Home Energy and Heat Generators Coming to America

Combined Heat and Power (CHP) generators in America have so far been used only for large-scale projects. They can heat and power entire neighborhoods or office complexes. And, in doing it, they are about three times more efficient that centralized fossil fuel power plants. CHPs aren't emissions free (they run internal combustion engines with natural gas) but because they are decentralized and capture the heat produced by the power generation, they produce a lot more energy per ton of CO2 released.

But the big news in CHPs is that they're becoming ultra-decentralized. That is, you can put one under your sink and heat and power your house with it. In Japan, over 30,000 household's already have micro-CHPs, and Europe boasts more than 80,000. Where's yours you ask? It's coming, just hold on a little bit. A few dozen units have been installed across America, but their spread is being held back by cheap energy prices and lack of the incentives that have driven the market in Japan and Europe. But two businesses are poised to begin marketing CHPs to environmentally conscious Americans.But be ready to pay, even the cheapest model, producing enough heat for a three bedroom house and 1 kilowatt of electricity, will set you back $13,000. Even then, it's only likely to save you $800 a year, meaning that it will probably never completely pay for itself (unless you subtract the cost of a new high-efficiency furnace, then it will pay for itself in five to seven years.) But, if natural gas companies are smart, they will start offering incentives to buyers, since they will be guaranteeing themselves customers for the next twenty years at least.

::Christian Science Monitor. See also: ::Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Awards 2006

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