From Europe to Japan, consumers are beginning to see the benefits of in-home fuel cell heating systems.
A new study titled “Ecological and economic analysis of fuel-cell heating systems,” published by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in Germany, touts the potential of fuel cell heating systems for increasing energy efficiency and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions in the home. These “stationary” fuel cells are used to complement existing heating and hot-water systems.
According to the study, a single-family house using a fuel cell heating system could reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 21 to 40 percent by 2020. In Germany alone, the systems could replace a large portion of the 3.4 million heating boilers which are over 24 years old. The study projects that annual greenhouse gas savings could be as high as 1.5 million tons in Germany by the year 2020.
Ene.field, a consortium of nine European micro-fuel cell Combined Heat and Power (micro-CHP) manufacturers, plans to install 1,000 residential micro-CHP systems across 12 countries. Data collected from the units will help illustrate the effects of fuel cell heating systems across various energy markets and climates. By increasing the manufacturing volume for micro-CHP systems, the program hopes to bring them closer to commercial viability.
In Japan, new innovations to Panasonic’s Ene-Farm in-home fuel cell technology have made the product even more attractive to consumers. At 1,995,000 yen ($22,478.86 USD), the new unit is the first Ene-Farm to be priced under 2 million yen. It has a 60,000 hour lifetime (20% higher than previous units) and a lower minimum power output (200 watts vs. 250 watts), helping consumers with smaller energy needs consume less power.
Since 2009, Panasonic has sold 21,000 Ene-Farm units, and plans to increase its production capacity by 50% in 2013, hoping to move 15,000 units. The product is scheduled to launch on April 1, 2013.