Wood Chip Boilers: Worth the Expense?

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Whether you live in a rural environment or a relatively urban one, making the choice to install wood chip boilers in your home or cabin is essentially a modernized adaptation of a very ancient energy source intimately connected with human survival: naturally-sourced wood. While today most wood chip boilers run on mass-produced wood pellets made from otherwise discarded wood scraps, wood chip boilers will consume any firewood you have on hand—making for flexibility of fuel-sourcing and potentially saving money on store-bought pellets along the way. What better way to use the blown-over log on your property than curing it and using it to power your home?

In this article, we will discuss some common questions new homeowners or renovators have about wood chip boilers, including cost, efficiency, and lifespan. We will also point you in the direction of a reliable wood chip boiler installation and servicing company in your area!

What Is a Wood Chip Boiler?

Designed much like a gas-powered furnace, wood chip boilers involve a storage bin for fuel hooked up to an automatic feed system for incineration, generating power throughout the process. While the practice of burning wood for light and heat is a tale as old as humankind as we think of it, over the years this system has become refined, and maximized for efficiency and lower costs while utilizing wood scraps that would otherwise be thrown away. Typically, these furnaces provide heat to your home through forced air or radiant heating systems, though they can also be used to power water heaters for showers, dishwasher use, baths, etc.

Are Wood Chip Boilers Efficient?

While fuel for wood chip boilers costs about the same per month as naturally-gas-powered furnaces, they are unique in that a homeowner can actually forage for their fuel or cut it down and cure it themselves, as opposed to always purchasing it from a corporate source. Additionally, biomass boilers are known for operating at an efficiency of between 89%-91%–which is about on par with natural gas boilers, operating anywhere between 88%-91% efficiency.

However, when it comes to maintenance of these boilers, homeowners will have to consider that wood chip boilers do require manually feeding the “hopper” with more wood chips every few days as they are consumed by the furnace, as well as disposing of the ashy byproduct of the fuel consumption process.

Are Wood Chip Boilers Expensive?

There are two types of wood-fed boilers—the standard wood boiler and the gasification boiler, which is a more efficient (and therefore more expensive) version of the standard. Standard wood boilers also produce more smoke, are less efficient, and require more fuel in the long-term—but they are the more affordable of the two options, ranging at an installation price of $7,500-$16,000.

In contrast, wood gasification boilers use less fuel in an annual comparison to standard boilers, have fewer emissions and ashy byproducts to clean up, and are generally considered more efficient…but their benefits do come at a price. Wood gasification boilers can cost anywhere from $10,000-$20,000 to install. However, when you consider their lifespan of at least 20 years (given proper maintenance), some homeowners believe this initial installation cost will pay for itself over time through cheaper, more abundant, and more efficient renewable fueling.

Top 5 Reasons Why Wood Chip Boilers Are Worth It

With an installation price tag of up to $20,000, it is understandable why opting for these increasingly efficient wood chip gasification boilers can seem cost-prohibitive to some homeowners—particularly first-time homebuyers. However, there are several key benefits that lead some property owners to conclude that wood chip boilers are worth it! Here are the top five reasons why wood chip boilers are worth the initial expense:

1.     Affordable fuel that can also be foraged or harvested: One of the best characteristics of opting for a wood chip boiler is that they save money in the long term. With costs of fuel averaging about the same as those for natural gas for gas-powered furnaces, wood chip boiler fuel can either be purchased from a producer recycling old wood scraps, or foraged, harvested, collected, and cured simply by wandering through your property or a National Park or National Forest after a blustery day. If you have a permit, you can absolutely harvest your own firewood at minimal expense, saving you cash in the long term and preventing unnecessary trips to the store.

2.     Progressive energy source that is typically carbon-neutral: Humans have been using the wood-generated combustion process to provide heat and light for thousands of years—however, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been improvements or updates to the efficiency of wood boiler technologies over the years. In fact, with efficiency rates of around 90%, wood boilers rely on wood chips for their energy source—a product that collects carbon during its lifespan and then releases that same amount of carbon when burned. This is known as being a carbon-neutral energy source and is considered renewable as of this moment in time—unlike natural gas, the stores of which are quickly being depleted.

3.     Associated tax breaks for green energy: There is good news for those investing in highly efficient wood chip boilers with an efficiency rating of above 75%! As of 2021, homeowners with this particular energy setup are eligible for a tax credit of as much as 26%. So, not only will you be saving on fuel costs, but you will also be receiving annual tax breaks as well!

4.     Low-maintenance needs: Wood chip boilers have relatively simple needs; all a homeowner really needs to do is refill the hopper or automatic feed every few days and remove ash and soot buildup as it occurs. This can be accomplished weekly in as little as an hour—but for homeowners looking to go above and beyond in terms of protecting their investment, annual deep cleanings generally take around an hour and can be performed either by the property owner or a technician.

5.     Long lifespan: If properly cleaned and maintained, wood chip boilers can last upwards of 20 years. So, even if you get the most expensive wood boiler on the market, you are likely to see enough savings in terms of fuel costs and tax breaks over the years that you may find it is a worthy investment—not to mention it’s easier on the environment!

Best Wood Chip Boilers and Installation Near Me

While wood chip boilers take up a little more space than their natural gas counterparts, they are comparable in terms of price and efficiency but offer superior renewable energy status. Unlike the finite reserves of natural gas left on the planet, humans have long been harnessing the power of working forests to harvest wood and paper products—so why not use the byproducts from this manufacturing process and put them to good use? Wood boilers can provide heat to homes through air ducts or radiant installation setups and power hot water heaters as well—all at an affordable price with likely tax break incentives.

What are you waiting for? Contact the expert technicians for installing wood chip boilers at Caluwe, Inc. today for a quote!