Thursday, May 22, 2008

A new quest...

I haven't posted in a while because I have been pretty busy trying to get ready for all of my summer projects. My summer projects (if any are viable) are increasing exponentially because I am trying to find and implement several alternative energy sources for our house and barn. With heating oil at $4/gal last winter it was kind of costly to heat our house and by this winter it will be somewhere around $5.50 if it continues on it's current upward trend. My problem is that my major project for the summer is a roof and walls for the barn so we can have a heated barn and shop for the winter. I'm not looking at keeping it at 70 degrees but even keeping a 3400 square foot building at 50 degrees all winter would be expensive.

Right now I'm researching geothermal heating, solar hot water heating, passive solar heating, wind generators and a couple of other things as well. I figured it would take the better part of the summer to just complete my roof and walls on the barn but if I add any of these other projects I am going to have to eliminate my love for sleeping in for the rest of the year. I'm not 100% sure on any of these technologies but if I tried three or four and each was a little successful I'd be better off than I am right now. I just have to figure out which technologies to try first. I have found a few people who are using a couple of the technologies successfully but all in all I haven't found a lot of info about our area as of yet. All of the options are a little overwhelming, I'm not exactly sure where to start. None of the alternatives are cheap but they can't be much worse than the total cost of fuel oil in a year. I'm also planning to invest in a Toyota Prius really really soon.

I guess we'll see how things pan out in about six months!

1 comment:

Bigshow said...

I'll be getting electricity from a local co-op. The cost for utilities will be about half what I pay now in the city. However, heating with electric in a cold climate gets very tricky and expensive really fast. Geothermal heat pumps make a ton of sense. Exchange water from the ground with air..the $40k price tag is brutal. Or, radiant heat. Water comes in ~50 degrees, can efficiently store it in boiler - but a radiant system that is properly done...$25K plus for average size house.

I've been keen on cold weather heat pumps (
Supposedly good to -30 degrees. I haven't done all my homework on the m yet....I really wanted to do infloor radiant - but if a CCHP is the answer - radiant is out (firstly for cost, and second I'm somewhat convinced that radiant has diminished returns in a tighter envelope created by SIPS.).

I did design my house around passive solar principals. I just amassed as much info as I could. I'm only looking to hopefully supplement 10-20% thru solar gain. I doubt my ability to properly design for up to 40% heating energy thru passive solar. One of the articles I have bookmarked is specifically for Alaska. And its pretty interesting...this particular report indicates that thermal mass isnt so important in Alaska - and goes for more of a solar glazing approach ( )

I'm with ya on the wind/solar/solar water heating. My gripe is that stuff is sooo expensive to get into. I have found some wind turbines that are I guess 'affordable'. The towers seem to be the really pricey part. My preference would be to sell back to the power company if they allow it, rather than storing in batteries - would save that upfront cost. Where I live, especially in the country - I would very rarely need batteries anyways. Incredibly windy South Dakota plains. This company has kind of caught my eye:

From what I've seen, solar water heaters in my climate in the coldest part of the year, would heat 10 gallons a day....I'm not too sure I'd want to invest in something like that with such a meager return when you need it most.

I am not an expert on any of the above, just what I've found in my own research...

Hmm this post is terribly long - but its just I have basically your same concerns and ideas about what to do next.....

If you have any major revelations about what you decide to do...please share!