What is a Hydrogen Boiler and how does it work?

There’s a buzz in the heating world at the moment about something called hydrogen heat. But what is it and why should you care?

Are gas boilers bad for the environment?

As you probably know, natural gas isn’t the most environmentally friendly form of heating – yet it’s the type of heat that most homes – including most new builds – have installed.

This is why at Gas Angel Heating we’re planting trees to do something right now about the impact that natural gas has on climate change.

But getting back to the future, it’s starting to look highly likely that the future will be all about hydrogen, so here’s a quick lowdown on what’s happening and when you might be able to benefit from this greener form of heating.

An alternative to your current boiler

Currently, most homeowners have boilers installed that are designed for use with natural gas. And in terms of the current energy landscape and public usage, we know that heat dominates the UK’s energy consumption at 41% (with electricity making up 18% and transport coming in on a par with gas at 41%).

Domestic boilers, therefore, contribute a significant amount of carbon into our atmosphere, but, as we all need heat to stay well, we need to look at alternative heating methods to ensure we keep our planet well too.

What is blended hydrogen?

While natural gas, LPG, and oil all create carbon dioxide which we know harms our planet, hydrogen generates zero carbon emissions.

Hydrogen, or to use it’s most common name, water, can be turned into energy through a range of different processes, including electrolysis. However, as this is a fairly new form of heating, and because it would cost the earth (metaphorically speaking) to replace all our natural gas boilers, there are gradual steps being taken to supply a hydrogen / natural gas blend.

“The equivalent of taking 2.5 million cars off our roads”

This can be delivered through current boiler appliances at a 20% hydrogen blend. And while this doesn’t take us to zero carbon emissions straight away, the reduction is significant, with experts suggesting that, once all UK households are on the 20/80 heat blend, it will be the equivalent of taking 2.5 million cars off our roads – that’s a positive benefit that’s certainly not to be sniffed out! And, at the end of the day, it won’t cost the earth (either metaphorically or literally).

Can I choose a 100% hydrogen boiler?

The reason we’re starting with blended hydrogen is that anything over 20% can start to affect the appliance.

Of course, some of the boiler manufacturers are busy developing 100% hydrogen appliances but, even if they were available to the public right now, it would take a huge amount of money to replace everyone’s boiler. So the 20% blend is the starting point, as it will have no impact on customers’ homes – but a huge and positive impact on our planet.

In terms of the future, however, it is hoped that the UK will have a full town switched to 100% hydrogen from around 2030.

Are hydrogen boilers safe?

As you can imagine, because the government is keen to see mass adoption of hydrogen energy in the future, they’re not taking the health and safety aspects lightly!

Just like the Covid-19 vaccine, this new form of energy will undergo stringent testing in simulated settings before being delivered directly into people’s homes.

Lots of very clever academics at some of our biggest universities have therefore been heavily involved in the testing process, and research is being carried out in safe settings using some of our most popular boiler manufacturer’s models.

Each manufacturer (Worcester Bosch, Baxi, Valent and Ideal) is supplying two of their natural gas boilers to run for a simulated 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, over 15-18 years.

“There should be no visible difference between the boiler using natural gas and the boiler using the 20% hydrogen blend”.

One boiler will have natural gas pumped through it, the other will have the hydrogen blend pumped through it. Both boilers will be closely analysed and inspected at the end of the project to look at their performance and any unwanted effects that the hydrogen may have had. The hypothesis is that upon close inspection, there should be no visible difference between the boiler using natural gas and the boiler using the 20% hydrogen blend.

Only when a boiler using hydrogen blend is deemed as safe as a natural gas boiler, will hydrogen blend be used in our homes.

It, therefore, needs to meet the gas safety management regulations of 1996, as stringent HSE regulations. If the boilers come out of the experiment looking identical to one another, it will prove the safety of the hydrogen blend.

When will hydrogen boilers become normal?

It’s not as far away as you might think! So much work has already taken place and, here in the North East, we’re going to see the first public homes benefiting from this new heating source. Winlaton in Gateshead has been designated the location of the next phase of a project called HyDeploy. This means that, in the not too distant future, Gateshead residents will be the first customers in the world to take a supply of blended hydrogen. Residents of Winlaton will therefore be making history and playing a really important role in the future of hydrogen. The trial project includes 670 houses, a church, primary school and a few businesses and, once all the relevant safety testing has been completed, the project will run for around 10 months from 2021.

What can I do right now to protect the planet?

There are so many things you can do right now to help our planet.

  • Make sure your boiler is running efficiently by following our checks and booking in for an annual service.
  • Take out one of our boiler cover plans (which includes the annual service) and we’ll plant two trees on your behalf every year).
  • Add your name to our waiting list to be the first to know about new hydrogen boilers

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