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Saving carbon with CHP

Combined heat and power systems can lead to huge cost savings, or be a complete waste of time. How can you make sure your end user will be happy with their systems for years to come?

When it comes to the provision of heating and hot water in a light commercial environment, one of the growing trends is the installation of a systems alliance. This sees a secondary or accompanying technology installed alongside a boiler to utilise the strengths of each appliance in order to mitigate the effect of rising energy costs and increasingly stringent emissions targets.

One such arrangement for applications with sufficient demand for both electricity and heat is the incorporation of a combined heat and power (CHP) module.

As heat is produced as a by-product of the power generated and by distributing via a thermal store, the technology lends itself to operation alongside any other heating source – a high-efficiency boiler being one of the most common examples.

The key to a successful systems alliance comprising CHP is that the system is designed to use 100% of the heat generated. With premium efficiency levels and cost savings the ultimate objective for such an arrangement, it is vital that no heat is rejected – this would potentially jeopardise the system’s effectiveness and compromise the cost-saving benefit.

To avoid the dumping or wastage of heat, it is absolutely essential that the CHP module is correctly sized. Failure to do so from the outset of a project is likely to result in the production of too much heat for a building, which will nullify any potential performance enhancements.

While correct sizing goes some way to maximising performance, as with a boiler, once the CHP is installed it is vital to take care of the long-term health of the system. Investing in a maintenance agreement is something that should be considered an essential commitment.

This is not purely down to manufacturers wanting customers to spend more money on their installation, but because investing in CHP without being prepared to invest in the long-term running of the system is a false economy for investors.

It is not surprising that many who purchase CHP modules without a maintenance agreement decide to switch them off rather than go to the expense of rectifying an engine breakdown. Investing in a maintenance contract will help any new project overcome initial teething problems, and then allow the module to operate in harmony within a systems alliance.

One factor that influences the practice of maintenance contracts is the use of closed-protocol controls on CHP modules. Closed-protocol control, in essence, means only the manufacturer of the CHP module can carry out any necessary maintenance.

Dealing with only one company not only restricts the ability to demonstrate value for money, which is a major issue for the public sector, but it can also lead to serious issues should service costs increase or the company ceases to trade.

CHP technology now arguably offers the most cost-effective way to reduce CO2 as well as helping with the security of electricity supplies.

But, as with all renewable and low-carbon technologies, well-designed, installed and operated systems are the key to realising both the operational and financial benefits available.

Alex Parkinson is commercial sales manager for CHP at Bosch Commercial and Industrial Heating

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