Is hydrogen the future of home-heating?

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government invited comments on plans to reduce emissions from new homes built after 2025. The frontpage proposal is aimed at replacing gas boiler connections with heat pumps, heat networks and direct electric heating.

While heat pumps are a viable option, the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) has advised ministers that hydrogen replacing burning natural gas and direct electric heating from renewable sources will also suit different circumstances in new housebuilding.

Brett Amphlett, BMF policy & public affairs manager, commented: “Public and private sector finance will both be required to invest in the shift to a net zero carbon economy. There is a genuine need to support businesses to make the transition. We urge the new Chancellor of the Exchequer to introduce Enhanced Capital Allowances to help manufacturers to scale-up the production of heat pumps and hydrogen-powered boilers”.

Baxi Heating made similar comments, calling not only for £1bn of investment to prepare the UK for hydrogen production, distribution and storage at scale, but also on the Government to mandate hydrogen-ready boilers for all new gas boiler installations by 2025.

Jeff House, Head of External Affairs for Baxi Heating, comments: “Baxi and others in the heating industry are preparing to deliver clean heating and play our part in tackling climate change.”

“From the consumer’s perspective, hydrogen will offer everything they value from their current heating solution, namely instantaneous heat and hot water delivered by the existing gas network. Hydrogen offers a straightforward and practical solution for the consumer and we urge government to prioritise it in its future plans.”

Over the last few years, leading boiler manufacturer Worcester Bosch has not only been advocating hydrogen, but has also developed a prototype boiler that can run on 100% hydrogen gas.

Martyn Bridges, Director of Technical Communications and Project Management at Worcester Bosch has responded to the government’s £30m funding:.

“The Government has awarded £30m of funding to five UK projects investigating whether hydrogen is a viable option to reduce our UK carbon emissions. We welcome this indication of commitment by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to invest in technologies that will help decarbonise UK heating and hot water.

Hydrogen has been explored and discussed by heating experts and scientists as a potential alternative to fossil fuels universally for quite a while. We at Worcester Bosch believe this to be a strong contender.”

The Worcester prototype hydrogen boiler fits into the same footprint as a current natural gas boiler, and will be a direct replacement, burning natural gas on its first day up until the switch to hydrogen takes place. With a similar build to existing boilers, installers will have most skills necessary to fit these products too.

“The development of hydrogen-fired boilers will mean millions of existing heating systems in our homes can be saved, rather than the entire system needing to be replaced if alternative technologies such as heat pumps were installed,” said Martyn, after showing former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sajid Javid MP the manufacturing plant in Worcester last year.

Hydrogen contains, pound for pound, almost three times the amount of energy as natural gas with the energy in 1kg of hydrogen gas equivalent to the energy in about 2.8kg natural gas. When burned the only emission is water potentially making hydrogen the clear choice for cleaner home heating.

The one drawback is that it has to be made through extraction from fossil fuels or by splitting it from water using electricity. Other options are already being trialed however, with an example coming from a group of islands in Northern Scotland who are producing hydrogen using excess electricity from tidal and wind turbines.

Martyn Bridges concluded: “With fully developed prototypes, various trials planned and many heating engineers and manufacturers in agreement that this could be a viable solution to decarbonise heating and hot water, we are hopeful that the future will be hydrogen.”