Orchard Business Centre
Tel: 0845 634 5626 www.hetas.co.uk
A brighter future for wood burning
With a push to carbon neutral solutions, there has been a significant growth in the market for wood burning appliances. Bruce Allen, Director of HETAS explains the organisation’s efforts and how this industry is changing so fast that HETAS
constantly has to reassess its position.
The resurgence of solid fuel industry in recent years
Manufacturers and installers operating in this sector are enjoying significant sales and growth. As higher carbon fuels take a hit in terms of cost and carbon emissions, wood and wood based fuels and appliances are gaining popularity. There are challenges but customers are developing a real appetite for solutions that make homes comfortable and save carbon at the same time. People still enjoy stoves with a real flame.
Solid fuel is now seen as wood, wood based biomass fuels and solid mineral fuels. There are also some other biomass products which vary in how successful they are in today’s marketplace. The real issue for us as we see more wood fired
installations is the quality of the fuel used. HETAS is working with other industry bodies to see if we can introduce a fuel quality scheme. We already have interest from wood yards supplying seasoned and semi-seasoned wood logs and interest is developing in the wood pellet supply sector. We hope to have our first approved wood log supplier in the spring this year. We are working on a pellet scheme based on proposed European Standards. This wood quality scheme will give consumers confidence in the quality and sourcing of fuels that they are purchasing.
The use of sustainable wood fuels is now seen as an excellent, carbon-neutral option for the domestic and commercial/industrial sectors, and can contribute to the zero carbon home of the future; especially when combined with other micro-generation technologies like solar water heating. In terms of reducing your carbon footprint, wood biomass is hard to beat. If we look at how the Domestic
Heating Compliance Guide works, a combination of wood burning with solar-
heated hot water for the summer months, is going to make the carbon footprint of new buildings look really good. This is a preferred option for many developers as the thought of highly insulated, tightly sealed buildings with very little fresh air movement may not appeal to many house-buyers and may be more expensive to achieve for builders. Many people seem to prefer the lifestyle choice of wood fuel burning equipment.
Environmental benefits of wood if transported over long distances
There is some controversy here. If we are going to look at transporting wood from the forest to the house then we should also take into account the transportation of other fuels, perhaps from the North Sea to the home or the true carbon costs of generated power. If we are going to make these comparisons we must compare like with like. Having said that, all of these issues are important and we should be very aware of how we buy our fuel. Wood can come from local suppliers and as we plan more for future demand it should be easier to verify supply conditions.
The price of wood burning appliances
The initial costs are relatively high at the moment. However, as people start to accept the idea of carbon neutrality – and with continuing Government initiatives
to reduce our use of carbon – prices should come down. It is also right that
people are making choices based on more than initial cost. These other considerations are about reducing carbon, security of supply and lifestyle. Like all new technologies, prices will drop with economies of scale and as technologies improve.
HETAS’ role in the maintaining industry standards
The challenge for HETAS is to make sure that consumers have access to the right products and services. We start with fuels, appliances, chimneys/flues and other equipment used with safe and efficient appliances and systems. We then promote registered installers and maintenance businesses which are competent to carry out work, and then we offer a list of chimney sweeps that can make sure that chimneys are kept safe and clean.
To ensure that installers, customers, specifiers and designers have access to these products and services we publish an annual Guide and include the same data on our web site www.hetas.co.uk
Manufacturers’ appliances are often independently tested and the manufacturer takes the test information and decided whether it can CE mark its appliance. HETAS offers a third-party verification process in the form of product approval so that there is an independently verified set of efficiency figures, manufacturers instructions etc. This means that installers and consumers can trust the appliances that they buy, will know they have chosen well and be confident that the product can be installed in compliance with current regulations. The HETAS Guide and web site are the only places where there is easy access to such information on approved appliances.
There is still a danger that the drive towards renewable fuels including solid biomass could be badly tarnished if proper appliance and installation standard are not upheld. HETAS is working with Certification bodies on the development of solid biomass installation course that will be suitable for successful candidates to use in their applications for HETAS Registration. HETAS installers self certificate their work via HETAS thus avoiding the need for customers to apply for a Building Notice from the Local Authority (costing ?200 in my area)
Concerns about the wood and biomass sectors
One of our concerns is still the selling (or in some cases mis-selling) appliances on the Internet. We have experience of customer buying equipment in this way and finding there are no installation instructions, or that any supplied instructions are not in English, the appliance is the wrong output for the house or room, that installers can’t verify efficiency figures or CE marking and therefore refuse to fit
the appliances. We know of a number of customers who can’t get appliances installed and have had problems getting refunds.
Increased numbers of installers applying to register?
Yes demand is growing quite rapidly. Installers see the potential to gain more customers, make more money, and improve their green image. HETAS run the only specialist solid fuel and wood biomass Competent Person Scheme (CPS) and there is a constant stream of requests to attend our HETAS training courses and to register for the CPS scheme. Enquiries come from existing and potential new installers who want to undertake solid fuel and wood biomass installations together with associated areas of work such as chimney repair and relining. Their interest is driven by the market - the public want green alternatives and they want to be reassured that these are fitted by fully-qualified installers. The public are developing quite a social conscience and wood is viewed as carbon neutral .
As with all of the CPS schemes, installers have three choices. They can join the scheme(s) that covers their areas of work and then notify their work to the local authority through that scheme (which in our case only costs ?3.50 per notification). The second option is to insist that their customers go to the local authority, Building Control department to apply for a Building Notice which can cost anything from ?70 to ?300. The third option, if you call it that, is to break the law.
With the Home Information Pack (HIP) now implemented, and Solicitors asking for more information, it will be harder and harder to ignore the regulations because the information that is notified, by CPS schemes to the local authority, will be made available to those preparing HIP packs. It will be easy to see those who have ignored the legal requirements and this may be a weapon for purchasers to negotiate reductions in property selling prices. A false economy if ever there was one!
Training for installation
All of our installers have to go on a training course before we accept them as members of our CP scheme and we only accept those who have been on the course and proven themselves competent.
We then inspect their work to ensure that they operate competently in all aspects of the installation or maintenance for which they wish to be registered. For example, some installers are only approved to fit dry stoves, whilst others have been checked for competency on full central heating systems and flue installations. The current of interest in solid fuel and wood biomass training is demonstrated by the fact that, for 2008, we have organised approaching 50 training courses for this year and if demand increases we will arrange more.
The future for the industry
Wood fuelled appliances are leading the way. The new generation of pellet and chip fired boilers have state of the art controls and extremely high efficiency. In some cases you can now also link these appliances to unvented hot water cylinders, and to solar systems which ensure energy-efficient delivery of heating and hot water.
New regulations and Government targets mean that we must reduce the carbon foot print of new properties to meet the government’s target of the Zero Carbon
Homes. As these targets start to bite, designers will realise that a cost effective way to achieve this is by using a fuel like wood.
We are absolutely delighted with the number of enquiries we get from installers. They have recognised that (a) there’s a market out there and (b) that they need
to be competent to compete in it and (c) that there is a real business opportunity for those who want to do the job properly.
For further details information contact Peter Healy Associates or HETAS at the Orchard Business Centre, Stoke Orchard, Glos, GL52 7RZ, by phone at 0845 6345626 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org