Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Powering your home with a fuel cell

Imagine getting all your heat, electricity, and fuel to run your car from a unit stationed at your home. That's possible with a home-based fuel cell that extracts hydrogen from natural gas. Sure, it's not perfect (you still need natural gas, which continues to be expensive). This article (scroll down; it's after the bit about the hydrogen car) discusses a recent Honda innovation, and this page talks about how the public library of Eden Prairie, MN, is powered by such a unit. From the article about Honda:
In addition to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by some 40%, according to Honda’s calculations, the HES system is expected to lower by 50% the total running cost of household electricity, gas and vehicle fuel.
The really cool advantage of this system is that it uses the heat created as a byproduct of the hydrogen extraction to heat the home. Finally! If you think about it, the byproduct of almost any energy generating/converting process is heat. On a macro scale, think of how much heat is wasted because the heat is generated at a location (i.e. a power plant) where it can't be used. By localizing (individualizing?) energy generation, the heretofore-wasted heat can now be put to good use.

With the price of natural gas continually increasing, I hope this becomes available soon. Even though it runs on natural gas, if there truly is a net energy cost savings of 50%, then it's worth it. And even without a hydrogen car, it may still be worth it just for the home electricity generation and heating.

And imagine if such a unit could be powered by something besides natural gas (wind, solar heat, etc.?)...