very pretty... older. its the outback assembly but with xantrex inverters. Frank would be more familiar. 4 Flexmax charge controllers which are newer. That battery bank is huge but there are 4 array of up to 4 kW each if those are the fm80 controllers... Again, very pretty and nice install
sounds like a large robust system then. That is good. having the option to use power and using it are two different things. Is it grid connected as well? Solar electric heating is unusual solar thermal maybe more so. Cheers and good luck.
Hi here are the types of questions I would ask and those We ask people when they call...
1)Wattage of solar array
2)name and models of all equipment
3)age, size and type of batteries and voltage the system operates at
4)is there a generator, manual or autostart
5)Is the inverter pure sine or modified sine wave
6)who installed it and are they still in business
7)did the system get inspected if required (important for insurance) despite what people think most jurisdictions insist on full permitting code compliance and inspection despite not being grid connected.
are there DC lights pumps etc in the system or is it all AC
That is what comes to mind right off the bat. Pictures are good they give me a good idea of the quality of the install and the component choice
1) What is the "original pressure switch"? Right now there is no pressure switch so does this mean I need to obtain one like what David said "a regular pressure switch like you see on ac deep well pumps"?
if you wanted to bypass the shurflo built in pressure switch yes. But I think he was talking about using g the built in pressure switch and using the relay so it doesn't have to drive so much current.
Mark Tudor wrote:Perhaps it's possible to locate the pump in a spot that has some sound proofing too, so it's not so loud when it runs? Like if you had an attached root cellar space so there's at least a thick door or some earth between the pump and any ears?
Our pump is located in a separate pump house made of 1 foot thick rock so no worries with the sound. May need to reconsider if it was to be installed in our shower house.
Old school solar dc only houses often have a regular pressure switch like you see on ac deep well pumps hooked up to an automotive relay then to the dc pump. Running the small current signal amperage they would last forever.
Gerry Parent wrote:Thank you for your quick response David. I forgot to mention that we also have a reverse osmosis unit hooked up which like the toilet, also causes the cycling and wearing out the switch faster. I have since adjusted the pumps pressure adjuster so it either stays on or goes off under low flow conditions.
"Adjust the pressure on the tank to be more in line to the pressure of the pump though as it's usually lower then your typical jet pump."
Do you mean to adjust the pressure of the tank by the air valve at the top? I think they are factory set at about 28 psi.
This is not a jet pump. Here is the link shurflo pump Shutoff 55 psi, start 40 psi. What would I have to set the air in the tank to equal the pumps output?
for a pressure tank you want the pressure in the tank when it is empty of water to be roughly equal to the pressure it takes to turn on the pump. That way as the tank empties and the pump turns on there is no significant pressure change in the water coming out of the taps. I mentioned jet pumps only because its turn on turn off pressure is usually higher then a shurflo and the tank you will buy will be factory charged to match its pressure so you will have to adjust it down. For us what killed our pump was a ceramic filter on the kitchen sink... similar flows to the RO unit...
Gerry Parent wrote:Hi Eric, Great job on the video. Very informative!
A few questions:
In our campground we have an ac well pump that is run by a generator. It fills 2, 150 gallon tanks. That water is then used by a small bathroom house that has 2 showers 2 flush toilets and 2 vanity sinks. The height of the tanks are only about 5-6 feet above the height of the bathroom house so no help from gravity to produce any measurable pressure. Our pressure instead is supplied by a dc 12v shurflo pump used in RV's. Every time we turn on the water though, the pump has to kick on which ends up being a lot of on/off cycles and has burnt out the switch several times now.
My question is: 1) if I were to add a pressure tank (about the size of the one you have in the video), would the shurflo pump be able to pressurize the tank to help minimize the on/off cycling?
As you probably know, the shurflo pump has an adjustment screw to increase/decrease the pressure sensitivity but I'm not sure if this would be enough to control the pressure tank properly?
A few more details: We originally had 2, 3000 gallon tanks on a hill which provided enough pressure to run our bathroom house. The well is no longer producing near as much water anymore and it takes forever to get the water pumped way up there and having to listen to the generator for like 6 hours a day, we came up with the shurflo solution described above.
Perhaps one day when the ac pump dies, we'll replace it with an AC/DC pump like the one you have but for now just trying to get by until that day comes.
Any help would be appreciated.
hi Gerry, in case Eric doesn't answer you we ran our house using a system similar to what you describe for 4 years. Adding a 5 gallon pressure tank inline with the shurflo will reduce the frequent start stops that burn out the switch. Usually it's the slow flow of the toilet or a slow tap that does it as the pump catches up too fast and cycles continuously. Adjust the pressure on the tank to be more in line to the pressure of the pump though as it's usually lower then your typical jet pump.
Hmm, lots of possibilities but some of them are conflicting. So here is the conventional answer. Air to Air geothermal heat pump for 9 to 10 months of the year with Woodheat playing a role in the coldest months and as a backup for winter power failures. That avoids using the electric heating element in periods of intense cold. Off grid and geothermal is a tough one as the heat requirements come during the least productive solar months. If you want to incorporate a solar element and do geothermal I would say net meter the solar with a battery backup element for running critical loads...
I'm confused. Is your boiler not a closed unit?
the pipe that goes outside is usually the exhaust from the burning of the propane. There will be some water vapor in it as a normal byproduct of combustion. A modest amount of heat is in the exhaust to allow that vapor to not condense until it's out of the pipe. There is no reason you could not pipe it to a small seed starting greenhouse. It will be very humid and rich in CO2 . There is a safe distance a furnace exhaust stack can travel so don't over do it and it will of course give your insurance company fits...
Mike Jay wrote:
At some point this may have turned more into a dream than reality...
* like a daydream but they happen while you're attempting to sleep
So here is one of my personal favourites. He drives a car on charcoal has a walipini type greenhouse with cold cellar attached and heats a garden bed while making charcoal. He is in slovenia. Puts my efforts to shame but everyone needs someone to emulate right?
Unfortunately the numbers are not far off. In the two examples you mentioned neither one was using much power. The bell in the single digits of watts the crosscut saw probably approx 100watts per hour of work. So if you can live with that level of storage then you are good. Again It's not that they won't work it's the sheer energy density of batteries for the cost. A 2 l16 battery bank measuring 24x24x18 inches total store 4.8 kWh for $700 and last for 10 years plus if treated well and are recyclable at end of life. I think your idea of storing energy as heat and cold is the better one with a very modest battery to fill in the blanks. I wish you well either way
Tom I don't disagree with any of that. Just stating the way the industry seems to be going. If it came across as too negative, my bad. The bylaws still get you though. And while on flat open ground yes vaw machines are not as susceptible to turbulence the wind is stronger and more consistent as you go up.
David Baillie wrote:premium side and in my opinion its a superior design to the imbert units.
I am on DOW. I've been debating the membership.
David Baillie wrote:If you peruse things you will notice a definite line in the sand. The more south you go the more likely they will use raw wood gasifiers as you go north into the wood heating regions charcoal starts to dominate. That is exactly as it worked out in Europe during the second world war as well. Sweden, Norway charcoal france Wood, Germany in the middle.
That is an interesting evolution. I wonder where the equatorial tropics would fit? High heat / humidity and soft woods. There's a fella in Thailand producing charcoal reactors. Van Looken.
Yes Koen's stuff is nice. I would say he is an outlier. He is or was experimenting with raw wood units as well. His work is focused was focused on simple to implement rural solutions. Recently he is linked to a university. He could explain it far better. I think the premium is worth it I have it.and I'm cheap. Not worth it if you are only interested in charcoal gasification as its mostly about the wayne keith builds and improvements Lots of talented fabricators and very helpful.
David Baillie wrote:Think of it as splitting the gasification process into two parts. Burn down the wood for heat in a stove in the greenhouse then use the cooled and graded coals to do work.
That is a perspective I have not viewed pryolysis from. Thank you.
I was noodlin on distilling water with the waste heat. I have a large set of NiFe cells and they are thirsty. But now I'm thinking griddles, ovens, maybe even kiln's.
I thought that it was possible to run an Imbert design off of either wood or charcoal. Opinions?
I am most following Flash's footsteps. He uses materials I can get here. In his last offering he open-sourced the full automation plans.
The All Power folks are the wizards. No doubt about that, but in my opinion they suffer from the same illness as most of academia. "Over Com-bob-ulation". In perfecting the process they made the device un-achievable by the common person.
Simple is robust.
the simple answer is yes you can run an imbert off of charcoal only... but don't. Without that good balance of humidity and complex hydrocarbons from the wood above it your machine will overheat. You would have to go with stainless nozzles maybe refractive etc... You would loose the simplicity inherent in charcoal gasification while having the limitations of charcoal... Worst of both worlds. Flash's unit looks nice I did not watch it all but its probably an imbert as is APL and most home builders. Wayne Keith uses his own modified design discussed at length on the premium side and in my opinion its a superior design to the imbert units. APL started as all DIY but they are focused on their power pallets now. Driveonwood is focused on DIY with some commercial guys as well. If you peruse things you will notice a definite line in the sand. The more south you go the more likely they will use raw wood gasifiers as you go north into the wood heating regions charcoal starts to dominate. That is exactly as it worked out in Europe during the second world war as well. Sweden, Norway charcoal france Wood, Germany in the middle.
Mike Jay wrote:Here's the video I worked from. I have a 1/4 size 6" deep steam pan that fits off to the side in my stove.
Good point that if I'm charring pallet wood, your method probably won't work well. My good firewood is birch, the majority is softer stuff.
Nice video I like the point about stacking. I try to do that as well. In this one I'm refining carbons, boiling beans, drying laundry and humidifying the house... In spring time in the greenhouse I try to make char, boil maple sap, add humidity to the beds and heat my starts... Its getting there slowly. Never enough time as I'm sure you know.
Mike Jay wrote:I do heat the house with wood so I could make char that way. I like the idea of splitting the chemical process into two parts. And your way of making coals is more productive than mine. Inside the wood stove I use a small steam table pan with a lid to cook the gasses out of wood scraps. So I can do a small batch at a time. Your way looks much more productive.
I saw a video of that method. Do you have a link? It's a good method except it wears out the containers although stainless maybe not as much. It's also better if you want to make great char using low value wood as the heat source. I tried some in a chimney section in the stove for a while but as mentioned it was too slow. When I'm making char I empty out the ash and after light up I'll only burn maple for best results so it's hard on the hardwood reserves. Also my way you have to sift out ash. You get no brands of unchared material though which are a no no for charcoal gasifiers.
Mike Jay wrote:David B, do you have a thread on your tractor? That would be neat to read more about! Your actual experience is most appreciated
How is the charcoal gasifier easier to make than a wood fired one? Is the gas cleaner or more reliable as well?
Dillon, plenty of my current electricity is for heat or cooling. Tank style electric water heater, electric teapot kettle, electric toaster oven, fridge, freezer. The water heater was chosen for the ability to do solar hot water some day with the electric element as a backup. The kettle and toaster oven are in the place of a microwave and to avoid firing up the natural gas oven.
Thanks S for backing the GEK numbers!
Can these systems run unattended? Would doing so in a greenhouse risk burning it to the ground? This is part of why I'd want to buy a kit or finished unit. What would I have to do with the generator exhaust? I'm assuming it would have to be routed outside, maybe after going through a radiator to heat the room
here is the link to my charcoal tractor thread:
http://forum.driveonwood.com/t/my-charcoal-tractor/1200 here is a blog post I did linking to some videos
https://smallhomesteadonabigplanet.com/ I don't touch a thing once I set up my air adjustment so yes You can leave it untended to run. That is charcoals charm the ease of construction and simplicity of the unit. If you heat with wood its worth looking into. Think of it as splitting the gasification process into two parts. Burn down the wood for heat in a stove in the greenhouse then use the cooled and graded coals to do work. If you don't need the heat that's different the extra fuel use is then a waste.
there are a lot of charcoal generators in the small engines section of drive on wood.
as a rule of thumb we try to locate wind turbines 20ft higher then anything within 100-150 ft around them. the closer to the ground you go the more turbulence you experience add in obstructions and your production falls dramatically. That in a nutshell is why there is not a turbine on every roof. Most municipalities have bylaws as well about setbacks from other houses for noise and flying debris reasons. here in Ontario it is 1.5 times the tower height to the edge of a property line so if it falls its coming down on your land. At over 4000 dollars for the unit and solar panels running at less then $1 per watt small scale wind has trouble competing...
Mike you are right, the numbers quoted already factored in the 33% efficiency of the engine.
I am not too sure what the efficiency is for the gasification process, and that is assuming that the wood is at 12% moisture content after being dried in a kiln or something. So we would have to factoring in that process too.
After a bit of searching
1kg of biomass = 20MJ = 5.5kWH
10kg of biomass = 22lbs of biomass = 200MJ = 55kWH
Gasification turns that into the equivalent of 1gall of gasoline = 33kWH
So a 60% efficiency, which seems pretty good.
yes those numbers are more in line with the reality on the ground as i've experienced it. Probably not quite that good unless you are recycling most of your waste heat for material drying as you go. The reference you quoted first the 20lbs per gallon is the most commonly used one. Safer to use 2Hp per kW Hr of electricity taking into account battery chargers efficiency, battery throughput and idling... maybe charging up the start battery for the fans used at light up. PS that is a great reference page for conversions. It helps with the tricky math required to juggle it all.
I use 2 kW per lb of wood as the heat energy it contains if dried to 20 percent moisture. You should do your research of course but Wayne runs his truck on a 40-60 lb hopper of wood in 40-50 mile trips so my numbers hold up. I run my tractor on 12-14 lbs of charcoal per hour and running on gasoline that same tractor doing the same work burns 1 gallon of gasoline... APL is another good resource for you. Driveonwood has a better pool of actual DIY builders.
I hope you don’t misunderstand my earlier post. Very true, surface carbon can be recycled. My only concern would be that if does get recycled and that a person takes the added effort to deliberately recycle that carbon by replacing trees that were removed. Atmospheric carbon can be recycled through plants, and it does not matter if that CO2 came from coal, natural gas or wood. What does matter is that people take individual responsibility to actively recycle that carbon by planting (ideally) fast growing trees of some type.
Again, I hope you don’t misunderstand my post (and from the sound of your other posts, I think you get the thrust of my point), I am merely pointing out that it is incumbent upon us to go out of our way to turn atmospheric carbon Back into wood. For example, I would not support clear cutting forests to produce electricity. This is a pretty drastic example, but I make it just to be clear that done uncontrollably, even burning wood can have a detrimental effect if we don’t actually recycle that wood.
Thanks for all the detailed information.
All good Eric, I just wanted to be clear. And yes there simply is not enough biomass to support business as usual. Massive energy usage reduction would be required to make it work.
yup you got it. Think of wood as many different compounds all producing a slightly different quality of gas heart wood, bark, resinous wood versus hardwoods porous like pine or dense like oak. Each gasifies differently. On a big unit there is lots of room for variation because it balances out. On a smaller unit... nope. There are some people who do small raw wood well but they are not common. I'd suggest extreme caution on Mr teslonian's units... Enough said. Charcoal is very consistent by contrast. For volumes assume 8 to 10 gallons of charcoal per gallon of gasoline equivalent. A video... one of mine: https://youtu.be/LKZPTBA-boU
At your consumption level net metering is not worth it. In terms of solar production assume 1.5 hours of production as an average in the two worst months. As mentioned above come summer you have more then you know what to do with. I decided to put in a grid connection to make up the difference. It is the cheapest back up power you will have. Use it instead of the propane generator. The industry term for it is Grid Zero where you use the grid when you need it but don't sell back. You can simply rig it to turn on at night to top off batteries for much less complex of a system.
Mike Jay wrote:There's a whole world to come up to speed on. Luckily I have time and about 4 other projects to do first...
On one hand I'd love to build one. On the other hand, I'd be willing to buy a tested design that I know will work. In the brief looking I've done so far, the Dobson Gasifier sounds pretty nifty. I'm not sure if one's been built though...
My fuel source would likely be pine or poplar. An awesome source (if it would work) is wood chips from the city. They wouldn't be dry which I assume would be a problem?
pine and poplar have both been used successfully in raw wood gasifiers. Chunks tend to be the norm; chips tend to be a problem on more homemade units. Consistency of fuel can also be a problem with chips. for electricity you want clean consistent gas and that starts with clean consistent dry fuel. The smaller the gasifier the less tolerant of fuel variations it becomes. In your case an imbert design or wayne keiths design would probably be in order. The dobson looks interesting but I have not heard of a successful homebuilt. Lots of complexity there. For charcoal designs you gain ease of construction at the cost of preparing the fuel. I make my charcoal in a wood stove so there is no wasted heat or gasses.
Agreed Eric. I was reading your first response and All I can disagree on is the lack of differentiation you seem to make about surface carbon versus Fossil carbon. Yes large Natural gas stations may be more efficient thermally but they are using a fossil carbon adding to the problem. Coal plants have far worse of a carbon profile still. A surface carbon solution has the advantage of recycling similar quantities of CO2 from the active environment. Its a known element no different then a forest fire or a rotting tree.
the problem with steam is that magical 68 percent number is a theoretical limit using extreme high pressure dry steam operating a turbine at high speed continuously with drastic heat recycling... What you would produce at home would be closer to a wet steam medium pressure piston type engine operating at lower speeds... Your true efficiency would be closer to the single digits of energy value of the fuel transformed into shaft power... If you have a bottomless pit of heat required it does not matter but its a hell of a lot of wood. With woodgas you start with an off the shelf generator that has millions of hours of R and D built into it and is available at the hardware store for less then $1000. Your efficiency would be in the 20-30 percent range... All of those are loose numbers but not far removed from calculated ones. I am open to correction but I've put a fair bit of energy into figuring them out.
Eric, 5 years ago i decided to add a grid connection to the house to replace the propane generator. I now have a bizarre hybrid home. You are completely right though conservation is key. You cannot solve it with generation alone. So with that in mind for a generator the problem you will have is if the gas is too old it will not have the same energy density as fresh gas. Most generators work by turning the engine at a precise RPM to produce exactly 120 volts, 60 Hz. The governor allows you some flexibility in that regard. If the gas does not have the punch to deliver within the narrow range required your inverter will refuse the generator power or you might brown out your house. If you have old gas much better to use it up in a lawn mower, water pump or something less sensitive or refresh it by diluting it with fresh gas...
As mentioned above check out www.driveonwood.com
I have run a tractor, atv and generator on woodgas. I use charcoal gasification as the unit is much simpler. You mentioned you have a greenhouse that can use the heat... Then charcoal gasification is for you. Stirlings, TEGS and steam engines efficiency is one quarter to 1/3 of what a gasifier equipped Internal combustion engine generator will deliver using off the shelf engines with spare parts a phone call away. Just like all DIY energy solutions you need to be the tinkerer type. Also remember 1 gallon of gasoline is equivalent to about 20 lbs of wood or 14 lbs of charcoal so you need a good supply of wood and the willingness to process it or its a non starter. for that one gallon of gasoline equivalent expect 6 to 8 kW Hr of electricity... Its a fun addictive hobby if you go for it...
Best of luck, David Baillie
A treasured posession is my CD of the first 10 years of home power. Guerilla solar, things that work and the DIY articles helped shape my alt energy views. I had not picked up a print edition in a long time due to digital access and format change which seemed to focus more on gear exposure instead of reviews. I was excited recently to read the blue ion lithium article. I will miss it dearly.
I like the sprayed on foam myself. The foam can compensate for bad floor framing details at the rims and typar if any was even installed. As previously mentioned heat up the space before hand for best setting and adhesion. At a thickness of 2 inches you should not get curing problems. Is your installer using the high density non porous foam? At $1.50 per board foot that is a little pricey but if its a smaller space probably about right. When I've worked out pricing materials plus labour rigid sheets has always been more then sprayed. I believe it is the best option when you work in energy savings down the road. It comes at an environmental cost now but mitigates much greater enviro costs down the road for the lifetime of the structure... Don't forget ventilation. Your crawl space has probably been getting by without since it leaks air. Seal it up and you must give it a way to refresh itself.
Alternators provide wild 3 phase ac the regulator does the rectifying and voltage control. if you are going to build a alternator based generator get one geared from the work go for 24 volts. I purchased this one:
https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B0081SBDCM/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 I only ran it 4 times and have removed it and stored the parts as I needed the engine for a snowblower. It worked fine. I upgraded to a magnum inverter with a charger so didn't need it any more. Some cautions: alternators are made to charge a small battery fast then slow down not always the best for deep cycle. At 40 amps I was charging a 400 amp hour battery bank so that is a c10 rate, which is ideal. That kind of sustained amperage on an alternator is hard so they usually recommend a heavy duty or marine unit. Also you must turn a one wire fairly fast to get it to self energize. The older 2 wire units are good as well you can adjust charge amps with a resistor. They can turn a little slower but you need the rpms to turn the fan fast enough to keep it cool. Recommended RPM is usually in your specs. Alternators are not good at 3 stage charging and loose efficiency as a battery gets close to full so think of it as a bulk charger only let the solar do absorb and float...
Here is the base article I used this one is a 12 volt 2 wire but 24 volt single wire is mostly the same. Its an oldie but a goodie from Home power magazine when it was more then just what gear to buy... All the other articles I've found online are derivatives of this one.
https://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=7&ved=0CFkQFjAG&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.homepower.com%2Fsites%2Fdefault%2Ffiles%2Fuploads%2Fwebextras%2Fmark8.pdf&ei=m70uUf_aOYK8yAGihYGYAw&usg=AFQjCNFSSinc1_FuS_mj2lM9RAjsn6dzwA&sig2=WtkyXcTaagzdtdXrsZukog You could also just buy an iota charger for the same money which does three stage charging and power it with a 1500 watt ac generator also pretty common and cheap. Home built is always more fun though!!!
Hope you build one.
I don't know if soot would be volatile enough on its own to burn and break down in a catalytic... Not sure if you wouldn't have to add in some preheated oxygen as well. In car exhaust plenty of oxygens and volatile molecules to use. soot... Simple carbon. All the ceramic cataleptics I've seen in wood stoves use secondary air. Just musings on my part No proof. Similar to charcoal gasification though.
boy that is a tough one. I can think of a few ideas. I don't like the dual purpose chimney that is intimidating id want to split them. Keep at the larger diameter stove pipe until just before you hit the reduction. Make sure you have the ability to visually check the clay chimney. Try to burn only the driest of wood and keep the fires modest in size and feed them more often; no loading it up for the long slow burn. Keep a big pot of water on it at all times for mass and hot water.
Late night musings...