While I was standing in the shower today, I was thinking about the on-demand water heaters that have been in use around the world for many years but are only now becoming popular in the U.S.. For those of you who haven’t seen one, it is just a small box (about 12″ x 18″ x 5″) with a lot of zigzag pipe and a blowtorch that runs on propane or natural gas. Rather than heating an entire tank full of water, and then keeping it hot, cold water simply runs through this box, the blowtorch comes on and blasts all those zigzag pipes, resulting in hot water out the other end of the box. It is a much more efficient system than tank heaters. The problem, or what will become the problem, is that there are no electricity-heated heaters of this variety, that I know of. Once propane and natural gas become scarce, how would you run one of these heaters? That is when the idea struck: hydrogen.
People in renewable energy have been talking about hydrogen for quite a while now. The problem with electricity is that it is a pain in the ass to move around and even harder to store. This is problem with generators like wind turbine or solar cells, which are not a constant supply. The electricity has to be stored for use when the generators are not working. One solution is that the electricity can be used on site to create hydrogen, which is easily piped around and stored in tanks. My thought is that it would be a relatively easy shift in current technology to use hydrogen instead of natural gas for use in tankless water heaters and residential or commercial heating units. What I don’t know is whether it is easier/more efficient to heat a house with electric heat (which is pretty inefficient), or to convert that electricity to hydrogen and then burn the hydrogen to heat the house. Either way, I’m betting we’ll start hearing a lot more about hydrogen in the near future.