Making Your Home Self Sufficient in Power and Heat

Making Your Own Heat and Electricity In Any Climate or Location

Suddenly it is becoming possible to make all the electricity and heat for your home that you could need — no matter your latitude or weather conditions. Using “micro steam turbines” — or residential fuel cells — single residencies, condominiums, or communities can efficiently produce plentiful heat and power, in even the coldest, cloudiest, and most windless locations.

While the conventional method of producing usable heat and power separately has a typical combined efficiency of 45 percent, CHP [combined heat and power] systems can operate at levels as high as 80 percent. __

Combining Heat and Power Generation Boosts Efficiency

Residential Fuel Cell CHP

The Japanese have been pioneering residential fuel cell combined heat and power for decades. One Japanese program, Ene-Farm, has installed over 120,000 residential fuel cell units. Panasonic is claiming 95% efficiency for combined heat and electricity production, and is now expanding into Europe — with ambitions to move into the Korean and North American markets. The current Japanese residential fuel cell units run mostly on methane, but plans for units using other fuels, including hydrogen fuel cell CHP, are in the works.

Micro Steam Turbine CHP

In the US, combined heat and power [CHP] — often called cogeneration — comes mostly in the form of internal combustion engines, including gas turbines, steam turbines, combined gas cycle and steam cycle systems, piston engine systems, and an assortment of other approaches including fuel cells. Most of these systems are used for industrial plants, hospitals, large campuses, and sometimes for large apartment developments and isolated communities.

Micro steam turbines are becoming small enough and efficient enough to begin entering the residential CHP market.

About half the homes in the United States are heated by natural gas, so the market potential is strong. Comparable units in Europe are selling for two or three times the cost of a standard hot water boiler; Cocuzza’s challenge is to be able to price his unit for significantly less. If Enviro Power can make the price low enough that one of its mCHPs will pay for itself through energy savings within three years, Cocuzza believes he’ll succeed

Enviro Power has a patent for a 10-kilowatt microcogeneration unit (mCHP) and is seeking financing to bring the product to market. Its mCHP uses a micro steam turbine, powered by propane or natural gas, to produce both heat and electricity. The company claims this cuts electricity consumption by up to 30 percent, reducing greenhouse gases and saving money. In addition, larger cogeneration units use an internal combustion engine that needs maintenance, while Cocuzza expects that a micro steam turbine engine will be maintenance free for 10 years. __ IEEE

One of EnviroPower’s competitors in residential CHP It is not a micro steam turbine (it appears to be a Sterling engine), but is said to be quite reliable.

Both Forms of Residential CHP Above are Still Expensive

The goal of manufacturers is to produce residential CHP units that will pay for themselves in energy savings within 3 to 5 years. At this time, the breakeven time is closer to 10 years in Japan for fuel cell CHP. That is probably not good enough for most people, since the lifetime of such units will probably not be much longer than that at best. But the technology is improving, and the underlying concept is far sounder than the rationale behind home wind and solar, for most modern homes and locations.

Micro CHP is still more practical for small co-ops and condos than for single residences, due to “economies of scale”.

How CHP can work with microgrids:

Making a case for microgrids is intrinsically making a case for locally-fired natural gas that simultaneously generates thermal energy, according to the researchers… small microgrids rely on relatively less gas… gas generators are still the favorite to provide electric and thermal energy [for microgrids].

General overview of the CHP market

Europe is currently the leading regional market for combined heat and power installation with the region accounting for 67.96% share in the overall market in 2014. The abundance of natural gas sources has contributed to the increased installation of CHP systems in the region. Countries such as Belgium, Russia, Poland, Germany, Italy, and Netherlands are major contributors to the Europe CHP installation market.

… The global market for CHP installation can be broadly divided into large-scale CHPs and micro-and small scale CHPs in terms of type. Large-scale CHPs is the leading segment with the segment accounting for 85.69% of the overall market in 2014. However, the segment is expected to lose a substantial portion of its market share to micro and small-scale CHPs over the coming years. Nevertheless, with increasing energy saving needs in emerging economies such as India and China, the uptake of large-scale CHPs is on the rise.

Off-grid solar only makes sense if you live in a dry zone in low to mid latitudes… Even so, you can sometimes have several days and sometimes weeks of heavy clouds which will deplete your system. And those solar cells need to be wiped clean on a regular basis. To depend on off-grid wind, you would need to live somewhere that winds blow reliably. And again, there will always be days and weeks of low to no wind, when your batteries will go dead without a backup generator — which are far from efficient.

Methane and propane always work, regardless of the weather. Cogeneration systems such as the ones we looked at above provide twice the efficiency of conventional backup generators.

A Home Nuclear Plant Would be Best

Meanwhile, nuclear scientists and engineers are busy at work developing smaller, safer, and more efficient CHP nuclear reactors and nuclear batteries. Such systems could conceivably provide up to 50 years of reliable power and heat between refuelings. And the energy density of nuclear fuels are second to none.

Energy Density Comparison from Wikipedia
Fusion, Fission Orders of Magnitude Better than Chemical and Other Energy Sources

If you are planning to survive a coming ice age, nuclear cogeneration of power and heat is probably your best bet.

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