Pensioners Bernard Gibson and his wife are pioneers in the world of home heating. They are the owners of the very first commercially sold Baxi Ecogen combined heat and power appliance (micro-CHP), which was installed in their Burnley home by British Gas in June 2010.
Increasing energy prices and concerns about his carbon footprint led Mr Gibson to re-evaluate the way he heated his home and hot water. His shift from using a conventional boiler for all his needs came in 2008 when he had solar thermal panels installed to provide hot water, and photovoltaic (PV) panels fitted to generate electricity.
“We want to make our future as economical as possible”, explains Mr Gibson. “The price of energy is unlikely to come down and fossil fuels will become scarcer, so we looked for the most economical way of using the resources we have.
“I read about a gas boiler that also generates electricity and started to investigate. When the Baxi Ecogen became available in April 2010, I did my homework to find out whether it would be viable for use with our solar panels.
“I already knew about the Feed-in Tariff because of our PV. Because it was their first installation, I was even able to help the engineers to provide me with the correct documentation for me to apply!” he adds.
The Baxi Ecogen was installed in the utility room of Mr and Mrs Gibson’s four bedroom semi detached house, in the same position as the old conventional boiler had been. “The installation went very smoothly with minimum disturbance,” says Mr Gibson. “I have been delighted with the unit’s operation. Since it was fitted, the engineer has come out and made a couple of minor adjustments to the system to enhance its performance and efficiency. As an early adopter, I have been pleased to have contact with both the manufacturer and installer; both have said that the feedback I have provided has been valuable.
“We are now using very little gas and are practically self-sufficient for electricity, which is great for our fuel bills, especially during the cold winter months.
“Our present mode of transport is a hybrid car. It has a conventional petrol engine which, as well as driving the car wheels, generates enough electricity for the large motive battery. But the battery can’t be plugged in to recharge it so our next project will be a rechargeable electric car, and we are looking forward to using the Baxi Ecogen to generate the electricity for it!” concludes Mr Gibson.
Baxi Ecogen is a wall hung gas boiler that provides efficient gas central heating and hot water like any other boiler and also generates electricity for use in the home – a dual energy system. It does not require planning permission and does not rely on the weather or building orientation to work.
For electricity generation, the Baxi Ecogen uses a Stirling engine that is heated by burning gas. Helium inside expands and contracts to move a piston up and down between a copper coil, generating up to 1kWh of electricity at 50Hz single phase.
It comes with a built-in energy meter to show how much electricity is being produced. A range of intelligent controls has been designed to set and control room and hot water temperatures, and weather compensation is also available, to allow further reductions on fuel bills and carbon emissions.
Baxi Ecogen is MCS certified, and must be fitted by an MCS certified installer, like British Gas, to be eligible for the Feed-in Tariff (FIT). Under FIT, electricity suppliers will pay householders a generation tariff of 10p for every kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity generated and an export tariff of 3p for every kWh of electricity exported back.
Because electricity generated close to its point of use is much more energy efficient than that provided by power stations, the environment also benefits from significant reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. A Baxi Ecogen will save around 0.8 of a tonne of CO2 over an A rated boiler. And it can save 3.3 tonnes of CO2 over a G rated boiler.