Heating a Farmhouse with a Wood Chip Boiler Biomass Heater

Categories: Equipment

This is a really interesting alternative energy project in that although it is used to heat a single house, in this circumstance, a farmhouse, it actually lies in the center of what future energy conversion might be all about. There’s a growing sense that food and energy production needs to be based around small communities.


Several km away from us is an organic dairy farm with a nice head of rare breed Normandy cows and from where we get our raw cream, milk, cider, honey, poultry grain, and straw. The layout of this farm will be exactly the same as one sees in most areas of France, the buildings assembled mainly from locally sourced stone and clay, the extraction of the stone in the time of structure causing the creation of a large duck pond. On one side of this pool is the bread oven, still utilized to this day. The plantation, as with our own house, has because of its construction, a high thermal mass that makes the building warm in Winter and cools in Summer. Traditionally these farms had large open fireplaces upon which huge logs would be put both for cooking and heating. These flames were fed out of timber grown on the farm and were highly ineffective at around 15%.


The areas surrounding the farm are all split with hedges of deciduous wood. The hedges are trimmed every 15 decades and the wood is used for fuel. This cycle has been going on for decades, maintaining the hedgerows becoming an essential part of the farm calendar. Traditionally, the bigger branches were cut or split into logs for your fire and the thinner twigs will be collected, tied into bundles (faggots) that could be utilized in the bread oven. Over the past 80 decades or so this latter usage has become almost obsolete resulting in the majority of farmers/landowners burning these smaller twigs from the areas where they were cut. This amounts to approximately one-third of the total amount of combustible material being wasted.

The alternative Michael and Lydie have adopted would be to heat their large farmhouse employing a wood chip boiler, the processors are created by all the hedge trimmings.

In this component of Normandie, there are hedges of a particular type called bocages. This is an ancient hedging system, where the trees have been planted on the top of traces of mounded up earth, lined with local rock. Thus, creating raised hedges and obviating the need for livestock fencing. Many of these, sadly have been grubbed out and flattened over the years but others are preserved. Not just that but some farmers and homesteaders/smallholders are either replanting them or even reinstating those which have been destroyed. They are a haven for wildflowers and wildlife and I am pleased to say we have one that runs across the whole side of our backyard. If you have ever seen Cornwall or Devon, you’ll have seen similar amazing hedge types.

Selecting a wood-fuelled heating system

Boiler or cooker?

Boilers may be utilized in place of a typical gas or oil boiler to heat radiators for a complete home and also to heat the hot water. Stoves are utilized to heat a single room, typically together with additional heating systems, but may also have a back boiler to provide hot water. Stoves are not eligible under the national RHI unless it’s a pellet stove with a back boiler. Learn from the masters at Heizomat here!

Chips, pellets or logs?

Chips are used to heat bigger buildings or groups of homes.

Pellets are much easier to use and much more controllable than just logs. Pellet boilers can run automatically in substantially the exact same manner that oil or gas boilers operate. Most pellet and processor burners use automatic gas feeders which refill them at fixed intervals.

Log-burning stoves and boilers have to be filled with wood by hand and require much more work. You’ll need a lot of logs to heat a whole house, but they might be cheaper than pellets in case you’ve got a fantastic local supply.

Do you have a local fuel supplier?

Some firms now offer deliveries of pellets everywhere in mainland Britain and Northern Ireland whereas the supply of logs is much more variable. Click here to know more!

Do you’ve got space?

Wood boilers are somewhat larger than oil or gas equivalents and you’ll need space to store the fuel. This area will need to be somewhere that is handy for deliveries as well as appropriate for feeding the boiler.

Have you got someplace to set the flue?

You will need a flue that meets regulations for wood-burning appliances. This could be a new insulated stainless steel flue pipe or a present chimney, through chimneys typically require lining to make them legal and safe.

Do you need permission?

You might not need planning consent, but you always need to check. All new wood heating systems have to comply with building regulations, and the best method to ensure that is to use a professional who is part of a qualified person scheme.