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Honda Pushes into Residential Combined Heating and Power in the US


In a further extension of its work in distributed power generation and vehicle fueling, American Honda Motor Company is partnering with Massachusetts-based Climate Energy to bring micro combined heat and power (MCHP) co-generation technology to the home.

The new MCHP system uses natural gas to provide residential heat efficiently, with the added benefit of producing electric power for residential use.

Honda will supply its compact home-use co-generation unit to Climate Energy who will combine it with a furnace or boiler, and market the entire system as an alternative to conventional space heating and electric power in new and existing homes. Working in coordination with state and local authorities as well as energy utilities, limited in-home field test installations will occur by late 2005, with more widespread distribution planned from fall 2006.

The Honda unit consists of a small natural gas-powered internal combustion engine (the GE160V) developed specifically for this application, and a small electrical generation system that utilizes Honda’s sine wave inverter technology.

Honda bills the GE160V as the world’s smallest reciprocating gas engine. A three-way catalyst and oxygen feedback control reduce NOx emissions, resulting in cleaner exhaust gas emissions than those of conventional domestic water heaters.

Honda also expects the system to yield a 30% reduction in harmful carbon dioxide emissions as compared with conventional heating appliances and grid-supplied electricity.

Designed primarily for detached single-family homes, the unit will generate up to three kilowatts of thermal output per hour and one kilowatt of electricity.

The complete Climate Energy Micro-CHP system, powered by the Honda MCHP unit, results in more than 85% efficiency in converting fuel energy into useful heat and electric power.

A similar version of Honda’s co-generation unit has been available for general use in Japan since March of 2003, and is now in more than 15,000 homes.

This is the third distributed generation and/or fueling project Honda has introduced recently:

  • Phill home natural gas fueling for the Civic GX, now available in California (post)

  • The Home Energy System (HES) II for hydrogen, heat and power generation (post)

  • The new Micro CHP


Does this latest venture delivering home power generation hint at a return of a new version of the 1997 Honda EV Plus electric car? (Drawing to the right.) No, not directly.

But among the automakers, Honda is clearly the one swinging out the most in terms of exploring the possibilities of distributed power and (poly)-fueling. (Post on Honda’s polyfuel strategy.)

If Honda begins seeing full electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles as an emerging option to explore, then the MCHP system would fit nicely into the larger strategy. In the short term, though, this is an extension of its engine and power line of business.


Ron Fischer

Add to this use of the battery onboard a plugged-in hybrid for load-levelling and you have quite a system. The analysis question for any of these is how cheaply can it be built to be reliable and how high do fuel costs need to be before significant sales would occur?


I don't know if you covered this but Honda last week introduced
iGX Engine, 15 horsepower overhead cam (OHC) engine

Potential new applications and attributes of this technology include:
- pressure washers that automatically start or stop when the user
squeezes or releases the trigger handle;
- water pumps that can be automatically activated based on water level by
a remote switch;
- lawn mowers that can automatically vary engine speed based on load so
the engine does not slow in thick grass;
- generators that can automatically start when required and vary engine
speed based on electrical draw.


Ron:  That's hard to tell, given that the news item says zilch about prices and all the interesting things are hidden behind a passworded barrier.  Not even Bugmenot helps.

I've been anticipating this for a while.  It disappoints (but does not surprise) me that this piece of progress comes out of Japan instead of the USA; we had a manufacturer of domestic cogenerators up to 1994 (Intelligen), but the companies with the manufacturing capacity to jump into this market when it ripened have failed to do so.


Price is $8000 according to this article.


Hmmm.  Way higher than what I expected, especially for so small a unit.  Probably isn't economical until the price comes down by half or more.


hmm, I guess you want the electricity generation for free. It's only $3000 - $4000 more than conventional heating system.
A Solar version costs between $15000 to $20,000.


What I "want" is a price on the order of a car's powertrain:  the engine, transmission, exhaust and cooling system of a typical car cost less than this one-cylinder machine while putting out around 100 times the power.  It should be possible to build a cogenerator for less than the price of a car's powertrain, just because it's got fewer parts.

Gene  DeJoannis

Micro CHP is right! 3 kW thermal output is only 10,240 Btu / hr. Even a small row house with 2 short walls exposed has a higher peak heat loss than that, in nothern climates. So it cannot handle peak heating loads of most free-standing homes, and certainly not domestic hot water needs which are about 10 times that output. And a 1 kW electric output isn't too practical either. It might work for a VERY small home, built to VERY low heat loss standards. While I would like to see more homes move in that direction, I cannot see much of a market for this now.

Another issue is the recip engine as the power source. Honda is as good as you can get in this field, but still it's a complex design that has got to need more maintenance than a simple heating boiler. What will be the life of this engine if it runs 3000 hours per year?
I could see a micro-gas-turbine driving a generator with the exhaust going to a boiler; turbines are much simpler than recips.

But what is the overall strategy here? Is it all to recover 85% of the energy in the fuel. We can do better than than now with a condensing boiler feeding a low temperature distribution system. I see the reduced CO2 advantage versus grid power and separate heating, but this seems to have so many disadvanages as to be unacceptable for most people. I think York's engine powered heat pump of a few year's back was more interesting. Residential natural gas costs are so high now; what are the economics of this versus purchased power and a gas-fired boiler or furnace? I wish it weren't so, but it doesn't look like a breakthrough technology to me.


The teensy power and heat output of this unit look like it's intended to run continously, in addition to another heating unit rather than instead of it.  This means its price cannot be substituted for a conventional furnace, but has to be added to it.  Paying back $8000 with a $600/year revenue stream isn't very attractive; that's awfully close to mortgage interest rates even if the unit lasts forever.

Unfortunately, microturbines are not the solution here.  Flow losses in turbines rise steeply as the size goes down, which is why small cogens use reciprocating engines.  But small cogens can still get considerable advantages in fuel consumption because the "waste" heat... isn't.  If local electric generation is gas-fired, cogeneration uses perhaps half the fuel that remote generation does.


More analysis (and better links, including technical details and photos) on this subject at The Ergosphere.

Rock Island

How far down the road is Ballard Power with their fuel-cell technology unit that should do the same thing with zero emissions. Or is the cost way out there?


I'm not an engineer, but from a common-sense standpoint Honda just seems to be selling existing (or close) portable generating eguipment for inside home use and using the waste heat for ambient heating. Where's the big breakthrough? I recall someone proposing this cogeneration scheme in Popular Science decades ago using existing straight six automobile engines (Chrysler slant six engines as I recall). Reeks of inspired marketing less than breakthrough technology, at least to me. And what about maintenance? As reliable as they are, even my Honda and Acura need engine work now and then... certainly more often than my only 85% efficient "off-brand" Thermal Zone furnace/AC.

But maybe I just don't see the advantages like a trained engineer would. I'm not a thermodynamics expert, much less an engineer.





Intellectually challenged and lazy americans.
2 kw capacity continuous,
$120/mo electric bill,
40 million BTU/yr,
$0.08/kwh for electricity
What do all these have in common?
The average american home energy use from late 1940's to early 2000's prior to the sudden increase in energy prices in 2004.
Divide 1500 kwh by 24hrs/day divide by 30da/mo equals 2kw capacity continuous.
Unblievable,yes, but the amount of energy used by the average home in America was stable for 20 years. As computer use increased 15-30%, energy conservation, insulation, efficient motors, accounted for the increase in electronic use.

2 kw continuous is adequate for the average American home willing to pay ten cents per KwHr for energy. Folks, very few utilities in 2007 are holding the price of delivered electricity below 10 cents per KwH.
A Honda engine generating 2KwH continuous will use 2 gal/day gasoline x 30 days = 60 gallons/mo at $ = $240/mo
California residents are paying $0.34 per KwH or more for electricity. Home generation with $4/gal gasoline cost less than grid power in California.
Substitute your local electric cost and local gasoline cost in the above equation to figure whether the convenience of grid is cost effective.
Personally, I heat with corn for about $300 per year.


Please correct dates above from 1940 -
From 1980-2004 the average American home energy use was stable at 40 million BTU per year. Electronics, computers, and server energy use increased as motor efficiencies, home insulation, and energy conservation improved. Energy use increased 5-10% annually from 1950 through 1970 peaking in 1977-1978 during the OPEC oil embrgo and slightly declining thereafter.
It takes the US DOE, a government agency, about three years to release data to the public so we can know the impact of the recent obsene increase in energy prices. BTW: Does anyone have any idea why there is a $0.64/gallon TARIFF on Brazilian ethanol gasoline? Does OPEC deserve to be subsidized by Brazil?

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

What about a diesel/home-heating-oil variant?

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