Back to News

Advantages and Disadvantages of Combined Heat and Power Systems

Combined Heat and Power

Combined Heat and Power (CHP) is a great avenue to achieve energy efficiency, reduce emissions, and promote resiliency. It’s no secret that utility rates, including electric rates, are increasing. As electric rates continue to rise, businesses naturally look for ways to reduce their energy costs. Luckily, CHP generators offer such a method.

Simply, there are significant direct and indirect financial savings that CHP provides by lowering direct energy costs and by helping you to avoid environmental compliance costs. It is easy to overlook technologies like combined heat and power systems because they are not yet popular in the mainstream market. Of course, energy companies do not want consumers to know about this technology, since it can reduce their bottom line.

In the following post, we will discuss the basics of CHP generators, as well as a few advantages and disadvantages.

How Do Cogeneration (CHP) Systems Work?

CHP generator systems use a heat engine or power station to generate electricity and useful heat at the same time. The system provides at least a portion of a facility’s electrical load by capturing heat from hot exhaust gases; then that heat, or thermal energy, is used for things such as space heating, cooling, domestic hot water, dehumidification and/or process heating. Back in the day, it was common for apartment buildings, large offices, and hotels to generate their own power and to use waste steam for building heat; now, it’s mostly used in large manufacturing facilities and factories along with energy efficient building controls.

What Are the Best Applications for CHP?

The best applications for cogeneration are in facilities with consistent electric and thermal loads, such as hospitals, schools, recreational facilities, industrial facilities, hotels and nursing homes. CHP is primarily found in areas with high concentrations of industrial and commercial activity, high electric rates and policies favorable to CHP.

An on-site cogeneration system can provide reliable and high-quality electricity and thermal energy by reducing the impact of outages and poor power quality form the utility grid. Facilities can save considerable money on their energy bills due to its high efficiency and curbing the usage of higher utility rates. CHP positively impacts the environment by reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Advantages of Cogeneration

So what are the pros and the cons? Well, on the plus side, cogeneration systems are by their very nature efficient. Cogeneration systems can act as an energy multiplier, helping to cut carbon emissions, increase power reliability and save money. The technology is also widely available, with further opportunities for development and refinement. CHP systems have been used for many years in certain parts of the world for district heating purposes. In fact, according to Cogeneration Technologies, Thomas Edison completed the first modern use of cogeneration. Apparently, his 1882 Pearl Street Station was a combined heat and power plant, “producing both electricity and thermal energy while using waste heat to warm neighboring buildings.” Recycling allowed Edison’s plant to achieve approximately 50 percent efficiency.

Disadvantages of Cogeneration

Unfortunately, CHP is more a means of making other energy sources more efficient rather than an intrinsic energy source. Also, some critics fear that its use will prevent full development of “true” renewable energy sources.

It is also only suitable for use where both hot water and electricity are needed, and at consistently high and sustained levels. Development of the systems can be expensive, and the technology cannot truly be deemed as being sustainable in the long term when it is used to extract efficiencies from fossil fuels.

How Can Kinsley Help?

The Kinsley Group is a top energy solutions supplier with a 50-year legacy of sales, rental and service of quality energy systems. Our commercial businesses include Kinsley Power Systems, a top distributor of KOHLER® generators for more than 45 years and Kinsley Energy Systems, representing prime movers for co-generation, biomass and landfill applications. If you are unsure if your facility would be a good fit for CHP, download our e-book, “Is My Facility A Good Candidate For CHP?”