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Hydrogen Boilers Vs Heat Pumps

The popularity of heat pump Installations has been on the rise over the past few years, as homeowners seek to decrease their carbon footprint and energy bills. According to Statista, by the end of 2019 there were 238,823 heat pumps in operation with the UK by the end of 2019, an increase of over 234% since 2013, however there has also been an increase in reports of poor performance from such installed heat pumps. In this article we’ll explore why heat pumps may not be meeting homeowner performance expectations as well as discussing whether hydrogen boilers would be a preferable option going forward.

What are the differences between a Hydrogen Boiler and a Heat Pump? Although both a hydrogen boiler and a heat pump are both eco-friendly types of heating system, there are number of differences between the two options. Firstly, a heat pump operates by extracting warmth from either the ground or from the air surrounding the unit and heats it up to the temperature requested by using a compressor and gas refrigerant or similar liquid before circulating the heated air into the property either to be used via the central heating or hot water systems. Whereas a hydrogen gas boiler would operate in a similar way to a gas boiler, however at present hydrogen boilers are not currently available on the open market as the technology is still in the development stages and they are not expected to be freely available to homeowners until around 2025.

What are the Disadvantages of Both Hydrogen Boilers and Heat Pumps?

Disadvantages of Hydrogen Boilers

  • Production of hydrogen is expensive – Unfortunately the costs involved of with increasing the production of hydrogen to a sufficient level in order to consider switching over from the gas network are currently too high to make this a viable option, therefore the current process of mass-producing hydrogen would need to be reviewed in order to make this more economical.
  • The current hydrogen production processes releases carbon – The use of Hydrogen boilers is not fully eco-friendly due to the current production process of Hydrogen.
  • Hydrogen storage is more complicated than gas – Due to the differences in flammability and composition, the storage of hydrogen gases is more complex.
  • Costs are a little unknown – As the technology is not available yet for homeowners and businesses, the costs of a hydrogen boiler and the ongoing running costs are an unknown entity at present.

Disadvantages of Heat Pumps

  • The Installation of a heat pump is expensive – Complete installation of a heat pump can cost anywhere between £8,000 and £45,000 depending on the type of heat pump suitable for the property and the size.
  • Running costs are not as low as expected – Unfortunately the running costs of a heat pump are not as economical as some homeowners may have hoped due to the cost of electricity and that often heat pumps are not the most effective heating system and therefore use a lot of electric when in operation.
  • Reliability and performance of heat pumps is often not as expected – Many homeowners do not find the reliability and performance of installed heat pumps acceptable, with one consequence often being higher energy usage as the system is turned up to produce a more comfortable temperature or is used more frequently, also increasing household utility bills.

What are the Advantages of Both Hydrogen Boilers and Heat Pumps? Advantages of Hydrogen Boilers

  • Resourcefully utilising current mains infrastructure - Should the UK government take the plunge to switch over from Gas to Hydrogen, the mains gas supply network could be used to transport hydrogen to businesses and homes alike requiring minimal changes to the infrastructure.
  • Hydrogen is a more efficient fuel than Gas – The composition of hydrogen contains more energy than found in gas and therefore less hydrogen would be required to heat a home.  This also aids the pressure on the network when demand is high as the use of hydrogen could supply more homes compared with gas.  In addition, the pressure from renewable electric sources during peak times could be eased by the use of hydrogen.
  • Lower Carbon emissions – Hydrogen boilers do not omit carbon and therefore are an eco-friendlier option.
  • Hydrogen can be stored in large volumes and supply can be ramped up easily – The larger stocks and increased ramp rate could help during times of high energy demand as well as being held for future demand to help the network manage supply.

Advantages of Heat Pumps

  • Maintenance of heat pumps is Low – There is less maintenance to undertake with a heat pump compared with other types of boilers and therefore with some research, the homeowner may be able to undertake this themselves.
  • The heat pump life expectancy is long – The average life expectancy of a heat pump is between 14 and 15 years, however some models could safely be maintained for up to 50 years.
  • Eligible for Government Grants – The costs of installing a new heat pump system could be supported by a government heating grants, either the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive scheme or the Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive scheme for business properties.

Hydrogen vs Heat Pumps Summary In this post we have discussed the differences between hydrogen boilers and heat pumps, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of both types of heating system. The increase in popularity of heat pumps has been fuelled by the eco-friendly benefits as well as that the installation of heat pumps is currently supported by government grant schemes, however once installed many households have suffered performance issues with the pumps. Although hydrogen boilers seem to offer a low carbon heating solution, hydrogen boilers are currently not available for homeowners and businesses to purchase and install and therefore at this point are not a viable option, therefore other low carbon alternatives would need to be researched instead should there be a requirement for a new system imminently such as a heat pump, solar thermal or a biomass boiler. In the meantime, the ongoing development and research, policy decisions and government grant support schemes are making changes all the time and therefore is worth keeping an eye on the latest energy news.