Case study for a hydrogen fuel cell boiler in Hackney East London
Vitovalor fuel cell boilers can see energy costs reduced by up to 40 percent, and CO2 emissions by up to 50%, compared to a conventional boiler set-up.
When residential property developer, Glen Faulkner, bought the stables on Cecil Rhodes’ former estate in Hackney, London, he knew the end result would be anything but ordinary. Now split into two dwellings, the properties retain all their original features, whilst showcasing an incredibly noteworthy modern heating technology. A hydrogen fuel cell boiler now meets all the energy needs of the first completed property, along with the potential to export surplus electricity.
Back to its roots
Four years of Covid-19 restrictions and planning permission delays were never going to stop Faulkner meeting Ronin Mews’ full potential. Three different designs and the addition of another floor later, the single 1890s dwelling is now two separate properties, and was constructed entirely within the original boundary walls so as to limit disruption to neighbours.
In contrast to many contemporary developments, Faulkner was keen to showcase the history of the building, including its warehouse aesthetic from its time as a clothing factory. Pipework and some electrical elements were left exposed, for example. He also wanted to showcase an impressive heating system, as well as future proof against rising gas prices with a solution that would operate autonomously. Online research for hydrogen boilers led him to approach heating systems manufacturer, Viessmann.
“It became clear pretty quickly that Viessmann were the people to talk to when it came to hydrogen boilers. They put me in touch with Patrick Wheeler from VitoEnergy and he was fantastic. Other people had suggested various different system designs for Ronin Mews, but Patrick explained what would and wouldn’t work in a way that was easy to understand. Everything I asked him, he knew the answers to and it was clear he wasn’t winging it. He was passionate and I knew I could work with him."
Wheeler specified a Vitovalor fuel cell boiler, a compact hydrogen fuel cell device comprised of an integrated PEM fuel cell, a gas condensing boiler that covers peak heat demand peak on particularly cold days, a 220-litre DHW cylinder tower and the entire hydraulic system. The boiler’s fuel cell technology extracts hydrogen from natural gas, supplied by the grid using the same connections as a conventional gas boiler, which is then converted into energy. The Vitovalor unit has an electrical output of 750 W, can operate for up to 45 hours without interruption and generates up to 18 kWh per day when operated continuously. As well as generating domestic hot water, the system also powers underfloor heating in the property.
“The fuel cell system is everything I wanted,” says Faulkner. “You see the boiler as you come through the front door – everything is on show and it really suits the building. In the three months of winter, my electricity bill for the 1,800 sq ft building was just £6. And that’s even with things like the outside lights being on all night for security. It’s seriously impressive.”
Vitovalor fuel cell boilers can see energy costs reduced by up to 40 percent, and CO2 emissions by up to 50%, compared to a conventional boiler set-up. Furthermore, by operating at higher temperatures, expensive system upgrades aren't as necessary as with alternative green technologies, such as heat pumps.
“As a developer, it’s something I’d hope the construction industry will consider when building houses in the future as the benefits of fuel cell technology are limitless,” continues Faulkner.
Faulkner intends to install a traditional gas-fired condensing boiler in the second Ronin Mews property, in order to compare system efficiencies and energy costs. This information will serve as a guide for his future developments as he continues to advocate fuel cell technology and its benefits.
At the time of writing, Ronin Mews had just been put on the market for sale.