Subscribing to our award-winning Hub enables readers to receive regular emails with the top articles most likely to interest them

Kirsty Hammond looks at whether heat pumps or hydrogen gas heating are the way forward

We have all become tuned to a sustainable future and what that may entail, but with so many proposals for us to consider, which way will be truly green?

With energy bills rocketing and our finances being dictated by world circumstances and the energy companies, we continue to look forward to more independent, efficient and sustainable ways of heating our homes for the sake of our economy, our environment and our sanity!

Consumers mustn’t be pushed into investing in expensive experiments, like hydrogen

Kirsty Hammond Kirsty Hammond Editor of Specifier Review

An energy efficient replacement

A major concern for most in the current climate is how to heat our homes sustainably and affordably. Two of the most talked about future proposals for a low carbon future are green hydrogen to power our boilers or electricity to power our heat pumps.

Downing Street has pledged that approximately 600,000 heat pumps will be installed into our homes by 2028, the demand is growing and the sales of heat pumps are set to double this year, then continue to soar.

In addition the government is providing grants to encourage property owners to install low carbon heating systems such as heat pumps, through the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS).

Currently in the UK heat pumps are becoming the heating system of choice and this sustainable technology is detailed as part of the Future Homes Standard.

Under this standard heat pumps will be classed as an energy efficient replacement to existing and polluting boilers.

Which is best?

So which is best? A heat pump delivers 3-4 times more heat than the electricity it uses.

In contrast the efficiency of heating a building with green hydrogen is approximately only 46%. Electrolysis, the process of making hydrogen, is only 75% efficient. So surely the answer is clear?

The government however is making provision for both hydrogen and heat pumps. Whilst heat pumps are more efficient and inexpensive than hydrogen boilers, they won't be suitable for all households. Green hydrogen may also be a viable alternative that we need to embrace in the future.

It is also expected that heat pumps will cost half the price of hydrogen boilers. Heat pumps have in many studies also been shown to be the most energy efficient, low carbon way to heat our homes with the lowest installation, maintenance and importantly energy bills!

In its analysis, the ICCT (International Council on Clean Transportation) said that even if natural gas costs were 50% lower and renewable electricity prices were 50% higher, heat pumps would still be the cheaper option compared to hydrogen technologies.

“Electrification -- whether by a heat pump or district heating in cities -- combined with energy efficiency improvements, will be much cheaper and convenient than hydrogen,” said Monique Goyens, director general at the European Consumer Organisation, BEUC. It’s “vital that consumers aren’t pushed into investing in expensive experiments, like hydrogen.”

Is this viable?

So in contrast and as the debate continues the government announced not so long ago £500m in funding to help progress the use of hydrogen for heating and cooking.

However despite all the hype regarding hydrogen, it is still widely considered that the cheapest way to heat our homes in the future will be with a heat pump.

A heat pump that draws heat from the surrounding air will in the future help cut heating bills compared to our existing gas boilers.

Also consider that six times more wind turbines, solar panels or nuclear power stations will be needed to generate the electricity for green hydrogen heating than for heat pumps, somehow that seems unviable?

Double the cost

Heat pumps can deliver immediate and successful cuts in carbon emissions, reducing our load by 75% compared to your existing boiler.

It is thought that boilers run on green hydrogen will not reach the equivalent performance of a heat pump until around 2040, surely we do not have that long!

At the end of the day and still with many questions to answer, what do we as the consumer really need to know, THE COST!

And here it is, the cost for an average family household to have a heat pump installed and maintained would be around £500 a year, including energy bills. The total average cost for a hydrogen boiler would come to around £1000.

It’s not clear whether the choice will be solely ours but if it is - I know which way I would jump.

Kirsty Hammond is Editor of Specifier Review