older buildings with listed status that can’t make extensive glazing or insulation improvements.
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.