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Biomass Boost: Even BnBs can feel the burn

Larkbeare Grange runs on biomass fuel [1]

Larkbeare Grange runs on biomass fuel

Luxury Exeter bed and breakfast Larkbeare Grange is on the road to 100% sustainability thanks to a new biomass boiler.

The state-of-the-art boiler is boosting the BnB’s green credentials as well as bringing £6k in benefits per year. It means Larkbeare Grange [2]near Exeter is well on its way to becoming completely self-sufficient in terms of its energy needs.

Charlie and Julia Hutchings – who own the stunning country house in Talaton – were taken aback by how much money the pellet biomass boiler would save their business each year, and how dramatically it would reduce the business’s carbon footprint.

“What a difference our biomass boiler has made,” said Charlie, “and it’s already dramatically improved the way we heat many of our rooms. Last year we were cautious about running our heating for too long as the oil for our previous boiler was very expensive, but now we can keep our heating running whenever we want. We also have constant hot water, and the house and the guest rooms are kept warm and cosy at all times. For any bed and breakfast business, offering maximum comfort for guests while keeping overheads as low as possible is critically important, and our boiler now plays a central role in making this possible.”

Additionally the business will receive more than £4,500 in commercial Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) payments and save almost £1,500 on its fuel bills each year.

The system was installed by local company SunGift Energy [3], who also fitted a 4 kWp solar PV system for Larkbeare two years ago.

Before designing their bespoke system, SunGift sent a specialist surveyor to carry out detailed heat loss calculations, to work out the size of boiler that would be needed.

“The boiler has been designed to grow with our expansion plans,” says Charlie. “We’ve got planning permission to add a detached cottage to our grounds, so it has the capacity to provide space heating and hot water for that too when it is built.”

Larkbeare Grange currently offers four luxurious B&B bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms. Their breakfasts are made from local foods and cooked on the couple’s Aga. As well as offering guests free use of bicycles, there is also a solar powered electric car charging POD point.

Collectively Charlie and Julia’s efforts have earned them a host of awards including a gold award from the Green Tourism Business Scheme, South West Bed & Breakfast of 2012 from Taste of the West, Gold winner in Visit Devon Tourism Awards 2011, a Gold award from VisitBritain and they were named one of Alastair Sawday’s Special Places to Stay.

Charlie and Julia get to grips with their new biomass boiler [4]

Charlie and Julia get to grips with their new biomass boiler


SunGift designed and specified a 60kW Windhager pellet boiler scheme for Larkbeare, which took just two weeks to install. Thanks to fuel cost savings and RHI payments, the payback time for the boiler is just over six years, and the estimated profit over 20 years compared to running an oil boiler is more than £80,000. What’s more, the boiler will reduce Larkbeare Grange’s carbon footprint by 15 tonnes per year.

“This boiler is an excellent solution for Larkbeare Grange and other similar businesses,” says Mark Howard, SunGift’s biomass design engineer, “as it requires the least storage space of any biomass system, is the easiest biomass fuel to handle, and requires the least user intervention. What’s more, the boiler has been designed and manufactured by Windhager, a company that not only has one of the world’s strongest heritages in biomass systems but also has 85 years’ experience producing high-quality boilers.”

Biomass systems range from small domestic wood burning stoves used to provide space heating and in some cases hot water, to larger boilers capable of providing central heating and hot water for an entire property. Biomass is a clean and sustainable fuel source and produces less carbon than fossil fuels. It has economic as well as ecological benefits, due to reduced fuel bills, as well as some recently introduced government economic incentives. Biomass boilers have fully automated fuel supply and intelligent controls and they can be a great solution for those who are not on the gas grid.

Biomass fuel, used to power biomass stoves and boilers, comes in three main forms: logs, wood chip and wood pellets. The property’s location, size of system and management requirements will dictate which fuel is best.

At Larkbeare Grange, thanks to the combination of the house’s biomass boiler and its 4kWp solar PV system (which helps power all of the business’s utilities and machines during the day), the BnB is heading towards self-sufficiency in terms of its energy needs. In addition to its renewable energy systems, Larkbeare Grange also takes its environmental responsibilities seriously; conserving energy where possible, shopping locally, reducing waste and keeping water use to a minimum, using non-phosphate cleaning materials, and providing free-of-charge bicycles for guests.

Charlie says, “At Larkbeare Grange we pride ourselves on providing first-rate accommodation and giving our guests exceptional customer service, so it’s refreshing to find SunGift takes the same pride in their work. They have been a pleasure to have on site. The work they’ve carried out has been of the highest quality - every job has been done with exceptional care and consideration - and they’ve left the place spotless.”