In an effort to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, the UK government is seeking to change the way in which we heat our homes. According to recent figures, heating constitutes around 40% of the UK’s energy consumption*. The introduction of fuel sources such as hydrogen could help us reduce our carbon footprint. Find out about hydrogen boilers below.
How do hydrogen boilers work?
The premise of a using hydrogen to fuel appliances is that it will reduce carbon emissions. Hydrogen would be used as an alternative to Natural Gas, LPG and oil; which all produce carbon dioxide as a by-product of the combustion that takes place.
There have been many suggestions as to how hydrogen can be produced as a fuel source. This includes an electrochemical process where hydrogen is separated from the source fuel. In this case, the carbon emissions would have to be captured and permanently contained.
Other processes include electrolysis, which involves splitting water into its constituent elements of oxygen and hydrogen. Another suggested method is the use of electric heating systems, though the balance of the generation of electricity must be considered.
There is also the option of developing hybrid heating systems where the hydrogen boiler would be linked with an air source heating pump outside of the home. Finally, trials are underway at Keele University to develop a natural gas/hydrogen blend that will use 20% hydrogen**.
A decision about the exact way in which hydrogen fuelled boilers will be used is yet to be made. However, developments are ongoing and brands such as Worcester Bosch have already developed a prototype boiler that is designed to run on 100% hydrogen gas.
What are some of the potential pros and cons of hydrogen boilers?
- Lower (or zero) greenhouse gas emissions – The main aim of developing hydrogen boilers is to decarbonise the way we heat our homes. The carbon emissions that fossil fuels are currently releasing into the atmosphere are polluting the air. These gasses cannot escape our atmosphere and are thus causing temperatures to rise and contributing to global warming.
- Energy-efficiency – Hydrogen contains quite a large amount of energy. It is claimed that 1kg of hydrogen contains the same amount of energy as 2.8kg of gasoline***.
- Easy storage – Hydrogen gas can be stored in a number of ways. For example, it can be compressed, contained in salt caverns or ammonia and it can also be liquified. It has also been claimed that hydrogen is the only energy carrier that can be stored long-term.
- The ability to use current infrastructure – It has been suggested that the current gas infrastructure could also be used for the new hydrogen scheme – so there could be no need to redesign.
- Safety – Hydrogen is highly flammable. Research and risk assessments will have to be undertaken to ensure that the use of hydrogen for home heating is safe.
- The production of hydrogen can emit carbon gas – Although a hydrogen heating system could reduce or eliminate carbon emissions, the actual production of hydrogen can emit carbon if fossil fuels are still used; so this gas will have to be captured and stored appropriately. Alternatively, electrolysis powered by renewable energy sources such as solar panels or wind turbines could help solve this issue.
- Existing appliances may need to be converted – 100% hydrogen cannot be used on current appliances that are built to use other fuel sources as they may have different burning functions.
- Engineers may also need to get further qualifications – The testing of the appliances will need to change, as will equipment that engineers use.
Where can I get a hydrogen boiler and how much could one cost?
There are currently no hydrogen boilers available on the market. Many are still in the prototype stage. However, you can rest assured that the team at HomeServe will provide you with a suitable and energy-efficient heating solution for your home – whether using the current fuels sources that are available or using hydrogen once it becomes available.
Costs for hydrogen boilers and their usage have yet to be determined and manufacturers are looking to produce appliances that are able to be converted to hydrogen at a limited cost.
Currently, hydrogen can be expensive to produce and transport. However, new advancements are being tested to see how these costs can be reduced, such as using ammonia to transport the hydrogen gas.
What can I do in the meantime to heat my home efficiently?
Whilst the plans for hydrogen boilers are ongoing, there are a number of alternative ways in which you can enhance energy-efficiency in your home. This includes:
For more tips on how you can make your home more energy-efficient, visit our HomeServe page on “How to save gas at home and reduce your energy bill.”