Should I switch to a hydrogen-ready boiler now?

19 April 2022
Should I switch to a hydrogen-ready boiler now?

We’ve been hearing a lot about the future of gas boilers in the national press lately, as well as the rising cost of energy. You may be wondering if it’s time to replace your gas boiler – and if so, what with?

Here at Alpha, we know that the range of heating options available for homeowners has grown over the last few years. While it is great to have choices, it can also be confusing when making decisions about what’s best for your home.

The first point to bear in mind is that if your boiler is less than ten years old, and is working fine, then you probably don’t have to worry about changing it just yet. However, if your boiler is older than ten years and is starting to need more visits from an engineer to keep it running, then it could be time to consider an update. This will not only save you money on call-out costs and repairs, but it will also probably be more energy efficient.

You can swap your current gas boiler for a newer domestic gas boiler with very little disruption. The installation can be carried out in less than a day in most cases, so you won’t be without heating and hot water for long.

A qualified Gas Safe registered engineer will carry out the work and ensure you understand how to operate it properly. It is also likely that you can use the same radiators that you have now – though it is a good idea to discuss this with the installer. Newer radiators may perform better and provide more comfortable heating for your home.

Another option is a hydrogen-ready boiler. One reason to think about a hydrogen-ready boiler is that the UK government is considering adding a small amount of hydrogen to the country’s natural gas system. The aim is to reduce the carbon emissions of domestic heating, helping the UK to reach its goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Adding hydrogen to our natural gas would reduce its carbon footprint.

The proposal is to mix about 20% hydrogen to 80% natural gas. The advantage of this approach is that the mixed gases can be transported through our existing gas network, which would save the time and costs of building a new delivery system.

However, the boilers in our homes are designed to run on 100% natural gas. So, manufacturers such as Alpha Heating Innovation are developing boilers that are hydrogen-ready. This means they can run on natural gas in the usual way but can also safely use the blend of natural gas and hydrogen with a small adjustment by a Gas Safe engineer.

The hydrogen mix option is currently only a proposal from government, and there are tests going on around the country. Estimates are that we’re unlikely to see development of the idea at scale for at least a decade.

The advice from Darran Smith, Technical Manager at Alpha is that you don’t need to install a hydrogen-ready boiler immediately. If you are ready to replace an older boiler right now, a new, standard natural gas boiler will probably see you through the next ten years very comfortably, by which time we will have a clearer view on the use of hydrogen in the UK’s gas system.

One recommendation is that when you’re ready to update your heating system, chat to your Gas Safe engineer about options that can help you save money on your heating and hot water energy costs.

For example, the latest controls for home heating systems can really boost energy efficiency as well as comfort. The Alpha Connect, for instance, allows you to control your heating from anywhere, so if you’re going to be late home you can delay the heating on time to save energy.

There are also other energy-saving technologies available. Alpha offers a GasSaver ‘top box’ that sits neatly above the boiler and extracts heat from waste gases. This is used to pre-heat cold mains water before it goes into your boiler – using around 35% less gas to produce your hot water and reducing your energy bills.

With the range of energy-saving options available right now, you can keep your home warm while being energy efficient and cost effective. This will give you plenty of time to plan ahead and keep an eye on government plans for the use of hydrogen or other technologies.

For more information, take a look at our guide to choosing a new boiler.

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