The Installation Cost of a Biomass Boiler

All you need to know about installing a biomass boiler for your home including costs of materials, labour and time frames.

Biomass boiler

What the job entails

Prices of biomass boilers vary considerably in the UK, but the reason they are so popular is they are still cheaper than other traditional heating systems due to the grants available under the Renewable Heat Incentive. Though there are major changes to this incentive for 2017, there is the possibility that to help encourage the take-up of renewable heating technologies for those lacking the initial capital to cover the install costs, the government is proposing allowing householders to assign their right to Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) payments to a company that has financed their renewable heating technology. This will allow householders in fuel poverty to install renewable biomass heating systems.

The price quoted to install a biomass heating system will depend mainly on the type or manufacturer of the boiler, the fuel type and the boiler capacity. But the actual price paid will depend on RH payments. Under current RHI legislation, there is no limit to the heat demand that is eligible for payments. So bigger properties can receive RHI payments which are far higher than the actual cost of installing the renewable heating technology. Larger homes with biomass boilers could potentially get a payback of installation costs in just 2 to 3 years. However, under proposed changes for 2017, heat demand limits are being introduced for biomass systems with a maximum of 25,000 kWh per annum.

Biomass boilers need more room compared to a regular gas or oil fired boiler, but are great for those not connected to mains gas who have space for fuel storage. Although biomass boilers are growing in popularity (no doubt at least due to the Renewable Heat Incentive), they currently only account for around 0.5% of all boiler sales in the UK. This suggests that many homeowners in the UK still choose to have conventional gas and oil boilers despite the environmental benefits and energy bill savings they offer.

A small manually fed log boiler biomass system will typically cost from around £4000, whereas larger manual systems can cost as much as £10,000. Automatic pellet fed boilers start from around £9,000 for a small home, but larger capacity systems will cost as much as £21,000. The prices quoted vary depending on the manufacturer, size and level of automation, with automatically fed boilers being more expensive than manually fed systems. Running costs also need to be factored in. Wood pellets derived from waste wood are the most popular fuel for biomass and cost between £150 and £200 per tonne (average UK property would need around 11 tonnes per year). Though if you have the space and can buy the wood pellets in bulk, then the cost of the pellets will come right down.

Installion Cost of a Biomass Boiler

The average material cost of installing a biomass boiler is dependant on if the boiler is manual or automatic. Small manual biomass boiler prices start at £3000, whereas as a large boiler will cost around £9000. Small automatic pellet fed boilers start from around £8,000 and larger capacity systems will cost as much as £20000.

The average biomass boiler specialist will usually charge around £200 per day in labour which will usually be factored into the overall price. The job of installing a new biomass boiler will typically take around 2 to 4 days to complete and will depend on the level of automation, the size of biomass boiler and the ease of installation.

Below are some estimated costs to hire a specialist heating engineer to install a biomass boiler:

Biomass Boiler Type/Size Avg. Cost Duration
Small manual fed log boiler supply and installation £4,000 2-3 days
Large manual system supply and installation £10,000 2-3 days
Small automatic pellet fed biomass boiler supply and installation £9,000 2-4 days
Large automatic fed biomass boiler supply and installation £20,000 2-4 days


Cost Breakdown

Individual costs of installing a small manual biomass boiler - Total Cost: £4000

65%

Materials
£2600

30%

Tradesmen
£1200

5%

Waste Removal
£200

FAQ's

Yes, just like any other boiler a heat exchanger will allow the transfer of heat for existing heating and hot water systems. There is very little heat loss from the heat exchanger so it's an effective way to integrate a biomass boiler with an existing heating system.
Biomass is carbon neutral which means that any carbon produced while burning will have been taken from the atmosphere during its growth. Biomass fuel helps to prevent the 10 million tonnes of timber going into landfill every year in UK.
Non-fossil fuelled boilers typically require more maintenance than fossil fuelled boilers, which really only need an annual maintenance/clean. An automated pellet system needs a weekly inspection to check the boiler and fuel feed system and ensure soot is removed, as just 1% build up of soot can result in 10% reduction in fuel efficiency. Regular cleaning of the flue tubes is also required using a brush.
Yes, most biomass heating systems can be configured to work fully automatically using a timer control switch or other start/stop system with automatic fuel feed, de-ashing and flue cleaning. With biomass you can get up to one week of heating without any manual intervention whatsoever.
Installing a biomass boiler itself does not normally require planning permission unless the property is a listed building, however, you may need planning permission for the new boiler house, fuel store or even for the new flue.
Yes. Most biomass boilers are on the Exempt Appliances List but you should always check with your Local Authority that the appliance you are planning to install is in fact exempt.
The ash produced from biomass boilers is potash which is a valuable component of good composts by horticulturalists so there is no problem disposing of it - gardeners will be more than keen to take it off your hands!
Biomass boilers can run on various types of wood fuel including wood pellets, logs and wood chips (with wood pellets being the most popular). The price of wood pellets is pretty stable compared to the fluctuating costs of oil and gas, and they are usually delivered in clean bags in bulk. Wood chips are a bit more expensive in terms of transportation as they are less dense so more bulky and expensive to transport. But despite this extra bulk, they are often the cheapest biomass fuel option overall. But being less much less dense also means they are only an option for homes with plenty of space for fuel storage. Both wood pellets and wood chip boilers can be automated. Logs and other types of wood fuel are the simplest choices for renewable energy and emissions can be kept to a minimum by only burning dry, split wood. You should also realise that biomass boilers are deigned to run on a particular type of fuel, they are not generally multi-fuel type systems, especially automated heating systems.