U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Tribal Energy Program
Combined Heat and Power Technology Basics
CHP technologies utilize both electricity and heat produced from a single source. These systems recover heat that normally would be wasted in an electricity generator, and use it to produce one or more of the following: steam, hot water, space heating, desiccant dehumidification, or cooling. Through the use of CHP systems, the fuel that would otherwise be used to produce heat or steam in a separate unit is saved.
CHP offers dramatic advantages in efficiency and much lower air pollution than conventional technologies. In conventional conversion of fuel to electricity, over two thirds of the energy input is discarded as heat to the environment. By recycling this waste heat, CHP systems achieve efficiencies of 60% to 80% — a dramatic improvement over the average 33% efficiency of conventional fossil-fueled power plants. Higher efficiencies reduce air emissions of nitrous oxides, sulfur dioxide, mercury, particulate matter, and carbon dioxide.
A wide variety of CHP technologies generate electricity and meet thermal energy needs (direct heat, hot water, steam, process heating and/or cooling) simultaneously, at the point of use. By contrast, conventional generation of electric power discards much of the heat generated during energy production, and conventional thermal energy generation often misses the opportunity to generate power.
To learn more, see Combined Heat and Power Partnership on the EPA Web site.