Burning wood is making a surprising comeback as a cheap and environmentally friendly way to heat the home, says Stourbridge energy expert Colin Priest.

An extra bonus is that for the next three months the Government is offering a one-off Renewable Heat Premium Payment of £950 for those who install wood-fuelled heating, also known as a biomass system.

Another incentive is that the Coalition may announce later this year tariff payments to householders for each kilowatt-hour of renewable heat produced to encourage low carbon heating. Installing a boiler to burn logs, pellets or chips and which is connected to a central heating and hot water system can cut heating bills by nearly £600 a year and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by many tonnes a year. The savings for large commercial buildings are also extremely cost effective.

“Many people do not realise how environmentally friendly burning wood can be,” said Colin, who lives in Quarry Bank and works for Noreus Ltd in Stafford. “The carbon dioxide emitted when wood is burned is the same amount that was absorbed over the years the tree was growing, whereas using oil and liquefied petroleum gas produced millions of years ago is bringing C02 into the atmosphere.”

He added: “Obviously, this process is sustainable as long as new trees are planted to replace those used for fuel.”

One of the many other advantages of installing a wood-fuelled heating system, said Colin, is that permission is not normally needed for the four kilowatt system for a home; VAT on installations costs is only 5 per cent and it won’t affect the insurance of the property, though it is advisable to tell the company of the change.

He pointed out that the bigger wood fuelled boilers could be used in place of a standard gas or oil boiler to heat radiators for a whole house and to heat the hot water. Biomass stoves can heat a single room, usually together with other heating systems, but may also have a back boiler to provide water. However, only the boilers are eligible for Renewable Heat Premium Payments and the stoves are not expected to be supported by the Renewable Heat Incentive.

For homes Colin suggests using pellets or wood chips whereas logs may be more suitable for schools, hotels and offices.

He says it is important to have a reliable and economical wood supply. Those who have a large place to store the fuel and can buy in bulk will save more money.

Residents wanting a wood burning system would need a new stainless steel flue pipe or an existing chimney which must be swept regularly.

If you have a thatched roof Colin recommends contacting HETAS, the official body recognised by the Government to approve biomass heating appliances, at www.heats.co.uk for advice.

However, he concluded: “I always recommend that first people insulate their homes properly with foam insulation such as the environmentally friendly Icynene before considering installing renewable energy systems to make the investment even more effective.”

For more details about biomass systems and energy saving ideas call Colin on 0845 474 6641.