Exclusive: The ‘Flow Energy’ Boiler That Heats & Makes electricity too

When the guys from flow energy got in touch we were intrigued by their patented MicroCHP (combined heat and power) central heating boiler that makes electricity while heating your casa.

We asked Flow’s CEO, Tony Stiff, to tell us a bit more about the technology and where he sees smart home micro generation heading in the next decade…

Hi Tony, can you tell us a bit about your background and what brought you to the world of heating innovation.

Hi Mark, thanks for having me. I’ve actually always had a history of working with energy and innovation.

Before I joined flow group, I was the commercial director of Bglobal plc where I helped prove the concept of their smart-metering products and was responsible for securing commercial contracts with leading energy suppliers. In 2000, I founded Atlantic electric and Gas Limited, a business backed by US-based Sempra Energy, Inc.

The business quickly became one of the UK’s leading independent energy suppliers, with over 300,000 customers. In 1994, I founded Webbins limited (“Webbins”). I wanted to exploit the gap in the market for a software product that customers could use to evaluate energy contracts. having grown Webbins into a company with over 100 staff and £10m turnover, I negotiated the sale of the company to MMT Computing plc, and continued to manage the business for three years afterwards.

For someone that’s never heard of it before, can you explain the MicroCHP concept?

MicroCHP or ‘micro combined heat and Power’ is a technology which allows the production of electricity in the home. There are a few different versions of the technology but we use the organic Rankine Cycle.

Our microCHP product is a domestic gas boiler. It uses patented technology inside the boiler to generate electricity at the same time as it’s heating a home. Gas enters the boiler as usual, but instead of heating the water directly, it heats a liquid – a coolant similar to that used in refrigerators. This liquid evaporates and moves through a scroll expander that begins to spin acting like a small dynamo. The electricity it generates can either be used in the home or exported to the Grid.

So why do I need a boiler that makes electricity as well as heat, can it possibly be as efficient as the power station supplying my home?

Big power stations tend to lose a lot of energy when they generate electricity. more of the energy is lost when that electricity is transmitted down power lines to customer homes.

The flow boiler generates electricity in a highly efficient system in the home and the electricity is then used within the home so there are no losses in transmission. This means that the flow boiler generates electricity more cost effectively and with less carbon emissions than big power stations do. The flow boiler can generate electricity worth around £200 each year – worth £500 if you include Feed-in Tariff payments – and it does that by burning only about £50 of additional gas a year, reducing household carbon emissions by up to 20%, or 1,000 kg of co2.

Does your high-tech boiler come with high-tech controls so I can schedule and control it from my smartphone?

The launch version of the flow boiler is controlled with a standard thermostat. However, we are working to integrate remote and intelligent control for future versions – so watch this space.

The ultimate aim will be able to give customers better visibility and control over their energy use, all the while, reducing their carbon footprint and overall energy bill.

The Automated home currently uses a conventional boiler fuelled by heating oil. Can the flow boiler replace this setup easily?

The flow boiler uses natural gas or LPG and doesn’t work with heating oil. However, it’s relatively easy to convert a home’s heating system to use LPG rather than oil and then a flow boiler could be installed simply and quickly.

Do you have a range of models for different sized homes?

Our launch model is suitable for 3-5 bedroom homes that currently have a separate hot water tank. We plan to launch a combination boiler in the future which doesn’t require a separate hot water tank and which will be suitable for both larger and smaller houses.

To make sure the flow boiler is right for a customer’s home, we ask a few quick qualifying questions and then, if the answers match, we conduct a free home survey to confirm.

Are there any government grants available to help with the costs and what’s the payback time for someone investing in the flow system?

MicroCHP as a technology does attract a dedicated Feed-in Tariff. However, to celebrate the launch of the flow boiler we’re actually providing our own support for the product with a guaranteed payback model over five years. If a customer installs a flow boiler, switches their home energy to us and assigns Feed-in Tariff payments to us too, then we’ll reduce their home energy bill by £4,800 over five yeArs. Questo è più del costo della caldaia.

La caldaia a flusso richiede un supporto specialistico o può essere servita da qualsiasi ingegnere di riscaldamento?

La caldaia a flusso verrà installata da un installatore di flusso accreditato e deve essere riparata e riparata anche da un installatore di flusso accreditato. La caldaia viene fornita con una garanzia del produttore di 2 anni sulla caldaia stessa e una garanzia di 2 anni sul modulo di alimentazione che genera elettricità ospitato all’interno della caldaia. Tuttavia, la garanzia del modulo di alimentazione continua per un massimo di 10 anni se il cliente continua a rimanere con il flusso per l’energia domestica.

Con le sfide che ci attendono per la rete nazionale e parlano di batterie a domicilio e micro generazione, cosa pensi che il sistema di energia domestica standard apparirà tra un decennio?

Credo che Microchp sarà il sistema di riscaldamento di fatto tra 10 anni. Useremo ancora il gas tra 10 anni, ma l’attenzione sarà focalizzata sull’uso del nostro gas molto, in modo molto più efficiente, come fa la caldaia di flusso. Microchp sarà probabilmente integrato nel sistema di energia domestica dal solare per l’estate e aumentato con una soluzione a batteria per conservare l’energia prodotta. Indubbiamente, l’intero sistema sarà controllato tramite smartphone e avrà caratteristiche e funzioni intelligenti integrate, per ottimizzare le sue prestazioni.

I dispositivi collegati in casa opereranno automaticamente a volte in cui il sistema di energia domestica produce la maggior parte dell’elettricità e possono spegnere quando viene prodotta poca elettricità. I contatori intelligenti consentiranno la creazione di tariffe energetiche intelligenti, fornendo energia più economica al largo e migliori ricompense per la produzione di energia alle ore di punta.

Quella visione è il motivo per cui penso che lo spazio energetico sia così eccitante al momento. L’energia è così fondamentale per la nostra vita e l’emergere della casa connessa ed efficiente potrebbe mettere le società energetiche in una posizione unica per fornire soluzioni innovative ai clienti.

Grazie per averci parlato oggi – dove dovrebbero andare le persone per saperne di più?

Sei il benvenuto Mark, grazie per aver parlato con me. Puoi scoprire tutte le ultime informazioni sulla caldaia Flow sul nostro sito Web – www.flowenergy.uk.com dove puoi anche registrare il tuo interesse.

flowenergy.uk.com: Discutere nel nostro forum di riscaldamento

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