Category Archives: Renewable Energy

Ideal “Heat Plan” for our home

This came from my other blog,

I have come up with various schemes for heating our home efficiently, cheaply and safely. In the past they have all revolved around a hydronic system since we already have baseboard heat. However, we lose our service contract for our oil furnace if we tie in to the system with a solid fuel boiler. Plus hydronic systems need to stay above freezing at all times and since there is no chimney space for another appliance in the house, we would need it in an add-on or in an out building.

Here come’s the magic: wood burning forced hot air furnace. It gives you redundancy (run out of oil, still have wood heat/have a leak in the baseboard, still have forced hot air), it would allow the burning appliance to be in an unheated, unplumbed (ie-cheaper to build and easier to insure and get permits for) add-on to the house and it wouldn’t matter if you went on vacation for a week (the oil would keep the house warm like it does now, and the add-on and furnace would get cold but it wouldn’t matter).

So here is the plan:

* Home heat: Wood forced hot air/oil boiler with baseboard heat
* Hot water: Solar hot water/oil boiler (with indirect tank setup)
* Run the oil boiler with a outside temperature reset

Right now we are heating entirely on oil and burn 650 gallons/year for our 1,250 square ft home. With this new setup I would expect to burn less than 50 gallons/year. This would save us $1,500 per year. Even accounting for gas and wear and tear on the truck getting wood as well as chainsaw fuel and maintenance etc that would mean we’d still save a minimum of $1,000 per year and a maximum of $1,300 per year.

Let’s do some math:

Furnace – $3,100

* $1,100 – US Stove hot air furnace model 1357M
* $1,500 -add-on to house
* $500 – chimney and other hookups

40 gallon Tank water heat zone for oil – $1,500

Solar hot water system – $3,000

Total cost: $7,600

In 6-8 years time we would be saving money.

Immediately we would be saving the environment.

Over the lifespan of the systems (25 years or so) we would save between $17,000 – $25,000.

I would estimate that 80% of the savings here is through the wood furnace alone. That said, you could pay less than half of the initial burden and get most of the gains of this system.

Ford is My Manufacturer of Choice

I’ve always been a fan of Ford’s lineup ever since I was a little kid.  But they have now rocked my world to the extreme.  Not only do they have an amazing lineup of cars, but they are also pushing for energy efficiency in their factories and dealerships. How many large companies are doing that?  Last year Ford started using solar panels and passive solar heating in some of their factories and planted acres and acres of trees in Brazil.  They also started using soy based foam for many of their seat cushions instead of petroleum based foam.

In terms of the cars I was speaking of, Ford has the most fuel efficient mid-size car available for sale in the USA (beating even Toyota and Honda, the previous heads of the pack): The 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid. Then, Ford decided that wasn’t enough, they want to re-design the way companies think of “trucks.”  And they did.  The new Ford Transit Connect (based off of the Ford Fusion) is a front wheel drive van that can carry 1,600 lbs of cargo and still deliver 25mpg.  The Transit Connect received the 2010 North American Truck of the Year Award!

Ford is also developing an all electric version of the Transit Connect. Where will they stop?  Hard to say.  But it looks like they are going to continue on their path of energy efficiency with the release of the 2011 Ford Fiesta, which gets 40mpg!

It will be interesting to see what they do with their small trucks now.  I love my 2000 Ford Ranger Supercab.  I can seat 5 people, haul 1/4 cord of wood and tow 3,000 lbs and regularly get 20mpg.  It’s pretty much the perfect little truck for me and with only 124,000 miles on it, I’m only maybe half way through it’s useful life.  I plan on keeping it for 10+ years, at that point I will have to check out what is available on the market.  With any luck, Ford with have something similar but with increased fuel economy (like they have done with all of their other vehicles over the last few years).  Diesel Supercab Ranger chassis (so I can add a dump bed) with 2800lb max payload and 6,600lb max towing capacity that gets 25mpg with 154hp/280tq like what Australia gets?  Please?

The Long And Winding Road

As many of you may know, our home is an on-going project (who’s isn’t?).  And we are planning on adding a wood boiler into the mix to supply most of our heating needs during the year.  However, even with the freebie Memco MW100 Tasha’s inlaws are giving us, it will require a couple grand to install it ourselves.

So, I’ve made some steps to get us there.  There are several things more important than the boiler (even though at times I try to put the wood burning at the top of the list).

Step 1:

– Fix dip in living room ceiling
– Regrade land around foundation for better drainage
– Basement
– – – – Install new 150 gallon oil tank
– – – – Remove old 220 gallon oil tank
– – – – Inspect/Repair as necessary all floor joists
– – – – Jack up and support dip near basement stairs
– Install new light in upstairs bathroom
– Pay off Discover Card
– Add more insulation to old side of attic
– Install drop-down attic stairs
– Repair all wonky outlets (some of our 110v outlets aren’t mounted well)
– Develop all 35mm film (we have 15+ rolls undeveloped, some 10+ years old)

Step 2:

– Have foundation inspected (and repaired if necessary)
– Finish digging sump pit in basement
– Wire in separate gfci outlet with it’s own switch for sump pump
– Rewire phone jacks (add jack in kitchen and master bedroom)
– Install whole-house water filter

Step 3:

– Build shed, install wood boiler
– Have wood boiler run two “Kickspace heaters” downstairs (need to keep the wood and oil systems separate so we don’t loose our service contract on the old oil boiler).  Each boiler will have it’s own thermostat, the oil will be turned down so that if the wood heat goes out or the kickspace heaters can’t keep up with demand, the oil will kick on and run the normal baseboards.

Step 4:

– Add 300 gallons of thermal storage to the wood system (100,000 btu/hr at 40F delta T, enough to run the house heat for 6 hours on a 0F winter day, 24 hours in the spring and fall or provide domestic hot water for 10 DAYS in the summer)
– Switch domestic hot water from oil to wood heat (leave oil boiler’s dhw coil hooked up, plumbed in so we can manually switch back to oil dhw if necessary)

Step 5:

– Swap oil and wood zones.  The oil will now be regular backup, only supplying heat to the kickspace heaters.  The regular baseboard will be in everyday use again but now by the wood instead of the oil.  The oil will kick on if the wood and storage run out of heat and the house get’s below 62F (need to keep it relatively warm because of our Lovebird).

So, that’s the plan.  It might take 3-5 years to get all the way to Step 5, and something may throw a wrench in the plans as it seems that happens a lot.  But at least things are looking good for now.