Author Topic: Energy independent home  (Read 8063 times)

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davidwillis

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Energy independent home
« on: January 07, 2014, 12:21:01 PM »
I hope this is the correct section to put this in, but it looks good to me. I am working on getting our home setup to be energy independent (meaning it won't have any energy costs). I have been working on this goal for a couple years now, and have just made a video of my progress so far.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLMEtp1SC64[/youtube]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLMEtp1SC64

I also have a website that describes what I am doing

www.independenthomeenergy.com

Plans I have beyond what I have done so far is to put up hot water solar panels to heat my hot water during the summer, add a second array of grid tie panels with battery backup, add an attached green house onto my house so I can have fresh vegetables year around, and grow trees around my property to supply my wood for my wood boiler (I plan on growing 3-4 rows poplars close together around the boarder of my property). I think this should be enough wood to keep me in supply...

Some other thought I have been considering in the future for fun:

1- replace my wood boiler with a true wood gasifier that runs a gen set to produce power. The waste heat from the water cooled engine and exhaust will be used to heat the hot water.

2- I would like to see if I can make a digester to produce methane, and convert my electric range and dryer over to running on methane.


So far what I have done is very exciting and has been working extremely well. My power bill has gone down from $200-300 per month to $30-$50 per month, and should be down to zero or even getting paid by the power company when I am done. I have learned a lot on these forums while getting ideas for what I am doing, so I would like to share what I have done here and would like to know if anyone had any suggestions or thoughts on what I am doing.

Thanks for reading.

MaryAlana

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Re: Energy independent home
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2014, 01:44:17 PM »
Poplar is a very poor fuel wood, burns fast almost like paper.

And look out for government, they are going after off grid home owners.

Bruce S

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Re: Energy independent home
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2014, 02:14:58 PM »
Begin
Moderator Mode
Normally as a new member, we don't allow website links. However I looked and yours seems to be mainly a place to store your progress (I.E. Your not trying to sell stuff)
I'll let it slide for now, BUT if a long term member complains, I'll have to remove the link.
The YouTube can stay. It's nicely done, too.
End
Moderator Mode
I trust you understand.
Looks like you're up in Big Sky country.
Cheers
Bruce S

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davidwillis

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Re: Energy independent home
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2014, 11:12:42 AM »
Thanks Bruce, I appreciate you letting this stay, and I would understand if you had to remove it.  I don't want to upset anyone.

MaryAlana,
I know poplar is not a good wood for burning, but I don't know of a tree that will grow fast, close together and survive in my climate.  I would like a fast growing hard wood, that you can cut down, and it would just grow right back, but I don't know of one.  Do you have any better suggestions for me?

Thanks


davidwillis

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Re: Energy independent home
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2014, 11:29:23 AM »
One tree I would like to grow is black locust, but I don't think they would grow close together, and I am not sure how fast they would grow.


MaryAlana

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Re: Energy independent home
« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2014, 01:59:29 PM »
Maple is pretty fast growing.

MaryAlana

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Re: Energy independent home
« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2014, 02:08:55 PM »
Have you considered a compressed log making machine from grass/hay? Easy to grow and harvest.

davidwillis

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Re: Energy independent home
« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2014, 05:21:13 PM »
I will have to look into maple and also the compressed log Machine.  I do like the compressed log idea a lot, but have not looked into it.  Thanks for the ideas!

Frank S

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Re: Energy independent home
« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2014, 06:15:43 PM »
Not sure how much property you have but if you are thinking of firewood as your principal heat source and happen to live in a cold climate then you will require quite a lot of land area for forestry.
 As far as a relatively fast growing tree which also produces a high BTU per cord when burned have a look at Ash.
 Bear in mind you need to calculate your total BTU loss factor your temperature differential outside vs inside,
 The rate of expected growth total "YEARS" before first harvest  number of acres to  plant each year until first harvest (probably a minimum of 5 years)
 Here is a forum that addresses some of those questions.

http://www.permies.com/t/4892/woodland/Ash-wood-grow-firewood
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davidwillis

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Re: Energy independent home
« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2014, 11:02:01 AM »
Thanks Frank.  That is a great link, I am reading it now.  I live on a 2 acre lot, but only about 1/2 or 3/4 of that could be used for growing trees, and this year I have about 3 cords of wood stored up (I hope it will last all winter), but I don't know what quality it is.  I know it is some poplar, willows, cotton wood, etc.  So it will be tricky to get enough wood from my land...

BigBreaker

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Re: Energy independent home
« Reply #10 on: February 19, 2014, 09:43:41 AM »
Coppicing is an important technique to maximize your bio-mass harvest.  This is the practice of cutting a 3-5 year old tree down to a stump in the winter and letting several new branches grow from that stump in the spring.  After another 3-5 years you can cut the poles and repeat the process.  The root stock and energy stores are preserved through the cutting cycles and so growth is very fast - faster than letting the tree mature naturally.

Ash and poplar coppice well but coppiced willow is typically sited as the champ of btu/acre/yr.  Be careful of target production numbers on the web.  Typical web sources are trying to educate commercial farmers and assume use of fertilizers.  You will likely get lower yields.  It's also worth pointing out that willow needs a lot of water and has some disease issues.

I don't have hard numbers but you will need a very efficient home given the area you have available for the wood lot.  It's more typical to devote ~5 acres for a regular sized, regularly inefficient home.  If you are way out in the country it will be easy to get fire wood even if it doesn't grow on your property absent a SHTF scenario.  And non-wood bio mass is certainly easy to get, things like agricultural residue.

I'd look to passive solar heat and heat pumps.  You'll get more heat out of a green house than a wood lot for the same area though maybe not when you want it.  Plants are surprisingly inefficient at turning direct solar energy into fuel.

Save the wood fuel for when a greenhouse can't help - like a cloudy winter day.

Definitely plan for the gasifier - it will eat almost anything that burns.  The only trick will be how you chop the fuel up and feed it.  A gasifier fueled engine turning a directly couple heat pump is about the best efficiency wood -> heat I can thing of, especially if you harvest the waste heat from the engine.

thirteen

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Re: Energy independent home
« Reply #11 on: February 20, 2014, 02:45:00 AM »
If there are some old buildings around that people might want torn down there are usually support beams and other wood you could cut up be even get maybe  paid to take a building down and burn for fire wood. 13
MntMnROY 13

XeonPony

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Re: Energy independent home
« Reply #12 on: March 02, 2014, 11:24:46 AM »
I been engineering a digester/seperator/compression system for some time, if you ever feel up to it I can send you my yahoo addy and can talk about it.

the digester is a continuous flow type, new material goes in, old goes out (Used as fertilizer)

the gase is collected in a large accumulater tank, for my test system it iwll be a 100lbs propan tank. To the tank is a pressur edifriential switch, it will turn on at 10psi and off at 3 psi (this will come later)

the take off pipe will be at the top, on the bottom there will be a valve with a timer and a flame sensor (This will take plying with to find the ideal cycle time) it is to remove the co2 via stratazition of the gass layers as pressure builds, it will open till it detects a flame meaning all co2 has been vented

the off take will go through a scrubber drying system then to a refrigeration compressor (The switch controls this!) it will pump into a very larg propane tank and pressurize it to 300psi

each segment is designs as a modual, and self containes as such so back ups can be put in place easily. My dream is to have 4 2000l propane tanks in perallel pressurized to 300psi, I think this will be a fair bit of reserve fuel for winters when usage would be at its most, the system is intended to suply up to 10 people.
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davidwillis

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Re: Energy independent home
« Reply #13 on: May 26, 2014, 05:57:53 PM »
I been engineering a digester/seperator/compression system for some time, if you ever feel up to it I can send you my yahoo addy and can talk about it.

the digester is a continuous flow type, new material goes in, old goes out (Used as fertilizer)

the gase is collected in a large accumulater tank, for my test system it iwll be a 100lbs propan tank. To the tank is a pressur edifriential switch, it will turn on at 10psi and off at 3 psi (this will come later)

the take off pipe will be at the top, on the bottom there will be a valve with a timer and a flame sensor (This will take plying with to find the ideal cycle time) it is to remove the co2 via stratazition of the gass layers as pressure builds, it will open till it detects a flame meaning all co2 has been vented

the off take will go through a scrubber drying system then to a refrigeration compressor (The switch controls this!) it will pump into a very larg propane tank and pressurize it to 300psi

each segment is designs as a modual, and self containes as such so back ups can be put in place easily. My dream is to have 4 2000l propane tanks in perallel pressurized to 300psi, I think this will be a fair bit of reserve fuel for winters when usage would be at its most, the system is intended to suply up to 10 people.

I am very interested in this project.  It is something I want to do sometime, but right now I have so many projects in the works that I need to finish before I start a new one.  I would like to know more about how this is working though.

davidwillis

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Re: Energy independent home
« Reply #14 on: May 26, 2014, 06:18:56 PM »
Have you considered a compressed log making machine from grass/hay? Easy to grow and harvest.

Do you have any suggestions for this.  I have been doing some searching, and some people use large expensive machines, while others mix up a slurry press it in a mold, and let it dry.

I have a lot of hay/grass that I could use, but I need an easy inexpensive way to turn them into logs. I don't plan on spending $10,000 on a log making machine, but would love to be able to use this wasted energy.

MaryAlana

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Re: Energy independent home
« Reply #15 on: May 27, 2014, 02:05:48 PM »
Junk yard scavenge can net a lot of the parts cheap. Biggest would be a hydraulic power pack of some sort to run a ram. Look into solar hot air collectors too, I use one and it helps even on -20 degree days.

davidwillis

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Re: Energy independent home
« Reply #16 on: May 27, 2014, 03:15:33 PM »
So basically I need to get the weeds chopped up, and wet, then compress it into a log, and let it dry?  Most information I find has people using paper and/or sawdust.  I may be able to get some sawdust, would it help to add that to the weeds/grass? 

My biggest concern is that it would be a full time job all summer to get enough compressed logs to heat my house all winter.  I am fine spending a few days or even a week doing this, but I go through 3 cords of wood, so I need a lot.

Also, does these compressed logs contain more or less energy per cord as wood?  I know there are a lot of variations of wood, but is it close?

MaryAlana

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Re: Energy independent home
« Reply #17 on: May 28, 2014, 02:47:10 PM »
Google found this
"Straw heat logs are made from agricultural residues such as wheat and rapeseed straw (stalks) although straw from a large number of crops can be used.

Straw heat logs burn reasonably well if the quality is good.

They come in cylindrical logs and briquettes.

Problems can arise from straw having high levels of silica.

Silica forms clinker during combustion.

This may not be a problem in a hearth or simple wood burner although more sophisticated burners with fans and lambda controls can be damaged by build up of silica and clinker on sensors and boiler tubes.

Straw also has higher ash levels than wood, around 3-5% so will require ash removal more frequently.

Straw logs have a energy content of around 15-16Mj/Kg, at around 12% moisture, similar to kiln dried firewood.

Quality straw logs light easily and burn reasonably well with good flames.

Their slightly lower energy content and higher ash content is usually offset by a slightly lower price."

Made from dried straw so dried lawn clippings, leaves etc would all work but you would have to experiment. Saw one guy was making them but right now it is one per hour, I would think higher pressures would cure it faster to speed that up

davidwillis

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Re: Energy independent home
« Reply #18 on: May 28, 2014, 03:21:50 PM »
Thanks, that is very good information.  I plan to try to make some this summer to test this winter.

It sounds very promising.