Micro-CHP systems could be the direction that will shape the mechanical systems of our home.
I have been at a few residential construction sites where green building practices are being implemented lately, and I have been on a few where no one seemed to understand that this was the future. We are conservative by nature when it comes to building our homes, but we are not dumb; we take to innovation when we see it practicality, and the cost comes down. I have written about CHP systems before, and a popular recent post was about the natural gas generators that Centerpoint wants to help us purchase. I was surprised when speaking to people who called me about these articles that more were familiar with the idea of micro-CHP than what I would have thought. We seem primed for changes in our home.
I have been looking at new technologies for the home with more intensity lately. I admit that I am something of an early adapter;however, I think we are at a point where there may be a revolution of sorts in home building. I could very well be wrong. Builders are beginning to speak of advanced framing techniques, where I never heard them speak about non-traditional framing methods. When examining what is happening in the manufacturing industries, I see more methods being used to recapture existing heat/energy for reuse. I believe that is what might lead to the adoption of micro-CHP systems in homes. (These are systems that combine heat production for air and water along with energy in one unit).
I had been joking with some people that I wanted to use the return line for my refrigerant in the air cooling equipment to heat my water. You see those lines can be quite hot when going back to the compressor, where it is cooled down and sent back to the evaporator coil to cool the air. I fantasized about looping this return line in my hot water tank, where the heat would dissipate in the water, making less work for the compressor. When taking this idea a little more seriously, I considered how the solar assisted water heating portion of my water heating could incorporate the heat from the air conditioning system. Recapturing any bit of heat for reuse is smart, energy efficient, and maybe not too difficult.
How could that heat be recaptured? Since the return line is a copper line, I could use a few methods that may not gain all of the heat, but they will add some to my water heater. Running water in a copper line wrapped around this return line would heat up. Creating a heat exchanger box where the heat from the line would dissipate in the box to be taken up by other lines running through the box ( a similar idea to the solar power assisted water heater). A little more complex is having the line pass through a water bath that become a supply source for hot water. More complex because it would need to be of an acceptable material for water in home use, and having this tank enclosed from exterior debris. Not impossible obstacles, just a little hard for the average homeowner.
I have not seen manufacturers offering products like this yet. Considering that current technologies for the home will be in use for some time to come, I think products that help the homeowner reuse heat or energy from other sources will be the next phase of green products for the home. If you look at your home’s systems, you may begin to discover energy from one area that could be used in another system. Some current ideas and equipment may help you to develop your own recapturing device.