Baxi Bioflo delivers savings, health and clear conscience for Sovereign Housing Association
A West Berkshire couple have become a housing association's first residents to have a biomass boiler installed in their home, and are finding it is delivering good results.
Tony and Tracey Cossington, Sovereign Housing Association residents from the village of Hampstead Norreys, volunteered to have the Baxi Bioflo heating system installed to tackle Tracey's health problems, as well as from a desire to use a more environmentally-friendly heating system.
They are already discovering that their new biomass boiler, which runs on wood pellets, is cheaper to run, more efficient and cleaner than their old coal-fired boiler.
"I approached Sovereign about 12 months ago about getting rid of my coal fire, as my wife was allergic to the coal dust," Tony, aged 45, explains.
Tony and Tracey were visited by Rod Green, Sovereign's Building Services Engineer, who discussed their situation. After initially suggesting an air-source heating system, which has been successfully installed in many of Sovereign's off-gas properties, Rod asked if the Cossingtons would be interested in trialling a biomass boiler, and they agreed.
The four-feet high Baxi Bioflo boiler now sits in their utility room. The advantage over an air-source system is that the biomass heater can be connected to an existing heating and hot water system, so there is no need to replace radiators and pipework.
Biomass boilers burn biomass fuels, such as wood pellets or logs, and extract energy extremely efficiently to provide heating and hot water. Tony is finding that they have many advantages:
"Before, we were using six bags of coal a month at £20 a bag. At the moment, we are paying £3 for a bag of wood pellets and using roughly a bag a day. So over the course of a month, we are saving around £30 on our heating," he says. "We also have a much cleaner house. There's a lot less dust and my wife's health has improved a lot."
"Another selling point was the fact that this is green technology. It was important for us to do something to reduce our environmental impact," Tony says, adding that the hardest part of the installation process was getting council approval for the metallic flue outside the house.
Sovereign is planning to install two more Bioflo boilers in its properties in the near future, and envisages this method becoming run of the mill in some instances: "This is a great solution for residents who would like to be more energy-efficient but who are set up for a solid-fuel heating system, as it is not always practical to install a heat pump," Rod Green says.
He explains that it costs Sovereign around the same to install the biomass boiler, as an air-source system. "There is not a huge difference in cost, but it entails a lot less upheaval for the resident as it can be incorporated easily into an existing solid fuel system."
"A lot of our residents are used to solid fuel systems and are comfortable with how they operate and the biomass boiler is something of a halfway house; the boiler needs loading with fuel and you can still have a real flame".
Biomass boilers are a potentially important way for Sovereign to introduce alternative renewable technology into its homes. They are classed as carbon-neutral energy solution, since burning biomass emits the same amount of carbon dioxide as is absorbed while the plants were growing.
Colin North, the local Baxi representative, who visited Mr and Mrs Cossington with Rod Green to see the installation, says: "Biomass boilers, like the Baxi Bioflo, provide a cost-effective solution for properties in off-mains gas areas and are cleaner alternatives to oil and coal. Biomass boilers are potentially an important way for Sovereign to introduce renewable technology into its homes.
"They are classed as carbon neutral because the fuel they burn absorbs as much carbon when it is growing as it releases when it is burnt. Another benefit is that biomass technology will be eligible for Government financial incentives, such as the Renewable Heat Incentive, which makes it an attractive option all round," he adds.
"We will work with Sovereign going forward to ensure the tenant gets the best out of the product."
Tony and Tracey have only been using the Bioflo boiler for just over a month and they are adapting their usage as they get used to it, with the help of a diary and regular discussions with Rod Green. But Tony is already sold on the new system: "I'd wholeheartedly recommend it to any other residents thinking of using this technology."