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Hydrogen boilers could cause four times more explosions than gas, warns study

Energy-efficient Hydrogen boilers are currently being tested across Britain to see if they can be used to replace gas when the proposed ban on current boilers comes into force

Hydrogen is being tested across Britain to see if it can be used to replace gas for greener heated homes

Hydrogen boilers could cause four times as many explosions and injuries as gas boilers, a government-backed study has warned.

A safety assessment carried out by Arup on behalf of the business department found that hydrogen in homes could cause 65 injuries or fatalities annually, and 39 explosions in the kitchen or ground floor.

This was compared to just nine explosions and 17 injuries for natural gas.

However, the study points out that the move to hydrogen would eliminate the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, which kills around 60 people every year.

Hydrogen is currently being tested in the UK to assess whether it can safely be used as a green alternative ahead of the government’s proposed 2030 ban on gas boilers.

They have not yet hit the market, although Worcester Bosch is currently building a prototype.

It sees electric currents passed through water to generate energy.



Hydrogen boilers are currently in testing phase
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Image:

Getty Images/iStockphoto)




Another method is steam methane reforming (STR) which is where high-temperature steam is used to produce hydrogen from natural gas.

Dr Richard Lowes, of the University of Exeter, told The Telegraph: “Hydrogen is quite simply more explosive than the current gas in our pipes and therefore, more likely to cause damage if it goes wrong.”

Arup said it found in its study the likelihood of an explosion can be reduced by putting in excess flow valves.









The Government is due to shortly set out its plans for replacing gas boilers in order to meet its 2015 net zero target.

Ministers are hoping hydrogen could be the leading alternative to gas alternatives, being more popular than heat pumps which run on electricity.

The safety assessment was made weeks before Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, suggested hydrogen could be used to replace a majority of gas boilers, depending on the results of trials.

The business department pushed back on the report, saying some of it was ‘cherrypicked’ and it still finds ‘hydrogen can be made as safe as natural gas’.

A business department spokesman said: “Hydrogen can be made as safe as natural gas”.

They added: “All necessary safety assessments will be carried out and measures will be put in place to ensure that hydrogen is stored, distributed and used in a safe way.”

How do hydrogen boilers work?

These systems burn hydrogen instead of natural gas or methane – making them a greener way to heat your home.

This is because the only by-product of burning hydrogen gas is water, meaning it is a carbon-free fuel source.

According to BoilerGuide.co.uk they will look similar to gas boilers too, would be installed in the same way and many of the internal parts would be identical.



Industry estimates put the cost of hydrogen for home heating at around three times that of natural gas
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Image:

Getty Images/iStockphoto)




How much is a hydrogen boiler?

As hydrogen boilers are still in a prototype phase, the cost of installing one is unknown.

Industry estimates put the cost of hydrogen for home heating at around three times that of natural gas.

But some estimates suggest it will range from £1,500 to £5,000 but we won’t know for sure until they have been fully released.

Thomas Goodman at MyJobQuote said: “There is no current commercial value for a hydrogen boiler as of yet, but it is estimated to cost around the current price of a combi boiler or system boiler.

“The cost of these can vary depending on model, but you will be looking in the price range of £600 for lower budget model, and up to £2,000 for a premium model.”

How much is a fair price to pay for a greener boiler? Let us know in the comments below

According to Checkatrade, it’s likely to be at least 20 years before energy firms would be able to switch to a pure hydrogen gas network.

This is because it isn’t yet known how it could be safely transported through grid networks.

Converting home heating systems to carry hydrogen will also require new smart meters which may have to be moved outside, and is likely to require bigger pipes.

Other possible replacements for gas boilers include heat pumps, but their estimated cost to install is around £11,000 to £14,000.

Solar photovoltaic panels or solar water heating could be another solution, which both come in at about £5,000 for a full fitting.











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