Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Fancy News - Solar Hot Air Collectors in Progress

Today, following the excellent advice and examples on and to also on I indulged my curiosity about solar alternatives for supplemental heating, about specific projects, in especial the active solar hot air collectors - that have use in the Summer as ventilation devices for hot rooms or attics or musty cellars. I like aspects of the three main types of hot air collectors that I see used often and spoken well of, so I decided to make at least one of each (they won't go to waste, immediatly), and gradually:

1) There was progress on a box for the ventilator/heater for the attic window, it will be a black polyester felt absorber type collector, in a "smallish" box of about 45" x 60", this size is to best take advantage of the existing 30" x 30" window opening. and still fit within the eaves and the window frames below it.
The black poly felt came in yesterday as a matter of fact, it is grand, and oh so very warm in it's inimitably polyesterlische way that it gags me to touch.
This black felt absorber theory is interesting. They claim great results from it for heating (but I will be happy just to keep attic from being a late afternoon radiator with any decent ventilation), the idea behind the theory of using felt is that the felt bakes like mad and has a million surfaces to release the heat. It's design is also different than the others in that it lets intake and output share same manifold opening in the unit, albeit with a partition. This attic unit will have a simple flip damper that moves to send heat either out to the sky or back into attic in the Winter (it will be good for the attic to have some heat, it will not be much anyway) - it's main value to me is in it's ability to ventilate the attic/oven in the Summer -

2) There was progress as well on the 4' x 8' box for the flat plate collector - I managed today to make a 1" x 3" frame around a sandwich of a 1/4 inch plywood and a 1" sheet of foiled insulation, with no accidents, gross mis-measuring, or ridiculous patches - this with a power drill, circular saw, and silicone caulk, I have already formed folded sheets of aluminum for "internal girder/baffles" and will assemble them tomorrow or maybe tonight, it is so much fun! Then the alum plate goes over that, cobbled from 36 inch wide sheets, then the cover of polycarbonate roofing, then the tempered glass.

Of course, besides making the collectors, there remains the confusing issue of ducts and fans, with various confusing but clever openings that let air supply be either cool room air or overheated room air, and with exits for heated air to the interior space or to the outside atmosphere - this will call for a dedicated "chimney" on the inside, and a similar one on the immediate outside, for each installation. I would far rather use the systems in the Summer for their excellent ventilation uses than just cover them up. For the big soda can collector I will use a second floor window for air to be delivered to the heater, it will deliver to the collector hot house air in the Summer or cold house air in the Winter, and whenever it sends it's product of hot air back to the inside it will go through an 8" diameter insulated duct of about ten feet long.

I have two huge bags full of Arizona Ice tea cans waiting too, but they need to go to a local friend's house where he has a drill press in his shop for me to trim each one.

Update, I bagged the aluminum beverage can cylinder idea as too much work for similar output, although I will make a soda can collector at some point for the shear joy of it.

See my for other related posts.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Fancy News - oil "pre-buy" contract doesn't mean a darned thing according to the fine print!

Enough said about alleged clumsy editing in "prebuy" paperwork, and on to the Future! on to Solar Stuff!
Solar power is the obvious way to go for supplemental heat at least.
The trick is to use what systems do work, the way they work best.
Solar often gets short shrift, but this writer's oil boiler has not fired up since late March or early April for heating domestic water - thanks to german-engineered Sunda Evacuated Tubes that work like champs - installed by the professionals at Clear Mountain Solar. That system was a no-brainer to choose for the site, simple, tried and true, and effective solar stuff for a specific and defined task.
In the search for some other solar opportunity to burn less heating oil made of that amazingly versatile treasure called petroleum, I have done hours of research recently, to come to the conclusion that I have enough solar exposure to a convenient outside wall (three areas really, but I am only doing one, maybe two), to warrant spending the time and energy on a solar hot air collector, that will be pretty much a passive thermosyphon system with the air flow assisted by a solar PV powered blower (that coincidentally goes on when the sun hits it - no power outages!).
I would encourage Springfielders everywhere to get on the stick and see how simple these supplemental solar hot air collectors are. If they have a good place to site them, then they are worth the trouble. In ideal situations there is no need for any mysterious wiring at all, and since they deal with air not water or other fluids, there is no mysterious plumbing either - any wood butcher can do it, if they can really figure out the system and plan it well and methodically implement it.
Collecting solar energy in water is five times more efficient for heating then air is, so forget about storing heat from solar heated air, and any solar collector may not get sun everyday anyway. However, by comparison to solar hot water, a solar hot air collector is way cheaper to build, and it is easy to design and build by the homeowner with moderate handyman skills.
Some rules of thumb that I see mentioned often in regard to designing a thermosyphon system for the home:
1) Solar hot air collectors are only supplemental heat sources, never primary. They work only while sun is impinging the collector, and only then - think of them as a space heaters, if the space that a solar hot air collector is designed for is too big you won't really notice the heat from it.
2) figure one square foot of collector surface area to cover ten square feet of living space to be heated.
3) keep the collector square footage less than twenty percent of the square footage of the living space to be heated.
4) no ducts or vents that move either the cold or heated air should be any less than six inches in diameter, if round.
5) success in all cases depends on rigorous attention to detail in the construction of all elements of the solar hot air collectors of any configuration. Solar hot air collectors are, to be sure, all by their very nature utterly simple to design and craft, but they must be scrupulously riveted, caulked, and sealed, and with the right materials.
6) if you are a plumber with solar exposure at all you need to be doing your home heating system from solar hot water heaters and cut back way dramatically on heating oil!!! Not to mention you need to be using solar hot water collectors for your domestic hot water!!! My conventional, primary oil burner practically does not ignite from Spring to Autumn thanks to the Sunda DHW collector array, and the water in the holding tank in the basement stays warm enough to make an appreciable dent in Winter oil burnage as well.
Consult about evacuated tubes.

So then class- it transpires that a cleverly designed, fan-assisted, flatplate, tube or thermosyphon solar hot air collector will apparently produce useful heat for the appropriately-sized insulated interior space, if it can be sited facing about true South for four hours per day, and if it can be sited adjacent or close to where the hot air needs to be delivered.
Repeated claims and testimonials offer the same story, that this system will bring up the temperatures appreciably or dramatically, with different writers claiming to see anywhere from ten or fifteen percent, to as much as sixty percent in real savings on their primary heating energy bills.
Time will only tell, don't take my word for it.

For further information, I recommend this site as a good point of departure in your own quest to find a way without so damned much oil burning -

I will make a report on this on-going Summer project as developments unfold. Meanwhile, back to spirals ...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Fire! - fire has gutted several apartments and the old-fashioned movie theater where the world premier was held last year for the Simpsons movie!

To be sure, Springfield, Vermont, besides being the official Home of the Simpsons, has for far longer been know as the home of Vermont's oldest community theater group - the Springfield C ommunity Players.
However, the high visibility of the fire in the cool old building that houses several homes and the movie theater makes it feel like the stage is dark in Springfield. I hope that bad planning and apathy do not finish what the fire almost completed, the razing of one of our few remaining old victorian-era brick commercial structures on what is left of the historic "downtown". In the meantime ...
Why not patronize the Springfield Community Players while the movie theater is closed?
Check them out here -

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The artist's steed is re-shoed - another fine job by Ferguson's Automotive

Yippee! No more clatter as we trundle across the patches and random staircases that we use for roadways here in Springfield, Vermont - New brake calipers up front for the RoadMaster!

You have to really look in this picture, but the floor is a marvel of cleanliness and order at Ferguson's Automotive, testament to the seriousness of their attention - if it isn't broke, don't fix it, but if it is, you can trust it to be well-cared for at Fergusons. El taller de Fergusons es un lugar ultra-professional, donde toman el tiempo para dar atencion a todo detalle.

Fancy News - it was a grand Strawberry Season, but now Blueberries take center stage.

If you drive about Springfield, Vermont, on any fine day in June, you will see a cryptic note along the road adorned with a large happy Strawberry - heed it's injunction and at all cost get thee down to the river and meet the fine people who husband a few choice acres of the best Strawberries on this side of the Connecticut River, and where you can pick your own. Que aventura! ir recogiendo fresas frescas en una granja de Springfield donde producen una cosecha de fresas incomparables!Here at home our blueberries are preparing a feast for that busy Thrush who sings all morning high in the Maples.

Fancy News - the Precision Valley abounds with fine old cars

Maybe it has to do with all the precision tool and die and other machine shop employees left behind when the factories were moved to places where people work for beans, but there certainly seem to be abundant and well-cared for antique roadsters in the area of Springfield, Vermont. Sera posible que a causa de que dejaron aqui los maquinistas cuando vendieron las fabricas, que hoy en dia hay tanto coche antiguo en Springfield, Vermont, aqui dos ejemplares.

Thermosyphoning properties aside, this is one fine ride to see up close, finished as it is in "solar collector flat black" and sporting a jaunty red plate that has a rack of animated skulls letting all know that "old guys rock". Este es un vehiculo privado del vecindario, buen ejemplo del cuido con que se mantienen los carros mascotas.

Here is one excellent Chevy - pampered by one of our local car whisperers and the people at Green Mountain Motors, purveyors of cherry rides in the valley.