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Green energy choices

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Sundeep Arole, Apr 23, 2006.

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  1. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Look at the used Prius market before saying no one. You are in error there. They sell quickly and at a good price. I know, we tried to buy one. Replacement battery packs are available for $2500 if needed. yes, dealer price is more, as it is with lots of parts. As the market goes up, the price will come down. 2nd generation Prius will have greater value as lithium ion packs become available at reasonable market prices.

    I got the same kind of nonsense when I bought the pellet stove. Yet it kept gaining value as time went on and paid itself off nicely. I will miss it a lot when we sell it after the remodel.

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  2. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    So we're on the same page - that was my point - the economics of a hybrid are kind of questionable compared to some other green choices, and sometimes to less glamorous conventional vehicles. If he's looking to go to a small car, save gas, and get financial return on his new investment compared to driving what he has now, he may have some better options. Since that was one of the metrics, then we can't ignore it, but for some people there are a lot of other reasons that outweigh this. And of course in the right application with heavy frequent braking, hybrids make more and more sense. (bus and taxi fleets are a fantastic idea IMHO)

    Now if we can just get a reasonably prices plug-in hybrid common rail diesel.... then I'll be lining up to buy one!

    -Colin
  3. Turner-n-Burner

    Turner-n-Burner New Member

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  4. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    True enough about the shorter days and weaker sunlight in the winter here up north, but in the winter I'm heating my hot water with wood. It's the summer when I'm thinking solar will pay off. Year-around mostly-free hot water is a good thing, IMO. Any hot water generated by my (future) solar collectors in the winter will be icing on the green energy cake.

    Thanks again for the tax credit links, Colin. I like the idea of a two-year window of opportunity. That will allow me to start small this summer and expand (or get fancy) next year for the same half-price deal.
  5. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    You raise a lot of good points that illustrate exactly what I was getting at - a lot of people don't realize that the highway difference is negligible. I benefit from working at a suburban site with good access to highways; many co-workers reverse commute from Westchester and nearly all their miles like mine are steady high speed driving. We also buy a lot of gas, so it would really help us to get more efficiency, but sadly a hybrid can't overcome the fundamental issues you raise - esp. given high price. (although the Insight certainly makes a great stab on the aerodynamic front - funny how all that research produced a car that looks a lot like a CRX - another high mileage champ!) We've all thought about hybrids, but they just don't add up for many of us. Some of the advanced diesels fit the bill perfectly.

    And I agree that when the supply and price reaches a better equilibrium, which it will, then the economics suddenly improve - people will no longer pay MSRP (or even more), used prices will drop, and then something good will have been accomplished for a lot of drivers. It's the very high prices that break the economic equation - diminish that and then it's a no-brainer. For a guy thinking about bang for the buck right now, it's hard to ignore and it's a healthy debate to have.

    -Colin
  6. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    Very good point - I think the assumption is that you'd have to have a timer setup that would charge your battery sometime like 12AM-5AM when powerplants are running and there is very low demand. Some people argue that you would do best to get on a time-based price plan doing this.

    Chattanooga (sp?) TN has an interesting facility where at night they pump water up into a mountain top lake and then when they need power, they drop the water back down to run turbines. As an engineering student at the time, I had some real problems with this plant violating some basic thermodynamic principles :) However, they finally explained how the price of electricity on the grid varies by time of day - basically this would enable burst power for peak periods using effectively worthless power being generated in the middle of the night. Perhaps the worlds' largest battery? Highly recommend the tour if you ever visit.

    -Colin
  7. babalu87

    babalu87 New Member

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    Oooh if they put a little diesel in the 2007-08 Dakota I am on that like stink on ..........

    I need a pickup and a compact just doesnt do it for me ........6'2" under 300 and trying to get more under :)
  8. Turner-n-Burner

    Turner-n-Burner New Member

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    I agree, diesels are a better fit for my driving as well... but I keep hearing the average layperson repeat "Hybrids don't do well on the hiway" And that's just bunk. The prius does as well or better on the highway than most anything else out there that size... It is still best-in-class. It just does *better* in traffic. people hear the sound bite on the evening news and think they're being told to keep driving the Expedition... THAT frustrates me.

    You couldn't even legally buy the '05 jetta TDI in this state. A Hummer H2, sure, fine - go ahead, but a 40-50 mpg compact? Nope, too polluting <rolleyes> And unfortunately VW's reliability has gone way down hill. I'd be afraid to buy one for that reason alone.


    The sad thing about peak vs. off-peak power is that it has nothing to do with production costs or environmental factors. It's just a supply/demand/value equation. The power companies can get paid more... That giant redneck battery is a cool solution to an economic issue. Unfortunately, while it is helping the bottom line of the company, it is decreasing their actual fuel-to-power efficiency...

    What we need is super quick charging batteries - If we could start capturing lightning.... that would be something... !!
  9. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Actually, once one is going 70 mph or above, the 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid has a slight advantage here.

    There will be new technologies developing overtime. This problem is not going away. One interesting project is a super capacitor instead of a battery. It can charge almost instantly and should have a very long lifespan.
  10. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Hot Flame, when you get back, you might want to look at updating appliances if they are older. Some of the new washers really make a difference in water consumption. If that is hot water, the savings is even better. Newer fridges are better insulated and can lower energy consumption as well.
  11. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    Oh yea - totally missed that one. Front load washers and some of the newer dishwashers are great. We used to live in Austin and back in the mid-late 90s, they were doing bulk city purchases of frontload washers and the utility added an additional rebate. This got the price to $400 which was pretty amazing back then. The washer might be one that really pays for itself quickly depending on where your hot water comes from. Your clothes also dry fast due to really high speed spin cycle in frontloaders - nice bonus. (kind of like seasoning wood before you burn it :)

    The Bosch dishwashers are also fantastic - low water use, condensation drying design and super quiet. I can thank CR for that tip...

    -Colin
  12. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    Yes I agree - the catch is the highway difference isn't enough to really drive the economics at current prices. The city and stop/go driving is where you get the kind of significant benefits that help you start paying back the big initial outlay due to frequent recapturing of your intertia. Subtle point, but important - basically you have to look at your driving style to see if you'll pay it off or not - my experience is a lot of people don't understand that yet. Certainly no excuse to go drive a SUV - just good reasoning to go with a conventional civic/corolla or other small high-mileage car.

    -Colin
  13. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Or mid-sized high-mileage car :)
  14. Turner-n-Burner

    Turner-n-Burner New Member

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    BeGreen,
    Have you heard any mention of the safety of those rapid charge capacitors? I'll assume they have the potential (no pun intended) to discharge rapidly as well. I would worry about what would happen in an accident, as well as what happens to emergency response personnel when they reach an accident scene.

    I wouldn't want to be the guy wielding the jaws of life on that wreck.

    hopefully they'll solve that. Emergency responders had to get educated about airbags too.


    -Dan
  15. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Yes, funny you should mention them. A fellow on the Prius forum said he only wanted a plugin option if the charge was fast. I brought up the super-capacitors. If they deliver, one might be able to charge a car in about the time it takes to fill up with gas.
  16. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    It seems like every safety feature they put on a car messes somebody up. Back in the sixties they came out with the energy absorbing bumpers. I arrived at a Lincoln Mercury dealership just as the ambulance was leaving. Somebody had brought a car in for service that had apparently been bumped up against something and the shocks behind the bumper compressed and stayed compressed. A mechanic serviced the car, walked to the front and slammed the hood and the shocks broke loose and shattered both of his knee caps.
  17. pinefarm

    pinefarm New Member

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    SOLAR COOKER
    Some time ago, I bought and assembled a solar box cooker. It consisted of about a 2 foot square wooden box, about 8 inches deep with a plywood bottom. It had a hinged glass top and a hinged cover over that that was fitted with a reflector on its bottom surface. You lifted up the glass top to put the items to be cooked inside the box. The reflecting cover was adjustable for the best angle to direct the sun’s rays down into the box. There was a felt gasket on the top of the box where the glass top rested to make a tight seal.
    I bought an aluminum pot with a cover and painted it and the cooker flat black. I took it out into the yard away from any trees and set it on a chair with the reflector pointing due south. The idea was that you could put a meal in the cooker right after breakfast and then come home to a hot cooked dinner that evening. It was a slow cooker, substituting long cooking time for high temperature. As long as you left your meal in long enough and the sun shown, it didn’t matter how many hours it was in. There was no way anything was going to burn. Because of the long time involved, you didn’t need to re-position the reflector during the journey of the sun across the sky. You set the reflector angle for its best efficiency at noon and accepted the fact that it was less effective at other times.
    Well, it cooked up a storm. We tried all sorts of things in it and they all cooked. It was especially good for beans & rice and cassaroles of all kinds. You could bake potatoes and hard boil eggs with no water. You could bake cookies. Peak temps ran around 160 degrees here in Wisconsin. It cooked as well in the fall as in the summer. The low angle of the sun at that time of the year really poured in the btus.
    Eventually, however, the novelty wore off. We got tired of carrying the food out in the morning. We had to prepare the evening meal when we were busy getting ready to go to work and we started to neglect the thing, using it only occasionally. I would come home at night and see it sitting out there, knowing it was hot and there was nothing in it. That really bothered me. It seemed a real waste so, I moved it into the barn where it remained.
    Looking back on it, I realize how foolish my thinking was. It really brought home to me the concept of renewable energy as nothing else ever did. The same amount of energy fell on that 2 foot square of lawn, whether my cooker was there or not. It fell there yesterday and it will fall there tomorrow. I could either use it or not. It didn’t matter to the sun. I felt guilty when my cooker was there empty but, it was really no different from the hundreds of other 2 foot squares on my lawn yet, I never felt guilty about them. I felt better when I brought the cooker in out of the sun. What difference did that make? None. Dave Johnson
  18. colsmith

    colsmith New Member

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    Back to hybrids - I have also been 'told' by many people that the advantage isn't there for highway driving. But it is! I watch my mileage like a hawk, so I know. Our Honda Insight gets about 50 MPG (slightly less in winter with the heat on, a little more in summer) and it doesn't much matter if it is city or highway driving. If I could actually manage to drive under 70 more often there would be no problem getting the 50 MPG on the highway. When there is more traffic and I am limited to more like 55 the mileage actually goes up. Last year on a long trip I found that I was accidentally going 90. How fast does a person need to go?!? The acceleration is good, maybe not the same as my old Dodge Daytona Shelby Z with the 5 speed and turbo charger, but still very nice. My Insight is an automatic. Would prefer a stick, as they supposedly get 10 MPG more, but we considered ourselves lucky to find this one (it was used and reasonable.) I live in a rural/suburban.area, nearest traffic light is just over 4 miles away, most blocks are 1 mile square, to give you an idea what sort of area I live.

    Let me also assure Colin that I am not a frequent or heavy braker. My friends have complained for years that I don't slow down enough going around corners and things. :) I lived in Puerto Rico for a while, shipped my car over, and the rear brakes were ruined in shipping. The Dodge Daytona being very rare in PR, I couldn't get brake parts until hubby tracked them down used and brought them to me (from Chicago via Venezuela on a business trip.) I went about 6 weeks driving through the mountains with no rear brakes. (Lots of trips to the airport with hubby.) I learned to drive from the bottom of the island to the top on the highway with almost no braking. (Strategic use of downshifting and knowing the roads and curves and when I could coast at very high speeds safely.) For the Honda Insight, it is just the small engine plus electric motor combined with a very light car that gives excellent mileage, not so much how or where you drive. Not that I am a speed demon, but I don't drive slowly either.

    We tried all the hybrids, hubby fit best in the Insight. He is almost 6'7" and 200+something. He has really long legs, so the lack of back seat meant the front seat has more room. It was a good investment because we needed to buy something he fit in and he's so big, so that limits our options to pricier things. Now we save heaps on gas. We just got a letter from the local Honda dealer asking if we would please sell our car to them as they have a lot of people who want to buy it. Ha, too bad for them. We love it, only fear is that someone in an SUV or big truck will crush us because it is so small. Sort of like driving a motorcycle with a little shell around it, people don't always see us. It's a 2002, bought in 2004 for $13K, so that was great compared to the $21K for a new Prius and I think it was $19K or $20 for a new Insight at that time. We also have our OLD Ford Ranger for hauling manure and wood and things. Hauled some woodchips in the Insight recently, came to a screeching halt at some deer crossing the road late at night. Got woodchips all over the car, oops, have been ordered not to haul woodchips in the car any more. So it doesn't fill all needs, but it is our primary vehicle. And I assure you we aren't the kind of people that spend money to be cool. We spend so little money that if other Americans were like us the economy would collapse. We are rabid environmentalists so that factors in, too.
  19. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    I don't doubt the Insight gets great mileage on highway as noted above... difference here is you have a really small vehicle designed for two adults (max 350 lbs including payload), really light weight, and lots of aerodynamic engineering. You are right that for highway driving this is a good choice. So was the CRX - the closest gas equivalent. I once saw a picture of an insight next to a CRX from the side - amazingly similar egg-shaped profile. No surprise the old CRX-HF models were pretty darn close to 50 MPG in real highway driving (usually ~45 MPG; closer to 40 for the DX model and mid-high 30s for the high performance "Si" models) - the CRX-HF had very similar power/weight ratio and performance characteristics. The insight adds an even slimmer profile, more aluminum components, harder tires (key to the highway mileage at expense of ride) and rear wheel skirts.

    Again the right statement should be that a hybrid will get incrementally better highway mileage, but not enough to justify the cost of it relative to conventional alternatives - the possibility of payback comes in city driving where you have much more differential. For example, the CRX-HF would only do in the 30s for city driving, so now you're looking at a larger delta to 50 MPG. If that is the type of driving you do, where you might be going up by 15-20 MPG, your savings potential is greater, and you might pay back the difference. A 5 MPG difference won't do it. (as CR demonstrated)

    The Insight is really unique because there is no conventional alternative anymore. I have seriously considered one myself at times - since we don't have kids, it could work for us. We really liked our older CRX for a commuter but it was really getting a little too worn out for us. So far, however, we can still commute together every day so we went with a car that has more creature comforts figuring that we are still way ahead of two normal cars.

    -Colin
  20. Rhone

    Rhone Minister of Fire

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    Can you install a domestic Hot Water recovery system like this if it will work in your situation? They're cheap and I personally like the non-electric simpler GFX model, on average it recovers 30% of your hot water used in a bathroom shower above your basement and makes your showers hotter which I recall you mentioning your shower is cold. The GFX star you'd have to look into it, it uses a pump which is another failure point, and you have to pay for the electricity to run it, but it can recover heat from all the hot water appliances used for any of the floors above the basement and recovers probably around 50% of the heat in the hot water going down the drain. Both models have be vertical and your basement may be finished so you have no room for it. That's a cheap way to save you some $, but the amount is based on what temperature the people like to take showers at, how long, and how many. If it's just you and your spouse and both take quick warm showers, its recovery efficiency won't be as good as a family that takes extremely hot and long showers (aka my wife). The GFX standard model doesn't do much for baths, you only get the heat recovery from showers.

    Next I'd opt for a solar hot water heater. This is the one I'm looking at. They're cheap, you get a 30% federal credit up to $2000, can't increase your property taxes because of it, last about 30 years, and today if I was looking at a house and saw one with solar panels, I'd pay a bit more for it. Others, think they're ugly. They're springing up where I live. New England works well with Solar, sure it's not the best. The best is probably Colorado but still work very well in New England of which you compensate with a little larger panels or an extra panel and more water storage to buffer you through the cloudy spells. An 80 gallon storage tank and 2 panels I determined would supply my house with enough hot water for 2-3 days without sun so occasionally you'll need to kick on the furnace. Also, when it's going to be cloudy for 3-4 days tell your family to take quick, cooler showers to conserve. I don't plan on them doing much in January and February, I don't think 2 panels in New England with as short a sun period and the temps in those months can do much but the other 10 months they should be assisting or fully fulfilling your hot water needs. I'd personally, position them for the maximum gain in Fall and Spring and not position them for maximum gain in winter. I still have to work that out, but from what I've been playing with solar panels mine will be pretty much pointless in those 2 months, and positioning them to get 10% more out of an extremely little amount, is still an extreme little amount. But, positioning them for Spring and Fall and getting 10% more out of a medium amount will give me more and extend my Spring/Fall use. I'll be able to tell you how that plan goes as I work on converting solar radiation into btu's and fit the panels angle into the formula.

    I'm currently in the process of having my roof replaced in preparation for solar, todays collectors last about 30 years in New England and my roof is at the end of its life so wanted a new roof before putting the collectors on. My house doesn't face south either, it is a perfect 90 degrees off. I plan on putting my collectors on the back side and use brackets to lift them to the proper angle. It will probably be next years project for me. They're going up in price, a lot so I'd do it sooner than later if you're going to do it.
  21. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    Wow, I have actually thought about this issue before - why we don't try to heat exchange our drain water. Looks like someone is already doing it :)

    Interestingly, our basement is completely unfinished, and our primary drain is right next to our water intake to the house, and all are on the same side as the master bath. So, this would not be terribly difficult to install to recapture any drain water. I will definitely dig into this some more - thanks for the tip!

    Working on the solar HW stuff now - thinking it may be worth us looking at an evacuated tube collector for potentially more efficient cold weather / cloudy day collection, although hudson valley is really quite sunny year round. I think we may be able to hide one of these collectors better since they tend to be smaller and easy to angle mount at higher point on roof that may be less obtrusive; main drawback is cost, but in NY state, we get another 25% credit off purchase price from the state - at net half price after tax rebates, I might be able to justify it.

    -Colin
  22. pinefarm

    pinefarm New Member

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    All well and good but, be careful. People used to let their bath water sit in the tub until it cooled to room temp. That's a good idea and I do it sometimes but, do it too much and you risk freezing up your septic tank. Dave Johnson
  23. Rhone

    Rhone Minister of Fire

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    If you take baths, and want the domestic hot water recovery system only the GFX-Star with a powered motor can recover any heat from a bath. Plus, as mentioned bath water is usually rather cold by the time you drain it. If it's for a shower with continous use that's where it works best.

    I researched into the Flat Plate vs. Evacuated tubes and I decided not to go for the evacuated tubes. The arguments are higher efficiency particularly in cloudy & in very cold weather. That can be true. But, people who have them complain that when it snows, dews, or gets covered in ice since they're evacuated and don't let heat escape, they have to go out there and physically remove the snow and ice as it doesn't melt off them like they do with panels. I also saw that places do a square foot analyses comparison and show that the evacuated tubes are more efficient. Evacuated tubes are smaller than flat solar panels so even if they are more efficient they have less energy to collect because of their smaller aperature, whereas solar panels are less efficient but have comparitevly large aperatures which compensates for that. Evacuated tubes last around 20 years and over twice the cost whereas solar panels last around 30 years and at least half the cost. That's what I came up with when deciding and figured I'm going to be better with flat plate collectors. They do have their place, evacuated tubes look cool, and if you don't have much room they do get you more btu's per square foot. You can add to them easily, subtract easily, and for heating flat plate collectors must have radiant floor heating, whereas evacuated tubes can heat water to temperatures that can be used in forced hot water baseboards. There is a point when they do outperform flat panels in practice, there are temps so cold solar panels even with larger aperatures lose more heat to the outside than evacuated tubes. It's around 15 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have many cloudy days (evacuated tubes still work to some extent when cloudy) or are most concerned about those that are 15 degrees or below you'll be better with evacuated tubes, otherwise you'll be getting more btu's from flat solar panels. Some things to consider, I went in with an open mind and started researching both and afterward felt the flat plate collectors come out ahead IF aethetics doesn't bother you. Plus, I already determined when it's 10-15 degrees outside I won't be getting enough btu's from the panels flat or evacuated. I'm glad to see others researching and thinking the same thing as me. :)
  24. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    Freeze your septic tank??? I don't think so. It's like 10 ft deep and frost line is max of like 18".
  25. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    Freeze septic tank? never seen or heard of this happening in New England

    If were starting anew I would plan a re-cir systen where I could capture grey water use it for toilets and waste. water supply
    I'd a little skepticle about re using shower water. If one were comming down sick and used the shower? does the pump or system sanatize the re used water?
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