A complete guide to hydrogen boilers
Everything you need to know about hydrogen boilers
Most of us are concerned about the amount of carbon dioxide produced worldwide and its impact on the temperature of our planet.
The UK Government is taking steps to reduce CO2 production (by 100% relative to 1990 levels) to reach its Net Zero target, which aims to decarbonise all sectors of the UK economy by 2050. The Government set out the ‘UK hydrogen strategy’ to develop a low carbon hydrogen sector in the UK to achieve that.
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Home heating accounts for a large percentage of a household’s footprint. Hence, the Government looking at more environmentally-friendly ways to heat UK homes.
A shift to sustainable heating could be achieved by replacing natural gas with hydrogen.
Since hydrogen boilers made it to the news headlines, we get many questions here at WarmZilla about hydrogen boilers; how they work, the difference between a hydrogen boiler and a hydrogen-blend ready boiler and most importantly, their cost. We will answer all your questions in this guide.
About the gas boiler ban
The UK has pledged to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2050 and become a carbon-neutral nation. With one-third of the UK’s CO2 emissions coming from heating our homes, it’s clear that to achieve the carbon-neutral target, change is coming to the heating industry.
In the Heat and Buildings Strategy, the Government has set out its intention to phase out all fossil fuel-based heating systems, including gas boilers, oil boilers etc.
Specifically, the plan will start by phasing out fossil fuel systems in homes that aren’t connected to the Gas Grid. The Government’s ambition is to set an end date of 2026 for the installation of fossil fuel heating in homes off the gas grid, and non-domestic buildings from 2024.
It’s not hard to see the reasons why. A report published by the IEA (International Energy Agency) suggests that using oil or gas for heating homes is responsible for about 20% of total carbon dioxide emissions in the UK and the US. (source: inews).
One of the most viable alternatives, at this point, is hydrogen-based heating. Hydrogen boilers are the most affordable yet least-disruptive solution for over 75% of UK households.
Below, we’ll explain why we believe hydrogen boilers are the future of heating.
Hydrogen development timeline
- July 2019 – Opening of H21 Test Facility
4th July 2019 saw the opening of a unique hydrogen testing facility at the HSE Science and Research Centre in Buxton. H21, the world’s largest project to reduce carbon emissions, is the first testing facility for 100% hydrogen.
- November 2020 – Government release 10 Point Plan
The Government’s 10 Point Plan laid out the move to boost hydrogen production with plans for a hydrogen village, town, and eventually, city to aid the wholescale transition to hydrogen across the UK.
- December 2020 – Government release Energy White Paper
Issued by BEIS, the Energy White paper set out specific steps for the government to take over the next decade to cut carbon emissions and support 220,000 jobs in the industry.
- August 2021 – Hydrogen Strategy Paper
The Hydrogen Strategy Paper reveals the Government’s intentions for hydrogen and how extensive its use will be in achieving net-zero by 2050.
- August 2021 – HyDeploy North East (Winlaton, nr. Gateshead)
Following a successful trial where a 20% hydrogen blend was introduced into the natural gas supply at Keele University, a hydrogen blend is being tested in Winlaton, which comprises 668 homes, a church, a primary school, and several small businesses.
- October 2021 – Government release Heat and Buildings Strategy
The Heat and Buildings Strategy pledges £3.9bn in new funding to decarbonise heat and buildings including a £5k subsidy towards heat pump installation as part of the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (thought to be a new name for the Clean Heat Grant, which in turn replaced the renewable heat incentive).
- November 2021 – COP 26
The annual UN Climate Change Conference takes place in November in Glasgow, where world leaders meet to discuss how to combat the climate crisis.
What’s happening next?
- 2023-2027 – H100 Trial in Fife Begins
The H100 project in Buckhaven, Fife will start with 300 homes, supplied with 100% hydrogen fuel for cooking and heating. This will be increased to 1,000 homes as the project continues.
- 2025 – Gas boilers banned from new build properties
Gas boilers will no longer be installed in new builds from 2025. Gas boilers can still be installed in UK homes until 2035.
- 2025 – H2 Village Trial to begin
The H2 trial will involve a statistically representative customer base of up to 2,000 occupied homes, offices, and other buildings, all using 100% hydrogen for a period of at least 12 months People living and working in the chosen properties can use hydrogen for their heating, hot water, and cooking.
- 2030 – Hydrogen wider adoption to 3m UK homes
5GW of hydrogen production targeted for 2035 and the creation of 9,000 jobs in the hydrogen industry. Hydrogen will be delivered to the entire town as the fuel source to continue testing at scale.
- 2050 – Hydrogen supplies 25 – 35% of U.K energy usage
By 2050 it is estimated that hydrogen will supply between 25-35% of the U.K’s energy. The percentage will then increase as the production of hydrogen is scaled up.
- 2050 – Hydrogen supplies 25 – 35% of U.K energy usage
What is a hydrogen boiler?
A hydrogen boiler is a boiler that burns hydrogen as opposed to natural gas (or methane). These appliances work in a very similar way to natural gas boilers by burning the gas via combustion, which in turn creates hot flue gases that can be used to heat water. This hot water can be stored for later use and pumped around your radiators to warm up your home.
As hydrogen is a thinner gas than methane, some parts of the boiler may differ slightly, including the flame detector and the burner, but they work in much the same way as your current boiler.
Is hydrogen heating the solution to Net Zero?
Due to the currently existing infrastructure, completely removing carbon from the heating industry is not as simple as it may seem.
The majority of UK homes rely on natural gas for heating, and this is the biggest challenge the Government is facing to achieve Net Zero. Thus, the most straightforward and least disruptive solution is to replace gas boilers with hydrogen boilers because hydrogen gas only produces water as a by product.
It is a much cleaner gas that can be produced from water using electricity (if the electricity is generated from renewable sources i.e. wind power, hydrogen is 100% emission-free).
In a nutshell, hydrogen is a carbon-free fuel source that could be used to decarbonize heating and hot water in UK households.
While a heat pump is another viable option, hydrogen will still be the most preferred sustainable heating alternative simply because a hydrogen boiler is more affordable and less disruptive.
The shift to Hydrogen as a source of fuel
According to the National Grid: “Hydrogen has the potential to be a low-carbon alternative to gas in our homes and businesses, but first we need to test this fuel for the future. That’s where FutureGrid comes in.”
The majority of households in the UK (85%) use central gas heating to heat their homes. The problem is that burning this gas produces carbon dioxide (CO2) – a greenhouse gas. When carbon dioxide goes into the atmosphere, it contributes to climate change.
However, using hydrogen as a fuel source will produce the same level of heat energy, but with water vapour as the waste product.
Another advantage of hydrogen is that it can utilise the current gas grid, meaning taxpayers wouldn’t have to cover the expense and endure the disruption of the creation of an entirely new fuel supply network. The gas network currently supplies 85% of UK homes, so it would make sense to use it to deliver hydrogen.
How does a hydrogen boiler work?
To understand how a hydrogen boiler works, watch this short video by Viessmann;
What’s the difference between hydrogen-blend-ready, hydrogen-ready and hydrogen-only boilers?
The difference between the 3 types depends on where we are in the hydrogen transition process;
- In the first step of the process – a new blend of 20% hydrogen and 80% natural gas will be introduced to the mains supply, which will be used to power a hydrogen blend-ready boiler.
The majority of new boilers can operate with this blend without any issues. And if you’re unsure, look for the ‘hydrogen-blend ready’ label on your new boiler.
- Manufacturers like Worcester Bosch, Ideal, Baxi, Vaillant, and Viessmann have created ‘hydrogen-ready’ boilers.
A hydrogen-ready boiler is a system that can operate on natural gas and then be converted to a 100% hydrogen boiler by a qualified engineer within an hour.
Worcester Bosch has called for all boilers installed after 2025 to be hydrogen ready, so when/if the time comes to switch to hydrogen – the UK will be prepared!
- Lastly, when the gas supply swaps to 100% hydrogen during the last stage of the process, all new boilers sold will ultimately run purely on hydrogen – ‘hydrogen boilers’, and that’s the endgame.
How much does a hydrogen boiler cost?
In the beginning, there were rumours that hydrogen boilers would be more expensive than their gas boiler counterparts by £100 – £200. However, the industry-leading manufacturers (Ideal, Baxi, Worcester Bosch, and Vaillant) have agreed to keep the hydrogen boiler prices the same as gas boilers.
So, expect the hydrogen boiler prices to be as shown below;
How much will it cost to install a hydrogen boiler?
Hydrogen boilers are similar in nature to gas boilers, therefore, there’s no reason why hydrogen boilers will cost more to install than their gas counterparts!
You’d expect to pay between £500 – £1,000 to get a hydrogen boiler installed. This amount is based on many factors such as; location and boiler type i.e. combi, system or conventional. The average cost of installation is £750.
How much will it cost to run a hydrogen boiler?
Even if you could buy a hydrogen boiler right now (which is not possible due to hydrogen boilers being in the testing phase), you’d struggle to get hold of hydrogen to run your boiler.
Currently, the problem with hydrogen fuel is supply, as producing hydrogen in considerable quantities to meet the rising demand is costly. Another obstacle is, transporting hydrogen safely from the grid via the current network. And that’s why it’s safe to assume that we’re likely to wait for years before switching to a pure hydrogen gas network.
What are the pros and cons of a hydrogen boiler?
Zero carbon emissions
Using hydrogen as a source of fuel is currently in the testing phase – widespread adoption of hydrogen won’t be possible until 2035 at the earliest
Hydrogen can utilise the current gas grid
Hydrogen is not cheap to produce
Hydrogen is a highly efficient fuel source
Hydrogen is a highly flammable and volatile substance
Unlike natural gas, hydrogen is relatively non-toxic
Hydrogen isn’t easy to store
There are hydrogen-ready boilers on the market, which can be converted within an hour to fully operate on hydrogen
There is no hydrogen fuel supply currently going through the gas grid
Unlink the expensive heat pumps, hydrogen boilers will be the same price as gas boilers
Depending on the method of production, blue hydrogen can still produce carbon dioxide as a by-product
Can I buy a hydrogen boiler?
As of mid-2022, you cannot buy a hydrogen boiler. As there is no hydrogen fuel supply currently going through the gas grid, there wouldn’t be any point in owning a hydrogen boiler.
Can I buy a hydrogen-blend-ready boiler?
All the boilers sold by WarmZilla are hydrogen-blend-ready. When you buy a new hydrogen-blend-ready boiler with WarmZilla, your boiler package will also include;
- Your chosen boiler, along with the necessary flue kit needed for your central heating system
- Installation by a qualified Gas Safe Engineer
- Removal of your old boiler and parts
- A FREE system cleanse of your central heating system
- Chemical Inhibitor for added protection for your new boiler
- 10-year guarantee, which will be registered by WarmZilla after installation
- A FREE magnetic system filter for ongoing protection
- The Neomitis RF Digital Wireless Room Thermostat
Our mission is to help you find the best boiler for your home (no jargon), that’s why we’ve written blogs about the best combi boilers, best system boilers and best conventional boilers in 2022. So make sure to check them out!
*Average boiler prices were taken from an online heating supplier on the 22nd of June 2022. Prices are for the boiler alone and may be subject to change.