Energy efficient, flexible and controllable Micro-CHP systems are being installed in the UK now.
Micro-CHP (micro combined heat and power) is a term referring to a group of technologies that generate both heat and electricity. Like a normal boiler these micro-CHP units can provide heating for your home or office, hot water and electricity as well! Micro-CHP still use mains gas or LPG but are more environmentally friendly and cost effective, plus they give you more control over your home’s heating and electricity consumption. They can also be integrated with conventional condenser boilers, ground and air source heat pumps and solar thermal systems.
Micro-CHP systems are similar in size and shape to domestic boilers; they can be wall hung or floor standing. If you have a conventional boiler then a micro-CHP boiler should be able to directly replace it. The installer must be MCS approved but for the householder there is very little difference in installation and operation. The only difference to a standard boiler is that they are able to generate electricity while they are heating water. A typical domestic system will generate up to 1kW of electricity once warmed up. Any electricity you generate and don’t use can be sold back to the grid whilst getting paid for what you generate by way of the Feed In Tariff (FIT).
Micro-CHP systems lower carbon emissions by generating their own electricity as a by-product of heat. Some systems are eligible for Feed-in Tariffs where you will earn a tariff for each KWH of electricity you generate and each KWH you export. (Click here for the latest FiT rates)
The standard Stirling engine micro-CHP generates about 6:1 heat to electricity so its electrical output is generally fairly low, however the rewards can still be felt, with it paying for itself in a reasonably short amount of time (subject to FIT payments).
The Fuel cell micro-CHP is new to the UK and global markets. Fuel cells work by taking energy from fuel at a chemical level instead of burning it so they don’t produce large quantities of carbon dioxide (or noise). They convert the chemical energy in fuel directly into electricity and heat. They could substantially decarbonise domestic energy production. An initiative by Ceramic Fuel Cells Ltd called ‘free BlueGen’ has been launched which will see fuel cell micro-CHP systems installed for free in the UK. The idea is that the install will be financed by an energy services company and the funds will be recouped through the UK’s feed-in tariff. The end user will only pay for the running costs at a minimum 10% discount on the cheapest local standard retail tariff.
‘The United Kingdom government has announced that it will be increasing its feed-in tariff of micro combined heart and power systems. Micro-CHP systems often make use of hydrogen fuel cells which are capable of producing a large amount of heat while generating electricity. The UK government believes that these systems hold a great deal of potential and could help the country become less dependent on fossil-fuels. The initiative may be good news for Ceramic Fuel Cells, whose BlueGen fuel cells are the only micro-CHP system that has received certification from the Microgeneration Certification Scheme.’
Here is a video on BlueGEN fuel cell micro-CHP.