Here at Alpha, we’re increasingly asked about technology choices for home heating systems. With options such as hydrogen-ready boilers on the market, householders are keen to ensure they’re future-proofing their homes with the right choice. So, let’s take a look at why hydrogen is in the national heating plan.
Achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 means that the UK must reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. This includes using natural gas for heating and hot water in our homes and other buildings, which accounts for around 23% of national carbon emissions.
But making that change is not easy because of scale of the challenge. The UK relies heavily on natural gas and 85% of British homes are connected to a gas grid that rests on 214,000km of pipes that transport 720TWh of gas each year.
That’s one of the reasons that the government has proposed blending our natural gas with 20% zero-carbon hydrogen gas as part of its Ten Point Plan for the UK’s sustainable future. Estimates are that this will reduce national carbon emissions resulting from gas used in our homes by around 7% - the equivalent of taking 2.5 million cars off the roads each year.
To explore how this proposal could work, the government is running a trial known as HyDeploy with Keele University to determine what level of hydrogen can be used by gas customers safely – and with no changes to their existing domestic gas appliances such as boilers and cookers.
The main benefit of this proposal is that it enables the UK to use the existing gas network to supply the blended gas mix, lowering carbon emissions from heating and hot water in 85 million homes on the network. In addition, supplying zero-carbon hydrogen this way will help to create a steady demand for the gas, giving a strong incentive for producers to enter the market.
The UK government has said that it will sanction the introduction of the 20% hydrogen blend from the end of 2023 – if trials show that it is feasible and safe. For householders, their current modern gas boiler will operate as usual using the 20% hydrogen blend. But there has been increasing mention of ‘hydrogen-ready boilers’. What does this mean, and do householders need to get one?
The short answer is, ‘Not yet’. There has been some discussion of eventually switching to a 100% use of hydrogen gas for heating and hot water production in homes. This is at the very early stages of testing and consideration and is unlikely to be widely used for at least a decade.
However, manufacturers like Alpha have already been developing and launching hydrogen-ready boilers which run on natural gas in the usual way but can safely utilise this blend of natural gas and hydrogen with a small adjustment by a Gas Safe engineer.
Alpha advice to customers is that you don’t need to go out and buy a new hydrogen-ready boiler right now. But if you do decide to replace an older boiler in the next year to five years, then it is worth speaking to your installer about a hydrogen-ready option. This will ensure that your home is prepared for future changes to the gas network and you can be confident that you have the most energy-efficient system.
Of course, hydrogen boilers are not the only option for homeowners who are considering the options for their heating and hot water at home. Heat pumps are an electric-only approach that may be suitable for some homes. They can also be used in tandem with gas boilers: heat pumps provide heating with the boiler supplying hot water and additional heating if needed.
At Alpha we are encouraging customers to talk to their installers about the range of options for heating that are now on the market. This will ensure you get the system that works best for your home and your needs.