Travis Johnson wrote:No, I understand that. My pet peeves is when people bolt heaters onto trees so that excess power gets displaced through those sort of things. To me that is just a waste.
As for do it yourself micro-hydro situations, I always thought this turbine design was really simple. The longer the stem, the more torque you would get out of it, along with how wide the exit tubes were. It would be easy to couple bearings to this guy, as well as weld it up yourself. Weld on a pulley, and belt it up to a generator...
You could easily make the thing 10 feet high and get some pressure out of the water...or 20 feet or 30 feet...and there is no massive dam to make, you just have to channel water into the internal column. I realize it is not super efficient in prop design, but I would think the design is so easy to make that it would not really matter. That is, less efficient, but easy to make would be better than a super efficient turbine, and too complicated to make yourself.
Nice and simple. I think a peltier wheel and a permanent magnet alternator is pretty simple and hard to beat. Its the required drop that is getting hard to find. I do not know about maine but if you try to dam so much as a creek you are in some big time hot water. So you are limited to sluiceways in free flowing streams so again getting hard to find. It is still the gold standard of off grid though.
That is a nice piece of equipment... Did the PLC brain come programmed or is it custom? The rest is standard gear I like that. I control mine much more simply but I have less square footage and less control. A stainless hot water loop runs through the wood stove and is plumbed into the radiant loops which run off a circulator and runs 24/7 in the winter. There is a central thermostat that when there is a call for heat, because the wood stove has slowed down, it turns on the circulator to the hot water tank which goes through a plate exchanger in the radiant loops. Zone control is done through simple flow control valves with flow meters adjusted manually to equalize temps and left alone once adjusted... I like yours far more control. I run the circulators on the solar powered circuits of the house so there is no interruptions. That was why we chose the direct vent originally due to the limits we had on electricity when we were fully off grid...
Travis Johnson wrote:I am pretty fortunate in that the heat side of what I need is already built. For me this is a form of hydronic heating. It basically is the two loop system I have in place, with a metering valve to help draw or temper what I have for heat in the primary loop. In short, all I need is hot water; 100 to 212 degrees, it does not matter how it is heated...solar, wood, pellet, coal, propane, oil, etc...it just has to be 100 degrees or above. As long as it as at the temp, then the main propane boiler will not come on.
My local dealer still has Lister Engines for sale. I would have an interest in them, but my dealer only showed a 6 HP version, but maybe they still have them from pre-ban days??? I am not sure, being in kit form also muddies the importation waters somewhat.
What I like about cogen is that for me, it is so easy to do. About the only real cost is in laying the tubing from barn (where I would house to generator) to my boiler, a distance of about 100 feet. I have the engine, generator and even fuel tank (275 gallons) ready to go. I am a little overpowered at 63 Hp for a 20 KW generator, but that is just excess fuel consumption. The only real complicated part is tying my excess power in with the grid. That is where I would recoup my money (return on investment), but if I did not do that, my cost would be incredibly cheap.
Travis what propane boiler are you using? Is there a write up somewhere about your system? I'm probably building again in the next year or two and would love to incorporate more of that. I run my radiant off of a backup loop off the propane water heater with the wood stove doing most of the work. There efficiency of the propane direct vent is not great though. Next house I think will have a large reservoir of hot water heated by wood outside to work in tune with my charcoal making for gasification. The wood stove charcoal making method is efficient but I cannot get the volumes of charcoal I see myself using. Wood to charcoal, charcoal to electricity might be a good path for you as well.
Travis Johnson wrote:I was doing some checking, and I got a few options for this.
I have a 35 HP Isuzu diesel engine that came off a tractor trailer refrigeration unit that would power my Gen-Set, but I also have a 6 cylinder diesel engine sitting in an engine stand. I was going to use it for a sawmill, so it is all set up on an engine stand, and even has a hand clutch bolted to it, but it was originally designed to operate a 30 KW gen-set. I thought it was bigger than it was, but it seems it is only 63 hp so it will not consume a lot of fuel.
My house takes about 450,000 btus to heat it per day, (5 gallons of propane at roughly 91,000 btu's per gallon), and assuming an engine consumes 10 gallons per day of fuel, it would kick off roughly 1.3 million btu's per day (10 gallons of fuel oil at 131,000 btu's per gallon), so even with some heat losses, there should be more than enough heat to heat my home.
I also checked my electric bill and it seems I use about 300 KW's per month, so I would only use half of the total KW's produced...
Travis numbers are great things! Assume that under perfect conditions you would be be putting out 33 percent of the energy of the fuel as exhaust heat, 33 percent as electricity and 33 percent as engine heat and noise. You would have to run your engine coolant through a plate heat exchanger so it does not contaminate the home loop and attach a heat exchanger to the exhaust to harvest that third of the power. Diesels have great compression ratios so they can take some back pressure from an exhaust exchanger. I think with economies of scale the utilities would still be "cheaper" but environmentally and efficiency wise you would win. Some utilities allow bio fuel net metering others limit it to solar and wind inputs. Personally I think you are better off running a genset at its ideal loading for shorter runs and charge a battery bank. A net metered setup would be best efficiency wise. an idling diesel will not produce nearly as much heat for exchanging as a loaded one so just running the house without either a battery or net metered arrangement will not harvest heat as well. I usually use this reference chart for fuel energy content: https://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/fossil-fuels-energy-content-d_1298.html
Travis Johnson wrote:I think depending upon the situation, they could be one and the same.
I am thinking of a crane that lifts heavy objects like blocks of granite or concrete. It is in a stored situation, but in an instant, those blocks can be attached to, then dropped, the falling weight powering a generator to produce electricity.
Stored energy...but instant as well.
Water behind a dam is stored energy but instant.
The key thing about electricity is, a person needs both long-term power, like that of a boiler which kicks out ample power 24/7 pretty much, but also instant power so that if there are spikes in consumption, that stored energy can be converted into instant power. This is why hydro dams are critical to the power grid, open a valve and instantly power is pumped onto the grid during peak demands, but all day, every day boilers and their turbines kick out power for the grid.
In an ideal situation, the homestead would have a solar array for trickle charging the battery bank for constant electrical demands, but then a hydro set up for peak times. In this way neither system would have to be big, and the stream itself would not have to be big; heck a pond fed by a spring might work because a homestead might only open the penstock for a few hours for those peak times. All that could be automated...a timer opens the penstock which starts the turbine spinning, then a minute later the refrigerator comes on also via timer. In other words the hydro power is tied to the high demands of the refrigerator. This to me makes far more sense then putting in a dump load circuit...why produce power only to dump it into the atmosphere as wasted heat?
What you see instead is people dedicated to a single system, then scaling it up to meet their biggest electrical demand. That is one way to do it yes, but I am not sure that it is the best way. But as with most things in life; the best way to do them, is often the most difficult, and the more expensive way.
Travis in a way the battery is the hydro dam. Instantaneous demand is met by the panels during the day and any large loads are covered by the battery. Hydro is not instantaneous. You can turn it on and off but there is a lag there and micro hydro is usually low wattage continuous power. If its a large dam there is a longer lag and losses to transmission. My version of dump loads are not really dumps they are more alternative methods of storage. Cheers, David
Listeroids were the dream machine for off griders. I would say they have fallen out of favour for a few reasons. They do not meet the EPA emissions standards and as far as I know cannot be imported into the US anymore. Next is the expense and weight; they are incredibly heavy and require virtually their own room. Finally the falling cost of solar panels has made large arrays feasible reducing the importance of the generator element of an off grid home to something that can be handled by a smaller cheaper unit. I like them myself but an inverter generator will greatly outperform it efficiency wise. There is the Cogen element but again if its only running from time to time due to the greater solar production the cogen element becomes less important. I alway liked the micro cogen site myself. anything you ever wanted to know about old iron is there. Some incredibly knowledgeable people www.microcogen.info
This company makes a modern version of a biodiesel cogen unit using kubota engines http://www.microcogen.ca/
Now that is a good one... never heard of the bubble test. That would be extremely species specific though... where abouts are you and what kind of wood are you burning? Older stoves like that one usually like a good hot fire and dont smoulder well also called its turn down ratio. What kind of chimney? Has it been cleaned recently?
Dennis Bangham wrote:I have often thought about collaborating with other like minded people to buy out a farm and parcel it out. There seems to be many farmers going out of business and the only option is to sell to the corporate farm investors who pay bottom dollar.
Here in Ontario we have other problems. You could not buy a large farm and divide it into smaller ones. The province sees that as the model developers use to turn farmland into suburbs. You would have to keep the land together and maybe divide it internally bur keep it as one legal piece.
Thomas Kelly wrote:Broke, living paycheck to paycheck at a dead-end job. Live in Oregon so I'm surrounded by expensive real estate. Want to find fertile land with a water source but those are too expensive here. Don't want to move too far because I want to stay connected with family and friends. Really want land to build a cob house and garden but everything requires money, something I'm not a big fan of. What should I do?
Vast numbers of us here have been where you are. I'll give you a bit of a biography and you can see if any of it resonates.
I was working retail in Vancouver. Rent in Van was crazy, land insane, so the only way to save was sharing a house with 4 other people. You would go out drink, eat out whatever because that was what everyone does when they are younger and everyone around me was doing. One day I said screw it and went into the trades. The pay was much better, the schooling was paid for, and if you are working your ass off you just do not have time to go out and waste money. Within a year I had a nest egg of sorts so I moved closer to where land was available for me ontario. Still working construction I changed who I hung out with to match the life I wanted. If you want to build, garden, and live the life you better start practicing it and making new friends with those who also want to live it. I'm not very touchy feely but I do believe if you want to attract it into your life you better be living like what you want to attract whether that is Partners, occupations, skills, etc... Family stays close if its continents away or drift apart blocks away that is a choice. Friends, best friends are close across decades and you reach a point in life when someone has to go first and move most of your friends will. Some will move closer again other not.
Accept or reject, I wish you well, David
Hi Meni, Glad to hear that things are going well. As to the Hydrogen well it is a path I won't deny it. Annoying people like me would point out that the efficiency is just is not there. You are over voltaging your batteries so that they very inefficiently electrolyse more water then they normally would. This heats the plates more then necessary and can shorten lifespan. You are turning your hard to generate electricity into mostly heat and some hydrogen along with a lot of oxygen. Finally the oxygen and hydrogen are mixed so it is a ticking time bomb as far as storage, compressing and using is concerned. If you want to go down that path I would suggest once your battery break in period is done you simply build yourself a simple electrolyser. Not an HHO unit which mixes the oxygen and hydrogen but a split cathode anode type. You will use about 3x the electricity power as you could recover from the hydrogen but sometimes that is not such a bad thing as it could extend your battery. Most people when they have worked through it have opted for direct usage of the extra electricity at times of plenty like electric cooking, hot water, laundry, etc...
A little vague but... 25 percent give or take.
Let's take off grid solar: stored energy would usually mean batteries but batteries are not perfect and neither are the charge controllers that monitor the battery and control the flow into them. Most people use lead acid which has an efficiency of about 80 percent and charge controllers that are about 95 percent so of the power that is pushed at them 75 percent of it is available to do work...
The flip side of that is if you are using the power while it is sunny and the current flow is coming from the panels directly to your loads your efficiency approaches 100 percent as there are very little losses involved. You would still need a battery bank in that scenario but its size could be shrunk to cover nighttime loads and a reserve for cloudy days. This is what is happening in off grid these days. Much larger arrays are being installed due to dropping prices and all sorts of creative dump loads are being used in the sunny times to act as alternative storage devices. I.E. electric water heaters in the middle of the day, dishwashers, electric hotplates, laundry timed to the sun, etc.. all things we have always done just now with much more resources to throw at it...
The best way to break up rock for a DIY homeowner is to use Hydraulic cement designed to expand so much it shatters the rock. you use a rotary hammer, blow out the hole and pour in the slurry. By the next day its fractured. We use it here all the time for footings and piers when there is a rock in the way... You would have to keep it pumped out but not dry... All the above warnings apply... I like the horizontal well tile as well.
That sounds like old thinking. If you are using insulated chimney your drafting will be fine running along the outside.Draft at light up can sometimes be an issue since its cold but that is very temporary. you will need the wall bracket and I find the T fitting with the removable bottom cap ideal.
This install video is pretty typical:
In my design I would emphasize Passive solar, internal mass in ceramic flooring, thick slabs, active Solar collection both electric and thermal. If extra heating was required I would opt for a pellet stove. If you are in a built up environment and commercial there will be a lot of " must follows" due to population density... Be flexible and try for the best compromise you can.
Cheers, and welcome to Permies, David
Do you have your heart set on a Hookway? They are nice but are complex I find and prone to the centre chimney receiving extreme heat stress. I prefer making my char in a tlud type kiln or my wood stove.
Gary Gilmore's Keystone is a nice simple build not as prone to metal breakdown due to extreme heat.
Here is a pellet based unit a little more refined but I prefer wood chip or wood pieces based units:
I burn up any cardboard or paper that has been soiled and cannot be recycled. As mentioned above its not recommended to burn large amounts if you have the ceramic catalytic in it. if its just a plate or tube secondary air type you should be good. not too fast though as it can spike the chimney temperature. Its also high in ash content.
I had the drolet that was rated from 250 to 1100 sq ft. this was 15 years ago so the model names have changed. Efficiency and design looks the same though. Its an entry level but always worked great for me. You would want some mass around it though as with the small box it won't hold a fire overnight unless you are burning perfect hardwood. Probably not the case in Alaska. It always worked better with really dry wood for overnight as it did not have the extra box space and coal base to boil off the water like a big stove can.
The Dwarf looks interesting but it is not certified so if you have insurance forget it. It even has a disclaimer that it is not for residential installation... EPA certification is expensive. Probably works great.
hmmm not sure that one has primary air control. This one looks interesting. it looks like a knock off of a small Drolet which heated 1200 sq ft in Ontario for 5 years before I got my pacific energy. I see the air intake lever right there.
Travis Halverson wrote:This being the fifth winter I’ve used this stove, perhaps I should be concerned if they actually do crack. Do you see a lower priced one from northern tool that may be decent? We were at 400 square feet but soon to be about 740 sf after I finish an addition.
If its epa rated it has secondary air... Look around back there should be a small air port and look inside up top there should be either tubes with holes or a flat plate box with holes for secondary air pre heating... I like the baffles better then the catalytic type as they are more forgiving of less then perfect wood. They loose some efficiency though over catalytic...
I remember the story of Reagan ripping out the solar hot water off the whitehouse. There was a lot of great ideas that came out of that era of energy crisis thinking. Framed as a national emergency there was limitless money. All the books and pioneers steered me in my journey I know that. Then the oil prices collapsed and poof. Only in the last decade has energy and attention returned to the field Thanks largely to climate change. Large wind, grid tied solar and newer battery chemistries are gaining momentum every year. Solar thermal does not seem to be gaining any new ground though. Its potential is still there but cannot compete with cheap versatile solar electric.
Welcome to Permies... David
As an interim measure might I suggest looking online for a used epa rated stove. by the looks of it your existing stove has no control of its input air and no secondary burn capability. You will cut down the wood you consume by 25 to 50 percent without changing anything else. I like something like this one https://forsale.oodle.com/detail/jotul-wood-burner/5112172834-north-prairie-wi/ Jotuls are great stoves
I would suggest a slightly different path. The reason the battery pack seems so huge is its sized for a full work day. Instead of sizing the pack for a full day or trying to create a machine with a tennis court of solar panels on it create a flexible smaller battery pack and have two of them. One charges at a solar base station, one is used on the machine. You would be half way to your goal and be able to use off the shelf existing equipment. If I was doing it I would be searching for a mini ex with a dead diesel engine or a 3 point hitch backhoe attachment to pair with an electric tractor that are already showing up on the market. The mini ex example is a better choice since it is basically a gigantic hydraulic pump already and should not care what turns it... As far as weight goes excavators need weight for traction. Usually the base of the excavator is purposely made as heavy as possible to provide it so battery weight isn't really an issue.
Concrete is very alkaline and will eat copper if it's in direct contact. Is the plan for pex? I would suggest sourcing tempered glass panels as the thermal differential between the hot and cold side can be too much for regular glass. Usually old patio doors are tempered.vI dont know how your array would perform. I think probably in line with a flat plate collector. It would be fun to see though.
roberta mccanse wrote:David Baillie, thanks for your response. I will find the well log. Initially we got 5 to 6 gallons/min. That dwindled to a pretty consistent 2 to 3/min. There is no aquifer here so we depend on seepage from rock. We put in the reservoir because we sometimes ran out of water in the middle of a shower, etc. So I don't think that there is a lot of water standing in the bottom of the well. In the meantime I love my reservoir.
Last week we replaced a broken pot filler and had problems getting the water turned back on. Had to replace a switch and will need to change out one of the pressure tanks (after I get property taxes paid). In the meantime water security is not the only issue. I also have "sewer security" concerns. Electricity runs the lift pump that brings waste from the septic tank to the drain field. Long and short, living remote is not for the faint of heart or for the technically challenged.
"not for the technically challenged" Roberta I agree. BUT There is good earning potential figuring out how these things work and being able to diagnose and fix them. A good part of my calls come from troubleshooting solar, electrical and pumping equipment now. I am a terrible gardener though.
roberta mccanse wrote:Because my home is earth sheltered I don't worry much about staying warm, or cool in summer. I am practically surrounded by Forest Service land where trees fall down a lot. I will need younger muscle to cut them up for my stove but two cords usually gets me through our Montana winter.
My major concern is water security. I currently need electricity to run the pump in my 352 feet deep well. Although I typically use less than 300 kwh/month (at a great rate of $0.065/kwh) a good share of that is probably related to the pump. Of course that cost is irrelevant if the grid is down. Note: I have an underground reservoir that holds 16,000 gallons.
So who among you has experience with, or knowledge about, good old mechanical windmills? Wind here is not consistent but it's probably enough to keep water in my reservoir given an efficient windmill. Who still manufactures such things? Who knows how to install them? Are they practical for my deep well? Don't some farmers and ranchers still use them along with a stock tank or some such? I really would like to be energy independent but access to water remains my biggest issue.
Thanks for any ideas you have to share
Roberta the first thing I would want to do is figure out what depth the water comes up to in your well, and at what rate it recharges itself. most of the time they hit water at that deepest depth but the well level rises much closer to the surface then that. They then proceed to hang the electric pump that deep because that gives them so much more capacity above the pump so you can't run it dry. It was not uncommon once upon a time to have the main deep well pump hung low and a much smaller jet pump installed close to the surface. They even make hand pumps and windmills for that application. You could not pull faster then the well can recharge itself but its somewhere to start.
Doug Kalmer wrote:I installed my grid tied 4.6 KW PV system in Jan 2012, and it has paid for itself as of June this year. Now I am getting paid to use electricity. I have the usual American middle class loads, AC, TV, washer, no dryer, and also two welders, glass kiln, hot tub, chest freezers. I have a 5K watt Honda genset I converted to propane I can hook into the house wiring in case the grid goes down. I just bought a Chevy Volt which has a 18.4 KW battery I can tap into indirectly thru a 1500 watt inverter connected to the 12 volt battery. http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/PV/DougEnphase/DougEnphase.htm
Nice clean setup Doug... Ground mount is really the way to go if you have the space and you cannot beat those micro inverters for maximizing production. Enphase is the industry leader. AP systems has a more bargain version but the support is much more basic. With all the new rules coming into force the days of the central grid tie inverter are drawing to a close soon it will all be micros... More efficient, easier to trouble shoot and safer as well.
Rick I admire what you have accomplished. I believe those wanting to emulate you today though should look into solar at the very least for lighting. Cost wise, emissions wise safety wise solar lighting will outperform kerosene lamps. Are you doing any refridgeration or propane cooking?
Nice to see you are working on the design. Best of luck with the improvements. I've settled on my method for now. I'd love to experiment but certification and insurance requirements restrict what you can do here. For now I will continue to produce my char in the stove.
So many great replies!
You've really touched a nerve here. I can tell you what we did and why and you can see how it relates to your situation. We originally built the house fully off grid and grew our solar array to 960 watts and our battery storage to about 10 kW Hr. For running a home with a fridge, pump, lights, some internet and some circulator pumps it was perfect for 9 months of the year in my northern climate. The other three months of the year involved regular charging up using a propane generator and carefully managing time of use for chores such as laundry and tool use. Panels were a lot pricier so you could get 3kW of solar for the same price now and never look back. You will be tied to a different kind of grid though one of technology, parts suppliers, and propane delivery. That system could deliver 3kW Hrs a day with no problem for 3/4 of the year. There are other issues as well. A system like that you will be using propane to cook, a propane dryer if you want one and propane for hot water. Again another grid but less prone to immediate failure.
When babies came we hooked up to the grid to replace the generator and to allow for more conveniences like a freezer, washing clothes(diapers... soon many diapers) anytime and not having to worry about starting that cranky propane monster in the yard. Consumption has grown to about 8 kW Hrs per day with the solar and grid combined. I could do a net metered array and feed back to the grid but between equipment costs, permits, insurance increases, meter swap out fees and regulation I would never see that money back. My electrical grid was close by and hook up was less then $2000 so it was an easy choice to make. I have a basic connection fee of about $25 per month and a consumption charge of about $0.11 cent per kW Hr. All told that works out to $0.22 cents (canadian) per kW Hr. At that cost the genny was a crazy idea. I would never give up the solar component of the house though since it has become like a stand by generator that actually sees daily usage to reduce the kW Hr's I have to use from the grid as opposed to a standby generator that just sits idle and waits...
Depending on your budget there is a lot of cool gear out there. you would want to research "grid zero" options if your utility does not allow feedback or " net metered" for a grid connected array or " net metered with battery backup" for a hybrid system. My system is a bare bones manual controlled system by comparison to the new gear that is out there. I charge based on voltage of the batteries with nothing more complicated then a plug in of the inverter. I feed the solar production to the batteries and run the chosen critical loads to a separate AC panel which can be flipped over to the grid or run through the inverter... Easy as can be.
I would investigate the health of your local utility as well. If they are a rural only utility chances are they are in trouble; old infrastructure and aging plants. If they have a rural and urban mix of clients chances are they are doing better as urban clients are cheap to service and offset the rural one... Next I would investigate what it costs to hook up to your site. Finally I would investigate what their grid connection policy is for solar. If they only swap credits you are just offsetting consumption which is ok but no money changes hands, if they offer a feed in tariff then you can size for actually making a return on your investment. Each options would change the scenario...
Looking forwards to seeing how this progresses, David
Oh boy... I can tell you what we would do here. If there was a stone lined well we would lift off the cover and insert sections of concrete well tile usually 32 or 36 inches in diameter 24 inches high that interlock. Usually a backhoe does this. you build up the well until 24 inches above ground place a cap on it with a cement access hatch like those above. You backfill the void with gravel or sand to act as a filter membrane and to keep frost from pushing the original well in. With those measures in place you can usually get a good source of water. Here we use filtering and UV lights to keep it safe. Dug wells have fallen out of favour mostly for health concerns but the water quality of drilled wells can be a very expensive crap shoot. Here they tend to be rich in iron leading to a sulphur smell and sometimes rich in uranium. Then there is the energy for pumping. My piston pump from the dug well 110ft away uses less then 300 watts per hour to deliver 2.5 gallons per minute. A deep well pump could use 2-4 times that depending on how deep it is hung...
If you watch the video to the end you will notice he is using a solar panel to also charge his batteries. That encapsulates well what happened to all the small wind applications. His 30-50 watt solar panel will outproduce that wind turbine probably to the tune of 300-500 percent in 90 percent of locations. meaning in that setup the solar panel with no moving parts does 60-80 percent of the work... At the very end of the video you see the unit spinning. based on experience I can tell you his production there is about 10-30 watts per hour based on blade speed and blade diameter. So you have to evaluate your site carefully. If you have a steady strong wind without obstructions and can get the turbine 20 ft above said obstructions then small wind might be for you. from the looks of it he is using a repurposed electric motor functioning as a PMA. As mentioned above treadmills are the best source of them. the unit will usually top out at about 100 watts in a gail forced wind though unless you use an expensive charge controller for it. So 100 watts of solar for less then $200 on the ground, guaranteed to give you 2-6 hours a day of production everyday or a turbine in the air harvesting an unknown quantity needing maintenance... Wind is very much site and user specific.
Best regards, David