Any real-world experience with a home fuel cell?
September 3, 2009 7:43 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone have experience with a home fuel cell?

I'm in Southern California where the livin' is easy but electricity is pricey. I've been considering photovoltaics for awhile, but recently heard about the ClearEdge CE5 home fuel cell. I can find very little on the web besides marketing information; I'm hoping others might have more practical input.
posted by ChromeDome to Home & Garden (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
IIRC this is a spinoff of GE's residential fuel cell which has been in development for quite some time. I really really wanted this when we built our house. 5kW is good enough and the developers very sensibly decided to have the cooling water available for space heating. Had I not paid to put a mile of Pacific Flicker & Flash line in I'd probably still be waiting for the fuel cell. It's been GE vaporware for five years.
posted by jet_silver at 8:55 PM on September 3, 2009

I don't know from fuel cells, but I did see a "This Old House" where they did a full solar energy system. Photovoltaics for the electricity, and wacky vacuum tube things for hot water. This was in the Northeast, and the system was able to generate heat in very cool temperatures. They were glass tubes with smaller rods inside. The tube was evacuated, so that no heat passed in or out. The sun warmed the rod inside, which had some kind of fluid inside that did a liquid to gas transition when it picked up sunlight. The heat traveled up to a closed loop system and warmed the water. I want to say that they were getting about 100degree water on a cloudy 40 degree day.

The photovoltaic system was huge, but not terribly expensive when you priced it against its expected lifetime. All they had to do for maintenance was go up and clean them off a couple times a year.

A fuel cell is supposedly more efficient, but the pricing is still high. Far as I know, anyway.
posted by gjc at 6:48 AM on September 4, 2009

the livin' is easy but electricity is pricey

Just in case you're not already clear, you're not going to save money on electricity, if that is your priority. There are all kinds of good reasons to install alternative power systems, but saving money is not one of them. You need to want non-grid power for other reasons, or you will not be happy with it.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:49 AM on September 4, 2009

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