Case Study: New CHP System Lowers Energy Bill by 23 Percent

And installer receives $5,000 toward equipment and installation.

In the first two months of 2012, the electricity and water heating costs at a Danbury, Conn., car wash serviced by local energy-systems installer Norbert E. Mitchell Co. fell by 23 percent — $2,368.29, to be exact — compared with the same months from 2011. The installer achieved this dramatic energy cost reduction by supplementing the customer's existing boiler unit with a micro-combined heat and power (CHP) system. At this rate of savings, the car-wash owners will recoup in just five or six years of continual operation the roughly $45,000 they spent on the system.

And if the potential for a fast payback from energy savings weren't reason enough for the Norbert E. Mitchell Co. to recommend a CHP system, the company found an additional incentive: $5,000 from the Propane Exceptional Product program.

How did the company decide that an innovative but still-emerging technology such as CHP could become the centerpiece of a profitable and differentiating service offering? The decision was built on research and partnership.

"We'd long known about CHPs in industrial settings," Mitch Mitchell, gas services manager for Norbert E. Mitchell Co., says. "But it wasn't until Marathon came up with [the Ecopower] that we saw a product that was a contender for the residential and mixed-use marketplace. That's when we started a relationship with Marathon, learning to service the units it had installed in our area and becoming more comfortable about the technology and the manufacturer."

Once Mitchell and his service team became familiar with the Ecopower and felt confident about the model's in-field performance, they committed the company to becoming its exclusive regional dealer and installer. At the same time, the sales and marketing team at Marathon told Mitchell about the Propane Exceptional Product program.

"We heard about the program from our Marathon rep," Mitchell says. "Once we knew the product was right and that the manufacturer was [committed to this market], it was a no-brainer to apply for the program rebate."

Indeed, the program is a fine fit for the Norbert E. Mitchell Co. — and remodeling firms, builders, and owners willing to lead the pack toward the mainstream adoption of promising, if unfamiliar, propane technologies. The program provides financial incentives of up to $10,000 toward the purchase and use of innovative products such as CHPs, as long as participants agree to meet requirements regarding system installation and operation.

In addition to including Marathon's 2.7-kilowatt Ecopower CHP, the program accepts the larger, 10-kilowatt Yanmar CP10WN, intended for light commercial use. While this unit is new to the United States, a version of it has been used in Japan and other Asian countries for more than 13 years, George Woodcock, manager of Yanmar America Corp.'s Energy System Division, says.

"We've made some slight modifications to it to meet the U.S. market and get EPA certification," Woodcock says, adding that it also has a UL 2200 listing for generator use. This means that it has undergone high-level UL testing, an important consideration for municipalities and owners of commercial buildings.

Both units appear in the training video "Innovative Propane Technologies: Micro-Combined Heat and Power."

For more information about the Propane Exceptional Product program, including incentive amounts, qualification requirements, and a list of eligible products, go to propaneexceptionalproduct.com.


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