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Vitovalor – Fuel cell heating systems from Viessmann

To the product range

The principle of combined heat and power generation forms the basis for the so-called micro CHP unit – the fuel cell. At Viessmann, this technology can be found under the Vitovalor product range. The current product range includes the Vitovalor PT2 models, which replaced the Vitovalor 300-P. What they all have in common is their specific way of operating. This is because in addition to electricity, the fuel cell also generates heat, which in turn can be used for central heating and DHW heating. Vitovalor products are particularly suitable for use in detached and two-family houses.



What are the benefits of the Vitovalor?

These are the three reasons for choosing a Viessmann fuel cell heating system:

  • Generate heat and power today with the latest technology: put your money on futureproof heating using hydrogen and natural gas.
  • Make yourself more independent of rising electricity prices by using the fuel cell to generate power.
  • Heat more efficiently and save up to 40 percent on energy costs with fuel cell heating, while reducing CO₂ emissions and protecting the climate.

Design and function of the Vitovalor fuel cell

As with all innovations from Viessmann, these new fuel cell heating appliances have been developed with reliability and a long service life as top priorities. We have the following models in our portfolio:

The Vitovalor PT2 and its predecessor Vitovalor 300-P are compact fuel cell heating appliances. In addition to the fuel cell module, these heat generators consist of a gas condensing boiler, which is used to cover peak loads, a weather-compensated control unit and a stainless steel DHW cylinder.  

A fuel cell module consists of the so-called stacks on which the cells are located, an inverter and a reformer that extracts the required hydrogen from natural gas.

What happens if the fuel cell of the Vitovalor PT2 fails?

Both units – the fuel cell heating appliance and the gas condensing boiler – are connected via a common gas line and can also be operated separately. This means that the unit containing the peak load boiler can still be operated without the fuel cell.

In cooperation with Panasonic for the Vitovalor

Panasonic is still responsible for the development, manufacture and supply of the fuel cell unit (polymer electrolyte membrane, or PEM). The company is still a pioneer in this field. Panasonic only started offering these systems in 2009 and since then, has sold more than 100,000 fuel cells. As one of the European market and innovation leaders in the field of highly efficient heating technology systems, Viessmann has taken on the development and manufacture of the gas condensing module. The hydraulic connection and assembly of the complete system is also carried out by Viessmann. The result of this ongoing cooperation is a heating system with outstanding energy efficiency and reliability.

In 2014, the two companies launched the first fuel cell heating appliance in Europe with PEM technology for detached and two-family houses: the Vitovalor PT2 (formerly Vitovalor 300-P).

Visit Panasonic's website for more information on the company.

How the Vitovalor fuel cell heating appliances work

Oxygen and hydrogen obtained from natural gas: these are the two components required to generate power and heat using the fuel cell heating appliance.

The chemical reaction between these two elements is referred to as "cold combustion" and takes place between two electrodes. Hydrogen is added at the anode. Here, it is split into negative electrons and positive hydrogen ions in the presence of a catalyst. The electrons travel to the cathode via an electrical conductor, which creates an electrical current. At the same time the positively charged ions reached the cathode through the electrolyte (an ion exchange membrane). They react with oxygen, releasing heat. The process is very clean and therefore good for the environment. For more information, go to How the fuel cell works.


Natural gas as a prerequisite for the Vitovalor

The energy supplier of the Vitovalor fuel cell is hydrogen. Hydrogen is the most abundant element in nature and is present in all organic compounds. Natural gas contains hydrogen as well as carbon. However, it does not occur in its pure form in nature. Natural gas is therefore used for the fuel cell. As the fossil fuel with the lowest emissions, it is highly suitable for obtaining pure hydrogen. In the Vitovalor, the hydrogen is separated from the supplied gas. First, the sulphur compounds are separated out. Next, an upstream reformer converts the gas into carbon monoxide and hydrogen in the presence of a catalyst. Carbon monoxide is converted to carbon dioxide in a subsequent gas cleaning process. Depending on requirements, the Vitovalor PT2 can be operated with natural gas H, E or LL.  

Anticipates your needs: The self-learning energy manager

The fuel cell heating appliance has a bias towards producing heat and has been optimised for power generation. The integrated energy manager is adaptive and responds to your individual requirements. This means that it only starts the natural gas/hydrogen driven heating appliance when it is worthwhile – when sufficiently long runtimes are expected and therefore corresponding power generation and on-site utilisation.

Correct planning and commissioning of the Vitovalor

The Vitovalor is one of the most innovative heating appliances currently on the market. A number of prerequisites must be met before the Vitovalor can be commissioned:

  • Gas connection
  • Natural gas: E(H) / LL(L)
  • Return temperature: < 50 degrees Celsius
  • Installation altitude: < 1000 metres above sea level
  • Minimum temperature in the installation room: 3 degrees Celsius, 3-wire power cable

What should you consider before buying a Viessmann fuel cell heating system?

The Vitovalor is designed for power-optimised operation with the longest possible runtimes. In combination with a gas condensing boiler, the Vitovalor PT2 provides you with a total heating output of 30.8 kilowatts (kW).   The ideal installation locations for the Vitovalor PT2 are well insulated detached and two-family houses with low heat demand, such as new build and modernised existing buildings. The fuel cell heating appliance works particularly efficiently when the return temperatures are very low – ideally with an underfloor heating system. Efficient operation with radiators at a maximum return temperature of 50 degrees Celsius is also possible.  

Space requirements for the Vitovalor

The Vitovalor PT2 consists of two units: the fuel cell developed by Panasonic and the gas condensing module from Viessmann. The two units can be transported separately, or sited freely in the room. As a compact heating appliance, the Vitovalor PT2 requires a footprint of only 0.72 square metres. The required minimum room height is approximately two metres. If the two appliances are installed side by side, they take up a total width of 1.20 metres.   In our advice section you will find more tips on buying a new heating system.

Video: Simple installation of a fuel cell

Viessmann Vitovalor customer testimonial.

The video reports on the experience of installing a fuel cell heating system.

Additional power storage systems provide more self-sufficiency

The Vitocharge power storage system from Viessmann raises the on-site consumption rate in a household significantly. If the Vitovalor generates more power than is currently required, the surplus is generally exported to the grid. However, by combining the Vitovalor with the Vitocharge power storage system, this power can be stored and used at a later time. In this way, the additional purchase of expensive mains power can be reduced. For more information, go to Energy systems for the Vitovalor PT2.

FAQ for the Vitovalor

Here we list a few exciting questions and the appropriate answers regarding the Vitovalor.

Since September 2015, there has also been an energy label for new heating systems with the letters A++ to D or G. This label enables consumers to see immediately how efficiently the respective appliance works. The Vitovalor is supplied with a label. The Vitovalor PT2 is particularly efficient in heat generation, where it achieves a rating of A++. For DHW heating, the fuel cell achieves energy efficiency class A+ (draw-off profile XL). This represents state of the art efficiency.  

Hydrogen and natural gas have many similar properties. Hydrogen is therefore no more dangerous than natural gas. No hydrogen is stored in the Vitovalor. All hydrogen produced is immediately consumed.

Hydrogen as a potential energy source was discovered more than 100 years ago. Today, hydrogen is still used as a shielding gas in welding. Hydrogen has also proven its worth as an energy source for fuel cells in vehicles and ships without absolutely no complications to date. Fuel cell heating appliances have been used in Japan since 2009 as stationary applications in the living space. In our part of the world too, several hundred fuel cell heating appliances are commissioned every year. This technology has therefore reached a high level of development and is manufactured on a large scale.

Vitovalor PT2 and Vitovalor PA2 are so-called low temperature fuel cells. To put it more precisely, it is an LT-PEM fuel cell, which stands for low temperature proton exchange membrane. Theoretically, LT-PEM fuel cells can also run on LPG. However, the reformer inside the Vitovalor has been optimised for obtaining hydrogen from natural gas. Operation with LPG is therefore not possible.

With a maximum electrical energy of 18 kWh produced over the course of a day,  the Vitovalor PT2 can cover the basic demand of a household. In combination with the modular Vitocharge* power storage system, which stores power for when it is needed, the power demand can be almost completely covered. Due to peak loads, however, cancelling the electricity supply is not recommended. The peak load takes account of very warm days with a low heat demand or situations where a great deal of power is required within a short time. Without the availability of the conventional electricity supply, there could be bottlenecks and an impact on convenience at such times.

*Vitocharge not currently available in the UK. 

The investment costs for the Vitovalor fuel cell are higher than those for standard technology. Nevertheless, due to the high levels of state subsidies and annual energy cost savings of up to 40 percent, the investment is still worthwhile for many users. Thanks to the power it generates, Vitovalor owners are also less affected by rising electricity prices.

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