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Posted: August 8, 2018

Vitovalor 300-P – Hydrogen Fuel cell Combined Heat and Power

The Vitovalor 300-P Hydrogen Fuel cell boiler has now been discontinued.  This article was written when the unit was new to the U.K, it has now been superseded by the new Viessmann Vitovalor PT2.

A partnership between Panasonic and Viessmann brings the only currently available combined heat and power unit to domestic properties.  Capable of providing electricity as a by-product of necessary heat, the Vitovalor unit not only saves money on your electricity bills but qualifies for numerous government incentives.

Vitovalor introduction

The Fuel Cell

Panasonic produce the hydrogen fuel cell, an extremely clever box that looks from the outside like a server case or very sleek tall freezer.  The technology inside is far beyond anything else in the domestic H&V market.  Hydrogen fuel cells are installed in the hundreds of thousands in Japan and are growing in popularity due to their very low failure rates.

Rather than directly supplying Hydrogen the Panasonic unit uses a gas reformer to separate the Methane (natural gas) that is already supplied to most homes.  This means that no special consideration has to be made when specifying the unit, it has the same connections as a combination boiler.  The only emissions are a tiny amount of carbon dioxide and water vapour.

Once the Hydrogen has been harvested from the natural gas it is put to use in a fusion process within the cell.  This produces heat which is collected and stored in the buffer within the Viessmann unit next to it and up to 750wh of electricity.

The electricity generated is way above the sacrificial amount, unlike some recent attempts by competitors like Flow and Baxi the Vitovalor has a net surplus which can be used in the home or exported to the grid for profit.  Several previous combined heat and power units have made bold claims about their generation but in practice have barely provided enough to run the unit itself.

The Boiler

Viessmann provide the gas boiler backup unit that is supplied with the fuel cell.  Most homes in the U.K have a requirement for heat and hot water that far surpasses the capability of the fuel cell in winter, the boiler is programmed to avoid running unless the cell is incapable of replenishing heat quick enough.

The unit is based on a Viessmann 222 or 111 boiler storage combination boilers that are already installed across Europe and the U.K.  The bottom half of the boiler is taken up by a large buffer tank that is filled with softened water, this acts as a heat store for the cell and is heavily insulated.  The top of the boiler has the heat exchanger and burner on the left and a hot water store on the right.  This unit is capable of supplying multiple showers and baths at once and also has an additional cylinder available if the flow rates required are very high.

The boiler has a typical Viessmann 200 series HO1B style facia control, with some adaptions for this application the controller is now called the HO1E.  This is your window into the efficiency and operation of the whole package giving the installer control over setting it up and the end user control over heating programs, hot water temperature and much more.  It even has built in app control so if you want to know how much electricity it’s currently producing or how much it’s done this month, you can at the touch of a button.

The Numbers

One of the reasons the Vitovalor has been made available in the UK this year and not before is the recent addition of mchp to the feed in tariff.  BEIS included combined heat and power in the 2018 revision, this has since been increased and now benefits from a 14.52p FiT.

Despite the verdict of us Brits to cut ties with Europe as much as possible, we currently still benefit from an incentive from the E.U called P.A.C.E.  This reduces the initial cost of importing the whole unit by about £6500, a dramatic saving.

Each kwh exported to the grid also receives a payment, currently 5.24p.  Although the Vitovalor is designed to cover the base load of electrical usage there is likely to be generated power that isn’t utilised instantly.  This is measured and sold for profit.

The greatest savings are from directly using the electricity generated by the Vitovalor, most homes have a usage that is matched by the output of electricity meaning the monthly electricity bill can disappear all-together.

There is 10 year guarantee on both the incentives and the parts and labour.  Provided the Vitovalor 300-P is serviced annually, you can rest assured that it is a safe investment fulfilled by internationally renowned manufacturers.


The Vitovalor 300-P Verdict

The Vitovalor 300-P is without question the most technologically advanced heating system available.  There is more information on the specialist company Vitovalor Installer but our opinion is very positive.

Certainly within domestic heating and ventilation the industry has been simply refining the efficiency and reliability of gas boilers.  This has been to great success of course, fuel efficiency for a domestic gas powered boiler is about as good as it is possible to get.

There have been several products in recent years that have attempted to shake up the monotony of simply burning fossil fuels.  Some have tried to produce electricity (and failed) and some have looked at alternative fuel sources.  None have found their mark like the Vitovalor.

This unit is nothing short of a technology marvel, I have had the great fortunate to have installed one in Surrey and I can personally attest to the quality of the build.

In some ways it seems unbelievable that something with this level of engineering can be available to the domestic market, it’s more like something that would be found on a military base.

Whether hydrogen will be a large part of the heating industry in the UK remains to be seen but the Vitovalor has, for now a unique selling point.  For home and business owners who have the space and the investment capital it is the best performing, most efficient unit and the best chance at return on investment available.


Patrick Wheeler

VitoEnergy Heating

Written for Ecotechnicians

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