Confusion over Hydrogen vs Natural Gas boilers
Firstly it's important to clear up a few misconceptions about the future of gas fuelled boilers.
There's some speculation on the future validity of Natural Gas boilers doing the rounds in the press and social media.
Understandably, this is creating quite a bit of confusion with customers who may have just purchased a new boiler or are considering upgrading an existing boiler.
It's important to be clear that your gas boiler or future gas boiler WILL NOT BE BANNED IN 2025. Most current modern boilers can actually run on a 'blend' of Hydrogen and Natural Gas already. Buying a new Gas powered boiler now is not a poor investment and we can assure our customers it will not be obsolete in the near future.
Worcester Bosch have created a video to reassure customers who are considering a boiler upgrade soon and worry about being 'future proof'.
Why do we need Hydrogen boilers?
Most UK households use carbon producing natural gas or oil to provide heat and hot water.
This fact is making the Government’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions significantly harder to achieve as over one third of our green house gases come from our homes.
Completely replacing our energy infrastructure is a mammoth task and would create even more carbon emissions in the process. The solution is to find a carbon-neutral option that could possibly work with our current infrastructure. This is where hydrogen gas could step in.
In a hydrogen powered boiler, hydrogen reacts with the oxygen in the atmosphere to produce the heat we need and just water (H2) as a by product. Hydrogen is a carbon neutral energy source when used in boilers and may be the solution to helping us reduce our emissions at a household level and ultimately help reverse climate change.
Worcester Bosch outline the basics of Hydrogen boilers and net-zero energy usage.
Hydrogen boilers - Common questions
What is a Hydrogen Ready boiler?
A Hydrogen Ready boiler is similar to a regular gas boiler. However it is calibrated to either use 100% hydrogen, natural gas, or a mixture of both. Burning 100% hydrogen gas in a boiler is very bit as efficient as natural gas and releases zero carbon emissions!
How will Hydrogen Ready boilers work?
Hydrogen Ready boilers will work in a similar way to a regular condensing natural gas boiler. There are a few differences but essentially they function in the same way. Worcester Bosch suggest that converting a regular natural gas boiler to Hydrogen could be possible for the most recently made condensing gas boilers. In addition, a hydrogen Ready boiler could use natural gas or a mixture of gas and Hydrogen until the supply infrastructure moves to 100% Hydrogen.
Can you buy a Hydrogen Ready boiler today?
As of 2021, Hydrogen Ready boilers are still in the prototype stage. Worcester Bosch and other manufacturers are working hard on this and are currently running real world tests in chosen areas of the UK. The general consensus is that Hydrogen Ready boilers will be at the stage of consumer roll-out by 2025. This timeframe would go hand in hand with the Government's proposed natural gas boiler ban on new build properties from then.
Hydrogen Boilers - Pros & Cons
Hydrogen Ready boilers will vastly reduce our carbon emissions - but there's still work to be done
No carbon emissions when burning
Using Hydrogen for heat does not produce any carbon emissions that contribute to climate change and pollution levels. The byproduct of burning hydrogen when mixed with air is simply water. Hydrogen is also a non-toxic gas.
Higher energy density than natural gas
Hydrogen outputs more energy as heat compared to the equivalent amount of natural gas. It's approximately 2.8x more efficient at doing this. This means 100% Hydrogen fired boilers will use significantly less gas per volume to produce the same amount of heat energy.
It's essentially a renewable energy source
Unlike natural gas that derived from finite fossil fuels, Hydrogen can be produced in a number of ways - some of which are 100% renewable. Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe and as new technologies are developed to acquire and store it effectively, things can only get better.
Work with our existing gas infrastructure
As Hydrogen essentially behaves like natural gas it will work well with our national pipelines already in place. It just needs to change at the source. At household level, there's less disruption and need to make big changes to how our home heating systems work. All that's needed is a new Hydrogen Ready boiler or a modified version of your current boiler if that's an option.
Producing Hydrogen can create carbon emissions
Although burning Hydrogen in a Hydrogen Ready boiler at home produces no carbon emissions, producing Hydrogen in the first place can involve carbon production. Currently Hydrogen is created by electrolysis or steam reforming, both which use significant amounts of electricity and/or carbon based fuels for the process. If electrolysis is used, the electricity needs to be from a renewal energy source in the future.
Hydrogen is really expensive to make
To produce Hydrogen in significant quantities for home heating is expensive using current technologies. The most popular method of producing Hydrogen in large quantities is by steam reforming. This uses carbon based gases like methane which contribute to climate change. The carbon release needs to be captured or controlled during the reforming process which is expensive. Another popular method of producing Hydrogen is by electrolysis. This process breaks up water (H2) into is elemental constituents of Oxygen (O) and Hydrogen (H2). This requires significant electrical energy to break these molecules up at an industrial level.
Hydrogen is difficult to store
Hydrogen is the simplest, smallest element with the atomic number of 1. Even though it's the most abundant element in the universe when in gaseous form, its small size makes it really hard to store permanently without some leakage. To avoid this issue, Hydrogen is usually stored under high pressure or as a liquid at super low temperatures, which requires energy for refrigeration. So although Hydrogen has huge benefits over natural gas, its storage and deployment isn't one of them.
Flammable & hard to detect
Unlike natural gas which has an artificial odour added, Hydrogen has no smell so it is harder to detect leaks without relying on meters or detectors. There are odourants that can be added to Hydrogen but they are carbon based, so may reduce the zero carbon credentials of the gas. Also, Hydrogen is arguably more explosive than natural gas under certain oxygen rich conditions. Extra care and precautions need to be taken when storing large amounts of hydrogen.