The implementation of micro scale combined heat and power systems is one of the ways to improve the energy security of consumers. In fact, there are many available large and medium scale cogeneration units, which operate according to the Rankine Cycle. Due to European Union demands in the field of using renewable energy sources and increasing energy efficiency result in the importance of additionally developing systems dedicated for use in residential buildings, farms, schools and other facilities. This paper shows the concept of introducing thermoelectric generators into typical wood stoves: steel plate wood stoves and accumulative wood stoves. Electricity generated in thermoelectric generators (there were studies on both three market available units and a prototypical unit developed by the authors) may be firstly consumed by the system (to power controller, actuators, fans, pumps, etc.). Additional power (if available) may be stored in batteries and then used to power home appliances (light, small electronics and others). It should be noted that commercially available thermoelectric generators are not matched for domestic heating devices – the main problems are connected with an insufficient heat flux transmitted from the stove to the hot side of the generator (caused e.g. by the non -homogeneous temperature distribution of the surface and bad contact between the stove and the generator) and inefficient cooling. To ensure the high efficiency of micro cogeneration systems, developing a dedicated construction both of the generator and the heat source is necessary.
This paper provides some information about thermoelectric technology. Some new materials with improved figures of merit are presented. These materials in Peltier modules make it possible to generate electric current thanks to a temperature difference. The paper indicates possible applications of thermoelectric modules as interesting tools for using various waste heat sources. Some zero-dimensional equations describing the conditions of electric power generation are given. Also, operating parameters of Peltier modules, such as voltage and electric current, are analyzed. The paper shows chosen characteristics of power generation parameters. Then, an experimental stand for ongoing research and experimental measurements are described. The authors consider the resistance of a receiver placed in the electric circuit with thermoelectric elements. Finally, both the analysis of experimental results and conclusions drawn from theoretical findings are presented. Voltage generation of about 1.5 to 2.5 V for the temperature difference from 65 to 85 K was observed when a bismuth telluride thermoelectric couple (traditionally used in cooling technology) was used.