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Biomass heating: how does it work?

Biomass heating: how does it work?


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The biomass heating it is an increasingly positively valued heating opportunity also in Italy but ... what is its functioning? What is a biomass boiler? And what are the guidelines that you should know carefully before making such an investment?

Let's go in order!

What is a biomass boiler?

The biomass boilers they are systems very similar to traditional gas boilers that perhaps many of our readers already have at home, obtaining room heating and domestic hot water from them. However, instead of using gas to produce heat, these boilers burn wood pellets.

The use of wood instead of fossil fuels helps prevent long-term climate change, since the carbon dioxide released during combustion can be sustainable, in environmental terms, generating a substantially neutral impact from the carbon point of view.

In fact, millions of tons of wood end up in landfills every year. This waste wood could be well used both in biomass boilers (when converted to pellets) and burned in wood stoves. And this would not only provide heat and hot water, but in doing so would also relieve the pressure on landfill capacity.

How does a biomass boiler work?

A biomass boiler it works in a very similar way to conventional boilers, burning the fuel to produce heat which is then used to heat the water.

Biomass boilers are usually substantially larger than fossil fuel boilers: on the other hand, they are required to burn wood pellets, compared to gas, and therefore the boiler must be larger to contain the largest volume of fuel.

Additionally, you may wish to install an automatic feed hopper on the biomass boiler, requiring additional space. This hopper stores a large volume of wood pellets which are then automatically fed into the boiler as required.

It is also a good idea to have a wood pellet depot at your property so that you can continue to produce heat if for some reason there is a problem with the fuel supplier. Ideally, the depot should be close to where the fuel is used to minimize the distance to be covered. Most residential biomass boilers can also run on log wood, as well as wood chips.

It should also be remembered that every month (depending on its use), the biomass boiler must be emptied of ash.

Read also: Biomass boilers, the best

Is biomass heating worthwhile?

The biomass boilers they have excellent features of convenience in terms of operating costs compared to natural gas, diesel and above all electricity.

Autonomous boilers

A biomass boiler may be too big for your home, but smaller stoves are also commercially available, which are normally used to heat a room by burning waste wood. These wood stoves can be equipped with a rear boiler that uses the heat produced when the wood is burned to heat the water, which can then be used both for heating rooms in other parts of the house and for hot water only.

Both stand-alone wood stoves and biomass boilers will need a vent, designed specifically for wood-burning appliances, with sufficient air movement for the stove to function properly. The existing chimney can be equipped with a lined chimney, which is relatively inexpensive.

Carbon monoxide detector

When burning any kind of hydrocarbon (natural gas, coal, biomass) it is very important to install a carbon monoxide detector in home. In theory, if all the fuel is 100% burned, heat, water and carbon dioxide are produced, but not all fuel actually burns. This means that harmful gases such as carbon monoxide can sometimes be emitted, which can be deadly. As long as you have a functioning carbon monoxide detector, you will be able to take full advantage of all the benefits a biomass boiler can bring.

Advantages of biomass heating

THE biomass fuels they are considered a renewable fuel - the carbon dioxide they produce when they are burned is offset by the carbon dioxide they absorb during growth. The savings in carbon dioxide emissions are significant - up to 9.5 tons per year when a wood boiler replaces a solid fuel (coal) system or an electric storage heater.

THE fuel savings they are less significant, and if you replace a gas heating system with a wood-burning system you may end up paying more for fuel. But if you replace solid fuel or electric heating with cheaper biomass fuel, you could save a few hundred euros a year.

Disadvantages of biomass heating

Of course, biomass heating also has some drawbacks. In particular, this technology requires greater maintenance; for example, wood pellets need to be loaded regularly to ensure they continue to provide energy. Also, the ash containers need to be emptied from time to time.

You will also need storage space to store fuel at home, and then you will have to deal with the need to find a good quality supplier, who can supply you with fuel quickly and periodically.


Video: Why renewables cant save the planet. Michael Shellenberger. TEDxDanubia (May 2022).