Micro combined heat and power, or micro-CHP, is an extension of the well established use of co-generation technology for single family homes, small office buildings, or other small commercial and industrial facilities. Energy applications typically require some combination of heat, air conditioning, ventilation, and mechanical or electrical power. Normally, energy is produced by a heat engine that can nearly achieve perfect efficiency and must always produce a surplus of low-temperature heat, usually referred to as waste heat. Since the waste heat cannot be efficiently transported over long distances, burning fuel at the site of energy production and usage enables cogeneration technology, or combined heat and power (CHP) devices, to produce electrical energy with heat as a captured by-product. CHP systems have been effective for more than three decades, producing economically efficient industrial energy on a large scale, typically measured in megawatts (MW) of electricity, with residual heat production used for some type of water or space heating. Micro-CHP systems, on the other hand, are used in homes or for small commercial or industrial applications. They reverse the traditional CHP order of priority by being controlled by heat-demand and delivering power as the by-product in the form of electricity, typically on the scale of less than 100kW. In addition to providing maximum efficiency in heat usage and power generation, micro-CHP systems achieve significant economic savings by enabling one to sell excess electrical power back to the electrical utility in a "net-metering" model.
MCCHP systems, such as M-TriGen's PowerAire, combine to produce cooling as well as heat and power. Sometimes referred to as Trigeneration, combined cooling, heat and power systems achieve a secondary level of efficiency in optimizing the production and usage of cool air through the use of conventional HVAC compressor driven by the engine drive train or including an absorption chiller. Trigeneration systems are effective for buildings as well as some industrial processes requiring continuous uses for both heating and cooling.
One of the major advantages of MCCHP technology is that it can accommodate many different types of fuels according to such qualifiers as system cost, heat cost, environmental effects, convenience, ease of transportation, storage, and system maintenance. M-TriGen's PowerAire and PortAire units are available using natural gas, propane, diesel fuel, and gasoline.