What is CHP?

CHP stands for combined heat and power, and it’s also referred to as cogeneration or distributed generation. CHP basically involves the simultaneous production of two types of energy (heat and electricity) from a single fuel source, usually natural gas. This ability to create two forms of energy from one source offers extreme efficiency, translating to cost savings and environmental benefits.

According to the EPA, CHP technology can be rolled out quickly, cost-effectively, and with little to no geographic limitations. It can utilize a wide spectrum of fuels, both fossil- and renewable-based and is mainly used in industrial, commercial, and institutional applications. CHP provides highly efficient electricity and process heat to vital industries, large employers, urban centers, and campuses throughout the country.

In fact, CHP applications can operate at 65 to 75 percent efficiency, a vast improvement over the national average of under 50 percent for these services when provided separately.

Key Components

There are a few key components that are a part of combined heat and power systems, including an internal combustion and reciprocating engine driving an electric generator. The natural gas-fired engine spins the generator to make electricity, with the byproduct of the working engine being heat.

That heat is then used to supply space heating, heating for domestic hot water, hot water for laundry or heat for swimming pools and hot tubs. The CHP process works in a similar way to that of an automobile, where the engine powers the rotation of the wheels and the byproduct — heat — keeps the passengers warm in winter.


Combined heat and power systems use fuel in a very efficient way. As alluded to above, a CHP system provides both electricity and heat at a combined high efficiency that in some cases can approach 90 percent. This is much better than the combination of the 35 percent for electric utility and a conventional heating boiler with a 65 percent seasonal efficiency.

What factors into such a big difference in fuel efficiency between the electric utility and a CHP system? The electric utility and CHP system each produce electricity and heat from a single fuel source, but the main difference is that the heat produced at the electric utility is not used. Rather, it, along with greenhouse gases and other pollutants, goes into the cooling water or up through the smokestack. Thus, two thirds of the fuel’s energy is wasted.

When generating electricity, a CHP system recovers nearly all of the heat it makes, provided that it is properly sized.

Contact RLN Energy Services

We would be happy to recommend, locate, install and commission the CHP system that is right for you and your business. Contact us now at 780-991-8575 to learn more.

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