This paper presents a methodology to estimate the economic, emissions, and energy benefits that could be obtained from a base loaded CHP system using screening parameters and system component efficiencies. On the basis of the location of the system and the facility power to heat ratio, the power that must be supplied by a base loaded CHP system in order to potentially achieve cost, emissions, or primary energy savings can be estimated. A base loaded CHP system is analyzed in nine US cities in different climate zones, which differ in both the local electricity generation fuel mix and local electricity prices. Its potential to produce economic, emissions, and energy savings is quantified on the basis of the minimum fraction of the useful heat to the heat recovered by the CHP system (φmin). The values for φmin are determined for each location in terms of cost, emissions, and energy. Results indicate that in terms of cost, four of the nine evaluated cities (Houston, San Francisco, Boulder, and Duluth) do not need to use any of the heat recovered by the CHP system to potentially generate cost savings. On the other hand, in cities such as Seattle, around 86% of the recovered heat needs to be used to potentially provide cost savings. In terms of emissions, only Chicago, Boulder, and Duluth are able to reduce emissions without using any of the recovered heat. In terms of primary energy consumption, only Chicago and Duluth do not require the use of any of the recovered heat to yield primary energy savings. For the rest of the evaluated cities, some of the recovered heat must be used in order to reduce the primary energy consumption with respect to the reference case. In addition, the effect of the efficiency of the power generation unit and the facility power to heat ratio on the potential of the CHP system to reduce cost, emissions, and primary energy is investigated, and a graphical method is presented for examining the trade-offs between power to heat ratio, base loading fraction, percentage of recovered heat used, and minimum ratios for cost, emissions, and primary energy. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.