Large Commercial Pellet Boiler FAQs

How much do commercial pellet boilers cost?
It depends on the size of the boiler. A fully installed commercial pellet boiler for a large building rated at 1.7 million British Thermal Units (Btu/hour), for example, can cost $100,000 to $200,000; however, that is just part of the total cost of the installed heating system, which must be integrated into the existing heating system and communicate with it effectively. The high-efficiency, low emissions heating system must also have a large thermal energy storage or buffer tank and outdoor bulk pellet storage. The anticipated cost for the large system in this example would be approximately $500,000, including installation and engineering costs. For applications at schools, additional emission control technology is encouraged.

What is the NYSERDA incentive for commercial pellet boilers?
NYSERDA will provide an incentive equal to 40% of installed costs up to $200,000. It also will provide the services of an energy engineer to 1) evaluate improvements to the heat delivery system and determine loads for proper sizing of the boiler, 2) review the engineering design, and 3) monitor the heating system for the first heating season to verify its performance. If two smaller boilers are installed together – which increases overall system efficiency – the incentive is 45% of installed costs up to $270,000.

Has commercial pellet boiler technology been tested?
This technology has been used in Europe for many years and is now available in the United States. Commercial technologies must meet code requirements. Usually this means an American Society of Mechanical Engineering (ASME) certification, but there may also be others since some boilers originally designed in Europe are now being manufactured in the U.S.

What is the return on investment on purchasing a commercial pellet boiler?
Due to the fact that pellets purchased in bulk can save up to 30% of fuel costs compared to oil, the simple payback on these systems is approximately 9-13 years and is reduced to 7-10 years with the Renewable Heat NY incentive. 

How efficient are commercial pellet boilers?
These boilers can achieve 85% thermal efficiency.

How much can a company save by purchasing a commercial pellet boiler?
Pellets purchased in bulk can save up to 30% of fuel costs compared to oil. Additional savings can be realized if the heating system being replaced had a lower thermal efficiency than the pellet boiler heating system or if energy efficiency measures (insulation, weatherization, improved energy management) are also performed by the building owner.

Where can I find a list of qualified technologies?
Systems evaluated based on independent testing data are available on the Renewable Heat NY web page.

Do I need an engineer in addition to an installer? How do I find one?
Yes, any large commercial heating system retrofit, whether a traditional or renewable fuel system, should be planned by an experienced design engineer. Considerations need to be made for integrating new systems with the building’s existing heating system, energy management system and heat distribution components. Additional considerations need to be made for pellet-fired boilers and thermal storage. NYSERDA is developing a list of qualified designers to assist commercial customers in identifying a partner.

How are tandem pellet boiler installations better than a single, large unit?
By using two smaller pellet boilers rather than one large boiler, the pellet heating system can be well-sized for both the shoulder months (late fall/early spring) and the coldest portions of the winter. During winter, both boilers are likely to be needed to provide heat. But during late fall/early spring, there is usually a need for only one boiler. This increases system performance and longevity, and adds a level of pellet backup if one boiler is down for maintenance.

Should thermal storage be incorporated into the pellet boiler system?
Yes, this is a requirement for all projects supported by Renewable Heat NY. Thermal energy storage, also called a buffer tank, allows for better energy management and less frequent cycling of the boiler. This means higher system efficiency, lower emissions, and increased longevity of the heating system.

How long do these projects take from design to installation?
It is not uncommon for a large commercial project that to take a year or more from the decision to move forward to installation. This is due to the need to design the system, obtain permits and secure financing if necessary. Most heating system installations occur outside of the heating season.

What’s the benefit to doing a system sizing study for a commercial pellet boiler?
The system sizing study will determine how much heat is needed during the heating season. This information is used to properly size the pellet boiler heating system and its components. The study will also determine how the existing heating system is managing energy in the building at all times during the heating season and whether any components can be improved to increase comfort. Opportunities for energy efficiency will also be identified, so total energy use can be reduced.