Wednesday, 19 October 2011 1:33 PM
Energy price rises have an air of inevitability. When all the main providers hike prices there seems little choice but to pay up or invest in woolly jumpers.
Obviously you could consider energy saving methods (if you need some ideas then amble on over to our top ten free energy saving tips) but there is only so much you can save through turning off the kitchen light.
If it's a bigger fix you're looking for then biomass heating, or burning wood, might be the long term solution.
Wood pellets, chips or logs can be turned into valuable fuel, heating individual rooms or powering central heating and hot water boilers.
It's also got good green credentials, providing the trees cut down are replaced.
Despite the carbon dioxide emissions given off by the wood while it burns, this only equates to the amount of carbon dioxide taken in whilst the tree was growing. If you source your wood locally and thus avoid excessive transportation then the carbon emissions can be pretty minimal.
To help you figure out how you might switch to biomass heating and what the incentives are AboutProperty speaks to an expert, Simon Holden, chairman of Euroheat.
What government schemes are there to encourage biomass heating?
After many months of debate, the government finally announced the details of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) in March. The RHI is a payment for generating heat from renewable sources, regulated by Ofgem and funded by the Treasury.
It is expected to come into being for domestic installations in October next year, but until these funds are released, the Department of Energy and Climate Change is going to offer 'RHI Premium' payments. There is around £12m available, and these one-off payments will help fund up to 25,000 household installations.
Those taking up the Premium payments should automatically be eligible for an RHI tariff in October 2012, although the government is holding its cards close to its chest and won't make any promises.
At the moment the government has only released tariffs for the non-residential sector, which they have calculated to give a 12 per cent return on investment.
All tariffs will run for 20 years (the estimated life span of a biomass boiler) and will be administered by Ofgem using funds from the Treasury.
The government is due to make an announcement regarding the tariffs for residential installations, but it is expected to equate to around 8.5p for every kilowatt per hour of heat you generate for yourself.
Admittedly there is a significant investment involved in buying and installing a biomass boiler, but biomass is cheaper than traditional fuels and with the help of the grant, long-term savings should be substantial. You can expect to cover the installation costs within seven to nine years.
How do you qualify for an RHI?
Payments will be made to anyone installing a biomass heating system using wood chips and pellets, but not domestic woodburning stoves or open fires.
Homes will have to meet stringent insulation standards in order to qualify. The grant will focus particularly on people living off the gas grid, in rural areas for example, where fossil fuels like heating oil are expensive and have a high carbon content.
What are woodburning stoves?
Woodburning stoves are the contemporary way to supplement existing heating systems. They create a heart-warming cosy ambience that rivals open log fires without any of the smoke or mess. They outperform open fires in efficiency, especially if they are correctly installed and burn well-seasoned wood.
My company, Euroheat, is one of the country's biggest distributors of woodburning stoves, and we've seen stoves soar in popularity over the last couple of winters and anticipate that more and more people will look to supplement their heating with a woodburner over coming years.
As with biomass boilers and stoves, woodburning stoves that burn split logs are naturally CO2 neutral. That's because the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is the same amount stored naturally in the wood.
Another advantage of burning wood means it won't be thrown into landfill. Every year 8.5 million tonnes of waste wood is put into landfill, where it eventually gives off methane which is a far more damaging greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
How can I store and source wood?
Split and pre-seasoned wood can be bought from and delivered by wood suppliers. Go to www.nef.org.uk/logpile/ to find your nearest supplier.
In terms of cost efficiency, split wood logs cost around 2.5p per kW hour, compared with 4p per kW hour for both gas and oil, and a staggering 11p per kW hour for electricity.
If you are lucky enough to have a plentiful supply of wood on your land, this cost falls to zero. Remember, though, the time-intensive labour involved in harvesting your own wood, which then needs to be split, stored and seasoned for at least a year before it can be burned.
Our damp climate means that wood needs to be stored under cover. Where space is at a premium, a quality log store is essential. There's no avoiding this. If the wood gets wet, you have to wait even longer until it can be burned.
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