What is a Wood Pellet Boiler?

A Wood Pellet Boiler is an environmentally friendly and cost effective alternative to an oil or gas boiler. They burn wood pellets (made from waste wood) to run the boiler, which provides heating to the rest of the house.

They’re eco friendly, money saving, and are available globally.

How Does a Wood Pellet Boiler Work?

It’s quite simple really. Rather than burning expensive oil or gas, the boiler burns wood pellets instead.

The boiler consists of three main parts: the boiler itself, the hopper (to load the boiler), and the store. The wood pellets are kept in the store, and the hopper automatically adds them to the boiler, to minimise the amount of work that you need to do yourself.

The wood pellet is a fuel, just like gas or oil, only it’s much kinder to the environment, and cheaper to burn too.

Heating your home by burning wood is not exactly a new idea, but the technology we have now is far more advanced and efficient than an open fireplace, and the fuel is much more eco-friendly.

How is a Wood Pellet Boiler Eco Friendly?

Choosing the right fuel is essential to making the best investment in a heating system.

Over a span of 20 years, you will probably spend 5 to 10 times more on fuel than you will spend on your investment in the heating system. That’s why it’s smart to heavily weight fuel choice in your evaluation of the heating options available to you. Wood pellets are proving to be a great alternative to fossil fuels. They’re consistently selling at a 30-50% discount to heating oil and propane (LP-gas), are produced here in North America, and are readily available.

The wood pellets are made from wood wastage, so you’re not actually harming the environment by cutting down trees to heat your home.

Wastage is defined as something which can’t be used anywhere else. Wood Pellets are made up from the likes of compacted sawdust, and logging off-cuts.

Something which would have been thrown in a bin, or on a bonfire, is instead used to heat a house. The pellets are made to be incredibly dense, which allows for them to be burned with a very high combustion efficiency.

What are the Advantages to a Wood Pellet Boiler?

The two main advantages involve the environment, and your wallet.

Starting with the environment, by using a wood pellet boiler, you’re reducing the amount of waste produced, while at the same time reducing the amount of gas or oil that’s being used. Wood pellets are a “carbon lean” fuel, producing a fraction of the Carbon emissions of fossil fuels.

Currently, generating heat accounts for 41% of the UK’s total carbon emissions, and it’s partly because only 1% of heat is currently generated from renewable sources. If you can heat your home with a wood pellet boiler, then you’re helping out in a big way.

When you consider the financial aspect (your wallet) of a wood pellet boiler, it’s easy to see where you will start to save money. Because wood pellets are made from a waste product, they’re low cost, especially in comparison to gas and oil. Over a span of 20 years, you will probably spend 5 to 10 times more on fuel than you will spend on your investment in the boiler.

They can be sourced locally. They’ve not travelled hundreds, if not thousands of miles to reach you. The price of wood is also much less likely to fluctuate as wildly as gas and oil does, as the world market has basically no effect.

And then of course there’s the renewable heat incentive, which will not only pay you to produce renewable energy, but help towards the cost of a wood pellet boiler. More about this in the ‘How Much does a Wood Pellet Boiler Cost?’ section below.

There are more advantages though:

  • You don’t need to be connected to the grid to produce heat for your home.
  • It’s available globally.
  • It can be converted into many different forms of energy.
  • It’s easy to switch.
  • Low running costs.
  • Long Life.

What are the Disadvantages?

There’s really only two real disadvantages to using a wood pellet boiler.

Firstly, the room needed to store the fuel, boiler, and hopper, is bigger than just a traditional boiler. This isn’t so much of a problem if your building is a new build, but if you’re trying to add a wood pellet boiler to an existing property, then you may encounter problems. You also need access to a chimney or a flute.

The other main drawback is that the fuel isn’t free. When you invest in a renewable energy source such as solar or wind, you have the benefit of access to a free energy source though. With a wood pellet boiler, you still need purchase the wood pellets. Of couse, solar and wind are not without their drawbacks. You can’t exactly power your house when there’s no sun or wind.

What do I need to Install a Wood Pellet Boiler?

Many houses can benefit from wood pellet heating, but there area a few things to consider first.

Is the house listed, in a conservation area, or smokeless zone? If so then there may well be limitations on the type of boiler that you can use.

As I mentioned above, you need a wood pellet boiler, a hopper, and a store for your pellets. On top of this, you will need a chimney (or a flue), for the smoke to escape. This will need to be relatively close to the boiler, which is no problem in new builds, but a little more difficult with retrofits. If this isn’t possible, then you will need to install a flue.

You will also need adequate space for the equipment, which can be comfortable stored in a room 2*3 meters wide, and 1.5 meters high. This room would ideally be on connected to an outside wall of the property, because there needs to be an air intake for the fire to burn.

How Much does a Wood Pellet Boiler Cost?

Well, that’s a very general question, but I’ll do my best to break it down for you.

Lets start by looking at the domestic renewable heat incentive, which is a big incentive for anyone looking to switch. For biomass (wood pellets) the proposed tariff range is between 5.2 and 8.7p per kW for a deemed property.

For a typical 3/4 bedroom house requiring 15kW of heat at 5.2p would gain £7174 over a 7 year period. This is approximately similar to a straightforward installation of a pelleburn boiler or similar. At the higher rate of 8.7p the incentive would pay about £12,000 over 7 years.

For wood pellet boilers you can also claim £950.

Pretty good, right?

Now that you can see how much it pays out, lets have a look at how much it can cost.

As the complexity of the system selected increases, the parts and the labour go up in price significantly. However the maintenance levels go down and the efficiency of the system goes up.

Expensive parts include the pellet boiler which ranges in price from £3000 to £17,000 but also:

  • The flue – this can cost between £750 and £2000.
  • Accumulation or climate control – between £850 and £2000.
  • Pellet Store – You can use the integrated hopper that will last you a few days at peak load.
  • Pump sets and other plumbing equipment are also needed, especially if you have several heating circuits.
  • The labour charge varies from a few days to a couple of weeks depending on the design of the heating system proposed. This may be in the range of £1500 to £6000 with plumbing supplies (e.g. copper pipe) being extra.

For your average domestic installation, the costs would be towards the lower end, especially if it’s a new build.