Before you start...
If you're thinking about installing a system to generate your own heat, make sure your home is as well insulated as it can be so your heat-producing system can be most efficient.
Stop wasting energy; start taking action! This is the section to get you started on energy-saving, whether it's changing your habits or improving your home – save energy and save money!
The better insulated your home is, the less money you'll spend heating it. Find out more about different types of insulation, including draught-proofing, double glazing, and insulation for lofts and walls.
The latest on energy-efficient boilers to save you energy and money, and the right controls to use as little energy as possible, whatever the age of your boiler. No boiler? Find out about controls for electric systems too.
Renewable and low-carbon technologies are good for the environment and good for your pocket too - with government financial incentives, it’s never been a better time to install. Find out more now!
Get inspiration for your own community projects from a range of case studies in PDF and video format; find extensive advice about funding your project; and explore our range of project tools.
Wood-fuelled heating systems, also called biomass systems, burn wood pellets, chips or logs to to provide warmth in a single room or to power central heating and hot water boilers.
A stove burns logs or pellets to heat a single room - and may be fitted with a back boiler to provide water heating as well.
A boiler burns logs, pellets or chips, and is connected to a central heating and hot water system. A wood-fuelled boiler could save you nearly £600 a year compared to electric heating.
A pellet stove will cost around £4,300 including installation. Installing a new log stove will usually cost less than half this, including a new flue or chimney lining.
For boilers, an automatically fed pellet boiler for an average home costs around £11,500 including installation, flue, fuel store and VAT at 5%. Manually fed log boiler systems can be slightly cheaper.
Pellet costs depend mainly on the size and method of delivery. Buying a few bags at a time makes them expensive. If you have room for a large fuel store that will accept several tonnes of pellets at a time, delivered in bulk by tanker, you can keep the cost down to around £190 per tonne in most parts of the UK.
Logs can be cheaper than pellets, but costs depend on the wood suppliers in your local area, as they cost a lot to transport. If you have room to store more than a year’s worth of logs you can save money by buying unseasoned logs and letting them season for a year. Search for wood fuel suppliers in your area at the Log Pile website.
Savings in carbon dioxide emissions are very significant - around 7.5 tonnes a year when a wood-fuelled boiler replaces a solid (coal) fired system or electric storage heating. Financial savings are more variable - if you replace a gas heating system with a wood-burning system you might save £100 a year, but if you are replacing electric heating you could save as much as £580 per year.
This table shows how much you could save by installing pellet central heating in a typical three-bedroom semi-detached house with basic insulation:
|Fuel replaced||Expected saving||Expected carbon dioxide saving|
|Electricity||£630 a year||7.5 tonnes a year|
|Oil||£270 a year||3.9 tonnes a year|
|LPG||£790 a year||3.6 tonnes a year|
|Coal||£270 a year||7.7 tonnes a year|
|Gas||£90 a year||3.1 tonnes a year|
These savings assume the house has been insulated, as we always recommend that people insulate their homes properly before considering installing renewable energy systems. So you could save money from insulating, and then save the money from switching to wood heating too!
You may be able to receive payments for the heat you produce from a wood boiler through the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). This scheme should be launched in Summer 2013.
From August 2011, you may be able to get help with the installation costs of a wood boiler through the Renewable Heat Premium Payment scheme.
Pellet and log stoves are not eligible for Renewable Heat Premium Payments, and are not expected to be supported by the RHI.
This technology is an eligible measure under the UK government’s Green Deal which is a financing mechanism that lets people pay for energy-efficiency improvements through savings on their energy bills.
Further information on Green Deal.
Wood fuelled boilers, stoves and room heaters should be kept clean and swept regularly to remove ash. Ash quantities are generally very low (<1% of fuel volume), but you will still need to empty the ash bin of a wood burning stove or boiler. This is likely to be weekly and never more than once a day. A log fire requires ash removal before every use.
Some appliances particularly boilers have self-cleaning systems built in. A self-cleaning system will collect ash from the combustion grate and the heat exchanger tubes. If there is no automatic ash cleaning mechanism in place the boiler will need to be shut down periodically so that this can be done by hand. If the ash is not cleaned out regularly, it will build up and adversely affect combustion conditions, which can lead to boiler failure and shut down. Some boilers have a mechanism for compressing the ash which reduces the number of times the ash bin needs to be emptied.
With automatic ash removal and cleaning of the heat exchanger the only maintenance requirement will be occasional ash removal and an annual maintenance check (cost c£100).
If you have a wood burning stove or boiler the chimney and flue pipe must be swept regularly to remove all soot deposits and prevent blockage. HETAS recommend that this “should be done at least twice a year, preferably before the heating season to check that the flue has not been blocked by bird's nests for example and also at the end of the heating season to prevent soot deposits from resting in the chimney during the dormant period”. The Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps recommends that chimneys used in conjunction with wood fuel should be swept quarterly when in use.
Further information on chimney safety can also be found in the National Association of Chimney Sweep’s leaflet Heat your Home Safely. Burning wet wood increases the amount of soot in a chimney and with it the chance of a chimney fire. Logs should always be seasoned (air-dried) for at least a year before being burned.
Generating energy – what suits your home? Use our online tool to find the technologies that will work for you.