Buying an eco-boiler? What you should know.

By Neil Harrison, Chairman of the Wood Heat Association and Director of re:heat


As a recent case regarding the mis-selling of a biomass boiler to a couple in Derby highlighted, the following advice should be considered by customers when looking to buy technology designed to heat homes and businesses without contributing to climate change.

Since the introduction of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) in November 2011 and the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive in April 2014, approximately 92,000 renewable heating systems have been fitted in homes and businesses in the UK. 

Supported by seven years of financial payments for domestic systems and 20 years for those in commercial premises, the RHI has helped to deliver the highest ever number of renewable heating installations and been a key part of government energy policy. It’s absolutely vital that this and other tools are used to increase the amount of renewable heating in the UK (currently at 7% of total heat). A very sobering fact when you consider that heating buildings and processes accounts for around 37% of the UK’s total carbon emissions – more than either electricity production or transport.

Due to the nature of the RHI, which involves the owner of the system entering into a contract with the Government via the regulator – Ofgem, it means that there are certain requirements and obligations placed on the owner of the equipment. The good news is that if you meet these obligations, you will receive payments in return for making the switch to a low-carbon heating option. The Government is paying you to avoid carbon emissions – effectively the reverse of the carbon taxes on fossil fuels which are common elsewhere in the world.

Not meeting the obligations set out in the RHI has some fairly serious consequences, so there are certain things you should do to protect yourself from falling foul of the regulations, and of course, mis-selling:

 For domestic systems, ensure that your installed is on the most up-to-date MCS list;

  • Make sure that your installer is registered with a consumer protection scheme such as the Renewable Energy Consumer Code;

  • As with having a new bathroom fitted or driveway paved, speak to other people who have had a biomass or other renewable heating system installed and at the very least, ask the potential installer for reference sites you can visit and/or speak to their previous customers

For commercial systems, it’s a little more trickier but there are still a few simple common sense measures you can take to protect your company:

Obtain quotes from a number of suppliers and compare what each is proposing – if there are glaring differences or something doesn’t quite add up, challenge them to justify their quotation;

  • For a larger scheme, consider employing an experienced consultant or engineer to design a specification on your behalf. Then use that to procure the system that you need – not what someone wants to sell you;

  • Use reputable companies who are registered with a kitemark or customer protection scheme, or who are members of a professional body or trade association such as the Wood Heat Association or Ground Source Heat Pump Association;

  • Ask to see their previous installations – speak to the business owners and make sure their experience is a positive one.

 As with anything in life, if doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Be sure not to believe the ‘salesman with the story’ of something that’s too good to be true – it’s rarely, if ever, what they make it out to be.