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How does a biomass boiler work? Beginner-friendly guide

GlenFarrow batch-fed biomass boilers

Biomass boilers burn biological matter, such as wood, to create heat. They are considered a renewable energy source and are more environmentally friendly than traditional fossil fuel boilers.  

In this guide, we’re outlining how biomass boilers work, and detailing exactly how this renewable fuel source can be turned into heat for your home or commercial property. 

What does a biomass boiler do?

Biomass boilers produce heat through the creation of hot gases. The hot gases usually transfer heat to water via a heat exchanger in the heating system. It’s interesting to note that they can also be coupled with solar heating and various other heat sources. They are designed to work year-round but can be switched off if desired.

Loading biomass into the boiler

The wood is fed into a combustion chamber to be ignited. Loading methods vary depending on boiler and wood fuel types. The most popular sources of biomass include wood chips, pellets, logs and waste wood.

To load biomass into a boiler, you should follow the specific guidelines for the type of biomass boiler you have. For example, pellet boilers are automatically loaded with wood pellets, while log boilers usually require manually loading logs. 

The frequency of loading can vary, with some boilers needing to be loaded a few times a day or every other week. Additionally, it’s important to consider seasonal variations and the availability of the intended fuel sources when installing a biomass system. That being said, wood is a very common and readily available source of fuel today.

Storing fuel

A fuel hopper can store the fuel and automatically feed your chosen biomass to the combustion chamber.

Once in the combustion chamber, the fuel will come into contact with intense heat and oxygen, causing it too ignite. 

The hot gases formed during the combustion process heat the water in the heating system via a heat exchanger.

Converting heat into usable energy

Once the fluid is heated, it can be distributed throughout a room or entire building. This could be through radiators, underfloor heating systems, or forced air circulation. You can also generate hot water for domestic use. 

Controlling the process

Much in the same way you’d control heating if you had a gas or electric boiler, you can use thermostats and temperature sensors to control the heat levels. For enhanced efficiency, you can install automated systems. 

Maintenance and cleaning

Depending on what boiler system you have, ash may need to be removed between every few days to every few weeks.

To ensure longevity and efficiency, you should get your biomass boiler regularly serviced. In fact, an annual service is required to stay compliant with Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) regulations. All biomass boilers should be serviced by HETAS registered engineers.

If you’re intrigued by how biomass boilers could help heat your property sustainably, visit the GlenFarrow website to browse our market-leading boiler designs. Plus, with options available for business and home use, it’s an accessible heating option.