June 11, 2021

Everything you need to know about hydrogen boilers

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The UK has long been committed to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and Flush Plumbing and Heating Ltd have always agreed with that ambitious target. To reach it, however, greenhouse gases will have to be dramatically slashed. In cases where they cannot be lowered any further, remaining omissions will have to be offset.

Making this more of a challenge is the fact that the population will continue to grow between now and then, and on average more than 150,000 new homes are built every year. This means more and more carbon emissions are set to come from the natural gas we burn when we heat our homes. With 37% of the UK’s carbon emissions already coming from the heating industry, this is simply not sustainable.

One huge step that can be taken towards meeting the target is to integrate hydrogen into the national grid’s gas network. Research shows that introducing just 20% hydrogen (which is more efficient, and doesn’t emit carbon when burned) alongside 80% natural gas across the country could save around six million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year. That’s the equivalent of taking 2.5m cars off the road in one fell swoop.

In order to accelerate a move towards using hydrogen in our heating systems, the government formed a Hydrogen Taskforce. It brought together 10 industry leaders from the fields of future energy and heating systems and tasked them with creating a pathway for a cleaner, greener future built on hydrogen energy. In terms of home heating, this means phasing out our reliance on the existing natural gas grid in favour of a hydrogen grid. Flush Plumbing and Heating Ltd also recommends keeping your boiler regularly serviced to ensure it runs in the most cost and energy efficient way possible.

The Taskforce produced a report called ‘The Role of Hydrogen in delivering Net Zero’, which can be read online. The report sets out necessary steps the energy industry and government must take over the next five years in order to quickly scale up hydrogen production, distribution and storage.

Right now, the national grid runs off 100% natural gas, but could also supply the country with a blend of 20% hydrogen and 80% natural gas without much upheaval. That’s because ever since it was legislated in 1996, all new gas boilers have been legally required to be able to sustain as much as 23% hydrogen in the energy supply. So the good news is, whenever the phase one 80/20 blend is rolled out, chances are your boiler will be ready.

At Keele University in Staffordshire, this 80/20 blend is already being used to heat 100 homes and 30 faculty buildings. Should it prove successful, the aim is to roll it out to the whole country by 2025. Of course, the ultimate goal is to have our natural grid run entirely off hydrogen gas. But before a fully hydrogen network is viable, the challenge is to devise carbon-neutral ways of producing hydrogen on a large scale. It will likely be a further decade until the industry adequately solves the problem as well as working out how to store and deliver hydrogen safely and efficiently.

At that point, all boilers will need to be hydrogen-ready. More modern boilers will likely need only a relatively low-cost modification, but older boilers might have to be replaced with newer models. These new models will be able to run on a 100% hydrogen supply, but will also accommodate 100% natural gas, or any blend of the two, in the run up to the full switch over. Manufacturers such as Baxi and Worcester Bosch already produce such boilers and are calling on the government to regulate that any new boilers installed in 2025 and beyond are hydrogen-ready.

Those hydrogen-ready boilers are not yet on the market. If you come to need a new boiler, then, the best bet is to go for a modern gas boiler which will be ready to run off an 80/20 blend whenever it is rolled out. As the average lifespan of a boiler is 10-15 years, that will likely see you through until a time when a full hydrogen network is up and running and hydrogen-ready boilers are widely available.

Flush Plumbing and Heating Ltd have long been committed to helping reduce carbon emissions. We are constantly monitoring developments in the industry and will be ready and waiting to offer these services to our customers the moment they become available.

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