21 Biomass Boiler Pros And Cons

Check Out Every Advantages and Disadvantages of Biomass Boilers

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Basics About Biomass Boilers

Biomass energy is a renewable resource that can help to heat our homes. By replacing our reliance on fossil fuels with biomass, we can reduce the number of emissions that we are releasing.

Summary of Biomass Boiler Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Renewable Boiler Space Requirments
Carbon Neutral Fuel Storage Space
Could Reduce Your CO2 Output Fuel Storage Environment
Cheap and Stable Fuel Prices High Upfront Costs
Highly Efficient Continual Maintenance
Possible Renewable Heat Incentives Could Have Fuel Supply Issues
Off-Grid Locations Fuel Quality
Duel Use(Space Heating and Hot Water) Annual Servicing is Required
Reduces Wood Waste Possibly More Labour Intensive
Industries Are Co-firing Biomass to Reduce Emissions More Difficult to Handle and Combust Compared to Fossil Fuels
Problems From Slagging, Fouling, and Clinkering

Advantages of Biomass Boilers

Check Out All The Different Pros of Biomass Boilers

1. Renewable

Biomass is labeled as a renewable energy source because we can replace the organic matter by planting new trees in a relatively short time. Most of the wood used in biomass boilers come from leftover lumber from existing logging and sawmills.

Ideally, we should be using crops that can get regrown within one season to keep the emissions carbon neutral.

2. Carbon Neutral

Biomass Energy sources are considered carbon neutral. While CO2 gases do get emitted from the plant matter, it should be proportional to the CO2 it collected while living. It does not matter if the trees are burned or they decompose naturally, the same amount of carbon dioxide is going to get released into our atmosphere[6].

The next crop grown will now suck out the carbon from our atmosphere that got produced from last seasons plant getting burned.

According to a 2010 group of scientists, we need to use fast-growing crops(not trees) need to get used for the plants to be able to offset the carbon created[6].

3. Could Reduce Your CO2 Output

If we replace coal or electric heating systems and instead use a biomass boiler, our CO2 output can get reduced by approximately 9.5 tons annually[1].

4. Cheap and Stable Fuel Prices

Since most of the biomass getting used in these systems can get sourced locally, the price remains more stable. Other fuels like gas and oil prices are more likely to fluctuate. Different global issues like war, natural disasters, change in country politics can all alter the price we have to pay for fossil fuels.

People who live in more rural locations far off of the power grid may even be able to collect wood to feed their biomass boilers.

5. Highly Efficient

When we are using the system for direct heating biomass boilers can reach efficiency levels of 90 percent. Bringing it to relatively the same efficiency of gas and oil boilers.

For electricity generation biomass is not as efficient. But many plants are using co-firing (biomass with coal) to help lower their plant emission levels.

6. Possible Renewable Heat Incentives(Get Paid for Every kWh Generated)

Depending on where you are located, you could qualify for different incentives by the government for switching to using biomass.

7. Off-Grid Locations

For locations that are off of the grid, a biomass boiler offers an efficient heating option with a low carbon impact.

8. Duel Use(Space Heating and Hot Water)

Biomass boilers can heat both the rooms in your home and also provide you with hot water.

9. Reduces Wood Waste

A large percentage of the wood used in biomass creation comes from other industries like logging. All of the leftover wood waste can get processed to be used in our biomass boilers.

This reduces the cost for wood waste disposal, turning it into a valuable fuel source usually with Government-backed incentives.

It is estimated that the forestry industry wastes enough biomass to heat 1,500,000 homes[8].

10. Industries Are Co-firing Biomass to Reduce Emissions

Biomass is considered one of the best candidates for use in co-firing plants that are using coal. The fact that biomass and coal are both stable sources of fuel is why biomass makes the right candidate for co-firing.

Most of the different power plants that we currently use to generate electricity with coal should have no issues with using biomass as a secondary fuel source[2].

The green deal outlines that co-firing plants should use at least 10% biomass to maintain decreasing levels of CO2 emissions.

One study in 2011 speculated that as much as 30% biomass could be co-fired in plants built before 2015 with up to 50% biomass in newer power plants, without heavily compromising thermal efficiency.

Biomass co-firing technology with policies, challenges, and opportunities: A global review osti.gov

Disadvantages of Biomass Boilers

Check Out All The Different Cons of Biomass Boilers

1. Boiler Space Requirments

Biomass boilers are generally larger and need more space than gas or oil boilers.

2. Fuel Storage Space

Before you install a biomass boiler, you need to make sure that you also have enough space to store the fuel source.

Using biomass material that has gone through Torrefaction can help to reduce some of the space needed.

3. Fuel Storage Environment

Not only do you need a large area to store your fuel source, but the environmental conditions it is getting stored in also matter. Many of the fuel sources that get used in the biomass boiler need to get stored in a dry environment for optimal burning of the fuel.

While items like wood logs can generally get stored outside if covered, so they stay dry. But if you are using a source like bales or wood chips, you will need to keep it in a dry and well-ventilated area[8].

The more moisture contained in the material will lower how well it can burn.

If you are using wood that had gone through Torrefaction, it will have higher energy content and higher water and humidity resistance[7].

4. High Upfront Costs

The initial investment required to purchase a biomass boiler and get it installed can be significantly more expensive compared to traditional gas and oil boilers.

Although if you are in an area that has a Renewable Heat Incentive program, it could help you to cover the cost.

5. Continual Maintenance

More work is required to keep a biomass boiler system clean. On average, the system will need to get cleaned around once every week.

Although more modern systems are reducing the amount of cleaning required by the owner of the boiler. The newer boilers are now cooming with more straightforward cleaning processes. Some models have almost entirely automated the cleaning process.

6. Could Have Fuel Supply Issues

Depending on where you live, you access to biomass for heating could be limited. Or the price of transportation could make it no longer cost-effective for you to be using biomass.

7. Fuel Quality

The biomass collected can have different moisture rates and density, so their heat production is not as consistent as fossil fuels.

8. Annual Servicing is Required

Once a year, most boilers should get serviced to remove any small deposits from building up in the unit.

9. Possibly More Labour Intensive

Because wood needs to get fed into the system continually, it is a lot more labor-intensive than other boilers.

The frequent cleaning can also become an annoyance for some owners.

10. More Difficult to Handle and Combust Compared to Fossil Fuels

Fossil fuels setups are more straightforward. Since they get are directly connected to their fuel line there us no fuel to get stored by the homeowner. Even items like coal are a lot more resistant to the humidity levels of the environment they get stored in.

Biomass products, on the other hand, need to get stocked and continually fed into the boiler. A hopper can simplify this process, but you will still need to ensure the hopper is feed.

While most newer boilers contain internal hoppers adding an external one on supported models can significantly reduce how often you need to feed the system.

11. Problems From Slagging, Fouling, and Clinkering

When we are burning biomass in the boilers, care must be taken to prevent deposits forming within the combustor. These deposits cause "slagging," "fouling," and "clinkering." The reactive salt compounds within biomass are the cause of this issue. By using low levels of biomass with coal, operators can prevent this condition from happening[2].

Once the clinkering has formed, it will reduce the efficiency of boiler reducing its economic return. If not corrected, it can end up disabling the boiler cause a collection of fuel on the grates[4].

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