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Why it pays to maintain your CHP unit

If your combined heat and power (CHP) system isn’t properly maintained, you could lose your energy savings and government benefits. Why risk it?

Keeping your equipment in tip-top condition is key to its longevity. This is especially true with a complex CHP unit. As with any mechanical system, it needs regular maintenance to keep it running at maximum efficiency.

Considering a CHP unit’s primary purpose is to significantly reduce your energy costs and CO2 – if it isn’t working properly, it will take a lot longer to get a return on your investment.

Prevention is the key to performance

To reduce the risk of a dip in the performance of your CHP system, you need to schedule in regular maintenance checks. This helps cut the need for expensive and time consuming plant or operation closures whilst repairs are taking place.

Let’s look at the facts

Set up costs

Installing a CHP costs between $1,000 to $1,500 per kWe (depending on the unit size). And the savings it produces means it can pay for itself in less than five years.

Financial and environmental benefits

CHPs provide the following:

  • A minimum of 10% energy savings is required by the CHP quality assurance scheme, although much higher savings are usually achieved
  • Cost savings of up to 40% over electricity sourced from the grid and heat generated by on-site boilers
  • Up to 80% efficiency or more at the point of use

These benefits are all based on a CHP system running at maximum efficiency, or as near as possible. Run your unit at a lower level than recommended, for example during quieter times, and you simply won’t get the best all round savings that it’s designed to deliver. A constant capacity delivers optimal performance.

The risk of ignoring maintenance

Apart from the general health of the unit and the energy savings you can make, lack of regular maintenance will also impact your combined heat and power quality assurance certification. This has to be maintained annually otherwise you’ll lose out on the following benefits:

  • Climate change levy exemption
  • Enhanced capital allowances
  • Exemption from business rating for CHP plant and machinery

CHP maintenance agreements

Trying to maintain something as complex as a CHP to conform to government regulations requires highly trained professionals and constant monitoring.

It is possible to manage this in-house, however there are high risks including costly shutdowns and loss of government benefits. However, if you enter into an energy services contract with a third-party provider, you’re essentially transferring that risk and responsibility to them.

A ‘fit and forget’ option allows the third party to take over the daily management and maintenance of the CHP system. This is inclusive of any parts and labor required to fix faults or carry out repairs, in addition to routine servicing.

A CHP maintenance contract: five must haves

  1. 24-hour monitoring. By having remote access to your CHP, your maintenance provider can discover, diagnose and fix issues prior to them becoming a nuisance. Some companies also offer an oil analysis program that can spot wear and identify potential faults before they happen.
  2. Monthly reports. A maintenance provider should present monthly reports on how the CHP is operating, and detail any cost savings. You can use this data to inform and reinforce the decision of your colleagues and/or shareholders.
  3. 100% of the work. We recommend a contract that provides a dedicated response. You’ll never have to touch the CHP or handle any of its maintenance – you simply focus on your business. Parts and labor may be included at no charge, depending on your contract.
  4. Fully stocked warehouse and on-call engineers. Handling maintenance on your own can mean having to order parts, and that could delay operations. A maintenance contract with readily available parts ensures minimum downtime for your CHP. Some providers offer a satellite vehicle tracking system and to-site parts delivery, allowing rapid deployment of the nearest fully prepared engineer should a problem arise.
  5. A fixed-cost that covers all eventualities providing security over annual running costs. This means you can focus on running your operation while knowing your heat and electrical needs will always be met.