First microwave-powered home boiler could help cut emissions
17th March 2021 | Residential Energy
The creators of the world’s first microwave-powered boiler have said it can provide a straightforward, zero-emissions replacement for the gas boilers that heat most homes in the UK. Heat Wayv is building prototypes and expects to trial the boilers in homes by the end of 2022, with the first sales to customers targeted for 2024. It says a unit suitable for a three- or four-bedroom home would cost about £3,500, the same as an equivalent gas boiler.
Heating produces 14% of the UK’s carbon emissions, and is one of the most difficult obstacles in the drive to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Gas boilers will be banned in new-build homes from 2025 and are expected to be phased out entirely by the mid 2030s. The government is encouraging the installation of heat pumps, which are extremely efficient and cheap to run but have high upfront costs, can be disruptive to install and are not suitable for all properties. Hydrogen is also being suggested as a replacement for gas, but most experts think the supply of low-carbon hydrogen will be limited and expensive and would be best used for heavy industry and transport.
The Heat Wayv unit is the same size as a gas boiler and has 10 metres of pipe coiled inside, which is heated at multiple points along its length. The microwaves are produced by solid state components, which can be tuned specifically to heat water and better targeted than the magnetrons used in microwave ovens. Electricity usage will be about the same as an electric oven, the makers say. They say the boiler is 84% efficient in converting electricity into hot water, and another 12% of waste heat is recycled, giving a total efficiency of 96%. The company’s first product, a portable microwave heater, is now in production for military customers.
“The end of the gas boiler is inevitable and scheduled,” said Phil Stevens, a co-founder of Heat Wayv. He said heat pumps would have a place in the market for suitable homes, but his product was “a clean technology where the boiler will cost the consumer the same to buy, same to install and same to run as a gas boiler.”
Paul Atherton, another co-founder, said: “The beauty of our microwave boiler is that it is completely compatible with existing home radiators.” He said the company would initially target the 170,000 new homes built each year, which will not be allowed to install gas boilers from 2025.
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