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Residential Fuel Cell

Does anyone know if there are any companies that offer residential fuel cells on a lease program?

I met someone at RESNET this year who worked for a company that was offering such a program, but I have not been able to reach him since mid-March.

I'd like to utilize one to carry the electrical load on my future home.

Thanks for any help you can offer.

Asked by Anonymous
Posted Jul 24, 2012 4:31 PM ET


33 Answers

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Unless you live in a really cold and cloudy climate or need a lot of heat for a large Olympic swimming pool and can take advantage of the tax credits for this technology these really don't make much sense.

I have a hard time considering a fuel cell a green building strategy and am appalled that tax credits are available for installing them. Its a good way for a millionaire to allow other tax payers to pick up the tab for heating his pool. What's so green about that? (feeling feisty today)

Answered by Michael Chandler
Posted Jul 24, 2012 5:41 PM ET



I saw that thread, but was hoping for something more up-to-date.

And your response surprises me, as I received an almost completely opposite response from a friend who runs a renewable energy company.

Answered by user-946029
Posted Jul 24, 2012 6:35 PM ET


I'm with Michael Chandler on this issue. I've never heard of any fuel cell technology that is appropriate for residential use.

Answered by Martin Holladay
Posted Jul 24, 2012 7:40 PM ET


I beg the difference...Most of fuel cell energy is for commercial and industrial applications, but I wouldn’t dismiss residential fuel cell technology all together. If you have energy bills of $1,000/mo or more on a large house (not to get into “that” debate) or rural homes, some fuel cell application can be useful. I designed a rural farmhouse in SE NM, with dairy and a smaller second home (existing), where the demand could not be easily met by wind or large PVs, and to bring utilities would had cost a fortune.
My opinion on the tax breaks is that generally they can be afforded by folks of affluent means, but that in itself allows that industry to catch-up for the rest of us. Just today, I was watching on TV a program about the 2013-2014 new cars, and to my surprise, many new models by all manufacturers were hybrid or total electric. Remember the price of those vehicles when they first came out? Can you imagine if people that could afford electricity and telephones back in the days would have refrained from buying it because it was too expensive? How about computers just 20 years a go? I really believe that we should NOT discourage folks that want to use or installed top of the line and expensive technology, because they will allow manufacturers to advance and make those technologies more affordable.
Back to residential fuel cells, Bloom Energy is testing a FC that may come out in the market for less than 5K in the next 5 years. If it wasn’t for Google, Sysco, Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart and many other companies that have invested heavily in FC technology, it would be impossible for those manufacturers to make it available for the rest of us in the future.

Answered by Armando Cobo
Posted Jul 24, 2012 9:27 PM ET


While I am no expert on the topic of fuel cells, I am aware of their viability in residential applications. If fuel cells can be sized to power a single car, then of course they can be sized to power a single home.

Companies like Clear Edge Power and Fuel Cell Residential offer these products for sale, but my interest lies in leasing one. Hydrogen fuel cells intrigue me the most, though I don't know a lot about them.

A possible pricing structure I've heard of involves the fuel cell generating more power than the residence needs, but then selling the excess back to the grid. The owner (fuel cell company) pockets the sellback money, thus lowering the annual lease amount for the homeowner.

In my opinion, the impact of these will be enormous. It's just a question of when.

(I would share a link to Home_fuel_cell on Wikipedia if spam filter allowed it.)

Still hoping someone knows of a possible lease program. Otherwise, I'll have to use solar. (Not a bad Plan B, but still....)

Answered by user-946029
Posted Jul 24, 2012 10:33 PM ET


Really? Who pays for the hydrogen and how does one get it piped to one's home?

Now I have a perpetual motion generator that burns water..... Sell it for only $10,000.

PV takes in sun energy and spits out usable electricity. Fuel cells, take in natural gas if at a home that it pulls hydrogen from to then turn back into water creating electricity and heat. So, what you are doing is using natural gas and paying for natural gas, to make the heat and electricity. Whether this all makes sense is a bit of scratching on various pieces of paper and backs of envelopes.

Not a great idea as of today for a home that has the grid near by.

It is a good idea if you are traveling to the moon with limited payload capacity and a big fat government budget to fund all.

So, very very remote locations use fuel cells. And yes Google and others are playing with them. Part of what makes economic sense at large scales is the fact that NG is priced extremely lower at high consumption rates. (if I read about the rate sheets right).

Less to no home, changing climate, changing usage patterns. are all by far easier ways to consume less energy. Move where climate control is unheard of. I built a home in the Caribbean and the place I stayed in had two pieces of 12 wire for the service entrance and open windows, no glass or screens.

Answered by aj builder, Upstate NY Zone 6a
Posted Jul 24, 2012 11:18 PM ET
Edited Jul 25, 2012 1:22 PM ET.


You have a point: Everyone being homeless would save a lot of energy.

Answered by user-946029
Posted Jul 26, 2012 11:46 AM ET


A dozen good points and I didn't say the word homeless, you did. Still, I am curious Mike about your local supply of hydrogen and what you would be paying for it?

Answered by aj builder, Upstate NY Zone 6a
Posted Jul 26, 2012 7:47 PM ET
Edited Jul 26, 2012 9:21 PM ET.


Sorry, AJ. I interpreted "no home" to mean homeless.

I have not looked into the local hydrogen supply yet. I'd first like to find a fuel cell provider who will lease instead of sell a unit, regardless of fuel source.

Answered by user-946029
Posted Jul 27, 2012 10:32 AM ET


Mike, hint, there is no affordable hydrogen for your home.

Answered by aj builder, Upstate NY Zone 6a
Posted Jul 27, 2012 6:20 PM ET


It appears, according to Internet searches, that hydrogen costs $2-3/gallon. However, I'm not sure how to use the Heating Fuel Cost Calculator (www.buildinggreen.com/calc/fuel_cost.cfm) to compare it to other more traditional fuel sources. Any help from the GBA staff?

Answered by Mike Collignon
Posted Aug 23, 2012 2:44 PM ET
Edited Aug 23, 2012 2:45 PM ET.


There are two values to compare: "higher calorific value" and "lower calorific value."

First, higher calorific value:
Hydrogen, 61,000 BTU/pound
Gasoline, 20,400 BTU/pound

Lower calorific value:
Hydrogen, 121,000 BTU/pound
Gasoline, 44,400 BTU/pound

More information here: http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/fuels-higher-calorific-values-d_169.html

Slightly different values given here: http://www.essom.com/backend/data-file/engineer/engin21_1.pdf

You better check how many gallons of hydrogen it takes to make a pound... it isn't very dense!

Answered by Martin Holladay
Posted Aug 23, 2012 3:00 PM ET


OK - here is the information that you REALLY want: "A gallon of gasoline has a mass of 6.0 pounds, the same gallon of liquid hydrogen only has a mass of 0.567 pounds or only 9.45% of the mass of gasoline. Therefore one gallon of gasoline yields 125,400 BTUs of energy while a gallon of liquid hydrogen yields only 34,643 BTUs or 27.6% of the energy in a gallon of gasoline."

Source: The Five Myths of the Hydrogen Fueled Vehicle.

Answered by Martin Holladay
Posted Aug 23, 2012 3:10 PM ET


Thanks, Martin. Looks like the math tells me that about 4x the hydrogen is needed to produce the same amount of energy as gasoline.

Of course, gasoline has 100% more emissions than a hydrogen fuel cell.

The comp should probably be between hydrogen and coal, since the fuel cell would, allegedly, eliminate my need to utilize the electrical grid, and I'm not looking to power my home with a gas-powered generator. (Also, the fuel cell wouldn't eliminate my natural gas needs, but those will be small.) Any thoughts on that?

Answered by Mike Collignon
Posted Aug 23, 2012 3:17 PM ET


Q. "Any thoughts on that?"

A. I think that there is no future in the use of hydrogen as a fuel. The reasons for hydrogen's high price are rooted in physics, not economics. As many people have pointed out, it makes more sense to use electricity for a fuel than to use electricity (from whatever source -- hydro, wind, or PV) to make hydrogen by electrolysis. The conversion to hydrogen and the transportation and storage costs for hydrogen will always make hydrogen more expensive than electricity.

Answered by Martin Holladay
Posted Aug 23, 2012 3:35 PM ET


Mike, natural gas is what powers fuel cells for home use. Read up on how this happens, it is interesting. And NG is real inexpensive right now and puts out much less CO2 compared to coal. But the other side is lots of methane releases at the well head. Google's fuel cells are amazingly small, a cube just a few inches square.

The little cubes are made by Bloom Energy.

Future electric car tech is rapidly advancing. Battery progress is amazing right now and key. PV your home and buy hybrid vehicles. Get a Bloom fuel cell if your home is a mansion or sell cell power direct to your neighbors.

Answered by aj builder, Upstate NY Zone 6a
Posted Aug 23, 2012 3:37 PM ET
Edited Aug 23, 2012 3:57 PM ET.



I'm guessing there are a few large automakers who hope you are wrong.


I knew natural gas was an option. Just wanting to investigate all my options.

I fear I am simply a victim of timing. For now, I'll have to "just" do solar PV. If this was 2022, maybe Google would have an off-the-shelf product that could be incorporated into new homes. Hopefully they're thinking about a retrofit option. Clearly, I'm already standing in line for such a product.

Answered by Mike Collignon
Posted Aug 23, 2012 3:45 PM ET


Mike, NG at todays cost equals electricity at 4cents/KWH. Fuel cells produce 50% of each electricity and heat. Use both and great. Complicated and expensive though today.

Really downsizing and living in a Hawaiian climate is mucho less complicated especially if you take up surfing or yoga instructing... Hammock weaving....

Answered by aj builder, Upstate NY Zone 6a
Posted Aug 23, 2012 4:17 PM ET


If only Hawai'i was the size of Alaska...

Answered by Mike Collignon
Posted Aug 23, 2012 4:30 PM ET


Alaskan summers and Hawaiian winters..... what's a fuel cell?

Answered by aj builder, Upstate NY Zone 6a
Posted Aug 23, 2012 4:38 PM ET


Check out Honda's residential system by going to freewatt.com. Also, see the advancements being made overseas with the systems at http://world.honda.com/cogenerator/

Answered by Milan Jurich
Posted Aug 23, 2012 11:35 PM ET
Edited Aug 24, 2012 5:20 AM ET.


I knew this would come to homebuilding sooner rather than later:


Answered by Mike Collignon
Posted Feb 15, 2013 12:41 PM ET


@ Mike Collignon:

What is a "power cell", a generator ?

And what is a zero energy house that consumes gas ?

Looking at this picture/video


there is a gas cooker in the kitchen and the pipe insulation and ducting work (airco?) is of pretty lousy quality dangeling loose and using hard to clean flexible ducting, a known breeding ground for mold and bacteria......

So with a generator running on gas and a cooker as well this can't be a zero energy house ?
Or does it feature a gas making device as well, maybe from the CO2 of the air with the aid of a solar driven catalytic convertor ?

Sorry for the stupid questions, I can't find any technical information on the web, just advertising material.

Answered by Hein Bloed
Posted Feb 15, 2013 7:19 PM ET
Edited Feb 15, 2013 7:20 PM ET.


As far as I can tell, the house has a cogeneration unit, not a fuel cell. The cogeneration unit is an internal combustion engine that burns gas; the engine powers an electrical generator and produces waste heat that is used for space heating and DHW.

It's not a net-zero energy house; it is a house that claims to be a net-dollar house in terms of utility bills.

Answered by Martin Holladay
Posted Feb 16, 2013 6:04 AM ET


Thanks Martin, just as I thought, a car engine.

But for $ 20,000 ?!!!!

That's gas for generations :)))

The 1942 model of the Volkswagen Beetle used this method, the engine propelling the car and the electricity generator and the waste heat heating the interior .
Even the ducting looks the same as with the 1942 VW, the stench from the mold growing in it is propably the same ....
I didn't see any wheels on the pictures of this house though ....)

Answered by Hein Bloed
Posted Feb 16, 2013 6:29 PM ET
Edited Feb 16, 2013 6:32 PM ET.


The Houze press releases are all very confusing and lacking technical details. (Why do PR people assume that it makes sense to hide the details?)

The press releases all refer to a "power cell." But this isn't fuel cell technology -- just a plain old-fashioned congeneration unit run by an internal combustion engine. I finally tracked down an article that used the word "cogeneration":

Answered by Martin Holladay
Posted Feb 17, 2013 6:24 AM ET


Interesting marketing ploy. When you read the fine print: not in any sense zero-energy as we understand it, just good old co-gen (in a climate with minimal space-heating needs!), and with the developer promising to pay the fuel bill for the first ten years. Essentially it's like the car dealership promotions that offer a year's 'free' fuel with your purchase of (usually) a gas-guzzler. On the same principle: my 50-year-old home is worth about $230K in today's market and it uses about $1,100 of electricity a year. If I wanted to sell I could put $11K in an escrow account, sell it as 'net-zero' at a $20K market premium and persuade myself I'd make a nice little profit. Until the actual bills come in for a home where the occupant has no incentive to economize and an unpredictable energy market sends rates through the roof. Then I guess I declare bankruptcy.

Answered by James Morgan
Posted Feb 17, 2013 10:30 AM ET


Consumers always should check with the Fox channel if a product was featured there already , like the funny zero energy home in Houston


Here is another one:


If Fox says it works then it doesn't. And the other way around as well.

Sunny Germany where they grow oranges and farm rattle snakes...I love it!

Answered by Hein Bloed
Posted Feb 18, 2013 6:27 PM ET
Edited Feb 19, 2013 6:13 AM ET.

Answered by Hein Bloed
Posted Feb 23, 2013 7:16 PM ET


Not on a residential scale; it's being utilized by a university.


The efficiencies and reduced environmental impact are striking.

Answered by Mike Collignon
Posted Nov 12, 2013 12:36 PM ET


Here's a very thorough article detailing a condominium application from Panasonic (Japan):


They hope to sell 500 units in the next 18 months.

Answered by Mike Collignon
Posted Nov 13, 2013 11:50 AM ET


I doubt that the Houze strategy would be net zero energy cost in most markets. Cogeneration systems generally don't qualify for net metering, which was intended for renewables.

Answered by Kevin Dickson, MSME
Posted Aug 26, 2014 10:12 PM ET


You realize this thread is really old, right?

The intent of net-metering is simplicity of managing small distributed generation, not specifically targeted at renewables (an artifact of the low installation rates and dumb electromechanical meters of yore.) Net metering of micro-cogeneration is THE most common situation at the single-family residence level in the US, but not at the apartment or office building level. The absolute number of single-family home micro-cogens in the US it miniscule compared to the number of rooftop PV or "house-ornament" micro-wind units.

A guy in my office is among that number. They have a ~1-kwh Honda integrated into the heating/hot-water system at his house, net-metered at retail since it was installed 5-6 years ago. The micro-cogens were even being promoted (even subsidized) by the gas & electric utility at that time.

Answered by Dana Dorsett
Posted Aug 27, 2014 10:32 AM ET

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