Solid fuel heating in the form of coal, wood and other biomass warms huge numbers of UK homes. Try our money-saving tips for solid fuel customers.
Coal boilers and wood burning stoves are common throughout the UK. Modern biomass boilers (which burn logs, pellets or wood chips) can be one of the more forward-thinking heating solutions on offer.
Solid fuel heating is particularly important in rural areas where the mains gas supply isn't connected. In these areas, the availability of wood and other biomass material can make solid fuels the most sustainable and cost-efficient way of heating a property and its water.
Wood burning stoves are usually used to provide heat directly to the room where the heater is installed. They typically have a glass-fronted door and burn logs. They may have a flue or a chimney which is taken through the property so it emits heat into other areas.
They can be used to heat radiators or hot water if they’re plumbed into your heating system.
Initial costs of fitting wood burning stoves vary depending on whether you’ve got an existing chimney, how it’s lined and whether you plan to heat just one room or use it to heat other things like water.
Most biomass boilers either burn wood pellets or chips. In some boilers loading and lighting can be automated and heat can be automatically controlled. For heating your whole house, these are the easiest to use and the most popular wood-fuelled boilers.
Biomass boilers are larger than gas combi boilers and you’ll have to make space to store the pellets. The upfront cost can also be high. But with a reduced fuel bill and government schemes such as the RHI available it can be a wise investment.
If you use solid fuel, you'll need to keep your supply topped up so that you have a heating source. And shopping around for the right price isn't as easy as it is for those relying on the gas network. However, there are still ways to save on energy bills.
If you’re connected to the main gas network then switching to gas should be relatively straightforward, if initially expensive.
Mains gas should be cheaper than solid fuel, but this isn’t necessarily the case with biomass - it depends on the efficiency of your system and access to fuel material.
Switching to gas can also make shopping around for energy more straightforward. It could even add value to your property.
If you’re looking for efficiency, switching to gas for whole house heating while keeping a wood-burning stove to heat smaller areas of your home might be the answer.
If you’re not connected to mains gas, there are other choices:
It’s not necessarily a cheaper option, but it could be more convenient and easier to budget and shop around for. Electric may also be a better long-term option with the rise of time-of-use tariffs, the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) and smart meters .
An SEG tariff pays you for the excess renewable electricity you provide to the National Grid.
Initial set-up costs for such energy generation can be expensive. However, off-network households may gain the most from their own hydro, wind or solar power.
LPG shares many of the downsides of solid fuel options and can be an expensive way to heat a home, but oil is certainly an option to consider.
Heating oil isn't without its problems, but it's considered one of the more affordable options for those not connected to the gas network.
Burning wood and coal in open fires and stoves releases fine particulate matter (PM2.5), and harmful sulphur dioxide (SO2) is also emitted by coal burned in open fires.
The government has plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from homes which could impact users of solid fuel heating systems, for example by banning the sale of the most polluting fuels.