The Baxi Ecogen Micro-CHP is the first wall-hung combined heat and power (CHP) unit is currently only available through British Gas' network of installers. It's only suitable for houses on the mains gas network.
Baxi claims that the Ecogen is the most important set-change for the home heating industry since the condensing boiler. I am not sure that it lives up to the fanfare.
Although it looks very much like the traditional boiler it aims to replace, it is double the weight, at around 115 kg. This means it must be hung on a double brick or concrete wall on the ground floor with space to site three meters nearby. You will need an insulated cylinder to store the hot water, and it’s a bit noisy, so finding the right place to put it is nowhere near as straight forward as it is for the conventional boiler it’s aiming to replace. This was all pointed out to me by a British Gas representative, who seemed to be doing his best to put me off the idea of installing one.
Inside the unit a free piston Stirling engine generates up to 1kWh of electricity while heating your radiators and hot water. Baxi claims that it can reliably satisfy up to two thirds of a typical householder's electrical requirements, based on 400 field trials in the UK.
Under the recently launched Feed-In Tariffs (FIT) scheme, the first 30,000 people to install micro-CHP will be paid 10p for every kWh or electricity generated and an additional 3p oer kWh for any unused electricity exported back to the grid. This Clean Energy Cashback payment will continue for 10 years.
As for the cost of the new micro-CHP boiler, well neither Baxi nor British Gas were prepared to give me any figures, it is expected to be in the region of £3,000. British Gas was, however, prepared to tell me that the unit should pay for itself within eight years!
British Gas offers to conduct free home assessments, including a calculation prior to installation, to check whether the Ecogen Micro-CHP would be suitable and economically viable for a customer's property. For more information, you can visit British Gas website or call 0800 009 4450. But expect a call back – they are still in the process of training staff on this new Ecogen unit.
If you are not on mains gas, the micro-CHP unit is expected be available through Calor from late July 2010.
In the pipeline:
Ceres Power aims to launch a fuel cell-based product onto the mass market in 2011. Also expected in 2011 is the wall-mounted Genlec - which claims to be a "low cost" micro-CHP technology comprising an Organic Rankine Cycle module.
Worcester-Bosch is trialling the Greenstar CDi Dual Gen, which uses a sterling engine with condensing boiler technology. It is expected on the market in 2012.