With diminishing fossil fuel reserves and the growing threat of global warming, governments, companies and consumers around the world are increasingly turning away from traditional heat and power solutions and towards more eco-friendly alternatives. Micro combined heat and power (CHP) is one type of solution that in this mix.
But what exactly is this technology, where is it used and could it be a good option for your home or business? Keep reading to find out.
What is CHP (combined heat and power) is a commonly asked question. Many people have never heard of this technology, and even among those who have, there is often confusion as to what it is and how it works. Basically, CHP is the use of a power-station or heat engine to generate both electricity and useful heat simultaneously. Because of this, it is often referred to as ‘cogeneration’.
The process is highly efficient because it captures and uses heat that is created as a by-product of the generation of electricity. By co-generating heat and electricity, CHP solutions can significantly reduce carbon emissions. They also benefit from increased efficiency due to the fact that they generate electricity directly on site, therefore avoiding the transmission losses that occur when power is taken from the grid.
As well as reducing carbon emissions, CHP can help businesses and households to cut their energy costs. This technology has been used in industrial settings for decades, but it is now increasingly being utilised on a smaller scale in homes as well.
There are a variety of CHP solutions available, and each works in a slightly different way. For example, power sources for these units include internal combustion engines, Stirling engines and fuel cells, among others. These power sources use fuel to produce electricity that is utilised on site to power appliances, with any excess being exported to the grid. At the same time, they capture the heat generated during this process and use it to produce hot water for heating and hot water systems.
Different types of CHP unit vary significantly in terms of size and output, and they can also run on different fuels, such as natural gas or biogas.
Micro CHP relies on the same principles as larger scale CHP solutions, but adapts them for use in a much smaller setting - such as a small office building or a detached or semi-detached family home. As their name suggests, these units are compact in design. In fact, they are similar in shape and size to a typical domestic boiler.
The systems are usually powered by a small fuel cell or heat engine. They allow you to generate some of the electricity you need from the same fuel that you’re using anyway to provide heating and hot water for your home or business premises. The main output from micro CHP systems is heat, with electricity a by-product of this. A typical ratio of heat to electricity is around 6:1. Any electricity generated by your micro CHP system that you don’t use can be sold back to the grid.
Currently, most micro CHP units are powered by natural gas. Our cutting edge Vitovalor fuel cell heating appliance can be operated with natural gas or bio natural gas.
Renewable energy refers to energy that occurs both naturally and repeatedly in the environment. This means it doesn’t release any net greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Strictly speaking therefore, CHP solutions that run on fuels such as natural gas do not qualify as renewable. However, they are considered to be low carbon and therefore better for the environment than many other forms of heat and power generation.
This is because this technology is more efficient than burning fuel simply to produce heat and then separately getting electricity from the grid. In other words, CHP helps you to make the most of the fossil fuels or biomass you burn, cutting your carbon footprint.
If you’re wondering whether micro CHP could be a good option for your home or small business premises, it’s worth bearing the following benefits in mind:
Electricity prices continue to rise in the UK. By making the switch to micro CHP, you can reduce your reliance on mains electricity and therefore have greater certainty about your household spending in the future.
A system like this could significantly reduce your spending on energy. In fact, you stand to save up to 30 per cent on your energy bills thanks to this technology.
By lowering your consumption of fossil fuels, you benefit from the added peace of mind that comes from knowing you have cut your CO2 emissions and made your household or business more environmentally-friendly.
These systems are straightforward to install. In fact, there is very little difference between fitting one of these units and a regular boiler. It’s also worth noting that servicing and maintenance costs are estimated to be similar to a standard boiler.
Micro CHP units offer a cost-effective, eco-friendly combined heating and electricity solution that can suit a range of properties. It’s well worth familiarising yourself with this technology to see if it could be a good option for you.