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Is 2015 the year of microCHP?

Posted by Gabby Mallett on 8 June 2015 at 12:30 pm

The decision to install renewable technologies or energy efficiency measures can be made for several different reasons. The desire to make a difference – to the environment and therefore our future – is often only one. The need to save money or to see a return from investment is common too. Of course, many renewable/efficient technologies deliver both these benefits – or should, at least. That ‘should’, the fear that the financial return might not be quite what was expected, is often the thing that holds people back from making the decision to install.

So it’s interesting to note that one often overlooked microgeneration technology, microCHP (or micro Combined Heat and Power), can come with a healthy return on investment as it is eligible for both the feed in tariff (FiT) and Green Deal Funding. 

MicroCHP has always been one of those ‘nearly’ technologies, still in development, still almost there – still too expensive. But Government and Industry have long considered it potentially very important part of the energy strategy. MicroCHP technology comes in a few different forms. The most user-friendly is a domestic gas boiler that heats your home and generates electricity at the same time.

how microCHP works - graphic

Why now? 

MicroCHP boilers have suddenly become viable, due to a substantial reduction in cost. Some versions of the technology can still cost up to £20,000 but new products are now available for around £3500. That may seem like a lot when compared to a standard boiler but it starts to look attractive when considered in the light of the package it comes in. Combining a microCHP boiler with feed-in tariff and potentially offsetting some of the cost by using the Green Deal to fund the installations.

The FiT for a CHP system with a total installed electrical capacity of 2kW or less (with the tariff only available for the 30,000 units) from 15th March 2013 to 31st March 2016 is now 13.45p. This is guaranteed for 10 years, which is only half the other FiT technologies. 

So, the financial incentive could definitely be there. And if we’re looking for that attractive combination of financial return and environmental benefits then microCHP delivers there too. A microCHP system generates electricity extremely efficiently – and it does it locally, within the home. Centrally generated electricity is often produced fairly inefficiently and then a fair amount of its energy is lost when it’s transmitted, often many miles, down power lines to a customer’s home.

MicroCHP boilers also generate most electricity at times of peak demand, because they generate when they’re working to power a home’s heating, this is unlike PV which is often generating the most when the homeowners are out at work. Peak times are when the dirtiest UK power stations can kick in, to help meet that demand. Displacing the need for this higher carbon generation, it’s possible, using a MicroCHP boiler, to reduce a household’s carbon emissions by roughly 20%.

One of the key differences between microCHP and other forms of microgeneration technology is that microCHP technology comes embedded in a product, a boiler that every household needs. It isn’t a discretionary purchase, like solar panels, it’s a necessity. And when a household needs a new boiler, it’s seems as though it now has the option to install one that can cut home energy bills and emissions by generating low cost, low carbon electricity.

Photo: SuperHomes

More information about Combined Heat and Power (CHP) on YouGen

Find a CHP installer.

Related blogs

How does a domestic micro-CHP boiler work?

Need help with any Jargon?

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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2 comments - read them below or add one


RobertPalgraveComment left on: 30 June 2015 at 8:37 pm

the micro-CHP still burns gas and therefore contributes to global warming however efficient it may be. I think the FiT should never have been awarded for these devices. They are not renewable, nor are they especially low-carbon. 

A heat pump running on mains electricity will convert the gas burnt at a central high efficiency power station into more heat than a domestic gas boiler, with or without CHP functionality. Here's how:

Heat pump Seasonal Perfomance Factor of 3 x conversion efficiency of power station of 50% gives an overall efficiency of 150%. Domestic gas boiler has a conversion efficiency of 90%.

Granted the heat pump is much more expensive to install, but it is lower carbon and its carbon footprint will reduce over time as the grid is de-carbonised. A domestic gas boiler can never reduce its carbon footprint. 

DECC has got the subsidies for heat pumps vs CHP quite wrong




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Shirley&AndyComment left on: 9 June 2015 at 11:53 am

Thank you!

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