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Does the stove have fittings for water pipes? If not you will need to get bosses fitted to your stove.
If stove has facilities for fitting water pipes, does the manufacturer make a back boiler to fit the stove? – If they do, this would be an easier option.
If not, you could find a fabricator (as I have done) to make a rectangular shaped back boiler for your stove. I had it made out of stainless steel – more expensive but much longer lasting than a mild steel back boiler.
A rectangular shaped backboiler would also be a more efficient option since you’d have a larger surface of water jacket exposed to the fire. Therefore you’d need less fuel to heat the tank of water.
With a hot fire you should get a good convection (thermosiphon) established. I do this and never use a pump. When I did try using a water pump I found that the water heated up much more slowly than with a thermosiphon. I haven’t used the pump since.
I also use 28mm diameter pipes and a 28mm diameter coil inside the hot water cylinder. If you used 22mm diameter pipe you’d get more back pressure (due to friction between the water and the pipe walls). It would be more efficient with 28mm pipe.
I have never considered using renewable energy for background heating in a situation such as yours. It sounds like the cabin has little air circulation while you’re away.
I personally would not use a wind turbine – they require fairly regular checking and are prone to breakdowns … and the wind does not always blow when you want it to!
If you are in a mainly sunny position (S – SW facing) I would be more inclined to use a solar water heater (probably evacuated tubes) connected to a radiator in the cabin. The water could be pumped by a little solar powered 12V pump connected to a small 12V solar PV panel. The beauty of this is that water is only heated in daylight, and the solar powered pump would only run off the solar panel during daylight hours. You would not need a battery bank to worry about.
You could, as an alterenative, put in a larger solar panel which could operate a small 12V fan as well as a small 12V pump. The fan can be located in a convenient place in the cabin to circulate the air during daylight hours – obviously it would be more efficient in bright and sunny weather.
Another thing you could do is line south-facing windows inside with black plastic, leaving a gap of several cm between window frame and the top & bottom of the black plastic. You also leave a gap of several cm between the glass and black plastic. The air between the glass & plastic warms up & the warmer air escapes out the gap at the top of the window frame. This simple technique can warm up the cabin several degrees using simple passive solar. It would also help to circulate the air a bit more – with or without the fan.
I’ve read about this but never used it at home because I like to look out the windows! You can read more about capturing free soalr energy at little or no cost in “Sunshine to Dollars” by Steven E Harris available from:
Do you have wood burning stoves in Oregon? If so, you should be able to fit a back boiler (wet back) to the stove and connect it to your house pipes. If you choose a stove with a flat top you can also cook a lot of your meals on it and keep a kettle of hot water on it.
I live in Wales, so I can’t advise you what is available in Oregon. However, wood burning stoves are easily obtained here, and most manufacturers can supply a back boiler to give you the hot water you want. Alternatively, if you can find a stove without a back boiler, you could find a small engineering workshop to make a back boiler (preferably made from stainless steel) to fit your stove.
Try lining the van with 1/4″ thick cork tiles – floor, ceiling, walls, but not windows!
The average output from wind farms for the whole of the UK last year was 24% of it’s theoretical maximum output, although the figures do vary from wind fam to wind farm.
The problem with wind farms contributing electricity production to the grid is that they need back up from conventional power stations all the time. So no matter how many wind turbines are erected, not a single conventional power station will be shut down.
Regrettably, the large scale wind turbines will do nothing to alleviate global warming, despite all the “information” published by the BWEA (British wind Energy Association) and wind farm developers.
Revenue produced by wind farms comes primarily from 2 sources: electricity produced and Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs). A ROC is a piece of paper given by OFGEM to the wind farm operators for each megawatt hour (MWh) of electricity produced. These are then sold on the open market to companies which produce too much pollution – ie. coal fired power stations. At the moment, approximately one half of a wind farms revenue comes from selling ROCS. Several years ago up to 2/3rds of their revenue came from ROCS.
The electricity distributors are required by law to obtain at least 4% of their energy from renewable sources. Therefore they have to buy electricity from companies producing electricity from renewable energy sources. Coal fired power stations (in particular) have to buy ROCs to offset their emissions. These are tagged on to consumers’ electricity bills.
Whether it is good for investment, I would not like to say. Personally, for many reasons, I would not invest in wind farms for environmental and ethical reasons. If all the conventional and nuclear power stations were turned off, wind farms would be unworkable.
Wind turbines on a small local scale are a very different case. I have no problem with these. I even use one myself when it’s not broken.
I couldn’t agree with you more. We basically have to learn to use less energy again, especially with peak oil (when oil demand oustrips oil supply) around the corner. When we reach this point, oil prices will soar, and the days of $100/barrel will be considered cheap!
In order to help achieve this we have to go back to a localised economy – relying on locally produced food and goods. We also have to learn how to utilise what we have more wisely.
In reply to No. 7 (Daveboat), I am not aware of any wood burning stove that will perform all of your requirements. Howeve, you can do a hell of a lot on a basic wood burning stove if you use a bit of ingenuity. If you want to bake in your stove, there are models available (can’t remember the makes and models off the top of my head)
We use our old wood burner for keeping warm, hot water (via a back boiler), boiling a kettle, cooking baked potatoes (directly on top under a cake baking tin), cooking lots of soup. It’s our only source of heat (no central heating here), and our primary source of hot water.
Using a wood burning stove for fuel/ charcoal production seem pointless from my point of view. Charcoal is basically degassified wood, so you’d have to burn something to produce charcoal.
Have you considered a solar water heater for summer use, instead of burning wood? That is the next plan for us this year. It will reduce the amount of wood I burn – and the time sourcing and processing it.
If you go away during the summer, I be inclined to turn off the furnace. During the winter, it would probably be better to leave it on low.
I have a friend using an oil fired room heater. He used to turn it off during the winter when he wasn’t in. Now he leaves it on all the time on its lowest output. He found that his fuel consumption decreased, compared with turning it on and off as he wanted.
I also have another friend in Norway who works away a lot. He once turned off his heating for 2 weeks one winter while he was away. When he came back his house was stone cold and it took ages to warm up the fabric of the house. he now leaves it minimum output when he’s away during winter periods.
Our eyes also suffer under fluorescent lights. My off-grid house is full of low energy CF lights. I do find that having the light from several different sources helps a lot, but that means using more electricity than I really want to.
It’s not a problem in summer when we usually have more electricity than we need for lighting thanks to our solar panels, but in winter it means running the generator every 2-3 days to recharge the battery bank.
I am planning to replace these with a 12V LED lighting sytem running off the battery bank, rather than using a 230V CF (or LED) system through an inverter.
Any recommendations for LED lighting systems would be very welcome.
Not only are CO2 emissions important to consider, but the increasing scaricity of fresh water must also be considered. About 2/3rds of Chinese cities are short of fresh water!
Also, you must bear in mind that for most people, there are more CO2 emissions used to get the food to your table (including production, air miles, shipping miles, distribution miles, etc).
If you buy locally prodcued food as much as possible, minimise food waste, and go on to a vegan diet (not that I would suggest you to do this), these would all help you reduce your CO2 emissions as well as reduce the amount of “embedded water” – the water required to produce food items. See below for an example.
In the UK, many winter fruit and veg are flown in from the Andalucia region of Spain. This is a semi-desert environment. Part of this area has the largest area on the planet covered with plastic covered polytunnels. Irrigation water for the crops grown in the polytunnels is obtained from ground water sources. The ground water level is dropping, and is not replenished. When you fly tomatoes and other fruit and veg, you are mostly flying water from one part of the world to another, since they contain mostly water. The water taken to grow the crops is also effectively removed from the region!
I can’t remember the figures, but it takes a lot of kilos of water to grow a kilo of tomatoes (and other crops also).
The amount of water required to grow a kilo of beef (and other meat) is also enormous. It aslo takes about 7-8 kg of grain to produce a kg of beef. In terms of productivity, poultry is less damaging to the environment than beef prodcution.
I ended up in very quiet off-grid location by chance. I have never regretted it. I could not bear to live in a town again. It’s a lot of work, but I enjoy my quality of life. I lost a well paid job just over a year ago because I was not prepared to sacrifice my health any further for the job. No regret about that. I feel much better for it!
I wish you all the best. It would be a mistake to think you can be self-sufficient though.
Self-reliant as much as possible, but not totally self-sufficient – that would take up an enormous amount of tiem and effort. However, I do hope you will follow your heart. You’d probably regret it later if you didn’t have a go.
I see that other contributors have given you some good advice to start with so I won’t add any more thoughts for now.
I heard of an improved solar PV technology sometime in 2006 or 2007. If it’s the same, it was developed in S Africa. I’ll post links when I find them.
I live off-grid in Wales myself. Got plenty to do on my own land.