Your own home fuel cell plant: Electricity, heat, hot water

“Pillar to Post” blogger and Control Engineering process industries editor Peter Welander has been following Baxi Innotech, a small R&D company in Germany that is developing a home-scale fuel cell appliance said to provide both heat and electricity for an average-sized home. The self-contained unit, which is slightly smaller than an average refrigerator, uses natural gas as fue...

11/01/2008


“Pillar to Post” blogger and Control Engineering process industries editor Peter Welander has been following Baxi Innotech, a small R&D company in Germany that is developing a home-scale fuel cell appliance said to provide both heat and electricity for an average-sized home.

The self-contained unit, which is slightly smaller than an average refrigerator, uses natural gas as fuel and puts out 1.5 kW of electricity and combined heat and power output of 3.0 kW to warm the house and make hot water.

“Obviously that is not enough to service a home of any size by itself,” Welander said. “1,500 watts will get used up pretty fast if somebody turns on the microwave, and I'm afraid I haven't figured out how much heat that is, but I doubt it will cover you when it's 15 °F outside in January. Nonetheless, much of the time, 1,500 watts will provide enough power for the house, particularly during the night and daytime when few people are home. During those hours, it's probably sending power out to the grid and earning a few bucks. Other times the local utility will supplement what it can generate. In case of a total outage, it will keep enough lights on and the refrigerator going.

“This product has been in development for a while now. I have a brochure from Hannover Fair from 2006 or so, and they say they'll be beta testing until 2010. I asked them a while back how much this device will cost and they're unwilling to say, or even suggest what they consider to be their target price. At less than $10,000 up and running, I'll bet you could sell quite a few of these. But if it costs $25,000, it will probably be pretty hopeless, even at today's high energy costs. Fuel cells are very efficient, particularly when you can harness both the heat and power output.”

To read more, visit Peter Welander's “Pillar to Post” blog on www.controleng.com .