Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?

ClearEdge touts home fuel cell over solar panels

Will fuel cells provide power and heat for homes? Jackie Autry of Palm Springs, Calif., installs fuel cell, which she chose over solar panels for cleaner, on-site energy.

Martin LaMonica Former Staff writer, CNET News
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica
2 min read

If fuel cell vehicles can have celebrity owners, why not fuel cell-powered homes?

ClearEdge Power said Jackie Autry, former Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim owner and widow of Gene Autry, is a customer of its residential fuel cell system, which supplies both electricity and hot water.

ClearEdge Power

Stationary fuel cell makers, including Bloom Energy and FuelCell Energy, focus mainly on business customers. But ClearEdge Power is targeting its box, about the size of a refrigerator, to both homes and small businesses. The company has sold about 200 units in California, with more than half of the fuel cells installed in 34 California businesses, according to a representative.

The price for a five-kilowatt unit is $56,000 before installation. ClearEdge Power is initially marketing to consumers in California, who receive up to $17,500 per five-kilowatt unit in financial incentives from utility rebates and federal tax credits. Commercial customers can get as much as $27,500 in incentives, according to the company.

For customers with big electricity bills, the fuel cell will cut monthly bills significantly, with Autry projected to get a pay back in between five to seven years, according to a report in the Desert Sun. At an event to show the fuel cells at Autry's house on Friday, company executives said they are working on a smaller, three-kilowatt unit and anticipate prices to go down with higher volume, according to the article.

The fuel cell runs on natural gas, which is "reformed" and passed through a fuel cell, generating both electricity and heat. In addition to five kilowatts of electricity, one unit can generate 20,000 BTUs of thermal heat an hour at 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

ClearEdge Power said residential fuel cells are a good alternative to solar panels for onsite power because they take less space, don't depend on good sun exposure, and, as a combined heat and power product, are efficient. Its fuel cell is 40 percent efficient in converting fuel into electricity and 50 percent efficient in heat, making it 90 percent efficient.

More commercial customers, such as office buildings and supermarkets, are using fuel cells because they provide reliable power. Fuel cell companies are primarily marketing products in states which have incentives for cleaner sources of energy.