Using permaculture ethics & design principles to transform an old energy guzzling bungalow into a showcase of sustainable design. It's about energy cycling, building community, self-reliance,creatively using & reusing materials... all without spending heaps of money.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Renewable energy solutions

Principle 5: Use and value renewable resources and services

Wood stove / oven / heater / hot water booster, which hasn't been needed for the last four or five months
The solar hot water system has provided for 95% of our hot water needs during the hotter months
Since moving into the house nine months ago we have been using no electricity or gas to produce hot water (except for cooking), which is normally one of the heaviest consumers of non renewable energy in the typical 'first world' home. The system that we installed is a combination of a solar hot water system with a wood fired stove to back it up. It's made up of Australian made components that  includes a heat exchanger, situated below the hot water tank. I was usnsure whether we needed to include a gas booster to back it up further and so arranged for the plumbing to allow for one during construction just in case.
The system was designed with consultation with Richard Morton at Sun Real. I've found it extremely valuable to work through my ideas with a professional that has had many years experience and knows what works and what doesn't. I've come across sales people before that are pushy with particular products that may not be suitable to my needs or budget. This type of system is not something that you would want to modify later on, you've got to get it right the first time around.
While the system was not cheap, costing well in excess of A$10,000 to install (before rebates) we have found that it has provided for our hot water needs 95% of the time. The only time we run out of hot water (only having warm water) is during the warmer weather when it's too hot to light the fire and we have had several days of clouds. This could be resolved by installing the gas booster, but we have decided to 'rough it' instead.
The system runs itself, and uses no electricity, as the water thermosyphons around the pipes as it heats up. The only costs in running it are associated with wood supply, which can be very expensive if you need to buy it in. I have several years worth of supply left over from the felling of the huge Red Gum on site, along with off-cuts of timber recovered from the original house that I glean from my regular storage building projects.
Having installed this system has meant that it was cheaper to use bottled gas rather that get mains gas connected, which runs right past the property. A 45kg bottle costs A$95 delivered, and A$30 bottle rental per year after the first year - we are still on our first bottle. When I costed it last year I found that the connection fee for mains gas was aroung A$170p.a. with the the equivalent of a 45kg bottle of gas costing A$33.
We have cooked without the wood stove during the warmer months by using our small 1960's gas stove, but have missed the excellent baking oven. We've been using an electric one for baking bread instead, using around 330W to bake a loaf. Without an oven, Kunie has been using a steamer to bake cakes (Asian style) and we have been investigating making a solar oven for slow cooking and preserving, but havn't got around to it this season.
We are currently looking at installing a Solar PV system to generate electricty, more on that later...


Gas booster location for the hot water system, plumbed in but is not yet needed

We use an electric breadmaker during summer with freshly milled flour

4 comments:

Ramsey said...

HI,
The solar water/heater set up sounds very impressive. I am hoping the $10K figure included the wood heaters price as well.
I will need to look at a similar system soon. Does the solar collector use electrical pumps? What I am asking is will the system function without electricity? More in-depth questions later when I need to seriously look at the purchase.

BTW The gas lines should have rubber/plastic sleeves/o-rings to ensure there is no connection between the colorbond sheets and the copper lines otherwise overtime the copper lines will corrode through from electrolysis from the effect of the different metals.
Even if you tape the lines with electrical tape it will be better than nothing. What do you think?

I enjoy your posts!

permie said...

Yes, the 10k+ price included the wood heater / stove.
No electric pump on the system at all, thermosyphon.
Thanks for the tip re gas line, will do something there. Thinking plastic pipe over the top.

Penny said...

Hi Richard, thanks for your blog, I read it often.

We put a shield on our flue when we felt the pine panel wall behind was getting too hot. Has that been an issue with your setup?

Penny

permie said...

Hi Penny. We haven't found that the ply has got too hot as yet - I will check this again when we start the fire up again soon. The flue cover is vented on the front and solid on the back, this probaby helps.

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