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Hydrogen Boilers – A Carbon Free Heating Solution?

As homeowners seek to increase their property’s energy efficiency and yet reduce their carbon footprint, many are seeking alternatives to burning natural gases.

When replacing an old boiler for a new, modern boiler, there are many factors to consider including the boiler type, the fuel type and the overall energy efficiency rating, however, in this post we will be exploring whether opting for an alternative to gas central heating is a viable option yet.

Why do We need Gas Alternatives?

There are two main reasons why gas alternatives will be required over the coming years:

Natural fossil fuels are running out

It is estimated that around 80% of UK homes are fuelled by natural gas, which is a higher proportion than other countries simply due to the proximity that the UK is located to North Sea gas reserves, resulting in an economical and easy to access supply.

However, due to a worldwide increase in natural fossil fuel usage over recent decades, there are concerns that natural resources are being used up much quicker than expected.  There are varying estimations of when the natural fossil fuels will ultimately be depleted, however, some theories suggest that fossil fuels may run out by 2060, and therefore the use of other sources of fuel should be phased in ahead of time.

Climate Change

Fossil Fuels omit large amounts of carbon dioxide when they are burned which has been linked to the cause of global warming and therefore alternative fuel options should be chosen in order to reduce the impact.

In addition, the UK has committed to reducing carbon emissions to zero by 2050 and therefore as the country’s heating contributes to approximately one-third of the total carbon emissions, finding an alternative heating source for residential properties would all help towards reaching the nation’s goal.

 Other scenarios where gas may not be appropriate as a fuel for heating is where the property is located in a rural location and therefore away from the gas network.

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What is a Hydrogen Boiler?

A Hydrogen boiler is a boiler that would operate in a very similar way to a gas boiler, however, would run on pure hydrogen gas.

Hydrogen is an alternative source of fuel instead of using natural gases that have been proven to contribute towards the greenhouse gases and could be supplied into properties via the current pipes used for the gas network if the whole network was to be converted.

Large manufacturers including Worcester Bosh and Viessmann are currently developing prototype Hydrogen boilers, that if successful could be launched in just a few years’ time.

What are the Advantages & Disadvantages of Hydrogen Boilers

Advantages of Hydrogen Boilers

Continued use of Mains Infrastructure

A Switch from Gas to Hydrogen within the main supply network could enable a large proportion of the nation to move away from fossil fuels, with minimal changes required to the infrastructure.

Lower Carbon emissions

Hydrogen boilers do not omit carbon and therefore are an eco-friendlier option.

Hydrogen is a more efficient fuel than Gas

The energy within hydrogen is higher than that found with the same volume of gas, therefore less hydrogen would be required to heat a home.

Disadvantages of Hydrogen Boilers

Production of Hydrogen is expensive

Scaling up the production of hydrogen to meet the requirements of a possible switch from a gas network would need to take place and levels be secure before the plan can be implemented.

The cost of scaling up production would also need to be reviewed and improved as the current processes of production are expensive.

The production of Hydrogen can emit carbon

Although the use of hydrogen within boilers would not emit carbon, the current production process can unless the carbon is captured, therefore scaling up the process would also need to involve improving technology to avoid this.

Hydrogen is flammable

There are safety concerns regarding the use of hydrogen as the gas is considered more flammable than gas, however, it also does not have a smell and therefore could be dangerous as leaks are less likely to be detected.

Hydrogen storage is more complicated than gas

The differences between the composition of the two gases add difficulties to the storage and transportation of the fuels. Hydrogen is lighter than gas and also has differing storage requirements.

Are Hydrogen Boilers Available to Purchase?

As discussed, only prototype Hydrogen boilers are in development and therefore at present is it not possible to purchase a hydrogen boiler.

However, the government are working with the manufacturers and scientists on a number of schemes to explore and test a range of options including hydrogen/gas blends supply networks.

A number of studies and trials are currently either concluding or the findings are at the review stage by the necessary bodies and therefore proposals should be published over the coming months.

When will Hydrogen Boilers be Available to Purchase?

It is estimated that Hydrogen-ready boilers mat be available on the open market from around 2025.

How Much Would a Hydrogen Boilers Cost to Purchase?

The prices of hydrogen boilers are currently not known, as the technology is still in the development stage, however as the components of a hydrogen boiler would not be too dissimilar to a current gas boiler, pricing could be within the same range.

Further reading: 

Hydrogen Boilers Summary 

In this post, we have discovered what hydrogen boilers are, why alternatives to fossil fuels need to be found and the advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen boilers.

Although hydrogen boilers are not currently available on the open market, homeowners are already becoming aware of their household carbon footprint, and therefore should there be a for a new boiler in the meantime, other low carbon alternatives would need to be explored such as a heat pump, solar thermal or a biomass boiler.

If a homeowner does opt for a gas boiler before hydrogen is widely available, it is likely that the boiler could be modified to accommodate either a fuel mix or a complete switch to hydrogen supply and therefore homeowners can rest assured that lower carbon options will be developed to aid the UK meeting their climate change commitments.

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