We all know that climate change is happening but are you aware that around 20% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions come from heating our homes and workplaces. With the vast majority of UK homes currently reliant on gas-fired central heating systems, we need to start finding low-carbon alternatives to natural gas if we want to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
Hydrogen heating could be the answer, with several trials already underway in the UK.
Is Hydrogen Replacing Natural Gas to Heat Homes?
Experts say we need to phase out gas boilers and end home heating with fossil fuel systems by 2035 to meet the 2050 net-zero emissions target. That means we need to find greener alternatives to gas boilers.
Some homes are already using renewable heat technology, such as an air source heat pump or a ground source heat pump, to reduce their carbon footprint and the impact on the environment, but heat pump systems are expensive. An affordable eco-friendly alternative to gas boilers is hydrogen boilers which are currently in development by some well-known boiler manufacturers.
The plan is to replace gas boilers with hydrogen-ready boilers that can initially be used with gas and then run on 100% hydrogen following a visit from a heating engineer. One of the benefits of owning a hydrogen boiler is that it doesn’t produce carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide when burned within the home, making it a more environmentally friendly alternative to natural gas boilers.
What is a Hydrogen Boiler?
A hydrogen boiler works in a very similar way to a gas-fired boiler, with the main difference being that it runs on 100% hydrogen. Some of the components will differ, such as the burner and flame detector, but a hydrogen boiler will look much the same as your existing gas boiler and can be installed in the same way. It will be connected to the gas network, and you can make the switch without needing to install a new heating system.
As previously mentioned, hydrogen boilers are currently in development by some respected boiler brands, such as Baxi, Viessmann and Worcester Bosch. However, hydrogen boilers are still at the prototype stage and are currently unavailable for purchase.
Compare Hydrogen Boilers Prices
What is a Hydrogen-Ready Boiler?
A hydrogen-ready boiler can run on 20% hydrogen mixed with 80% natural gas. Hydrogen will likely be phased into the gas network with a 20% hydrogen blend introduced first so that most gas boilers in use today can continue to use the gas supply as normal.
The major advantage of a hydrogen-ready boiler is that it can use natural gas until hydrogen is available and easily be modified to accept 100% hydrogen when the gas network switches to 100% hydrogen.
When the gas supply eventually switches to 100% hydrogen, all new boilers sold in the UK will be 100% hydrogen boilers and not hydrogen-ready boilers.
When Will Hydrogen Boilers Be Available?
Hydrogen boilers are not yet available on the market. However, two of the UK’s leading boiler manufacturers, Baxi and Worcester Bosch, have already been involved in several trials to provide more evidence that their prototype boilers can work on hydrogen.
It’s assumed that hydrogen-ready boilers will be available from 2025 and fully hydrogen boilers will be rolled out within the next decade. A 20% hydrogen blend will be introduced into the gas supply in 2028 at the earliest but it’s less clear when the UK will move over to 100% hydrogen.
How Much Will Hydrogen Boilers Cost?
As hydrogen boilers are currently not available for you to purchase, the cost is still unknown. However, several major boiler manufacturers are saying that they will cost no more than natural gas boilers. Most of the components, controls and accessories will be the same as gas boilers, and they will be very similar to operate.
The following table displays the typical prices for different types of gas boilers to give you an idea of how much a hydrogen boiler will cost.
|BOILER TYPE||BOILER PRICE||BOILER INSTALLTION COST||TOTAL|
|Combi Boiler||£500 – £2,800||£550 – £670||£1,050 – £3,470|
|System Boiler||£500 – £3,800||£550 – £1,000||£1,050 – £4,800|
|Heat Only Boiler||£690 – £2,700||£500 – £1,000||£1,190 – £3,700|
Prices vary depending on the brand and model you choose and whether you want to change the boiler type or move it to a different location.
What are the Advantages of a Hydrogen Boiler?
More Environmentally Friendly than Natural Gas
In the UK, the majority of homes have a boiler that runs on natural gas or oil. Gas and oil are fossil fuels that release carbon dioxide and contribute to climate change, which is why we need to switch to other resources as soon as we can. As hydrogen only produces heat and water with no carbon when burned, it’s more environmentally friendly than gas and oil. That means we can significantly reduce carbon emissions by using hydrogen boilers or even hydrogen-ready boilers that run on 20% hydrogen mixed with 80% natural gas.
Almost Identical to Gas Boilers
Another thing that makes hydrogen boilers so great is that they look pretty much the same as a gas boiler and work in a very similar way. They can provide you with both heating and hot water and don’t require you to make any major changes to your current heating system. Boiler manufacturers say that their hydrogen boilers are intended to be a like for like replacement for an existing gas boiler.
No Need for New Infrastructure
The existing gas network can be converted to transport hydrogen safely, meaning hydrogen boilers don’t require new infrastructure and we don’t need to spend money on making changes to our existing heating systems.
Hydrogen is More Energy Efficient than Natural Gas
A hydrogen boiler uses less fuel to provide the same amount of heat as a gas boiler. Experts say that 1kg of hydrogen holds the same amount of energy as 2.8kg of gas, so a hydrogen boiler should help to improve your home’s energy efficiency.
What are the Disadvantages of a Hydrogen Boiler?
Hydrogen is Currently Expensive to Produce
At this time, it would be costly to produce enough hydrogen to supply every home in the UK. Hydrogen production is currently expensive because it relies on using the Steam Methane Reforming (SMR) method to produce hydrogen from natural gas or the electrolysis method that uses electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.
The Production of Hydrogen Involves Burning Fossil Fuels
Fossil fuels are burned to produce hydrogen, meaning hydrogen production can still be carbon-intensive. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies will have an essential role in preventing carbon from escaping into the atmosphere and making hydrogen heating more sustainable. Another possible solution is to produce hydrogen through electrolysis, which uses electricity to create hydrogen from water. However, the electrolysis method is expensive and currently done only on a small scale.