Make Electric Power in Your Basement?

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Solar is great if you have a good roof. But what if you don’t? Why not make kilowatt-hours in your basement? Small residential Combined Heat & Power (CH&P) boilers that run on natural gas can effectively cut the greenhouse gas emissions in half, because these boilers don’t just make hot water, they also make electricity.


A few companies are now introducing residential-sized CH&P units that are about the size of a clothes dryer, and make from 1 KW to 6 KW of electricity, just the amount of power needed in an average home using from about 300 kWh a month to about 900 kWh (you’d need to look at your bill to see your monthly usage, but most of us are in this range.)

Then the hot water produced is more than enough to supply the needs of average homeowners. And great for homeowners in cold climates who want to do radiant heating as well as hot water (as well as get the electricity!)

Hundreds of companies already make these for Japan and Europe, including two vehicle manufacturers, Volkswagen and Honda. European climate policies strongly encourage co-generation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and legislation includes mandatory boiler replacements every ten years.

But this year, several mini CH&P units are being shown for sales here, one from Germany and one from Japan. Germany’s PowerPlus Technologies which has long supplied the ecopower to Europe is partnering with Wisconsin’s Marathon Engine Systems to bring it to to the US. Japan’s 6 kW Aisin G60 is one that is popular in Japan, where electricity rates were 30 – 40 cents or more a kilowatt hour – ten years ago. Almost 80% of Japanese homes have co-generation units.

But Distributed Energy details one problem. A mismatch between the two outputs: electricity and heat. Six kilowatts of electricity, along with ten gallons a minute of 140°–150°F hot water. For a business that would need that much hot water the 6 KW of electricity supplies only a fraction of its electricity needs. But for a homeowner who would be well covered with a 6 KW electricity supply – that’s far too much hot water.

And then there’s the electrical permitting. Unlike solar power produced onsite that gets fed to the grid, there is no infrastructure making electrical permitting routine in the US. This is all new, even to the EPA. But it is worth checking out. Aisin says if there is any kind of volume in US sales, their price would drop to $6,000.

Consumers Energy, a small electricity coop in Iowa commissioned one in 2004, and was unimpressed by what it worked out to be the electricity rate generated back then in Iowa, at 15 -18 cents a kWh. But in many states that have seen prices for electricity rise, that is a bargain now.

Image: Flikr user Antti Lehtinen

Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

CleanTechnica Holiday Wish Book

Holiday Wish Book Cover

Click to download.

Our Latest EVObsession Video

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it!! So, we've decided to completely nix paywalls here at CleanTechnica. But...
Like other media companies, we need reader support! If you support us, please chip in a bit monthly to help our team write, edit, and publish 15 cleantech stories a day!
Thank you!

CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.

8 thoughts on “Make Electric Power in Your Basement?

  • Oh. Actually, this is not a new thing anymore. I already saw this done some countries and some households in the US as well. But this is still a not much known alternative for most of us homeowners. But this is really a great idea and a great way to reduce electric bills.

  • Learn something new everyday.

    Unfortunately these things run off gas and not energy falling out of the sky, so there’s a fuel cost. From my experience with Gas heating it’s not a super cheap source of energy.

    A way a co-generation system might make sense was if the heat source was solar thermal, like a solar water heating system, but it depends how these residential generators turn gas into electricity.

    • Yeah, solar thermal would be a much cleaner source for a co-generation unit than gas. But as long as people use gas, this is a way to make it cleaner, by getting 2 outputs per input. In Europe they use biomass waste.

  • I read about a company that uses solar thermal for hot water(heating) in the winter and used the excess heat in the summer to run a Stirling engine to produce electricity to run the AC. It seems like a good idea. I imagine there is a ton more heat generated in the summer than needed for hot water. Might as well put it to use.

  • The response to my queries have been very easy to comprehend thanks to this blog. It is definitely worth reading to help relieve the stress I have been encountering. I suggest this for an award.

  • OK article, but I’d like some technical details on how different CG systems work.

  • Why produce electicity this way for 15-20 cents per KW when nuclear produces the same for a retail rate at half the cost with ZERO green house gases? This just uses natural gas for nothing.

  • Helpful info. CHP works well when space heating is done with circulating hot water, in radiators and radiant floors; the norm in norther europe. German units are preferred in Scandinavia…e.g., Siemens and Krupps. Even more ubiquitous in Scandinavia are centralized community boilers which circulate heated water through insulated pipe networks.

    Capstone Turbine has been doing CHP for years using microturbines and heat exchangers, in 30kW and 60kW packages, that can be configured for several liquid and gas fuels. They produce 3-phase AC power at the same time, nice match for light industry.

Comments are closed.