How safe is hydrogen Heating?

As the UK government ramps up its plans to replace traditional natural gas with hydrogen as the main fuel for heating homes, many people are asking about how safe hydrogen is when used to power their boiler. We take a closer look at some of the most common questions homeowners are asking.

What are the benefits of a hydrogen boiler?

Many existing homes, despite energy efficiency improvements, still have relatively poor insulation and high rates of air exchange with the outdoors. This means that they require a significant energy input to achieve sufficient heating, and at the moment this is usually provided by natural gas or oil. Both of these are carbon-based fuels that contribute significantly to the UK’s carbon footprint.

A hydrogen-ready boiler is capable of accommodating an existing high-temperature heating system in a hard-to-heat building where other alternatives such as those adopted in passive homes are simply not suitable. Where costs are highly constrained, a hydrogen boiler (combined with conversion of the local gas network) provides an accessible way to deeply decarbonise heat.

From a homeowner point of view, a hydrogen-ready boiler does not require any behaviour change and will provide the same delivery of comfort as an existing appliance. Think of it as similar to switching from a diesel car to a petrol or electric model.

What does 20% Hydrogen ready mean?

Nearly all gas appliances that are in use today, including our boilers, are able to run on a mixture of hydrogen and natural gas.

This is called a blend and sees 20% of the fuel source powering the appliance being hydrogen gas, with the remaining 80% being natural, which is where the term 20% Hydrogen ready comes from.

In reality, it is similar in principle to the new E10 petrol, which is also a blend. E10 contains up to 10% renewable ethanol but the vast majority of petrol engines are able to make the switch without difficulty.

Is hydrogen a safe fuel for my home?

Naturally, many homeowners are concerned about whether using hydrogen as a source of fuel for heating presents a danger to their homes and families. In practice, modern technology means that hydrogen-powered boilers are just as safe as the current generation of gas boilers and there is no reason to be worried.

In order to constantly improve safety, there are numerous trials currently taking place across the UK into hydrogen gas and its uses in the home. Leading boiler manufacturer Worcester Bosch, whose boilers are made in Britain, is one of the companies involved in these tests.

These include ‘HyStreet’, a test site in Northumberland where over 200 tests have been completed to research the safety of converting homes and gas networks to hydrogen.

There is also a two-home Hy4Heat trial in Gateshead where two homes have been built specifically to showcase the gas in operation. This includes boilers, cookers, and fires all running on hydrogen.

The evidence so far is that hydrogen is a perfectly safe alternative to natural gas. Once the research has been completed and fully reviewed, it is likely that hydrogen-ready boilers will become more of a reality and there will be a swifter pace for conversion.

What other research is being done into the use of hydrogen gas?

According to a recent article by Worcester Bosch, Additional research is being undertaken at Keele University, where around 150 boilers were running on up to a 20% hydrogen blend for around 18 months. There have been no issues with either heating systems or cooking appliances.

There is also a 300-home trial in Fife, which will see a switch from natural gas to hydrogen by 2022.

Finally, there is HyNet in the Northwest of England, which although not specific to boilers, does include heating homes as one of its key focuses. This is alongside hydrogen production, transportation, and manufacturing.

All trials are working towards one goal: gathering and building evidence, as well as confirming what we know already, to help increase confidence in hydrogen as a technology.

Want to know more?

If you are planning to replace your existing gas or oil boiler and would like advice on your current and future options, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your local boiler experts. Call D.R Plumbing & Heating today on 01978 291 923 / 01352 620 125

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