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Are hydrogen boilers a viable alternative to gas central heating?
To stand any chance of drastically reducing carbon emissions, there needs to be a viable alternative to gas central heating. Hydrogen is a low-carbon fuel, that has the potential to be a long-term solution. This is especially true because it could be delivered to homes through the current gas network.
Why is an alternative to gas heating needed?
Over time, as fossil fuels become increasingly difficult to extract from the earth, the cost of gas will continue to rise. Alongside this, the UK government have set a deadline of 2050, whereby the country’s carbon emissions are expected to reach net zero.
However, a significant number of homes in the UK are still reliant on gas for their heating and hot water. Renewable heating systems, such as heat pumps, are often mentioned as a solution to steer away from gas because they don’t release carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Although, replacing all gas boilers with renewable systems would not only be a huge task in terms of the practicality of such an operation, but it would also be extremely costly.
Therefore, instead of replacing the current heating systems, a more viable solution would be to use a low-carbon fuel. Hydrogen is one of these fuels, which can provide homes with heating and hot water through a similar boiler.
What is a hydrogen boiler?
Hydrogen fuelled boilers would work like those powered by gas. The main difference being that it would be able to heat the home with hydrogen, as well as gas. Also, hydrogen boilers would be installed in the same way as a gas boiler, whereby they would be connected to the gas grid. This would allow for the fuel to be delivered to the boiler when there is a demand for hot water and heating. Most of the internal components would work in the same way, although a couple would need to be swapped out, to suit hydrogen.
If in the future, the gas network is converted to solely accommodate hydrogen, then Gas Safe registered engineers would be trained to install them, as they have been with LPG boilers.
What about hydrogen fuel cell boilers?
A hydrogen fuel cell breaks hydrogen down into various parts, to generate electricity. Throughout this process, heat is also created, providing the home with warmth. While hydrogen fuel cell technology exists, there are still only a few options available. One of these is the Viessmann Vitovalor, which is a Micro CHP system, that can help to lower your bills. However, this unit is considerably more expensive than gas boilers. With installation included, this will potentially cost up to £15,000.
Are hydrogen boilers available to buy?
Although you cannot purchase a hydrogen boiler yet, all modern boilers can work with a certain level of hydrogen. Boiler manufacturers, Baxi and Worcester Bosch are already developing hydrogen-ready boilers. Theoretically, these boilers would be able to heat a home on natural gas. However, if the transition to hydrogen, then occurred, the boiler would be able to function on this alone, after a quick visit from a heating engineer.
Even though most gas boilers won’t work on just hydrogen, many will work on a hydrogen blend. This is when, hydrogen is added to the gas supply, to make a combination of the two.
Homeowners are still able to get a FREE boiler grant or insulation grant via the ECO scheme, which is still available to households that qualify. Warma UK are currently working throughout the UK helping privately owned and rented homes to improve home energy efficiency and save money on rising energy bills.
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