Hydrogen & built environment

Hydrogen as an energy carrier in homes and buildings

How to use hydrogen in homes as an energy carrier to get through the winter in an energy-technical sense? As crazy as it may sound: as minimal as possible! Why?

  • The infrastructure is not ready for it;
  • The regulations are not ready for it;
  • The technology is hardly ready for it.
  • It is relatively expensive: feasible for new-build homes, but difficult for existing buildings.

A modular design of energy systems

Of course we want to live CO2 neutral, but if that turns out to be quite expensive and the regulations have not yet been finalized by the government, is it also allowed, for example, to realise a 75% CO2 neutral status? Developments in the near future will make this certainly possible in the coming years. This argues in favour of a modular design of systems (which means: linking techniques).

Why a modular design?
  • If there is no hydrogen infrastructure, for example in former natural gas pipelines, one is forced to produce and store hydrogen in a storage location, which costs a lot. This is difficult or impossible to afford by the residents. Trading in hydrogen – collecting hydrogen in the summer and returning it in the winter – is still difficult for the government. The government does not (yet) want hydrogen trucks to drive through a residential area for loading and unloading ( forbidden by zoning plans and environmental permits).
  • There are roughly two options for existing homes. Firstly, heat pumps and thus the introduction of low temperature heating. This is still an expensive affair in an existing home with classic radiators. We advocate heat pumps anyway, and their efficiency is still quite favourable at temperatures up to a maximum of about 38 degrees Celsius. The second option, easier and cheaper to install, is a modified combi boiler that can burn hydrogen. One is then dependent on a supply of hydrogen. The disadvantage is that hydrogen enters the house and that the gas must be flavoured for safety reasons, which is not recommended for hydrogen that is passed through a fuel cell.
  • We have to wait for infrastructure, government and technology.
Key solutions

For the time being, we must therefore focus on:

  • Maximum insulation.
  • Maximum solar panels (normal 110 m2 house: > 7 kWp of panels).
  • If possible water/water heat pumps.
  • Heat pump boilers (stand or fall at the temperature of the drawn in air).
  • Batteries. Approximately 10 kWh per home to absorb the day-night rhythm and to peak shaven between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. when most households have the greatest electricity consumption.
  • Heat tank in the house to buffer hot water.
  • Build small-scale windmills where possible. They yield quite a bit in the winter. In summer they can be folded away to reduce visibility pollution. They are not necessary anyway.

Perspectives for hydrogen

Target audiences

Target groups are owner’s associations, housing associations, project developers, perhaps investors in real estate.

For individual homeowners, an H2 installation still seems far too expensive. With existing buildings it is even more complex. The boiler is simple, but the rest of the infrastructure requires attention.

WCL especially wants to create an understanding for a phased modular and scalable solution that will yield a CO2 neutral home over time. The available budget is usually decisive.

New construction 

For the time being, only build with hydrogen if the calculations show that the required amount of hydrogen per house per winter remains below 25 kg and the municipality welcomes this solution or wants to explore it.

Building in clusters of 15 or more homes is strongly recommended, because then there is mass, equalization and thus cost reduction per house.

Existing build

Where is the limit here for the amount of hydrogen per house per winter? (For the Wonen Limburg case we arrive at over 30 kg per house per winter.)

In existing buildings, a tailored solution is recommended. In any case, insulation and solar panels, if possible a heat buffer tank and a home installation for the battery with smart control.


Carry out electrolysis (production of hydrogen gas) as large as possible and with the longest possible operating time, naturally powered with green electricity. Storage is an important cost factor. Hence, the wish to place this with the energy supplier, on a large scale in, for example, salt domes (this means that small-scale applications must either have their own hydrogen storage or have to supply it from outside). The heat released by the fuel cell when it converts H2 into water is also essential for an economically sound operation. In this process, electricity and heat are released. This also applies to the heat released during electrolysis.


For offices and other industrial buildings, it is again a matter of infrastructure. Usually it concerns less well insulated buildings and low temperature heating is not easily possible. This means you will have to wait for H2 through the former natural gas network.

Batteries are additionally needed, for the day/night rhythm, but especially to cope with peak loads. That is not possible with a fuel cell.

Hydrogen for heating purposes

So primarily look at new-build projects for the use of hydrogen for heating. Let the degree of CO2 neutrality be determined by the available budget, including subsidy. Due to the modular construction of the systems, the use of hydrogen at a later date is always possible.

In buildings where insulation or renovation is difficult, and connection to an external heat network is not feasible, e.g. due to monument status or buildings in an old city centre, the application of hydrogen central heating boilers is often feasible.

Role of the Hydrogen Coalition

Encouraging and facilitating

WCL acts as a driving and facilitating organisation in the field of hydrogen and the built environment. Thanks to its network, WCL is able to bring together and connect the necessary stakeholders, to formulate joint advice for the future and to develop initiatives and projects.

WCL stimulates the possibilities of making projects feasible more quickly with subsidies.

Counter function

By bundling expertise, WCL can properly address the various questions that all parties face. With its counter function, WCL can efficiently answer these questions and possibly suggest suitable partners for promising projects!

Living lab

Hydrogen for heating buildings is an excellent study subject for a living lab environment, for example in Weert.


Peter Ramaekers
06 8004 1083 (secretariaat WCL)