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We want to install a community woodfuel stove or boiler
News flash: Government is giving £2000 vouchers to households that install woodfuel boilers. To be eligible, the home must not be on mains gas, it must be well insulated, and the new boiler must be operational by 31 March 2014. This is an excellent and one-off opportunity, similar to the early high feed-in tariffs for photovoltaics. Click here for more information.
Do you live in Oxfordshire and own a woodfuel boiler? – log batch, pellet, chip or wood stove with back boiler? If so, please fill in our survey at at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/9SZBD9T. Click here for the results so far: hopefully they will help others to decide on the purchase of their own boiler. Thank you.
A wood burning stove or boiler is much more efficient than an open fireplace. Burning wood in an open fireplace typically wastes more than 90% of the heat. It may even add to your fuel bill if the draft from the fire pulls in a lot of cold air from outside. Burning wood in a stove or boiler, instead, uses about 80% of the heat. A stove provides direct heat for the room it is in. A boiler heats water and pumps it through pipes to several rooms or several buildings (‘district heating’).
Wood burning stoves/boilers take a long time to get going, and so are unsuitable for venues that are used only sporadically or for only a few hours per day. However community buildings like schools, hospitals and shops that are in use for many hours per day can benefit from a wood boiler.
Switching to a woodfuel boiler will be particularly attractive for community groups whose boilers are nearing the end of their lives, and who would anyway have to pay for a new boiler. Wood is also particularly good value compared to heating oil: English Wood Fuels provides a useful cost comparison between different fuels.
If you decide to get a woodfuel stove/boiler, you will need to check if you are in smoke control area, get the size right, think about what type of fuel you want, and talk to an expert.
Checking if you are located in a smoke control area. In smoke control areas, it is an offence to emit smoke from a chimney of a building, from a furnace or from any fixed boiler. This means that only certain kinds of fuel can be burned. Smoke control areas can be found below for
- Neither Cherwell nor West Oxfordshire has smoke control areas
- Oxford City Council
- South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse – Ladygrove area only
Defra’s smoke control areas website gives useful information on what kinds of stoves and fuels can be used in smoke control areas.
Getting the size right. If the stove/boiler is too large, it will burn inefficiently. If it is too small, it will not provide enough heat. A competent fitter will be able to advise on size. Under-sizing is probably better than over-sizing.
Choosing the type of fuel. The choice of fuel depends in part on the amount of heat you need, how much space you have, how much time and energy you have to handle the fuel, and the cost of the stove and fuel. The Forestry Commission has put together a useful flowchart to help decide what kind of stove or boiler might be best for you.
Wood burning stoves/boilers come in all shapes and sizes, from small stoves that can heat a single small room to large boilers that can heat large buildings or clusters of buildings. The Forestry Commission leaflet Woodfuel burning systems gives many examples. Wood stove providers will be able to help you decide on the size and type that you need.
Cherwell District Council have installed both a wood pellet and a wood chip boiler. Their experiences are described here.
Wood stove technology is advancing rapidly at the moment. New technologies include more effective combustion chambers, secondary baffling on top of stoves that stop gases from escaping too fast, tertiary air systems that improve the efficiency of the burn, and automated burn control.
Oxfordshire Fire & Rescue recommends that anyone with a wood burning stove or boiler reads their web-page on chimney and open fire safety.
Case studies of community woodfuel boilers include:
- Stadhampton primary school
- Cherwell District Council
- more information on Cherwell’s ambitions for biomass
- Dodford village hall
- Case studies by the Biomass Energy Centre, and particularly Chapter 7 of Wood fuel heating for public buildings
Click here to find out more