‘Tis the season for winter storms, power outages, and higher costs for energy. Driven by the climbing costs of electricity and increasing grid outages, consumers and businesses are searching for affordable, reliable energy solutions. One approach, popular in remote locations, is propane gas as an energy source. The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) created a new resource for residential and commercial construction professionals that outlines the benefits and capabilities of propane-powered combined heat and power (CHP) units.
A propane-powered CHP unit uses a propane engine to power a generator that produces electricity. It then uses the heat that’s generated for home or building heating and to heat water. Available in a wide range of capacities, CHP and micro-CHP systems are ideal for single-family homes, apartment buildings, small businesses, utility power, and large commercial and industrial applications.
The concept behind the micro-CHP system is simple: The unit replaces a traditional furnace or boiler and water heater with a single appliance that produces both hot water and heat as well as electricity for use in the home. Because the unit runs on propane and many units can start without power from the grid, it offers resilience and energy independence in the event of a power outage without the need for a standby generator.
According to PERC, CHP systems offer residential and commercial customers an energy solution that’s environmentally friendly, affordable, and reliable—plus, many won’t go down with the electric grid. That’s particularly important in light of previous winter grid failures, such as what happened in Texas February 2021. Record cold temperatures plunged Texas into a power crisis, with millions in the state losing power. The failure demonstrates the vulnerability of power grids to shifting weather patterns that come with climate change and are causing Americans to seek other reliable energy options.
Micro-CHP (mCHP) units in the 1-3 kW range can provide heat and power for a standard 1,800 sq ft home. Larger homes with greater demands including a pool, or multi-family dwellings would require a unit from 3-10 kW of power, such as those available from Yanmar. Large apartment buildings, commercial establishments and light industrial use may require units sized from 10-50 kW of power. For large industrial/institutional buildings with high demand loads, CHPs in the 50 kW+ range are not uncommon.
The free, downloadable brochure details some of the key benefits of propane-powered CHPs, including:
- Propane-powered CHP and micro-CHP systems outpace the efficiency and emissions of traditional heating or water heating systems, surpassing energy savings from even the most efficient boilers.
- In commercial micro-CHP systems, propane units reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15% compared with diesel and 50% compared with electric.
- Propane models reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by 13% compared with natural gas and 50% compared with electric.
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