Maintaining biomass boiler efficiency

effective biomass boiler maintenance

Most biomass boiler owners we meet are aware that the maintenance of their system is more involved than a mains gas or oil boiler would be, although many have not been informed by their installer of why regular servicing is so necessary. At Total Energy Support we want all owners to understand the importance of maintaining their biomass boilers and the environmental and economic impacts that occur when minimum standards are not reached.

The two most important elements that need to be monitored in your biomass boiler are ash and clinker build-up. Both are relatively straightforward to keep under control, and both are exacerbated by the use of poor quality fuel, so don’t skimp when choosing your fuel supplier. Below we explain why ash and clinker can become problematic and how you can prevent unnecessary loss of efficiency.

The process of burning wood material, whether that be in the form of chips or pellets, produces a by-product of ash. Over time, this ash will collects inside the boiler and its workings, including the heating surfaces and grates. This build-up of ash can really begin to affect your boiler efficiency, therefore increasing the volume of fuel you need to burn to achieve the same output by up to 10%. Thus fuel costs go up, as does the amount of ash produced. It’s a vicious cycle that has to be broken by regular in-depth cleaning. On many boilers it only requires about 200 hours of running time to decrease the efficiency to 90% of what should be achievable, so continual checking and cleaning is vital.

Clinker is formed when there is a high build-up of ash on the grate, which then restricts the movement of air across the combustion area. The temperature of the grate then increases until such a temperature is reached where an effect called sintering takes place. Sintering is where the ash is heated to such a high temperature that it then melts and solidifies into a slag, the hardened form of which is called clinker. Clinker is prone to getting stuck in the grate and can be extremely troublesome to remove.

Once clinker is formed this will even further reduce the efficiency of your biomass boiler. If left to continue building up, this can cause more serious issues with the operation of your boiler. It can severely affect the mechanically operated parts of the boiler and create safety issues around the flue discharge.

In order to avoid these problems there are some straightforward steps that you can take. We recommend to clean out the ash on a regular basis, for example a clean out every 80 hours instead of 160 hours could improve efficiency by up to 10%. You can also install a de-ashing system which can minimise the amount of time spent cleaning out the ash, however the bin will still need to be emptied on a regular basis. Instead of throwing the ash away, you can use it on your garden where it makes an excellent fertiliser.

Another key area for maintenance is the boiler’s flue, which will require sweeping annually. This is required to both improve the efficiency of your system as well as reducing the risk of any flue fires.

Beyond taking these measures, there is still a need for a minimum of a yearly service on your biomass boiler by a properly qualified expert. Most manufacturers state that a bi-annual service is required, which we would recommend anyway as a minimum for the majority of installations.

Here at TES we can help you get the most out of your biomass boiler and make sure that you keep it running in the long-term at high efficiency. Our range of maintenance contracts means that you can choose a plan to suit you. We work to the highest standards when servicing and repairing biomass boilers (as well as other renewable energy systems such as heat  pumps) and provide impartial advice on how you can make sure that it is working as well as it can between scheduled services.

You have made a long-term in investment in your biomass boiler, so running a low-cost, minimal maintenance schedule can be a false economy. We will always look at the long term picture to give you peace of mind that not only are you getting a sound return on investment, but that your heating and hot water will be working when you need it most.

Call us today to discuss a maintenance contract on 01483 603090, or contact us through our website.