Homemade hydrogen production system: is it possible to build one?

Elizabeth Smith

Hydrogen, known for its ability to generate electricity and heat, has attracted interest in its domestic application. The key to such a plant is fuel cells.

Hydrogen can be obtained from an electrolyser, powered by renewable sources such as solar or wind, or extracted from sources such as methane through reforming.

The hydrogen production system

In a standard fuel cell, there are two terminals: the positive cathode and the negative anode, separated by a membrane. The hydrogen is split into protons and electrons, with the protons passing through the membrane towards the cathode, leaving electrons behind and generating an electric current.

This technical explanation is just a start to understand how to create a domestic hydrogen production plant.

An example is the experimental project at the University of Bologna, Italy, which aimed to satisfy the energy needs of a home, producing primary energy with photovoltaic panels and secondary energy with fuel cells, accumulating energy in the form of hydrogen. The objective was to produce energy efficiently and sustainably, based on the average composition of Italian families and local geographical conditions.

Prototype of home hydrogen production plant

The University of Bologna plant includes:

  • primary production of electricity with photovoltaic panels;
  • electrolyzer for the production of hydrogen;
  • fuel cell for secondary energy;
  • hydrogen storage tank;
  • electronic interfacing systems.

The results showed a positive energy balance, suggesting the efficiency of the system. This technology is expected to revolutionize home energy. The hydrogen cogenerator, similar to traditional cogenerators, presents itself as an effective alternative, capable of producing both electricity and heat.

This innovation, based on the use of hydrogen, aims at environmental respect and energy efficiency, with an efficiency of 50% in the production of electricity and 100% when combined with heat production.

Projects in Europe and the United States

Europe is also moving in this direction, with projects such as “Ene-field” funded by the EU, which aim to transform the energy system into one that is sustainable and free of fossil fuels.

This project saw the installation of 1000 fuel cell units in 1000 homes across 12 European countries, demonstrating the feasibility and innovation of such systems.

In the United States, the first hydrogen-powered house was built in 2006 by Mike Strizki, who later helped build other similar houses. This example shows how hydrogen can be used in electricity microgrids for self-sufficiency.

Where to Start for a Home Hydrogen System?

To start a hydrogen production system in your home, it is essential to start with a thorough assessment of your home energy needs and available resources. The first step is to calculate the family’s energy consumption, considering both the electricity and heat needs.

This will help determine the size and capacity of the facility needed. Subsequently, it is important to evaluate the technical and financial feasibility. Thus taking into account the installation and management costs. A crucial element is the choice of renewable energy source, such as solar or wind, to power the electrolyser that will produce the hydrogen.

It is advisable to consult an expert or company specializing in renewable energy who can provide personalized and detailed advice, ensuring that the system is designed efficiently and safely, respecting local regulations.

Finally, it is important to consider the aspect of storage of the hydrogen produced, ensuring that it is managed in a safe and sustainable way.

Read also: Green hydrogen, all about the fuel revolutionizing the clean energy sector

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