Here in New England many home owners have their own source of wood they can use to heat their home. Or, they may decide that local wood or pellets can replace fossil fuels helping them achieve a level independence from foreign oil.
Working with a few of these customers, I have had the opportunity to put together combination wood and solar heating systems for both home heating and domestic hot water.
SolarNovus Today is a website about “what really matters in the Solar industry today”. They recently did a “Case Studies and Solar Solutions” article on my house renovation, 78 Main St, Enfield, NH.
You can get the link here: Renovation Showcases Solar Potential. In case the link doesn’t work, here is a PDF Solar Solution – Renovation showcases solar potential of the article.
Green Living Journal published the story I wrote entitled “One Woman’s Journey to a Zero Energy Building”. I like how they advertised it on the cover (My Zero Net Energy Home) and put it out in Left Field
Click here if you would like to read it. I added some pictures in the blog post version. They didn’t have room for many pictures in the journal.
Solarfest is a fun weekend of renewable and sustainable living workshops both for adults and kids, highlighted by great music, food, and fun activities. All the electricity for the music stages, projectors in the workshop tents, lights, and vendor stalls is provided by solar photovoltaics and a wind turbine on site. There are also solar hot water showers for those who stay overnight (mostly in tents or RVs). Last weekend was Solarfest’s 18th year in production.
Two years ago I presented the goals, vision and planning for my business and home renovation, 78 Main St renovation, from a historic shell to a zero net-energy building (ZEB). At last year’s Solarfest I presented the completion of the project and some details on the data logging (Solarfest Workshop, 2011). In order to analyze the energy systems that were designed it is necessary to measure all the heating and electrical use of the house over the course of a year (or more).
Living with a solar energy system will raise your awareness of the sun’s presence to a new level. Now that I am living in a solar powered home (78 Main St renovation), I can provide way too much information on how many days the sun peaked out in December, how much of the energy of the sun still comes through on a cloudy day, and how powerful the sun is on a cold, but bright sunny day in February.
I have a good selection of monitoring and measuring devices for my solar systems, so I am able to determine exactly what are the “perfect” days for peak energy production. It might not be what you expect…
Foaming the storage tank
I can now fully appreciate the benefit and even the necessity of a backup heating system in New England. In 2011 alone there were 3 or 4 storms that caused power outages, but I have been very lucky that they only caused minutes or a few hours of interruptions for me. Many others experienced days without power. On the other hand my solar heating system is in its first year of life and needs some serious debugging, so my back up systems are needed – often!
In this part of the world multiple days without heat in the winter can be life threatening. This, and the potential for frozen pipes, provide ample reason why insurance companies want to know the details of a home’s heating system, and it’s backup, before providing insurance.
I had a great opportunity to visit the manufacturing facility of a US based wood furnace last week — Woodmaster
, in Red Lake Falls, Minnesota.
In New England (as with many other parts of the states) we have figured out how to farm wood sustainably, so what could be better than to be able to burn it as cleanly as possible to provide heat. Most of our older wood stoves and wood furnaces burn wood with emissions in the 20+ grams of smoke per hour (g/h). The new EPA mandatory smoke emission limit for wood stoves is 7.5 grams of smoke per hour (g/h) for non-catalytic stoves and 4.1 g/h for catalytic stoves. Non catalytic stoves only have to be 68% efficient to meet the EPA guidelines. Catalytic stoves must be 72% efficiency.
Lots of Snow
It was a really nice snowstorm that we had last week — lots of snow and most of it fell in the daytime when we could look out the window or take a little stroll in it. Schools were closed ahead of time so no one worried about school bus accidents or getting up particularly early. Here in NH anyone who has a job that requires them to get out on the roads every day no matter the weather has 4 wheel drive. And the plows were out early and often keeping the major roads passable.
Two days later I was walking around the village of Enfield, NH and couldn’t help but notice some amazing icicles… and some houses with none. As you probably know, icicles represent melting snow off the roof… as it drips down over the edge of the warm roof it hits the freezing cold air and refreezes. They are really quite pretty.
SHW Data Graph
I’ve been getting a little frustrated these days by the lack of good data for SHW (solar hot water) systems. It is expensive to add data logging to a system and it isn’t always clear if the data you get can give you actual information that you can use to make decisions and calculate your return on your investment (see an earlier blog: Data Logging – real information
In the Solar Electric, or PV (photovoltaic) world, it seems like every grid-tie inverter manufacturer wants to prove that their system works well, so they provide relatively easy ways to log data and show you the results in a graphical way.
A client came into my store a few weeks back to discuss his idea for an inexpensive “batch” water heater that doesn’t require any high tech parts or pumps. The idea behind a batch heater in general is to pre-heat water from the well or from the town source with the sun or a heat source that you already have available. The well or town water is usually between 45-50F… so if you can preheat a couple of gallons of that water to 80 or 100F before it even goes into your water heater, you would save quite a bit of energy.
In his case, the heat source he wanted to use was his attic in the summer. He has a couple hundred feet of hose that he will coil in his attic and add a 3-way valve that lets him divert the well water to the attic hose and then into his tank whenever his attic is over 60 or 70F.