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heating water with solar and/or wood and/or micro hydro

paul wheaton
Trailboss

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20542
    ∞

This ain't about "what if", this is me taking a bit of video of a place that did it a while back and it has been working just peachy ....





permaculture Wood Burning Stoves 2.0 - 4-DVD set
Pat Farrell
Rancher

Joined: Aug 11, 2007
Posts: 4650
    
    5

Bletch. Or I guess, 2 out of 3 ain't bad.

Burning wood is a disaster. Sure, you can regrow the wood stand, but the burning is very inefficient and creates all sorts of evil air pollution.

I have a brother-in-law who was a tree surgeon, and had a house with two furnaces. One oil fired and another wood fired. He'd set the oil thermostat at 67 and the wood furnace system's at 69. He burned wood he cut in his job. When he took the effort to stoke the wood furnace, it would keep the house warm. When he got tired or was asleep, the oil burner would come on. So this was an interesting and cheap system, but it failed at being ecologically sensitive, as did the system in the video.
paul wheaton
Trailboss

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20542
    ∞

How did it fail at being ecologically sensitive?

It uses rocket stove technology. It burns so completely you can put your face up to the exhaust. Fuel is just lying around on the ground - at least where I too the video it is. And the system captures so much heat, that the exhaust is usually room temp.

What heats your shower Pat?



Pat Farrell
Rancher

Joined: Aug 11, 2007
Posts: 4650
    
    5

paul wheaton wrote:It uses rocket stove technology. It burns so completely you can put your face up to the exhaust. Fuel is just lying around on the ground - at least where I too the video it is. And the system captures so much heat, that the exhaust is usually room temp.


The fuel is lying around only if you live in the boonies by yourself. It takes about 10 acres of woodlot to provide enough wood for one house. it doesn't scale, and most folks don't live on 10 acre lots.

I am skeptical that it burns "so completely" as you claim. With a good condensing design, the exhaust can be 100 degrees F or so. If its really room temperature, you have severe possibilities for internal leaks, carbon monoxide poisoning, etc.

Burning wood generates a lot of CO2, green house gas, etc. even if all the other bad stuff is filtered out and captured. CO2 is the main cause of global warming. And if you filter out all the other crap, where does it go? Perhaps in a retention pond like in Tennassee a month or two ago?

paul wheaton wrote:What heats your shower Pat?

Natural Gas. Its not perfect. But it doesn't make any excessive claims of eco-purity.

IMHO, a solution has to work in cities of at least 100,000 people to bother with. People are social animals, and we need cities to have an economy. We're not going back to being hunter gatherers. And to make it interesting, it has to work in LA, NY, or Hong Kong.
paul wheaton
Trailboss

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20542
    ∞

Oh my.

The fuel is lying around only if you live in the boonies by yourself.


I guess I'm confused. Are you saying that the moment someone moves in with me that all of the fuel disappears?

It takes about 10 acres of woodlot to provide enough wood for one house.


I don't agree with that.

I have seen homes in western washington that have one of these rocket stoves. Considering the temperature, the small home, and how quickly trees grow in this region - I think half an acre for the home will be plenty. Sustainably harvested, of course! And that same half an acre can also provide food, wildlife habitat and lots of other stuff.

it doesn't scale


Well, let's see now ... How many people currently heat almost exclusively with wood? Let's say about 500 million. And now, with this technology, they can heat 5 to 10 times more efficiently. Using 5 to 10 times less fuel.

I'm having a hard time understanding your claim that it does not scale. This isn't a new idea. This is an optimization on an existing idea.

As for moving from perhaps 25% of the world wanting heat to 100% - well, I'm not making any claims of that.

I am skeptical that it burns "so completely" as you claim.


A healthy skepticism!

Please take a look at another video I put up:



This video is taken after a workshop where we made one of these rocket mass heaters out of about 95% mud. The mud will take a long time to dry - and during that time, a lot of steam (or water vapor) will come out of the exhaust. Normally, running one of these rocket heaters for 20 minutes is long enough for a day of heat. But this one is run for several hours to dry the mud.

So, there is lots of steam. And people are putting their faces in the exhaust and smelling hardly any smoke.

When I looked at the exhaust of established heaters, they would have about 30 times less steam coming out. It would look like a tiny trickle of steam dribbling out.

But again - even if you put your face right up to it, you can't really smell anything. Just the faintest hint of a fire far, far away. That seems very different from modern woodstoves. Or standard fireplaces.

CO2 is the main cause of global warming.


It is? I thought that stuff from the last couple of years showed it was in second or third place. Behind stuff like deforestation and the whole thing with cities being such great heat collectors.

And if you filter out all the other crap, where does it go? Perhaps in a retention pond like in Tennassee a month or two ago?


No filter. Just reburning the smoke.

Natural Gas. Its not perfect. But it doesn't make any excessive claims of eco-purity.


I am confused all over again. You seem to be okay with a non-renewable resource and upset about the use of a renewable resource.

We're not going back to being hunter gatherers.


Well .... maybe you're not.

Myself - I'm kinda keen on moving in that direction a bit more. I'm sure I'll never be 100% - but I would feel better with something like 10% or 20%. And if I add in my horticultural and animal husbandry endeavors, I would like to push that out to about 90%.









Pat Farrell
Rancher

Joined: Aug 11, 2007
Posts: 4650
    
    5

paul wheaton wrote:
it doesn't scale

Well, let's see now ... How many people currently heat almost exclusively with wood? Let's say about 500 million. And now, with this technology, they can heat 5 to 10 times more efficiently. Using 5 to 10 times less fuel.


Apples to oranges. The deforestation that you complain about is a direct result of folks in lesser developed places gathering wood and burning it.

There is not enough water and good land to grow the trees needed to scale this for all of the US, let alone China and India and sub-Saharian Africa.


paul wheaton wrote:
CO2 is the main cause of global warming.


It is? I thought that stuff from the last couple of years showed it was in second or third place. Behind stuff like deforestation and the whole thing with cities being such great heat collectors.


Got a cite? I've seen nothing of the sort. Unless you call deforestation and burning the wood not a source of CO2


paul wheaton wrote:
No filter. Just reburning the smoke.


Your idea that you can burn the wood and have zero bad stuff left over is a dream.


paul wheaton wrote:
Natural Gas. Its not perfect. But it doesn't make any excessive claims of eco-purity.

I am confused all over again. You seem to be okay with a non-renewable resource and upset about the use of a renewable resource.


Nothing to be confused about. Natural gas burns well and scales fairly well. It will run out. As will your wood.
Natural Gas will be replaced by fission nuclear power as soon as the greenies stop ranting. And we can dream that fission will be replaced by fusion RSN.

I write software for a living. The back to nature dream has nothing to interest me. I need things like electricity, network connections, and face to face communications. I want things like grocery stores.
paul wheaton
Trailboss

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20542
    ∞

The deforestation that you complain about is a direct result of folks in lesser developed places gathering wood and burning it.


Oh my.

I didn't realize I was complaining. My error. Please accept my sincere apology. I certain didn't mean to complain.

I thought I was conveying my impression of ... the state of stuff.

And my thinking of the deforestation involved those places where trees are removed for the sake of most types of agriculture. I would guess that there is 10 to 40 times more deforestation for the sake of agricultural endeavors than for folks trying to procure fuel wood.

In fact, it is excellent that you mention "esser developed places gathering wood and burning it" because that is where this technology was first introduced. In Africa.

Apparently, there is a region in Africa where folks cook their food in wood fires in houses with no chimney. The house just fills with smoke. So, rocket stoves were introduced. Almost zero smoke. And they cook with about 10 times less wood. So these rocket stoves are becoming quite popular.

There is not enough water and good land to grow the trees needed to scale this for all of the US, let alone China and India and sub-Saharian Africa.


I think I mentioned in my last post:

A) I'm not advocating for this to be for everybody. Just those where it is a good fit. Where there is an excess of wood fuel already existing.

And,

B) Since these are about 5 to 10 times more efficient, and about 30% of people who desire heat currently use wood, then the math says that .... yes .... the current level of wood being used would be enough for everybody in the world to warm themselves with wood, provided that everybody used this sort of heater.

Got a cite?


I haven't bothered to track this sort of thing that closely.

But since you are keen on the need for a cite, I suppose you have one?

Your idea that you can burn the wood and have zero bad stuff left over is a dream.


I suppose it depends on how you define "bad stuff". And how you define "zero".

"bad stuff" being CO and CO2 - there is no getting around that. Of course, if once can have less of it with this technique, than others, that is a lovely perk. As I mentioned before, it isn't that this is a new thing as much as it is an optimization. A much cleaner burn combined with more transfer of heat into the room, thus requiring less wood.

And "zero" - I think I would say "near zero". Did I say "zero"?

Nothing to be confused about. Natural gas burns well and scales fairly well. It will run out. As will your wood.


My wood will run out? How is that so?

-----

So, Pat, I asked you a question. You stated "The fuel is lying around only if you live in the boonies by yourself." and I asked "Are you saying that the moment someone moves in with me that all of the fuel disappears?" and I didn't find your answer to this question.

Did you wish to withdraw your statement?

I also contested your point about 10 acres. And you didn't respond to that. Are you conceding that point?







Gregg Bolinger
GenRocket Founder
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 11, 2001
Posts: 15299
    
    6

I like Pie. I don't care what kind of heat cooks it. I just like Pie.


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Pat Farrell
Rancher

Joined: Aug 11, 2007
Posts: 4650
    
    5

paul wheaton wrote:I suppose it depends on how you define "bad stuff". And how you define "zero".

So, Pat, I asked you a question. You stated "The fuel is lying around only if you live in the boonies by yourself." and I asked "Are you saying that the moment someone moves in with me that all of the fuel disappears?" and I didn't find your answer to this question.

Did you wish to withdraw your statement?

I also contested your point about 10 acres. And you didn't respond to that. Are you conceding that point?

No, I am not about to withdraw it. This is getting tiresome. The wood will not magically disappear. But it also will not stay on the ground forever as a free good, independent of population.

Bad stuff, I am not a chemist, I write software, is all the stuff other than water that is a result of the oxidation. There are a lot of combustion products, depending on a bunch of factors including the type of wood/tree.

I got the 10 acres number from when I was working with the BLM forestry folks in Medford Oregon and the Washington (state) office.

But I am tired of this discussion, so perhaps someone else will respond.
Bert Bates
author
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8815
    
    5
i like fresnel mirrors


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Henry Wong
author
Sheriff

Joined: Sep 28, 2004
Posts: 18763
    
  40

But I am tired of this discussion, so perhaps someone else will respond.


Well, if it helps, I agree with many of your points. However, I completely disagree with your conclusions.

Yes, burning wood won't scale for cities. And it is highly doubtful that it will burn 100% clean. But how does that conclude to efficient wood burning stoves being a bad thing? There is no one solution that will solve all environmental problems -- having efficient wood burning stoves, where no better options exists, that improves the efficiency many fold, is a great thing.

Henry

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Pat Farrell
Rancher

Joined: Aug 11, 2007
Posts: 4650
    
    5

Henry Wong wrote:Yes, burning wood won't scale for cities. And it is highly doubtful that it will burn 100% clean. But how does that conclude to efficient wood burning stoves being a bad thing? There is no one solution that will solve all environmental problems -- having efficient wood burning stoves, where no better options exists, that improves the efficiency many fold, is a great thing.

Its a lock that wood can't burn to have zero bad results, only good energy release. Smelling good does not mean that the fumes are free of either carbon dioxide nor carbon monoxide, both are orderless, invisible gasses.

I will agree that if you are cold and wet, burning wood beats the alternatives of freezing and dying, at least for the person who is freezing wet.

Ben Franklin invented a stove that was much more efficient and clean than what was in use at the time. It was great.

What I do not agree with is the claim that these rocket stoves are great. They beat a kick in the teeth. They beat burning the wood in an open campfire. But if half the people in any large country, say the US, or India, used them, the wood would be gone in a puff of smoke.

Today, fission power is the only vague winner, and it has some problems, many of which are grossly hyped. Fusion or tidal wave power have potential. Even wind power has potential. But there is no free lunch today.
Paul Clapham
Bartender

Joined: Oct 14, 2005
Posts: 18541
    
    8

Those people in India (and other places) are already burning wood and deforesting their environment. Many millions of people are doing that. So in the short to medium term, it would be better for them to use stoves which burned less wood for the amount of heat energy produced. Even if there were already a fission reactor in their neighbourhood, somebody would still have to run cables to bring electricity to those people. This is going to take time, a lot of time. And remember that those people don't have the money to pay for anything near as expensive as a fission reactor.

My point is, an incremental improvement next year is better than a big improvement that might be made 50 years from now. So insisting on waiting for the big improvement is counterproductive.

paul wheaton
Trailboss

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20542
    ∞

Pat's back!

I thought you were all done with this one.

So, since you left all of my other points, I suppose that you concede all of them? I could list every one if you like.

I would like to respond to the new stuff you have brought up:

Its a lock that wood can't burn to have zero bad results


Please help me find the claim that it would.

It seems like an odd point to keep bringing up when your current form of heat appears to also exude CO and CO2 from a non-renewable source.

But if half the people in any large country, say the US, or India, used them, the wood would be gone in a puff of smoke.


You keep saying this and I keep refuting it based on math alone.

So, let's start with how many people in the US currently heat almost exclusively with wood. I would guess 30%. But ... let us suppose that it is more like 10%.

Add to that, that the current folks burning wood have not consumed all of the wood.

If all of those people converted to a rocket mass heater, then current wood consumption for fuel would drop by a factor of ten. Leaving the road open for ten times more people to burn wood with the same efficient technique.

Therefore, there is enough fuel in the US right now to fuel more than half of all homes.

But .... that's just a wacky point. I don't know why you even bring it up. I think the real point is that if you happen to live in the boonies and you have an excess of wood just lying about ... or if you currently burn wood for heat .... then this is something where you get the same heat for 10 times less wood. That means 10 times less work hauling/chopping/sawing wood! And, as an added bonus: 10 time less pollution because you are using 10 times less wood! And as another bonus, even less pollution still because of the smoke reburn! And another bonus - you don't have to keep stoking the fire all day - one small fire each morning per day is usually plenty!

This idea isn't being presented as something to heat all homes. It's being presented as a solution for heating homes where it makes sense. It is a massive improvement. Brilliant stuff! Ingenious!



Ulf Dittmer
Marshal

Joined: Mar 22, 2005
Posts: 41613
    
  55
There are some interesting numbers and analysis on this subject in http://www.theoildrum.com/node/3374. There's no discussion on rocket stoves as such, although they do get mentioned in a few of the reader comments (with a somewhat sceptical view as to the magnitude of their benefits).

Looks like about 5% of residential heating was done by wood a few years ago.


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paul wheaton
Trailboss

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20542
    ∞

Excellent link! I spent a half hour yesterday looking for something like that - and utterly failed.

I like the part that says "Even in the world today over 2 billion people use firewood as their primary fuel source."

Ulf, I searched the page for "rocket" and didn't come up with anything.


Ulf Dittmer
Marshal

Joined: Mar 22, 2005
Posts: 41613
    
  55
paul wheaton wrote:Ulf, I searched the page for "rocket" and didn't come up with anything.

Sorry about that - it was actually in the discussions on the page from where I got to that page: http://www.theoildrum.com/node/5132
paul wheaton
Trailboss

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20542
    ∞

I found the point you were referring to.

I think the author of that post is mixing efficiencies. There is the efficiency of the burn - how much material leaves the stove unburned (smoke) vs. the efficiency of moving the heat into the room.

The wood stove where I live is supposedly very efficient. When burning hot, there is very little wood smoke coming out of the chimney. And yet, I suspect that 80% or more of the heat is going right out the chimney.

Further, mass heaters provide a lot more radiant heat than conventional woodstoves. And, further still, most rocket mass heaters are designed to also provide a dose of conductive heat. So to properly compare the efficiency of heat transfer, you would need to measure all three form of heat.

Without this data, the only thing I can provide is my own anecdotal experience. I can say that the firebox is one quarter the size of the smallest firebox I have ever seen before (and there some really tiny woodstoves out there). And the room was bigger than a normal living room. And there was frost on the ground outside. One breakfast, I sat on the bench that had been heated the day before and I was getting too warm.

Having built thousands of fires for wood heat, my general impression is that it uses 10 times less fuel. I am impressed.

Bert Bates
author
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8815
    
    5
An excellent book that will help you all cut through this discussion:

http://www.amazon.com/Sustainable-Energy-Without-Hot-Air/dp/0954452933/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1239207175&sr=1-1

Check out page 235:

"The bottom line North America's non-solar renewables aren't enough for North America to live on. But when we include a massive expansion of solar power, there's enough. So North America needs solar in its own deserts..."

This guy backs up ALL of his conclusions with a lot of pretty solid looking math!

So I say again:

I like fresnel mirrors... and further, you can make them in your own backyard!
paul wheaton
Trailboss

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20542
    ∞

Bert,

I think this sorta rolls back to the first post.

I think the answer is gonna be distributed diversity. Solar in the desert is gonna have very little value for the coastal forests of washington and oregon. Transporting the power is generally not worth it.

And in this case, these folks are completely off grid. And this one hot water tank in three different ways. Solar is the easiest, but for a cloudy day and folks are using lots of the micro-hydro ... well, then a tiny fire will do the trick. And living in such a thick forest - it's easy to come up with firewood in a sustainable fashion.



Bert Bates
author
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8815
    
    5
phew! back on the internet

I'm all about the diversity angle.

I would like to clarify a few terms, does "off the grid" refer only to power for bigger things like air conditioners and clothes dryers? Can you be off the grid and still get wireless internet? Can you be off the grid and still want to power your laptop, your clock radio, your blender? If so, the solar mirror route can be a great solution for folks, even off the grid, who want some of the benefits of electricity.
paul wheaton
Trailboss

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20542
    ∞

No doubt. Solar is gonna be a perfect fit for a lot of folks.

Wind for others.

Micro hydro for others.

And methane digesters for others.

Some might even have more than one.

Paul Clapham
Bartender

Joined: Oct 14, 2005
Posts: 18541
    
    8

I often thought that I could do "micro hydro" by installing little turbines in the downspouts on my house. That would produce power when it rains, and that's when I need power more. But probably it wouldn't produce enough power to make a difference... but I don't know how to do that math.
Joe Ess
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Joined: Oct 29, 2001
Posts: 8876
    
    8

Inventor turns cardboard boxes into eco-friendly oven


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Arvind Mahendra
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what if in this all lets go solar euphoria causes us to run out of the Sun?


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