Acting as a mini-CHP plant, a fuel cell heating device can generate electricity and heat for single-family homes with high efficiency. Until now, it has been mainly economic reasons that have hampered the widespread market introduction of this technology. The BINE Projektinfo brochure entitled "Fuel cell generates electricity and heat for homes" (10/2016) presents a new device with a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) that has been developed to series production level. The developers have managed to reduce the manufacturing and installation costs and also improve the durability of the components.
The device provides an electrical output of 0.7 kW and a thermal output of 1.3 kW. A standard gas condensing unit is integrated to cover peak heating demands. The overall efficiency is over 90%. All components are compactly arranged in a casing. The negative pressure prevailing within the casing provides an effective safety concept to counter the risk of undetected gas leaks. Previous devices were mostly based on overpressure. With the new unit, the developers have succeeded in halving the production and installation costs compared with previous systems. The fuel cell heating device was tested in practice as part of the Callux energy research field trials, which involved devices from different manufacturers.
Fuel cells can be operated with natural gas or with hydrogen and methane generated from renewable energies or biomass. The new fuel cell heating unit has been developed by Vaillant GmbH in collaboration with partners from research and industry.