Choosing a Commercial Wood Boiler: Biomass Boiler Specifications Released

New specifications help building owners and designers compare biomass energy equipment clearly and quickly
Choosing a Commercial Wood Boiler: Biomass Boiler Specifications Released - News


Prepared by Daniel Ciolkosz, Penn State Extension

One of the challenges facing organizations and companies interested in wood heat is the difficulty in figuring out which equipment to select. Often, boiler information is either difficult to find or difficult to interpret, which is not an ideal situation.

In an effort to address this issue, the Pennsylvania Fuels for Schools and Communities initiative has recently announced the release of a Biomass Boiler Performance Specification. This document outlines the performance metrics that every biomass boiler should be able to provide for their product, allowing for meaningful comparison of systems by prospective buyers.

12 points are covered in the specification, which together provide a good picture of a biomass boiler’s expected performance. These measures consist of:

  • Fuel Type:
  • Rated (maximum) Heat Output:
  • Rated (maximum) Thermal Efficiency:
  • Rated (maximum) Fuel Input:
  • Rated (maximum) Parasitic Load:
  • Rated (maximum) Operating Conditions:
  • Minimum Heat Output:
  • Minimum Thermal Efficiency:
  • Minimum Fuel Input:
  • Minimum Parasitic Load:
  • Minimum Operating Conditions:
  • Idling Fuel Input:

Individuals or groups that are considering buying a commercial-scale biomass boiler should be able to obtain this information from the manufacturer of the equipment, and use that information as they consider which boiler to purchase. Of course, there are other considerations that must also be taken into account, such as quality of workmanship, reliability of operation, ease of use, and other parameters. However, the 12 points of the basic specification are a necessary starting point for the selection of a biomass boiler. If a boiler manufacturer is unable or unwilling to share that information, one would have to wonder why that is the case.

This recommended specification builds on PA Fuels for Schools and Communities’ earlier release of a wood fuel standard, which provides specifications for commercial wood chip fuel, that can be used when obtaining fuel supply contracts for a biomass boiler. For information on this, or other Fuels for Schools efforts, contact group chair Sarah Wurzbacher at