There is an urgent need to lower the amount of CO2 being released into the atmosphere and to cut down rising energy bills costs. Reducing the amount of fossil fuels being burnt to heat our homes can go a long way in helping to achieve that and the introduction of hydrogen boilers could prove to be the answer.
What are hydrogen boilers?
Hydrogen boilers are heating systems that use hydrogen to produce heat. When speaking about boilers they are mostly referred to as gas, liquid petroleum or electric, but hydrogen boilers offer a potentially better alternative. They work in a similar way to natural gas boilers, with the gas burnt via combustion to create hot flue gases that are then used to provide warm water and heating. The major difference is that they could be far more eco-friendly and potentially also lower energy bills.
Why do we need hydrogen boilers?
The reason hydrogen boilers are becoming more prominent is because there is an urgent need to find alternatives to systems that burn fossil fuels, so carbon emissions can be reduced. The UK government has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2050, and with one third of emissions coming as a result of heating our homes, and an estimated 20 million boilers in operation in the UK, switching to hydrogen boilers will make a big difference.
It is also important to note that natural gas boilers may no longer be installed in new build properties in the UK from 2025, so sustainable alternatives need to become more readily available. This is still to be confirmed [https://www.idealhome.co.uk/property-advice/gas-boiler-ban-2-296037]by the government.
No carbon dioxide is produced when hydrogen is burnt, making it the perfect alternative to gas, oil and electric boilers. The gas network covers 85% of the UK and the UK aims to replace all mains gas pipes with polythene pipes by 2032, a material which is better suited to the transportation of hydrogen.
How do hydrogen boilers work?
The production of hydrogen as a fuel source has been suggested in a number of different ways. One is that it could go through an electrochemical process, with hydrogen being separated from the source fuel. If this method is used it would require the carbon to be captured and contained permanently, which could pose some difficulty. Other methods include electrolysis, which requires water to be split into oxygen and hydrogen. Electric heating systems could also be used, although this would include fossil fuel burning, so its usefulness would have to be weighed up.
Another option would be to link a hydrogen boiler to an air source heat pump or to use hydrogen-ready boilers that use 20% hydrogen and 80% gas. This would be a hybrid system that ‘tops up’ heat in homes that use heat pumps.
Can I buy a hydrogen boiler?
As of mid-2022 you are not able to buy a hydrogen boiler or a hydrogen-ready boiler. Major manufacturers, such as Worcester, Baxi and Viessmann continue to work on prototypes, so the idea remains in development. It is estimated that hydrogen ready boilers will be ready to buy by 2026, although nothing has been confirmed at this stage.
A key issue that must be overcome before hydrogen boilers can become widely available is a shortage of hydrogen supply in the UK, as not enough is currently produced to power everyone’s boilers. The government has released plans to produce up to 10 gigawatts of hydrogen by 2030, which is twice as high as its previous target, although full details on how this will be achieved are yet to be revealed.
Can you use hydrogen fuel cell boilers instead?
Hydrogen fuel cell technology is currently available, although there are not many options available for installation. It works by breaking down hydrogen into different parts to generate electricity. Heat is produced as a by-product of this process, which can then be used to heat your home.
Viessmann has produced a product that uses hydrogen fuel cells called the Vitovalor. However, it can only be installed when certain specific conditions are met and price is much higher than a traditional gas boiler, costing anywhere between £10,000 and £15,000 to purchase and install.
How much do hydrogen boilers cost?
The arrival of new technology often brings with it a much higher price tag, although that will hopefully not be the case with hydrogen boilers. The four biggest boiler manufacturers – Worcester Bosch, Vaillant, Baxi and Ideal – have made a price-promise that hydrogen-ready boilers will not cost more than natural gas boilers. This should ensure that affordable low carbon heat and hot water will be accessible to all consumers when the technology becomes available for domestic installation.