Should I switch to a hydrogen-ready boiler now?

8 November 2023

The all-important facts about ‘hydrogen-blend’ vs ‘hydrogen-ready’ boilers

Hydrogen-blend gas boilers have been the subject of press headlines recently, as the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) began investigating consumer protection in the green heating and insulation sector and, more specifically, green claims associated with these types of boilers.

At Alpha, our priority is to provide installers and customers with the most up-to-date, relevant and accurate information regarding home heating, so that they can make an informed choice about their next boiler purchase.

We know that the range of heating options available for homeowners has grown over the last few years, and, while it is great to have choices, it can also be confusing when making decisions about what’s best for both your home and the planet.

The first point to bear in mind is that if your boiler is less than ten years old, and is working effectively, 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 engineer visits 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 will allow you to benefit from more innovative, energy efficient boilers that will help keep your heating costs down this winter. Any new boiler you buy would be equipped for the eventual transition to 20% hydrogen gas.

What does ‘hydrogen-blend’ actually mean?

Most modern condensing boilers in the UK have been manufactured and tested to be able to run on a blend of 80% natural gas and 20% hydrogen, in preparation for the government adding small amounts of hydrogen to the country’s natural gas system. The aim of this is to reduce the carbon emissions of domestic heating, helping the UK to reach its goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

While adding hydrogen to our natural gas would reduce its carbon footprint, it’s important to note that a ‘hydrogen-blend’ boiler on its own will not do this – for now, they will still run on the 100% natural gas being provided through the national grid. However, all it takes is a small adjustment from a registered Gas Safe engineer once the mixed blend is provided through the gas system to get you up and running.

The advantage of mixing 20% hydrogen into natural gas is that the mixed gases can be transported through our existing gas network, which saves the time and costs of building a new delivery system.

When will hydrogen be introduced to the gas network?

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 the scale of the challenge is significant. 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, transporting 720TWh of gas each year.

That’s one of the reasons that a hydrogen-blend gas system is part of the government’s 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.

The UK government is aiming to reach a strategic policy decision at the end of 2023 on whether it should support the introduction of the 20% hydrogen blend – if trials show that it is feasible and safe. For householders, a current modern gas boiler will operate as usual with a 20% hydrogen blend.

So, what is a ‘hydrogen-ready’ boiler and do I need one?

A ‘hydrogen-ready’ boiler is capable of burning either natural gas or 100% hydrogen. While there’s has been some discussion around eventually switching to 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.

Therefore, our advice 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.

How can I save money now on my heating bills?

When you’re ready to update your heating system, speak to your Gas Safe Registered 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 time to save energy.

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 further support and practical tips to ensure you make the most of your home heating, visit our useful information page.