Biomass is produced from organic materials, either directly from plants or indirectly from industrial, commercial, domestic or agricultural products.
It is often called 'bioenergy' or 'biofuels'. For small-scale, domestic use the fuel usually takes the form of wood pellets, wood chips or wood logs.
Producing energy from biomass has both environmental and economic advantages. It is a carbon neutral process as the CO2 released when energy is generated from biomass is balanced by that absorbed during the fuel's production. Biomass can also contribute to waste management by harnessing energy from products that are often disposed of at landfill sites.
There are two main ways of using biomass to heat a domestic property:
- Stand-alone stoves providing space heating for a room. These can be fuelled by logs or pellets but only pellets are suitable for automatic feed. Generally they are 6 to 12 killowatts in output, and some models can be fitted with a back boiler to provide water heating.
- Boilers connected to central heating and hot water systems. These are suitable for pellets, logs or chips, and are generally larger than 15 killowatts.
For more on how biomass systems work, suitability, costs, maintenance and other considerations see the Energy Saving Trust information page.
The Carbon Trust offers advice on many aspects of low carbon buildings.