Heat and power your home with a fuel cell

Commercial unit designed for home use nears market launch in Europe. Will the public respond? Would you consider buying one? Use the TalkBack tool below to respond.

By Control Engineering Staff March 17, 2009

While we’re still waiting for commercialization of fuel cell powered cars, the idea of having a stationary unit to power and heat your home is coming closer. Baxi Innotech has introduced its Gamma 1.0 Fuel Cell Heating Unit at the ISH Trade Fair in Frankfurt, Germany. At 1.0 kW electrical output, the new design is smaller than earlier test units that ran 1.5 kW. The company says reducing the capacity results in better tradeoffs and efficiencies, creating a smaller proportion of its output as heat.

Baxi has partnered with U.K. fuel cell producer Ballard Power Systems to provide its FCgen 1030 PEM (polymer electrolyte membrane) stack, which is designed to operate for 20,000 hours in normal use fueled with natural gas.

The new unit is about the size of a small refrigerator at 60 x 60 x 160 cm (24 x 24 x 64 in.). With an operating temperature of 70 °C, (158 °F) the low-temperature PEM fuel cell is the most practical chemistry for combined heat and power (CHP) applications in residential use. Baxi reckons the Gamma 1.0 will be able to generate around two thirds of the hot water and heating requirement, as well as almost three quarters of the electricity required for a modest single-family home. The unit captures heat using an integrated boiler that connects to a separate heat storage unit. From there it can be used to heat the house or provide hot water. During summer months some heat will likely need to be exhausted.

Users can monitor operation with a display that indicates energy consumption, efficiency, and savings in CO 2 emissions compared to conventional technologies. This is designed to raise awareness about how we manage our resources and have a positive influence on individual consumer behavior.

“We see combined heat and power generation, as the most efficient solution for responsibly confronting changes in climate and energy policy,” says Martyn Coffey, CEO of the Baxi Group. “This will have a tangible influence on our product development policy– as the progression away from classical boilers to complete system-oriented management strategies emerges. On the way there, we are encouraging everyone who is involved in partnership with us to join us in being the first to successfully shape the micro CHP market and establish it in the long term.”

The final cost of the unit and possible availability in the U.S. are yet to be announced. Also read Your own home fuel cell plant: Electricity, heat, hot water .

Would you consider buying one? Use the TalkBack tool below to respond.

Edited by Peter Welander, process industries editor Control Engineering News Desk Register here and scroll down to select your choice of eNewsletters free