Incredible Efficiency For Homes and Businesses

A propane-powered Combined Heat & Power unit (CHP) is an engine powering a generator to produce electricity. It then uses the heat that's generated to heat your home and water. Compact and quiet, CHPs are ideal for homes, multi-family dwellings, and small businesses. Not only are they incredibly efficient, propane CHP systems contribute far less harmful emissions that negatively affect human health compared with electric grid power. Keep exploring to learn more.

Combined heat & power is used in...

Frequently Asked Questions

What is CHP?

Combined heat and power (CHP), also known as cogeneration, is:

The concurrent production of electricity or mechanical power and useful thermal energy (heating and/or cooling) from a single source of energy.

A type of distributed generation, which, unlike central station generation, is located at or near the point of consumption.

A suite of technologies that can use a variety of fuels to generate electricity or power at the point of use, allowing the heat that would normally be lost in the power generation process to be recovered to provide needed heating and/or cooling.

(source: https://www.energy.gov/eere/amo/combined-heat-and-power-basics)

Is CHP a new technology?

No! The first cogeneration units date back to 1882 in New York City (Pearl Street Station, NYC, designed by Thomas Edison). Today, micro combined heat and power units (mCHP, under 50 kW) are widely used throughout Europe and Japan.

Which types of engines are suitable for CHP?

While it depends on the system, large-scale CHP installations utilize large reciprocating engines, while mCHPs may use a very small 2-cylinder engine with a micro-turbine.

Why is propane an ideal fuel for CHP?

Because propane does not produce harmful emissions and it can be installed virtually anywhere, it is the most resilient choice of fuels.

How common is CHP in North America?

CHP has a market size of $495 million (mostly natural gas today). Growth estimates are 6% per year through 2026 because of rising demand for captive power generation, growing concern for GHG emissions, and a growing consumer appetite for sustainable solutions.

What applications work best for CHP?

Combined heat and power applications require high demands for hot water or where electricity costs are high. Applications include schools/universities, hospitals, car washes, health club/gym facilities, poultry and dairy farms, hotels, multi-family dwellings, and resilient off grid homes.

What can the electricity and heat be used for?

Electrical loads from a CHP may provide power to an isolated circuit or throughout a residential or commercial building. You can use the heat and electricity produced from a CHP just like the electricity that runs through your meter, and if you have excess power, you may even be able to sell kW’s back to grid.

Can CHP units also provide cooling?

Yes. CCHP, combined cooling heat and power, includes a cooling mechanism like a heat pump.

Are CHPs good for the environment?

Yes. CHP systems are more efficient than grid electricity because the power produced is closer to where it is needed.  CHPs also reduce emissions of GHGs and other air pollutants by 40 percent or more.

How does CHP reduce greenhouse gasses?

CHP units require less fuel input for the same amount of energy output.

What are the benefits of CHP?

Benefits of CHP include virtually zero water consumption in the electric generating process. Coal for instance consumes 0.2 to 0.6 gallons of water per kWh1 (kilowatt per hour produced); CHP on-site electric generation reduces grid congestion and improves the reliability of the electricity distribution system. mCHP units cost considerably less than component appliances if purchased separately.

How do I evaluate facilities for CHP?

Great question. The value of CHP ROI, also known as “spark spread” takes a look at some basic inputs to determine if CHP is a good fit.  Want more information? Check out this screening tool from the EPA.

What does “spark spread” mean?

Spark spread is the difference per kilowatt-hour (kWh) between the current delivered electricity price and the total cost to generate power with a CHP system. The greater the spark spread, the higher the potential return on investment.

Does geographic location make a difference?

While CHPs may have quicker return on investment in colder climates, CHP spark spread is favorable in the top 10 propane selling states in the country. Did you know CHP can be found in every state?

How much space do I need?

While it depends on the unit and the technology deployed, most mCHPs can be installed in a similar footprint size of a standard furnace or boiler.

Could I use a CHP in my house?

Yes, mCHP units can be used for a home. Units in the 1-3 kW range can provide heat and power for a standard 1,800 sq ft home. Larger homes with greater demands including a pool, or multi-family dwellings would require a unit from 3-10 kW of power. Large apartment buildings, commercial establishments and light industrial use may require units sized from 10-50 kW of power. For large industrial/institutional buildings with high demand loads, CHPs in the 50 kW+ range are not uncommon.

Are they available in propane today?

Yes. Brand names like Axiom Energy, Enviropower and Lochinvar are available today in mCHP sizes. In larger CHP units, companies like Tedom and Capstone offer integrated solutions. Other large-scale CHPs can be devised from engine applications like Siemens or Innio, while these are designed and built as specialty systems.

What about maintenance requirements?

Like any other engine applications, regular preventative maintenance including oil changes, lubrication and inspection of belts and drive assembly components are recommended.

How much does a CHP unit cost?

Costs vary depending on brands, efficiencies, and installation.  You can expect to pay between $15,000 and $20,000 for a complete unit and installation.

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Where can I buy propane appliances?

Propane.com offers shopping guides for grills and patio heaters or contact your local propane supplier for suggestions nearby. Some propane suppliers offer appliance showrooms featuring everything from space and water heaters to kitchen appliances and fireplaces.

What do I do when my portable propane tank is empty?

When the propane tank you use for grilling or other outdoor appliances is empty, drop it off and purchase a full tank at one of thousands of tank exchanges nationwide. You’ll find them everywhere from hardware and rental stores to grocers, convenience stores, and gas stations. In addition, there are many propane cylinder refilling locations available across the country. Contact your local propane supplier for more information on refilling or exchanging cylinders.

Where can I find someone to service my propane appliances?

Your local propane supplier is an excellent source of information for things like propane appliance servicing and repairs. Contact them with your questions about servicing, repairing, or replacing propane appliances.