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Old 03-30-2008, 12:09 PM
 
Location: Backwoods of Maine
2,020 posts, read 2,462,737 times
Reputation: 3040
Anything using passive solar gets my attention! So does anything that saves money! However, I can't see paying a TON of money up front, for possible savings down the line. In that regard, I'm definitely a KISS guy (Keep it simple, stupid!). All of these new-fangled high-tech things you speak of here may well work just fine, but you're juggling so many options that when it comes to crunch time, are you going to have a final definite plan? Sounds like you intend to build this year, so you should be finalizing the exact system(s) you will be using. Anyway, it's fun - and cheap - to play with ideas and with paper.

I just decided that we will go with passive solar (see thread of 1-2 weeks ago), super-insulation, and a masonry stove that burns wood. I prefer the idea of a slow, gentle release of heat at night to going gung-ho with the electric company at night. After all, what would we do in a power outage? I've toyed with the idea of not connecting to the grid at all, just using generators and a couple of battery banks with inverters. It leaves the option for solar panels later. But if we're not connected to the grid, we won't even be aware of when it goes down. And someday, it will go down!
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Old 03-30-2008, 12:47 PM
 
7,154 posts, read 3,737,480 times
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As much as I find the various solar solutions to maintaining a contemporary standard of living thoroughly fascinating, I too am committed to fair simplicity in my projects. The more parts and the more complex the design, the more to fail and frustrate. Some folks have more patience than I with system maintenance and failures. Lifestyle adjustments and passive opportunity are an option for simple and cheap folks like myself. Small space, optimally oriented for passive advantage, and home-made collector-storage combined with masonry (I live with soapstone stove now for that gradual heat release ... very nice) and smart insulation will have to do.
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Old 03-30-2008, 04:48 PM
 
Location: Maine's garden spot
2,380 posts, read 2,752,492 times
Reputation: 1951
The guys on the radio show Hot and Cold discussed geothermal heat last week. One of the engineers from the university called in to talk abut the new building done at UMFarmington. He said that the new building did use less energy, but that it was probably due to all the efficientcies that were done to the structure.
Irregular landscape huh... we locals call it swamp and ledge. The glaciers hit this town hard.
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Old 03-30-2008, 06:35 PM
 
Location: Waldo County
1,220 posts, read 2,480,863 times
Reputation: 1357
Quote:
Originally Posted by AustinB View Post
The guys on the radio show Hot and Cold discussed geothermal heat last week. One of the engineers from the university called in to talk abut the new building done at UMFarmington. He said that the new building did use less energy, but that it was probably due to all the efficientcies that were done to the structure.
Irregular landscape huh... we locals call it swamp and ledge. The glaciers hit this town hard.
Yeah, I know about "swamp and ledge". Actually, I have relatively little swamp and quite a lot of ledge. And in between? I haven't a clue, but suspect the depth of the top soil to be not very based on the variety of trees and bushes that are growing.

I think that there is a general misconception about the choice of whether or not to use geothermal or solar power for a home. The choices are based on a number of factors, and a "pay back" in terms of dollars isn't one of them. By far the cheapest way to build is the same old, same old 2X6 and sheathing with wool insulation stuffed in. It actually works pretty well.

However, I am deeply concerned about the price of oil for fuel in the next two decades, or if I live as long as my father, three decades. Fuel for heat in a home and fuel to drive the generators that create power to the grid. If I thought that my income in the next two decades would increase at least at the same rate as the price of all all fixed expenses in a budget, I would be less concerned about PV systems and solar heating exchangers.

But I am convinced that in my lifetime we will see at least $200 per barrel of oil and gasoline will make driving with some other form of energy mandatory for all except those who drive very little.

What I hope to accomplish in this house is the stabilization of energy costs. If there is a payback, it will be measured in terms of cost stability but not in convention terms of return on investment.

Then there is the other aspect, the political one. I firmly believe that we have passed the point where we absolutely must, in a geopolitical sense, wean ourselves away from the shackles of imported oil. And we should not delude ourselves into thinking that E-89 Ethanol is a solution, and that we can just boil up food stuffs to burn in the gas tanks of automotive conveyances that are basically outmoded designs being produced by a stagnant and outmoded industrial model.

So this next house is my chance to demonstrate for myself and to my own satisfaction, that I have done my part in weaning my nation, people and culture away from the slavery of the internal combustion process that relies on foreign, and not always politically friendly oil resources.

Will I reach my goals. I dunno. I don't care. I am going to push the research and the design parameters as far as I can. I am not going to start the building process until my current house and its beautiful waterfront is under contract. I am not going to "sell out", in that I will get my price, and the cost of the new house is not going to exceed 65% of the sale price of this property. So there are limitations to how far I will go to hire the "experts" and let them have their way with me. This is a learning curve that I am trying to climb, and it involves a lot that I don't know and probably won't understand...the only thing that I know about electricity for instance, is that when I try to change out a switch, I usually get bitten by the "ac snake".

There are many choices in the design process. We love the idea of using an induction cook top in the kitchen. Induction is an electic cook top that generates heat only when the pot or pan makes contact with the heating element. Only then is heat generated and when the pot is removed, the cooking surface is nearly instantaneously cool to the touch, the current off.

Expensive units right now. They also take 50 amps of electricity to use, although the real concern from an energy consumption stand point is, "for how long is that 50 amps used?". Still researching. I would prefer this to propane as I want to have a home that uses NO fossil fuels. I don't know the answer, yet.

I won't go on here, but I have a lot of other information...t heory as of now, and some of it is in practice here today. But we have a long way to go, and I will let you know how it all develops. If I get beat by the complexities of the finances or the science, I'll let you know all about it.
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Old 03-30-2008, 06:56 PM
 
Location: Waldo County
1,220 posts, read 2,480,863 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boomerang View Post
Very interesting that you post this now.
We went to the Maine Home Show at USM yesterday and had some real interesting talks with people from "green" building companies, as well solar, geothermal, and energy audit companies, and folks from local energy companies who had displays of alternative energy choices. Of course you find that people who sell one alternative tend to downplay the advantages of another alternative

We talked with the energy audit people who were working with a super-insulated company to build a custom home with as close to zero carbon footprint as possible. They claimed that, using all the available technology, they could not achieve absolute zero carbon footprint in the house due to Maine being a heating climate.

I have the "green" building company brochure right here.
FWIW, their list of building supplies is as follow:

- 30/80 ThermomaxSolar system (Mazdon 30VM Manifold Set, 30 Thermomax evacuated tubes, solar circulation unit, expansion tank hose kit, copper fittings, 80-gallon single coil electric backup, 7 gallon solar expansion tank insulated pipes, etc. (my "etc", their list is longer). State energy rebate applies. 5-year unlimited warranty + 5 year additional pro-rated warranty. DM me if you want the name of the company FMI.
- Baxi heating system
- Venmar air exchanger
- flat panel high-efficiency radiators
- radiant heat in walkout basement floor
- lowe glass energy-star rated windows
- ICF (insulated concrrete foundation) system rating R-45 in external shell, R-50 in the attic, 11" thick exterior walls

Looking forward to hearing what you find and decide to do with your home!
Well, my initial reaction is that they are just plain wrong. A zero carbon footprint can be established by building in Maine and not by burning fossil fuels, or even by burning anything.

I think that I need to quantify what I mean by "zero carbon" to include burning wood to some degree if necessary. In addition, if there was a long period of poor visibility and the photovoltaic array couldn't replace what Bangor Hydro wasn't delivering because of the "ice storm of two centuries"...as it happend here in the 1990's, I have a 6500 watt generator that could be used as an emergency.

My intention is to NOT use fossil fuels as a heat source and to achieve a "net zero" electrical energy house by using a PV array that is net connected. I will not have a battery array to serve in place of the power company because connecting to the grid is relatively easy, and good "politics": I am still a member of this society.

As far as the installation discribed is concerned, I have several reactions "off the cuff" so to speak. In order they are:

The "30/80 Thermomas Solar System" whatever that is, is intended to be augmented by an 80 gallon electric back up heat source. A true solar heat system will enable the evacuated tube, or flat panel exchanger solar heating system to heat at least 600 to 1000 gallons of water to a temperature that will enable it to circulate through the heated space and to provide heat for some length of time until an alternative heat source is needed. How much water storage and in what containment facility is a different matter, but 80 gallons is a very large domestic water tank. The Baxi system I believe is a boiler, so basically, the system heats a well insulated conventional structure that is dependent by design and intention on consumption of fossil fuels.

The radiant heat in the basement floor is excellent, but is diminished by the "walk out basement" as the doors and windows in the "walkout basement" will really determine how efficient the heat in the basement floors is.

Why not radiant heat in the living floors, too? It is old technology now to use radiant heat in a living area floor that is covered in 1 1/2" to 2" of lightweight concrete and then surfaced with wood, tile, whatever? Sounds like they haven't done their homework as far as delivery systems are concerned. The flat panel radiators are wonderful deviced with a European origin. When I restored the antique farm house in Ellsworth six years ago, we installed flat panel radiators in the second floor rooms using a second zone to feed them, and individual thermostats on each radiator. I used the BEST btu output available to me at the time, and the system worked fairly well...but the radiators should have been twice the size, and I probable could have ignored the second zone and the second floor radiators entirely if I had blow insulation into the wall cavities, and kept the doors open.

The final comment that I will make is about using ICF's for basement walls. Why not use ICF's for ALL the walls? It will be extremely difficult to meet the insulation standards of a whole house built out of ICF's. It can be done, but not easily and not at any real cost differential. If the house lends itself to use of ICF's and there is little or no chance of needing to change window or door openings in the near future of the house's life, ICF's are a wonderful way to build a super insulated house.

Just my off the cuff comments based on very little information. Your use and experience may differ!
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Old 03-31-2008, 06:19 AM
 
Location: Chaos Central
1,123 posts, read 2,524,269 times
Reputation: 823
Quote:
Originally Posted by Acadianlion View Post
Well, my initial reaction is that they are just plain wrong. A zero carbon footprint can be established by building in Maine and not by burning fossil fuels, or even by burning anything.

I think that I need to quantify what I mean by "zero carbon" to include burning wood to some degree if necessary. In addition, if there was a long period of poor visibility and the photovoltaic array couldn't replace what Bangor Hydro wasn't delivering because of the "ice storm of two centuries"...as it happend here in the 1990's, I have a 6500 watt generator that could be used as an emergency.
Bearing in mind that I'm not the author, just the messenger of the information given to me! --- I think what they meant was, as long as you have any kind of backup system in your home which uses, or is itself created with the use of carbon sources, or emits carbon into the atmosphere, the home is not truly "zero-carbon". At least that's what I gathered from what they said.

I know what you mean about the euro-style radiators. My dear spouse is European and when we lived overseas that's all that we and all our neighbors had in our homes. Smaller rooms had a single panel, bigger rooms had double panels. After you've lived with that system and can easily control the heat to each room, the standard steam radiators we have over here seem really primitive. Dear spouse also puzzles over why Americans heat and store tankfuls of hot water instead of having the euro-style instant-water system (heating only what you need, when you need it)......
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Old 03-31-2008, 06:41 AM
 
Location: Maine
7,984 posts, read 10,188,803 times
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I don't know much about geothermal energy, but I know some folks in our area who invested in a windmill. The initial set-up was pretty expensive, but their home is now completely electricity independent. In fact, during some months they have enough electricity surplus to sell back to the electric company.
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Old 03-31-2008, 06:52 AM
 
Location: Northern Maine
5,990 posts, read 7,393,434 times
Reputation: 3882
"Dear spouse also puzzles over why Americans heat and store tankfuls of hot water instead of having the euro-style instant-water system (heating only what you need, when you need it)......"

Americans look at the cost of replacing a water heater and see a typical 40 gallon tank for $250 and a foreign made heater for $1,500. They can provide water to the kitchen, laundry and both bathrooms with the 40 gallon unit and the $1,500 unit is advertised as going under the kitchen sink so most Americans think they would need to buy four of them to meet the needs, plus pipe up the entire house with propane which would not be cheap or safe. It's a no brainer.

Before all the carbon credit enthusiasts get aggravated with me, I do understand how the Rinnai tankless water heaters work. The first one I ever saw was in a log home in Gouldsboro in 1985.

Carbon credits are the pet rock of the new millennium. I could put some carbon credits on Craig's list and sell them to people like AlGore who use large amounts of oil. You see, I grow 40 cords of wood a year on my property which is 52 tons of carbon. All of that carbon comes out of the air in the form of CO2. I know that makes me zero carbon footprint and Maine as a whole is the most forested state so we are likely zero carbon footprint as a state. I could run the numbers. Just think of the carbon credits we could all sell as a state. All we need to do is develop a marketing program to sell them to all the guilt ridden environmentalists.
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Old 03-31-2008, 07:45 AM
 
Location: Chaos Central
1,123 posts, read 2,524,269 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Northern Maine Land Man View Post
"Dear spouse also puzzles over why Americans heat and store tankfuls of hot water instead of having the euro-style instant-water system (heating only what you need, when you need it)......"

Americans look at the cost of replacing a water heater and see a typical 40 gallon tank for $250 and a foreign made heater for $1,500. They can provide water to the kitchen, laundry and both bathrooms with the 40 gallon unit and the $1,500 unit is advertised as going under the kitchen sink so most Americans think they would need to buy four of them to meet the needs, plus pipe up the entire house with propane which would not be cheap or safe. It's a no brainer.
I do think the units are overpriced here.
Our single unit in our home overseas took care of a 3 bed/2 bath house; they are often mounted in an upstairs utility room or downstairs in the kitchen (on the wall). It ran on natural gas. Of course that type of heater is standard over there, so the necessary piping is built into the home to start with.

Last edited by Boomerang; 03-31-2008 at 08:04 AM..
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Old 03-31-2008, 08:34 AM
 
Location: Londonderry, NH
32,939 posts, read 26,464,578 times
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As I was saying in the 1970's during the first oil crisis you should build a simple well-insulated house using extra thick Structural Foam Panels with most of the windows are facing south and east with hot water radiant floors. Heat the floors with a low temp oil fueled water heater and a heat-collecting loop in the fireplace/wood stove. Don’t worry about ‘carbon footprint” and all the other ‘green’ nonsense. Connecting to the grid may not cost too much if you dig the trench. Good luck with this in granite unless you use a rock cutting trenching machine. Find out just how big a trench is required.

Build a medium size efficient house and save all the money and energy required for solar collectors (heat or electricity) to pay for a minimal fuel and electrical use. Add a backup Diesel Generator (check out the Lister CS gensets available from Bangor Diesel) with a way to add the coolant and exhaust heat to your heating system for the times when the grid power will be unavailable. Another source of heat could be a 5 kW windmill connected to the hot water tank.

Like I suggested – don’t sweat the solar part. Just build a properly located super insulated house and live in it.
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