Is a Hydrogen Powered House Really Green?

Ron Monahan is trying build an energy efficient subdivision in Aiken, South Carolina, and a few weeks ago announced that he was going to build between one and four Net Zero houses, (homes create as much energy as they use over the course of the year) in the development. However, when I looked at the site plan and the size of the houses with their two car snouts, I really wondered what was the point, given the amount of energy it was going to take just to get there.

So he has cranked up the volume to get a little more attention: He is going to power one of them with hydrogen.

The local news video gets it all hilariously wrong, calling it "Greenest Subdivision In America" and calling it the first hydrogen powered house (it's not) and saying that the house is powered by water (it's not) but the facts are more interesting. According to the press release:

Photovoltaic cells on the roofs of the homes — now being designed in much more efficient and attractive models — will run electricity through an electrolizer — a scientific bucket of water — which easily separates the oxygen from the hydrogen. Oxygen and water vapor are the only emissions and are beneficially released to the atmosphere. The hydrogen is captured in the hydrogen fuel cell to run the house, along with the solar power.

There is only one other house known in the United States that uses this revolutionary, simple and very safe system to power a home, and that was done by an enterprising engineer who retrofitted his north-eastern farm home. The Ridge at Chukker Creek will be the first housing development anywhere in the world to offer this option for sale to people who care deeply about their environment and want to live in a home that generates all of its own power — naturally and for free — without having to build it themselves.



Scientific American

Right. Scientific American covered that enterprising engineer, Mike Strizki, and his house last year. This is what his back yard looks like as he stores the hydrogen. This is not how they are storing the gas in this particular house:

"The use of hydrogen to store energy in residential applications at the Ridge is certainly unique," said Dr Greenway. "And the highly-efficient system design using metal hydride hydrogen storage is one-of-a-kind. This truly demonstrates Ron Monahan's vision. Greenway Energy is excited to design and integrate this system."

This is what his controls look like. It is a wonderful science project and Mike Strzki did an admirable job. No doubt Dr. Scott Greenway of Greenway Engineering will be just as admirable and put into a smaller package.

But people who "deeply about their environment" would realize that this is not a solution to our problems, to drive your Prius to a house with hundreds of thousands of dollars (they say it is a fifty thousand dollar option and I don't believe it) of technology stuck on it just so you can call it Net Zero. This is what you do in space stations, not houses. We need simple, replicable and affordable solutions.

Mr. Monahan was much closer to the mark in the earlier press release, where they wrote:

Some of the strategies are quite simple, such as siting a home the way people did for centuries to take advantage of the angle of the sun, trees for shading and the prevailing breezes. Others are high tech, such as blowing in foam insulation under the roof, walls and the floor, [and] using an EnergyStar door fan test to find and seal every air leak.

WJBF,
The Ridge at Chukker Creek
Some simpler solutions to saving energy:
Crossway Zero Carbon Home Brings Back the Timbrel Vault
What is a Zero Carbon Home?
Bright Built Barn is Net-Zero Energy
The Net-Zero Energy Now House is Really Boring.
Low tech:
Low tech Tips: Be Cool and Plant A Tree : Planet Green
Saving Energy : Low : tech Tips: Keep Cool with Awnings

Tags: Housing Industry