Sunday, June 01, 2008

Co-Gen Unit Installed--Finally!

After 14 months, finally, the Ecopower combined heat and power unit (CHP) is installed. It has been running now for about 3 weeks, and after some initial debugging, it seems to be working well. Above is a picture of the unit in our basement. The Ecopower is clearly in the foreground. The silvery thing behind and to the right is a new water storage tank that is in addition to my normal hot water tank (to the left and behind the copper pipes), and this new tank acts as a heat storage unit.

According to the installer, this unit is indeed the first residential co-gen unit installed in Connecticut.

The unit is very quiet. We never hear it upstairs while it is running. This surely beats having a noisey back-up generator in the back yard. Our CHP is presently grid-tied which means that it is not set up for backup power. In the case of a power failure, the CHP will also go down. This will change once the "island mode" electronics become available. Current target date for that is December, 2008, but given the amount of time it took for this thing to become installed, I'm not so optimistic that it will be ready then. We'll see.

I've been monitoring the power this generates (5 KW max power) on a daily basis and will post some graphs in due time. It seems to be generating about 40% of our monthly baseload power while satisfying our hot water usage (I can't say "hot water needs" because we definitely use more than we need!). The heating season is over, so we won't know about the winter power generation until it gets cold enough again in the late fall.

This past winter provided some opportunities to determine our (past) heating oil use vs. our geothermal heat pump power use, and I want to post that data first for comparison to our new system.

Funny thing about this co-gen unit. We agreed to purchase it in February, 2007. Since then, the oil situation has changed for the worse. While I'm still glad we got this thing, it seems our next goal will be to make the ecopower less critical to the daily house operation. This CHP technology is a great improvement efficiency-wise, but I can't help but wonder if it isn't coming 20 years too late.

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