Systems vary in complexity from a standalone stove, which will heat a room and cost around £2,500, to a wood pellet boiler with an automated fuel supply that can run your central heating or heat water, and will set you back £6,000.

The system is effectively carbon neutral (CO2 released is that which has been absorbed by the tree during its lifetime) and a biomass boiler could save 6 or 7 tonnes of CO2 a year, compared to fossil fuel-generated electricity. It could also give you an annual saving of £300-£350, meaning it will pay for itself in 10 years.

The Low Carbon Buildings Programme offer grants for 30% of the cost of boilers and 20% of the cost of stoves. You will need to clear out the ashes and take regular orders of fuel, so are most appropriate for rural homes close to wood supplies with plenty of storage space.

For a one-stop shop on biomass-derived fuels and associated conversion technologies, visit Biomass Energy Centre (01420 526197: