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Last updated: 26th September, 2023


Are Biomass Boilers Worth it?

Are Biomass Boilers Worth it?

Key takeaways

  • Biomass boilers offer an environmentally sustainable alternative to traditional fossil fuel boilers.
  • Factors such as efficiency, cost, government incentives, and environmental impact must be considered when evaluating the worth of biomass boilers.
  • Homeowners need to assess their individual situation to determine if a biomass boiler is the correct choice for their home.

Biomass boilers are a sustainable and eco-friendly style of heating solution that can help reduce your carbon footprint while providing efficient and reliable heating for your home or business. Our guide explores the benefits of biomass boilers, including their energy efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and versatility, and provides tips on how to choose the right system for your needs.

Biomass boilers have been gaining traction as a renewable and sustainable heating option for homeowners seeking alternative ways to heat their homes.

These boilers use organic materials, such as wood from trees or energy crops, to generate heat instead of relying on fossil fuels. As concerns grow over the environmental impact of traditional heating systems, many people are exploring the potential of biomass boilers as a viable solution for their homes.

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Evaluating the worth of biomass boilers involves considering various aspects, including efficiency, cost, environmental impact, and government incentives available for renewable heating. Biomass boilers boast an efficiency of around 80%-90%, which is notably higher than some older conventional fossil fuel boilers. 

The financial implications of installing a biomass boiler also deserve attention, as homeowners could potentially receive payments through the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), a scheme designed by the government to encourage the adoption of renewable heating methods.

However, it's important to weigh the pros and cons of biomass boilers against factors such as storage and maintenance requirements, availability of biomass fuel sources, and the suitability of a particular system for one's home. 

Each homeowner will need to assess these considerations in order to determine whether a biomass boiler is worth the investment for their specific situation.

What is a Biomass Boiler?

A biomass boiler is a heating system that utilises organic matter, typically wood pellets, chips, or logs, as fuel to generate heat and power hot water. This type of boiler provides an eco-friendly alternative to traditional fossil fuels due to the renewable and carbon-neutral nature of biomass.

Biomass boilers function similarly to conventional gas or oil boilers, with the crucial difference being the fuel source. 

The biomass fuel is fed into the boiler where it is combusted, producing heat that is then distributed throughout the heating system. An essential part of the biomass boiler system is the storage and feeding mechanism for the biomass fuel, ensuring a steady supply for combustion.

The use of biomass boilers has gained popularity in recent years, primarily due to their environmentally friendly characteristics. 

Biomass fuel is derived from sustainable sources such as managed forests and agricultural residues, making it a renewable and low-carbon option for heating homes or businesses. Additionally, biomass boilers can offer financial benefits to consumers, as they are less exposed to fluctuations in energy market prices.

In summary, a biomass boiler is a heating system that burns natural materials such as wood pellets, chips, or logs to provide heating and power to hot water systems. As a renewable and sustainable alternative to traditional fossil fuels, biomass boilers are an increasingly popular choice for those looking to minimise their environmental impact.

Cost Analysis

A cost analysis of biomass boilers should account for various factors such as initial costs, installation, running costs, and potential grants. By evaluating these aspects, it becomes easier to determine if investing in a biomass boiler is worthwhile.


The average cost of a biomass boiler is around £16,000, but prices can range from £12,000 for smaller models to £22,000 for larger ones. The size and capacity of the boiler affect its price, as well as its ability to provide warmth for a particular home. For instance, a cheaper boiler may not produce as much heat as a more expensive one, which could adequately cater to larger homes.

Installation of biomass boilers generally takes one or two days and can cost between £10,000 and £15,000 for biomass log boilers. However, this process is typically straightforward. It is advisable to compare installation costs from multiple heating engineers, as prices may vary. 

Moreover, considering that several components are involved, such as flues, fuel storage, and connection to the heating system, it is vital to ensure a professional installation.

Running costs for biomass boilers can be higher than those of gas and oil boilers in some cases. That said, in the long run, they may offer savings. 

The actual running costs depend on various factors such as the size of the home, boiler efficiency, and fuel prices. Biomass boilers utilise renewable wood-based fuel, making them a more sustainable option than fossil fuel-based boilers.

Lastly, it is essential to consider available grants, such as the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). RHI is a government scheme aimed at promoting renewable heat use across UK homes.

If eligible, homeowners with biomass boilers can receive financial support for using these renewable heating systems. This incentive has the potential to offset the initial investment and running costs of the biomass boiler.

In conclusion, a thorough cost analysis can help determine the feasibility of biomass boilers as a worthwhile investment. While initial costs may be substantial, potential long-term savings, coupled with environmental benefits and financial incentives, provide a more comprehensive picture of their value.

Different Types of Biomass Fuels

As biomass boilers gain popularity, it's important to understand the various types of biomass fuels available. 

These renewable energy sources can be a sustainable and cost-effective way to generate heat and power for homes and businesses. This section delves into the main types of biomass fuels, including wood pellets, chips, logs, and more.

Wood pellets are a common biomass fuel choice due to their high energy density, low moisture content, and ease of storage. 

Made from compressed sawdust and wood waste, these small cylinders can be transported efficiently and automatically fed into a biomass boiler using a hopper system. This ensures a constant supply of heat and requires minimal manual intervention.

Wood chips, on the other hand, are larger and less uniform than wood pellets. They are produced by chipping larger pieces of wood, including branches and logs. While their moisture content is typically higher than that of pellets, they still offer an effective fuel source for biomass boilers. 

However, it is vital to ensure the biomass boiler is designed to handle wood chips, as they require a different feeding system compared to pellets.

Logs are another traditional and widely-used biomass fuel. Sourced from sustainable forests, they can be a carbon-neutral heating option for homes and businesses. When using logs, a stove would typically burn them to heat a single room, with the option to have a back boiler for hot water as well. 

It's imperative to use seasoned logs with a low moisture content for optimal heat output and efficiency.

Each of these biomass fuels has its pros and cons, with the choice largely depending on factors such as boiler compatibility, storage space, and desired level of automation. Together, wood pellets, chips, and logs constitute a renewable and carbon-neutral alternative to fossil fuels, providing an environmentally responsible option for heating and power generation.

How Biomass Boilers Work

Biomass boilers operate by burning waste wood matter, such as wood pellets, chips, or logs, to produce heat for homes and buildings. This process involves the combustion of biomass materials at high temperatures, which in turn leads to the generation of heat energy.

The heat produced during the combustion process is transferred to water, which is then circulated throughout a central heating system, subsequently providing warmth and hot water to different areas of a building. Biomass boilers can be connected to existing central heating systems, making them a viable alternative for those looking to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.

There are different types of biomass boilers available, ensuring that they're suitable for a wide range of applications. For instance, pellet boilers are designed to burn wood pellets, while chip boilers utilise wood chips as their fuel source. Log boilers, on the other hand, require logs to be manually fed into the combustion chamber.

The efficiency and performance of biomass boilers are greatly influenced by the moisture content of the fuel, as well as the combustion temperature. Fuel with a higher moisture content requires more energy to heat the water, resulting in lower overall efficiency. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that biomass materials are appropriately dried before being used in a boiler.

In conclusion, biomass boilers work similarly to traditional boiler systems but rely on renewable and sustainable fuel sources such as waste wood matter. With adequate attention paid to fuel moisture and combustion temperature, these boilers can provide an efficient and environmentally-friendly alternative to fossil fuel-based heating solutions.

Biomass Boiler Alternatives

Biomass boilers are an alternative to traditional central heating systems powered by gas, oil, and LPG. This environmentally friendly option utilises wood logs, chips or pellets as fuel. However, biomass boilers can be larger in size and require additional space for fuel storage - a factor that may rule them out for some homes. It is therefore important to assess various alternatives to determine the most suitable option.

Gas boilers are a common choice for central heating due to their reliability, efficiency, and availability. They do, however, contribute to carbon emissions, which is a growing concern in a world aiming for greener energy solutions. With the increasing awareness around climate change, gas boilers may eventually phase out in favour of eco-friendlier options.


When turning away from fossil fuels, electric heating systems can be considered. These systems generate heat through the use of electricity, which can be sourced from renewable energy providers. Modern electric heating systems have made significant strides in efficiency, and they can be easily adjusted and controlled to maintain optimal temperatures. However, the cost of electricity is often higher than gas, making it a less cost-effective option in the long run.

Heat pumps offer another environmentally conscious alternative for home heating. They extract heat from the surrounding air, ground, or water and transfer it into the home. Known for their low emissions and high efficiency, they make a strong contender for replacing traditional heating systems. 

Nevertheless, heat pumps can be more expensive initially, requiring a higher initial investment, and may not suit every property due to space limitations and installation complexities.

In conclusion, various alternatives to biomass boilers exist, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Gas boilers are popular for their reliability and cost-effectiveness, yet produce carbon emissions. On the other hand, electric heating systems offer greener energy but may be more expensive to run. 

Heat pumps balance efficiency and environmental impact, but homeowners must consider the practicalities of installation. Ultimately, the choice depends on factors such as budget, property limitations, and environmental concerns.

Environmental Impact

Biomass boilers can play a significant role in reducing carbon emissions by utilising renewable energy sources. These boilers offer a promising, environmentally friendly option for heating and energy production. 

However, it is essential to consider their environmental impact in terms of carbon footprint and sustainability.

One key advantage of biomass boilers is that they can utilise waste materials, such as agricultural or animal waste, as fuel sources. This process not only helps to manage waste but also reduces our reliance on fossil fuels. 

Moreover, biomass energy is derived from organic materials like wood and plants, which are renewable resources. By utilising these resources, biomass boilers can contribute to a more sustainable energy landscape and promote a circular economy.

Nevertheless, there are concerns around the potential for deforestation, especially when biomass plants use forest timber as a fuel source. Clear-cutting mature trees reduces their ability to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which impacts the carbon neutrality of biomass boilers. 

To minimise this risk, it is vital to exercise responsible and sustainable forestry practices, focusing on waste-wood and energy crops as biomass feedstock.

Although biomass boilers produce carbon dioxide emissions during combustion, they can be considered carbon-neutral when implemented responsibly. This is because the carbon emitted during combustion is offset by the carbon absorbed by plants during their growth, creating a balanced carbon-neutral process. 

Consequently, replacing fossil fuel-based energy systems with biomass boilers could lead to significant reductions in overall carbon emissions.

In conclusion, while biomass boilers represent an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels, their true impact on the environment depends on factors such as the choice of feedstock and sustainable forestry practices. 

By prioritising waste-wood and energy crops, and adhering to responsible forestry practices, biomass boilers can be used as a viable and sustainable source of renewable energy.

Efficiency and Performance

Biomass boilers are known for their efficiency, typically ranging between 80% and 90%, which is considerably higher in comparison to many conventional fossil fuel boilers. This efficiency is an essential factor for any investment in a heating system, as it affects both the running costs and environmental impact.

One of the key aspects contributing to the efficiency and reliability of biomass boilers is their use of renewable fuel sources. Wood, a carbon-neutral and sustainable resource, is commonly used in these systems. 

The availability and potential of this fuel significantly enhance the boilers' performance and service life.

Regarding the demand for heat, biomass boilers are capable of accommodating varying requirements depending on the size of the boiler and the fuel type used, such as wood pellets, logs, or chips. 

This flexibility makes biomass boilers an attractive choice for meeting the heating demands of homes and commercial properties alike.

Another crucial factor to consider when evaluating the efficiency and performance of biomass boilers is their potential for generating income. The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) in the UK offers payments to biomass boiler owners, adding an additional benefit to the investment made on this eco-friendly technology.

It's crucial to properly install and maintain a biomass boiler for it to operate at optimal efficiency. Proper installation ensures that the system runs reliably, providing consistent heat without the frequent need for repairs or service, which can save on maintenance expenses in the long run.

In conclusion, the efficiency, reliable performance, and potential financial benefits make biomass boilers a viable option for individuals and businesses seeking an eco-friendly heating solution. However, one should weigh the initial investment against the long-term payoffs to make an informed decision.

Renewable Heat Incentives

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is a government scheme designed to encourage the adoption of renewable heating technologies, such as biomass boilers. Launched in 2011, this programme provides financial support to those who install eligible technologies, making biomass boilers a more appealing option for many.

RHI payments are given to homeowners and businesses that utilise biomass boilers for their heating needs. 

The financial support is based on the heat generated and can substantially contribute towards initial investment costs and ongoing maintenance.

Regrettably, the domestic RHI scheme closed to new applications at midnight on 31 March. However, the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) has taken its place, assisting English and Welsh consumers with upfront grants to offset the high expenses of purchasing and installing low carbon heating systems, such as biomass boilers.

Incorporating a biomass boiler into your home or business can be beneficial from an environmental perspective. These boilers utilise renewable fuels, such as wood pellets or chips, for heating. By choosing a biomass boiler, you can reduce your reliance on fossil fuels and decrease greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, biomass fuels are often locally sourced, which can reduce the carbon footprint associated with transporting traditional fuels.

When considering a biomass boiler, it's essential to keep in mind that regular servicing and maintenance are vital for the system's efficient operation and to meet the requirements of grant schemes such as the RHI. Properly maintained biomass boilers can significantly improve performance and overall efficiency, ensuring that you receive the maximum benefits from your investment.

In conclusion, although the initial investment in a biomass boiler might seem high, the potential long-term RHI payments and the environmental advantages can make this renewable heating solution worthwhile. As always, it's crucial to research the specific requirements and obligations associated with such grants and schemes before making a decision.

Storage and Maintenance Requirements

When considering biomass boilers, it's essential to underline the storage and maintenance requirements. These factors play a crucial role in assessing the overall worth of the system.

Proper storage of biomass fuel is vital to ensure optimum combustion efficiency. One primary factor to consider is the storage space required. Biomass fuel, mainly in the form of wood pellets or chips, demands a significant amount of space. The storage area should also be dry and well-ventilated to prevent the fuel's moisture content from increasing, which can negatively impact the system's functioning.

Maintenance is another significant aspect of biomass boilers that cannot be undermined. Regular maintenance checks are necessary to uphold the efficiency and longevity of the boiler. The Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme and Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme (Amendment) Regulations 2022, updated in April 2022, mandates legal proof of proper maintenance for biomass heating systems in non-domestic settings to continue receiving RHI payments.

Some of the main maintenance tasks for biomass boilers include:

  • Cleaning: Regular cleaning of the heat exchanger and combustion chamber is essential for optimal performance. Over time, ash and deposits accumulate, which reduces the boiler's efficiency.

  • Ash removal: Biomass boilers produce ash as a by-product. Consistent removal and disposal of ash are crucial to avoid blockages in the system.

  • Checking system components: Regular inspection of system components, such as pumps, valves, and sensors, ensures the boiler operates efficiently and safely.

  • Managing moisture content: Monitoring the fuel's moisture content aids in maintaining the efficiency and effectiveness of combustion.

In conclusion, understanding the storage and maintenance requirements of biomass boilers is essential for evaluating their worth. A systematic approach ensures the longevity and efficient functioning of the system, thus making it a worthwhile investment.

Finding the Right Biomass Boiler

Biomass boilers can be an energy-efficient and environmentally friendly option for heating your home. They use wood, a renewable and carbon-neutral fuel, as their primary energy source. 

But it's essential to find the right biomass boiler to suit your needs and circumstances. Various factors come into play, including the heating system size, space available for installation, and your budget.

Guide to Finding the Perfect Biomass Boiler

Begin your search for the right biomass boiler by using a comprehensive guide detailing different boiler types, sizes, and prices. These guides can offer valuable insights into the pros and cons of each model, allowing you to make an informed decision. Consider aspects like efficiency, maintenance requirements, and available funding schemes when comparing your options.

Boiler Upgrade Scheme

In the UK, a government-funded programme called the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) can provide financial assistance to homeowners who wish to switch to a more efficient heating system, including biomass boilers. Thanks to this program, replacing your old boiler with a new biomass one might be an affordable investment. By checking your eligibility for the scheme, you'll be able to factor the potential savings into your decision-making process.

Remember to balance all factors, including efficiency, cost, available space, and potential funding, to make the best choice when selecting a biomass boiler for your home. With thorough research and the right approach, you can find a suitable biomass boiler that meets your requirements and complements your commitment to greener living.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Are biomass boilers worth it?

Biomass boilers can be a worthwhile investment, particularly for those seeking a renewable and sustainable heating solution. They have the potential to lower your home heating costs and can help to reduce your carbon footprint, making them an eco-friendly option. However, it is essential to consider the initial installation costs and the availability of biomass fuels in your area.

Is it worth getting a biomass boiler?

If you are interested in a renewable and eco-friendly heating solution, a biomass boiler can be worth considering. They offer reduced reliance on fossil fuels and are often more efficient (80-90%) than conventional fossil fuel boilers. Additionally, well-maintained biomass boilers can last for 20-25 years, reducing the need for frequent replacements.

Are biomass boilers expensive to run?

Running costs for biomass boilers depend on factors such as the size of your property and the type of fuel used. They may be cheaper to run than an old electric heating system and can save you up to £1,100 a year. It is important to compare the costs of biomass fuels with other alternatives, as some regions may have higher fuel prices.

What are the problems with biomass boilers?

Some potential problems with biomass boilers include the need for a larger storage space to store fuel, their dependence on a regular fuel supply, and the need for regular maintenance. Also, some individuals may find the process of loading a biomass boiler to be more labour-intensive than using a gas or oil boiler.

What is a biomass boiler?

A biomass boiler is a heating system that burns organic materials, such as wood logs, pellets, or chips, instead of fossil fuels. It can be connected to a central heating and hot water system and is considered an environmentally friendly option due to its use of renewable and sustainable resources.

Is a biomass boiler cheaper than gas?

In some cases, a biomass boiler may be cheaper to run than a gas boiler, depending on the cost of the biomass fuel and the efficiency of the boiler. However, it is essential to consider installation costs, maintenance costs, and the availability and affordability of biomass fuels in your region before making a decision.

Do biomass boilers smell?

Biomass boilers typically have a lower level of odour than gas or oil boilers, as they burn a cleaner fuel source. However, there may be a slight scent from the boiler or fuel storage area due to the organic materials being used. Proper ventilation and maintenance can help minimize any unwanted odours.

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Article by
Stephen Day | Co-founder
Gas Safe registered and FGAS certified engineer with over 20 years experience in the heating and cooling industry.