Posts Tagged "heating"

Orange is For OWHH
by KELLY MEAD on MARCH 18, 2008 - 0 Comments in ENERGY

outdoor boiler system

Reading some of our subscription magazines that advocate a greener, more natural, or more self-sufficient lifestyle we noticed more then a few adds for an outdoor boiler or outdoor wood-fired hydronic heater (OWHH). So we decided to do some investigating.

First where can you find it at?

This type of heating system is in more demand in our rural, cold climates where a steady supply of wood is available, though they can be found throughout the US. From the outside the OWHH (boiler) looks like a small shed with a smokestack located near the building(s) it is to heat.

Second what does this system do?

From this “shed” a fire is burned that will heat water or water/antifreeze that will be pumped into the building(s) through insulated underground piping. This can then be integrated through a heat exchanger into a forced-air furnace, radiant baseboard, or radiant floor heating systems. The traditional type system is designed to run or seasoned wood to give the cleanest burn, and in most areas what can be burned is regulated. Though as the EPA has started a voluntary program to make these systems more eco-friendly we have seen wood pellet and corn versions which are toted as being “green”. Since both of these alternative fuels can be a burden to kepp up with additional attachments such as hoppers and bins are offered to make feeding theses fuels easier.

Third what are your best green options?

EPA OWHH Orange TagGo Orange! Starting in May 2007 any system that meets the EPA standards of emitting no more than 0.60 pounds of particulate matter per million BTUs of wood burned, or other fuel. These models have all been developed voluntarily to help make these systems more friendly to our environment. You can get a list of which systems have opted in to the EPA OWHH program here. Though when going to the websites we only saw information for the “Sequoyah Paradise” listed. The other manufacturers did not list the models approved for this program on their websites. Since these all operate through dealers you will need to contact them for more information directly.

And our final decision is….

All we have to say is that we are still uncertain of this one. Not even the EPA could say ya or nay on this one. We found reports advocating both for and against these systems. Those for seem to be of the mind that since the system has the potential to heat a complete house in addition to a barn or other buildings on your land that when looked at from this view the pollution from the fire would be less then having a fireplace/wood-stove in each area. Yet against is more from the standpoint of the boilers being operated with incorrect fuel such as green wood, trash, and construction debris, which dumps loads of toxins into our atmosphere. Also since the stacks of these boilers are relatively low to the ground, an average of 6-10 feet, the smoke can become a nuisance as it tends to stay close to the ground. Which has caused many areas to have a point of contact just for that.

So if contemplating this type of system make sure your system has the orange tag that EPA starting issuing last year to certify a cleaner burning boiler system. Then look into your local area regulations, talk with your neighbors to see if they have any issues, because it’s better to know what your getting into before you decide to install this system then get complaints and fines later. Also here is a sample of local codes provided by the EPA for this type of heating structures.

Let the Earth Keep You Comfy
by KELLY MEAD on FEBRUARY 29, 2008 - 0 Comments in ENERGY

What better way to go off grid and be cozy then to let the Earth’s own geothermal work for you.

Geothermal, GeoExchange, earth-coupled, ground-source, or water-source heat pumps are all use the constant temperature of the earth as the exchange medium instead of the outside air temperature. By doing that this system has a much higher efficiency (300%-600%) on cold winter nights then air-sourced heat pumps (175%-250%) on cool days

Since many areas if the US experience seasonal temperature extremes, from scorching heat in summer to sub-zero in winter, a few feet below the ground the temperature remains relatively constant. This temperature ranges from 45°F to 75°F (7°C to 21°C) depending on the latitude. Think of a cave, it’s warmer then outside in the winter, while cooler in summer. These GHP systems take advantage of that when they exchange heat with the earth through their ground heat exchanger

Geothermal and water-source heat pumps are able to cool, heat, and supply the home with hot water (if equipped). Models available of geothermal systems can include a two-speed compressors and variable fans to increase comfort and energy efficiency. Another plus is that compared to air-source heat pumps they last longer, need less maintenance, are quieter, and outside air temperature has no effect

The dual-source heat pump uses both geothermal and air-source heat pumps. By combining both systems best aspects you get a higher efficiency then the air one alone, though not as efficient as the true geothermal unit. The lower cost of the dual-source system and ability to work almost as well is a strong plus for this system.

The cost of a geothermal system is several times that of the air-forced system with the same capacity. This additional cost is recouped in your energy savings over the first 5-10 years. Since the internal components have a life is estimate of 25 years, with the ground loop at 50+ years, you will be reaping those energy savings for a long time to come. There are four distinct types of geothermal systems, three of those are closed-looped and 0ne is open looped.

closed loop horizontal

The horizontal closed-loop type of installation is generally most cost-effective for residential uses, especially in new construction where land is available. It requires trenches to be at least four feet deep. The most common layouts are either to use two pipes, one buried at six feet, and the other at four feet, or two pipes placed side-by-side at five feet in the ground in a two-foot wide trench. The Slinky™ method of looping pipe gives more pipe in a shorter trench, which cuts on the cost of installation and makes horizontal installation possible in areas where conventional horizontal applications would not fit.

vertivcal closed loop sytem

For schools and large commercial buildings vertical systems ar e often used because the land area required for horizontal loops would be a problem. Vertical loops are also used where shallow trenching isn’t possible or a disturbance to existing landscaping is called for. For a this system, holes (about 4″ in diameter) are drilled about 20 feet apart and 100–400 feet deep. Two pipes that are connected at the bottom with a U-bend to form a loop are inserted into each hole. These vertical loops are then connected with horizontal pipe and placed in trenches, which are connected to the heat pump for building.

pond The last closed loop sytem needs an adequate water body, though this may be the lowest cost option. A supply line pipe is run underground from the building to at least 8 feet under the water and then coiled into circles to prevent freezing. This can only bee done if the water source that meets minimum volume, depth, and quality criteria.

open loopThe last geothermal system is an open loop system which uses well or surface body water as the heat exchange medium that directly circulates through the GHP system. Once it has circulated through the system, the water returns to the ground through the well, a recharge well, or surface discharge. This option is only usable where there is an enough of relatively clean water, and all local codes and regulations regarding groundwater discharge are met.

There is definitely a growing interest here as there is around 40,000 geothermal heat pumps installed in the United States each year.

All pictures are courtsey of The U.S. DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Changings Windows Offers Great Benefits
by KELLY MEAD on FEBRUARY 13, 2008 - 0 Comments in LAND

In most old homes windows are one of the largest sources of heating during the winter do to their low insulating ability combined with high air leakage. During the summer they are also a major source of additional unwanted heat. This results in windows being typically net energy loser, that can be responsible for 25% to 50% of the energy needed to heat and cool your home. There is hope in the form of new and improved windows and giving proper consideration for the actual placement of them can result in making them a positive in helping to maintain comfortable home environment.

If you are considering replacing or adding new windows there are some basic factors to consider. They can include glazing type, orientation, shading, total area of windows and their insulation values, plus the actual installation method. You can access the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) directory of windows and doors by clicking here. They are a non-profit organization with a directory of over 1.6 million products and 500 manufactures that have been rated and tested. They provide ratings that indicate the whole window U-value. This not only includes the insulating of the glazing and frame, but also low e-glazing, gas fillings, tinting and films. The information includes product types, number of glazing layers, presence of low-e and value, spacer type, and gap fill and spacing.

Some other considerations besides that of the actual windows chosen are air leakage and placement/orientation. Air leakage cannot only occur around but through your windows and can have serious effect on your energy efficiency and comfort level. Weatherstripping and caulking can be done around existing windows to improve the air tight seal desired. New windows are routinely checked for air leaks between their frame and sash. Leakage rates between .01 and .06 cfm/ft of perimeter are considered better windows. Windows types with lower rates of air leakage are hopper, casement, and awning then double hung or sliders. Check information provided by the manufacturer for the information on air leakage.

A design considerations that can provide a net energy gain for your windows is to allow the sun light to enter the windows during the winter and block it during the summer. As the sun is lower in the winter then in the summer placement and depth of windows along with awnings can have a huge impact on your heating and cooling. You want to reduce the area of windows on the east and west sides to help avoid summer heat gain. Use overhangs, awnings or vegetation, such as trees, to shade your windows. Limit your use of skylights as in summer they add heat while in winter not enough.

Enertia- Natural Materials, Natural Energy Homes
by KELLY MEAD on FEBRUARY 2, 2008 - 0 Comments in LAND

Anything massive, once warmed, tends to stay warm. The Earth maintains a habitatable environment in the minus 459 degree cold of space because our atmosphere allows the planet to capture, distribute, and store energy from the Sun. The atmosphere, like the glass skin of a greenhouse, contains this energy, and thermal currents – the wind, the jet streams, and ocean currents distribute it over the Earth. This system is an example of thermal inertia.

The thermal inertia of Earth is best visualized by using the analogy of the flywheel. A flywheel takes a lot of energy to get up to speed, but once moving only a small thump on a regular basis is needed to keep it going. Each day’s sunshine is the thump that keeps the thermal flywheel going. In twenty-four hour rotation, the planet takes this one-sided blast of solar energy and distributes it through thermal currents, to create our solar system’s only habitable environment.

All that natural energy gave builder Michael Sykes an idea- “What if a house could store and release energy through convection currents, just like the Earth?” So, Sykes set out to design a house which has a miniature atmosphere surrounding a massive structure that can store energyEnertia Home.

Since the late 1980′s, his company –Enertia Building Systems, INC. — has been producing homes that heat and cool by design, rather than through mechanical systems like furnaces and air conditioners. Sykes makes his Enertia homes available nationwide as pre-cut, numbered kits.

The thermal performance of solid timber homes is well known to their owners. Once heated, they stay warm- far longer than a conventional stick frame house. Once cooled, they remain cool. These thermal storage properties, along with proper southerly orientation, allow an Enertia home to heat and cool itself through its design, rather by mechanical system.

Instead of being a tight box to contain heated air- like a conventional home- an Enertia house stores energy in its massive walls. Air that has been warmed through passive solar gain is confined to the outer envelop, and is used for moving energy into the massive internal walls. The heat experienced by occupants is radiant: warm walls and floor.

The thermal current that distributes the warmth is created by both convection and geothermal cooling. Three feet below the surface of the Earth, the temperature is a steady 50 to 55 Fahrenheit, so the basement is always cooler than the heated air above it. Warm air rises in the south of the house. As the warm air reaches the attic, it travels towards the cooler air on the north side of the house (since this side of the house receives no direct sunlight). This completes the loop and distributes heat to the north side of the home.

In the summer, the air that is heated in the outer envelope rises, and is allowed to escape out the attic vents in the east and west gables. The same convection loop is used to cool the outer envelope to a comfortable usable temperature. During the day, the outer shell also provides shade. A majority of the radiation from the sun- which is now higher in the sky- is also reflected by the R50 rated roof panels before having a chance to affect temperatures in the envelope.

In short-

An Enertia house has a massive central core – the primary living space- surrounded by a dynamic envelope, which is a secondary living space. With proper orientation, a home that is built on a bermed basement needs only regular solar input to maintain a comfortable environment. This house requires no jump-start, it works the first time the sun comes up.

This information was generously given by Enertia to help better inform us on the dynamic new house they offer. Please stop by and visit their website if you are interested in more information on their home kits.

Geothermal Capital of the World
by ELENA on JULY 17, 2007 - 0 Comments in ENERGY
diagram of geothermal
Quincy — warm homes

Whisper it quietly lest the folks in Iceland get to hear, but the people of Quincy Illinois have taken to describing themselves as

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