Understanding CHP or Combined Heat and Power

Several organizations today are inclined towards sustainable business practices with the aim to conserve the environment. In addition, the need to reduce exorbitant energy costs and enhance efficiency drives organizations in every industry. This is why many progressive organizations actively look for alternatives to traditional energy use such as electricity and heat. As such, one of the widely used energy generating methods is using CHP or commonly known as combined heat and power. This method provides organizations with a number of benefits in comparison to the traditional thermal and electricity production. However, before going into that, let us delve deeper into what CHP is, how it works and its many advantages. 


Combined heat and power, also known as cogeneration, refers to the combined use of a heat engine or power station to generate electricity and heat concurrently. Cogeneration offers a much more efficient method to use energy as it generates electricity and converts the excess heat which can be used in a productive way such as for heating water, the space itself, or something else. In this way, it does not waste the excess heat produced. Cogeneration or CHP have been prevalent for decades during the earliest development of electrical generation. Before power stations were in use, industries producing local power used exhaust steam in heating. Large commercial and residential buildings, facilities like hotels, and stores usually generated their own power and used the waste steam for heating systems.

There are a number of CHP systems available, however, two of the most common CHP systems are:

  • Combustion turbine, or reciprocating engine, with heat recovery device
  • Steam boiler with steam turbine

There is also trigeneration, also known as combined cooling, heat, and power (CCHP), which refers to the concurrent production of electricity and useful heating and cooling from a single heat source such as fuel or solar energy.


CHP units such as combustion CHP systems usually work by burning fuel to turn generators for producing electricity and using a device to store heat that can be reused or by producing steam that can be used to turn a turbine to run a generator for producing electricity as is the case of steam turbines. The steam is then used to generate additional thermal energy for some other use.
CHP units can come in various sizes and can provide service to large residential buildings as well as
generation plants used for running factories or warehouses.


CHP has been widely prevalent in many industries since the 1900s as it is looked upon as a more efficient form of energy production. It Is used widely in several industries, facilities and buildings including:


  • Commercial buildings—office, hotels, health clubs, nursing homes
  • Residential buildings—condominiums, co-ops, apartments, gated community
  • Facilities—schools, colleges and universities, hospitals, military bases
  • Power —wastewater treatment facilities, district energy systems
  • Industries—chemical, refining, paper, food processing, glass manufacturing, etc.


In addition, they are typically installed in facilities or locations that require both electricity and thermal energy. This is also called combined heat and power district heating since the energy generated is used locally and the process minimizes loss of energy and increases efficiency. Although the biggest advantage of using the CHP system is its efficiency, it has a number of other benefits as well. 

Increased Efficiency

Usually, traditional electricity production allows heat to escape into the environment. This results in almost two-thirds of the energy to be lost. On the other hand, combined heat and power generation reuse the heat eliminating waste. As a result, CHP enabled systems can effortlessly have efficiencies higher than 90% whereas traditional electrical and thermal generation provide only up to 50% efficiency.

Reduces Carbon Footprint

Many organizations today are extremely conscious towards employing sustainable solutions that are highly environment friendly. Combined heat and power enabled system generally consumes less fuel than methods of electricity production. This reduces greenhouse gas emissions and other harmful pollutants, enabling your organization to reduce its carbon footprint.

Provides Uninterrupted Power Supply

Since CHP systems are highly efficient, they also reduce energy costs for buildings or facilities. In addition, as the source is installed on-site, it provides energy generation even during local power disruptions, thereby ensuring there is no downtime in your operations. Usually around 7% of energy can be lost when a grid is used to transfer energy from the source of power generation to the end user, thereby increasing the overall efficiency of CHP.


Although the CHP system requires installation and maintenance cost, the benefit it brings to your organization largely offsets the cost with increased efficiency and energy savings as well as reducing energy waste and carbon footprint. A-TECH Engineering – an advanced energy company based in Toronto provides innovative energy solutions including cogeneration or CHP systems. There are several criteria to assess before a CHP unit can be installed in your building or facility to suit your goals and needs. Connect with an A-TECH specialist to discuss the scope of work for your building and transform your building into an energy saving one.