This week Climate Energy and Honda announced that they will bring a micro-CHP (Combined Heat and Power) system to the American market, under the trade name Freewatt(TM). Sales of the Honda-powered generator with warm-air heating system have begun in the Northeastern states, where sales are boosted by the relatively cool climate and legislation promoting net-metering, which allows owners of alternative energy systems to recover costs by feeding electricity back into the networks. Climate Energy promises to continue growth in the American market, adding a hot-water boiler system and other configurations to the product palette. Judging by unexpectedly high reader response to the recent article on the Senertec Dachs, the market is ripe for this technology. The Freewatt is powered by Honda's GE160EV natural gas engine and produces 3.26 kilowatts of heat and 1.2 kilowatts of electricity. Although substantially less than is generated by the Senertec Dachs, the Freewatt is appropriately sized for the needs or the average single home. Similar systems have sold over 45,000 units in Japan since their introduction in 2003. The low noise levels of the Honda generator, which is compared to a refrigerator, is a strong selling point for the Freewatt. The price for Freewatt micro-CHP with warm-air heater is approximatley $13,000 installed, depending upon the complexity of the installation.
The introductory model requires electricity for start-up and operation, so it is not the solution for off-gridders or people looking for the security of generating their own heat and power in a grid crash. However, Climate Energy is developing a system which will provide up to 1.8 kilowatts of power during a black-out. No hint of plans for alternative-fuel options such as wood pellets or vegetable oils yet though.