Making the case for biomass

The biomass boiler market is growing in the domestic sector and new innovations in technology are making homeowners’ lives easier. 

There is no doubt that domestic biomass market has grown significantly over the past few years. Biomass technology provides a cleaner, more sustainable form of energy compared with the fossil fuel appliances they often replace. More rural homeowners are therefore choosing biomass because it is clean, efficient and, as long as the appliance is MCS approved, it can be eligible for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). The RHI financially rewards end users for generating and using renewable energy to heat their properties. Yet even if these incentives were not available, biomass technology represents a realistic and practical alternative to other heating methods in off-gas areas.

Biomass boilers are fuelled by wood, and so burn wood pellets, chips or logs to provide an environmentally friendly and convenient way of heating a building, whether a home or commercial building. The fuel is made using waste products from sawmill industries or wood from managed forests (where trees are planted to replace the ones cut down). Increasingly, the most popular type of biomass boiler burns wood pellets.

Grant Vecta Condensing Pellet - July 2014

Grant Vecta biomass boiler

With the demand for biomass heating increasing, we feel it is important to continue to develop our biomass offering, which now includes several boiler models, pellet stores and vacuum systems, all of which are designed to make the lives of homeowners and installers easier. We combine years of experience gained in manufacturing off-gas heating solutions with installer feedback, to produce these highly efficient products. Our popular Grant Spira condensing biomass boiler has an efficiency of up to 97% and, launching this year, we have a brand new white cased biomass boiler – the Grant Vecta.

Like our popular Spira models, Vecta uses our trusted condensing technology. While many modern pellet boilers will lose up to 20% of the energy produced through waste gases exhausted by the flue system, Grant biomass boilers have a secondary heat exchanger designed to capture some of this lost heat energy. This makes them more efficient and therefore unlike any other biomass appliances in the domestic marketplace.

However, the Vecta has the additional key innovations of a newly patented burner, weather compensation and advanced electronic controls. With its insulated casing and compact design, the Vecta can be sited in the space where rural homes would usually fit a fossil-fueled boiler, for instance in a utility room or garage. From both a noise and visual perspective the appliance has been designed to suit the domestic customer, especially those that are replacing an existing boiler, yet want to keep a similar sized unobtrusive look.

The output from the Vecta’s burner modulates between 4kW to 16kW to achieve the set temperature by controlling the feed rate of pellets, which are fed by a top fill integral hopper with a 60kg capacity. The appliance has a self-cleaning function, making it even more consumer friendly. Although it will still require manual cleaning periodically, the need for regular maintenance is dramatically reduced. The controls have been developed to be very user friendly and have an easy to follow readout with ’Burner on’, ‘Low pellet’ and ‘Ash removal’ indication lights and, what’s more, the burner is fully accessible from the front for rapid emptying when ash does have to be removed.

Like many Grant products, the Vecta has been designed to be simple to install, commission and service.

Grant Spira Wood Pellet Boiler November 2014

Grant Spira biomass boiler

The Spira range will also welcome a new indoor model this year featuring a 5 to 18kW output. Importantly, this model will not only be exempt under the Clean Air Act, but listed on the MCS (Microgeneration Certification Scheme) database. We have also unveiled the SpiraPod, which is designed to help increase the options when siting a Spira boiler. This purpose built external housing solution is suitable for all weathers and is designed to shelter the Spira from the elements. It includes an integrated 190kg pellet store and is compatible with the Grant wood pellet vacuum.

With so many developments in the renewables market, we understand the importance of offering comprehensive training and support with products for heating installers and end users. Furthermore, we firmly believe improving knowledge in the marketplace will encourage engagement and uptake of the technologies. Grant UK for instance, supports installers with an accredited installer Scheme called G-One, as well as several free of charge product courses. The training is accessible nationwide, with academies in Wiltshire and North Yorkshire. The Grant biomass technical forum, is also an easily accessible place where installers can find answers to technical queries and have discussions with other engineers.

In addition, we offer support for homeowners with a “Living with Biomass” guide. This explains how the technology works and how the homeowner should look after the appliance, allowing them to make an informed choice when purchasing a biomass boiler. The easy-to-follow document can be downloaded from our website.

To make life even simpler Grant has also produced a number of short films available from the ‘myGrantUK’ YouTube channel. The first series comprises three bite size modules specifically aimed at the end user. The Grant Guide to Biomass explains in a clear and entertaining format what biomass is, the different fuel types that are available, exactly why biomass is carbon neutral and how it is used in heating systems. A second film, The Grant Guide to the Domestic RHI tackles the Renewable Heat Incentive, how payments can be accessed and what paperwork is required to claim payments. For those end users seriously considering installing the technology or who have already purchased a Grant Spira, there is also a Guide to the Practicalities of Owning a Biomass Boiler.

With advances in technology and readily available support for the homeowner, biomass boilers are a practical and realistic heating solution for off-gas properties.

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