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What is the Most "Environmentally Friendly" Way to Heat a Home? Looking for FACTS!

Post in 'The Green Room' started by Whimfield, Sep 21, 2008.

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  1. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    Ken- wood heat is not "carbon neutral" if you use anything with an engine in the process- splitter, saw, tractor, car, truck. Or... anything produced using petroleum or coal- so basically if you can eat all organic food and harvest without using metal or plastic- you are in better shape :)

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  2. kenny chaos

    kenny chaos Minister of Fire

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    Thanks Adios. I never said it was carbon neutral.

    I used to get a kick out of the people at the farmers markets that wanted to grill me on my offerings being raised and processed in a healthier manner. I use to wonder how many of them were involved in some capacity with the production or sales of missles, pharmaceuticals, cars, tobacco, etc.. I use to wonder what all the "experts" did to improve things. It was quite disheartening. When people asked me where the organic veggie vendor was, I'd point him out, "That's him over there having a smoke."
  3. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    Kenny- I was responding to Ken45
  4. BurningIsLove

    BurningIsLove New Member

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    Well that's interesting then that you vote 'passive solar' as the most green of heating sources. If you define 'passive solar' to mean the sun's rays hitting your house directly and heating it up, then absolutely yes, not much can compete with that! If you mean 'passive solar' to mean using solar cells (not photovoltaics) for hot water/radiant heating, then I'd have to strongly disagree. It takes an great deal of energy to create a thermal panel when you factor in the cost of the mgring plant, transportation, energy required to create the cell/grow the crystals, etc), more than what can ever be realistically extracted from it before the cell degrades. People use them because they are economical over the long term, but as I recall, cost is not the driving factor of the author's article.

    I dont think much can compete with wood heating, assuming the normal arguments about supply, proper forest management, etc. Sure, your average chainsaw/log splitter will use fuel & oil, but I find that I use about 5 gallons each year to process several cords of wood. Most people burn that in less than a week of business commutes. So while not 100% carbon neutral, it's pretty darn close. In the like thread, a delivery truck bringing solar cells to your house is going to use that much fuel if not a whole lot more.

    Geothermal (e.g. Iceland's supply) is certainly very green in the grand scheme of other reliable power sources, but it's sparsely available in supply close to sources of demand.

    I know this will draw some flames (and hopefully some intelligent debate), but if you live in an area that doesnt have ready access to sustainable firewood, or your lifestyle/home simply precludes it, then nuclear would be the most green of alternate, *reliable* sources of energy when compared to fossil fuels. We've got enough uranium on US soil that is easily accessible to mining for a few hundred years, more than enough to sustain heating/electrical needs until we figure out something better. Sure, the age old problem of handling/storage of nuclear waste products should be considered, but if you gave me the option of electric heat using fossil fuels which an average plant hurls tons of particulates & CO2 into the air each day vs. one that produces tons/year which is tightly controlled, I'm going to pick the latter. You can also process atomic waste as well as purifying before using it in the first place. There is LOT of bad information out there on nuclear waste. 90% of radioactivity is gone within 10 years, 98% within a century. And barring the unforeseen, its under tight security vs. floating around in the atmosphere.
  5. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    You think that the energy to make the glass, reflector, an pipes in a panel is more than the energy to make a cast iron stove, plus liner and or chimney components? People grow crystals for non-photovoltaic solar panels? You assume that the chimney, woodstove, etc mystically appear and require no transportation- but that solar does? Do you think that a panel degrades, but that a stove is eternal?

    I know a guy that heats his house on 1.5 cord a year (no backup heat) in NH because one side of the house is insulated by the earth, and the other is his attached greenhouse (solarium) that heats in the sun- I'd say he's mostly "passive solar", with wood making up the difference. He also starts all his garden plants in there (most of his food)- so it's multi-use.
  6. fossil

    fossil Accidental Moderator Staff Member

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    Passive solar for space heating can be as simple as a south-facing wall with lots of glass, and a trombe wall (basically just a big thermal mass of concrete, stone, adobe, or something) into which the radiant energy of the sun can be absorbed. Incorporating an underground thermal mass or heat sink will allow even more energy storage. Dwellings must be built anyway, incorporating some passive solar features takes some thinking but probably adds little if anything to the cost. Nothing to do with panels, pipes, pumps, hot water, or electricity. Ever lay back on a huge granite boulder well after sunset as the evening mountain air is rapidly cooling?...toasty warm! Rick
  7. Vic99

    Vic99 Minister of Fire

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    "I know this will draw some flames (and hopefully some intelligent debate), but if you live in an area that doesnt have ready access to sustainable firewood, or your lifestyle/home simply precludes it, then nuclear would be the most green of alternate, *reliable* sources of energy when compared to fossil fuels."

    "It takes an great deal of energy to create a thermal panel when you factor in the cost of the mgring plant, transportation . . . . "

    I like a lot of the aspects of nuclear power. Everyone always (validly I think) points out the waste issue. If you are going to go down the cradle to grave road regarding envi impact, don't forget about mining for uranium (and other substances mentioned above). Although the U.S. currently recycles a fair amount of building materials, car parts etc. (usually 49-52% of steel disposed of annually for example), many substance have to be mined. To my knowledge this country mines all of its uranium (I thought I heard about a breeder nuke plant in England or Israel or something). Mining consumes an enormous amount of energy. Many techniques also often drastically changes the landscape (strip mining, tar shale extract for more oil, etc.) Habitat destruction, pollution, etc. Even with replacing overburden.
  8. Ken45

    Ken45 Minister of Fire

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    I beieve that France gets 70% of it's power from fast breeder reactors. My understanding is that they are very efficient and produce little waste and need little fuel. The U.S. will not allow the technology for fear that the materials will fall into the wrong hands. Duh! Half the world already has the materials and the rest can easily get it on the black market.

    Ken
  9. Vic99

    Vic99 Minister of Fire

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    Cool, thanks. I'll look it up.
  10. KeithO

    KeithO Minister of Fire

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    Once we have burnt all the oil and everyone grabs at ready alternatives, we will quickly be hearing of peak uranium. Right now nuclear is only a small part of global energy and wouldn't last long if anyone tries to make it the mainstay. A few hundred years and it is all over and we are back in the stone age. Then, like previously, land is king.
  11. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    In truth, the greenest way to heat is simply to heat less - conservation. It is a major problem with our thinking that we think one fuel is greener than the other - wood might be green if only a small % of people burn it, and they burn it clean - but it certainly would not be as green if used on the honest scale that we would need to do in order to be a real contribution.

    From that point of view, Natural Gas is hard to beat.

    A good case can be made for wood in:
    cold climes
    where there is lots of wood
    when it is burned cleanly
    etc.

    but that is just one part of the BIG picture. We have a nice wind machines near here, and they are most definitely clean and green.

    Anyway, in a world of 6+ billion, it is getting tougher to work this stuff on an individual basis. The really greening of the world, if it happens, is largely to be on a larger scale.

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  12. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Amen, conservation is the best approach. An ideal house would be heated by body heat, lighting and appliances.

    I would also suggest the igloo as a pretty good solution using available materials. Not for me, but pretty ingenious use of materials and low planet impact.
  13. Ken45

    Ken45 Minister of Fire

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    But efficient lighting won't give off enough heat to do any good. How much heat do you get from LED bulbs? Applicances? The refrigerator and the computers are the only things that run much here (TV hasn't been on in six months). Again, efficient applicances won't contribute much. Body heat? Even two person sleeping bags aren't all that warm in cold weather. Unless you are going to pack 100 people into your 200 sq ft house, that isn't going to work either.


    Igloos only work where there is a lot of snow and cold and even then they just don't last year around :( Last time I could have built one was 1978. IIRC, Minnesota didn't even have enough snow for one last winter (or maybe that was the winter before.)

    While I agree that conservation is good, it will no more solve the problem than any other single answer.

    Ken
  14. BobTheTomato

    BobTheTomato Member

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    Hey don't forget that strip mining prevents forest fires

    :)
  15. Vic99

    Vic99 Minister of Fire

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    Well, that's true, Bob.
  16. Chettt

    Chettt Feeling the Heat

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    What you need Laura-Jane is a berm house facing south, with geothermal, solar panels, a wood-stove that burns dried poop and then invite the neighbors over for an orgy.
  17. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    I think stats show otherwise. It is by far the quickest method to put into play. The invention of fuel injection and computer controlled car engines is perhaps the largest leap we have taken in the last 20+ years.

    When a Hearth.com members claims that, somehow, 3 tons of pellets have replaced 1000 gallons of oil - they are actually an advertisement for conservation, not for pellets. That is because they became very aware of their heating needs, turned the thermostat down, only heated the areas where they are living, etc.

    My house in Ma uses 1/2 the amount of energy as the same size house I had in Southern NJ. That is a big time reduction. If we were able to do 10% to 50% reductions in many areas over the next 10 years, we'd be very far along in solving this "crisis".
  18. Ken45

    Ken45 Minister of Fire

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    I'll assume that the current house is built more energy efficient, right? It will not help the environment to bulldoze all older houses and build new energy efficient ones (just like buying a new car may save on gas but may be a net energy loss considering how much energy was used in the mining and production of materials).

    Yes, improved windows and insulation may save 10%, but we are not going to get 50% energy reductions in the next ten years. As I said, conservation is a part of the answer, just like other solutions, but it is not going to solve the issue any more than any other single answer.

    "Turn the thermostat down?" We never have set it very high (and we mostly have heated with wood). Air conditioning only gets used 3-4 weeks per year and it's set at 78 or higher. We put in good insulated windows when we bought the house. What more do you expect?

    Ken
  19. Joey Jones

    Joey Jones New Member

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    I think a great system would have solar gain panels, windmills, high mass of stone in residence and a small woodstove to be comfortable
  20. BurningIsLove

    BurningIsLove New Member

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    I'm sure that mining costs will only go up, for coal & uranium. But uranium is not something traded on the WW commodities market, and the US had an abundant supply on its own soil so we dont have to get it from overseas sources.

    As for percentage of global energy, that's more a matter of security, politics, and insufficient technology than viability. As much as I hate to admit it, look how well France has done running over 70% of their demand from nuclear, selling their surplus to other European customers like Germany (the big solar panel production plants in Germany are powered by French nuclear plants if you didnt know that). I do not in any way advocate that nuclear power is the answer to most country's power needs, quite the reverse. Any country that is serious about using it as a large scale percentage of power needs to have a well thought out plan of infrastructure, security, safety, technology, supply, and of course, responsibility. So while viable for the US, I would never advocate it for Pakistan.

    And yes, someday uranium supplies will be depleted just like any other non-renewable sources. My pitch was to use a known, proven, safe, green(er) power generation infrastructure like nuclear that can be started on tomorrow and meeting our residential and industrial needs for a few hundred years with economic security until we have come up w/ something better (fusion?). Cheap nuclear power also means that new innovations like plugin hybrids will become more feasible and get us a bit greener in that respect. Heating your home (the original intent of this thread) w/ electric heat becomes realistic again for non-stove owners. It practically already is w/ the current cost of heating oil.
  21. Joey Jones

    Joey Jones New Member

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    Maybe people who live by rivers can make water wheels with goverment subsidy...as long as the river flows there will be power, maybe excess power to sell
  22. Duetech

    Duetech Minister of Fire

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    Here's a thought about carbon footprint/carbon neutral. Who is to say that the use of fossil fuels is not carbon neutral? The level of carbon in fossil fuels was generated by the "then" sources of consumption and production. Cataclysmic event caused the storage and confinement of the fossil fuels we use today. The carbon footprint we recognize measurement from today is based on current/past readings of atmospheric carbon. But that reading is skewed. Fossil fuels were generated by plants and animals at the time of the cataclysmic event. Simplistically, animals consumed the plant life and carbon produced by plant life and returned it to the earth through bio secretions and ultimately through death. Plants, animals and insects are carbon components. The carbon reading/footprint of that long ago period is not equal to today's carbon reading/foot print because a portion of that carbon is stored. History has shown fluctuations in the carbon record. The original carbon footprint cannot be precisely known as evidenced by the unknown quantity of stored mass that we engage to consume. Nor can we actually know today's real carbon footprint because we cannot know the actual carbon quotient of all life, land mass/aquatic/air. The question then arises "Would this world be better off with the pre-cataclysmic carbon readings or not?" Granted the use of fossil fuels should be geared to the release of non-harmful chemicals but their use does not necessarily denote a negative carbon impact. If by definition carbon neutral is equated to timed carbon release relegated to carbon consumption and release. Then is it not possible that fossil fuel use is actually carbon neutral? Just late in coming?...Cave2k
  23. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    Assuming the human population does not crash and that we use at the current rate, using fossil fuels puts a net increase of carbon into the atmosphere. You are asking if we might reach an equilibrium- maybe, but if there is a net carbon increase (and looking at probable time scales for petroleum production- it will be large) then we are not carbon neutral.
  24. MarcM

    MarcM New Member

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    I've seen the term "geothermal heat pump" several times, and I see nothing technically wrong with the phrase.

    Geo-thermal quite literally means "ground heat." A heat pump is simply a device used to move heat against a temperature differential. Heat only flows naturally from the hot side of a temperature differential to a cold side. You can make heat flow the opposite way, i.e. from cold to hot, but as thermodynamics tells us, it requires an energy input. The energy input is the heat pump. Volcanic sources of geothermal heat cause ground temperatures to be hotter than surface temperatures, so the heat will naturally flow towards the desired direction, all that's needed is the means to channel it where it is convenient.

    It's why heat pumps are rated in coefficient of performance rather than efficiency. They're not creating the heat energy from a different form, they're simply moving the heat energy against a temperature differential (cooler ground into the warmer house). So I'd say there's absolutely nothing wrong with calling this "geothermal."
  25. MarcM

    MarcM New Member

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    Even if we release the potential carbon dioxide stored in petroleum, we really are still "carbon neutral." It's a misleading phrase, and really only has meaning when you specify a time frame.

    It's not like the crude magically appeared underground one day. It took the energy of the sun to form all the biomass that contributed to the stores, so even burning it now, we're still technically "neutral." Left underground and we're running a deficit :).

    It's just the rate of release and the time scale that's the problem with petroleum, apparently.
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