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Thread: harvesting waste heat from my water heater

  1. #61
    General Engineering Contractor ballvalve's Avatar
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    Since we get 45% of our power from coal, 25% from nuclear and about 15% hydro, the remainder can barely be seen in the pie scale. What possible good [outside of the rural home without wires] is this 1% of solar doing for us? The feel good factor is the reality.

    I live near a historic gold rush town and some imbecile motel owner just placed an array of panels that look like a outdoor theatre screen in the center of the once most charming view of 1850's Californiana. When I was younger, I would have gone out there at night with a few hudson sprayers filled with auto enamel and painted them black.

    Why does'nt Obama fill the white house yard with panels next to his wifes abandoned garden?

    Open up all the closed east of Mississippi small hydro and you'll have beat solar by 5 points instantly. But, damn, a minnow might get hurt - never mind. Better to let that invisible cloud of mercury settle all over our landscape, and kill the minnows, frogs and people nice and slowly.

    Our only hope is a small failsafe nuclear reactor, and eventually a true clean engineering solution to make power.

    Grnma's firing up her 68' caddy right now to go buy some bottled water at the wally world. And she complains about 4$ gasoline? Most europeans are paying 7 to 8$ a gallon and driving cars that weigh as much as some of those behemouths that have to go sideways through the check out aisle. Enough fuel in one of them to heat your house for a month.

    Dana - you like number crunching - how many BTU's in a 450 pound human?

  2. #62
    DIY Senior Member Runs with bison's Avatar
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    ballvalve,

    Neither solar nor wind get you there quickly, but over the long haul they make sense. And if one were to include the cost of sequestering the CO2 from coal or natural gas the answer would be obvious (since nobody is required to pay cradle-to-grave cost for removing hundreds of millions of years worth of carbon deposits from the Earth and putting that into the atmosphere in the form of CO2.) If we in the U.S. ever start paying for carbon sequestration, gas will be in the price range that Europeans are paying, or greater. Won't effect me as much since I'm getting 50+ mpg in the family hauler.

    As for closed hydro, I'm of mixed opinion on that. It won't do what we need it to long term, and it ruins rivers and valleys as well as killing ecosystems. I like to kayak, canoe, fish, hike, and camp so I would prefer not to have every bit of flowing water treated as a dammable (damnable?) resource.

    The problem with fission is not unlike that of CO2 and fossil fuel: the U.S. is unwilling to deal with the backend of the problem (cradle to grave.) How many of those FUBAR GE Mk I reactors have we in the U.S. shut down since Fukushima? None! And they are inherently unsafe designs! Any event that shuts off pump water to them for a few minutes will result in a meltdown just like Japan...or worse. It is straightforward physics of the reaction, normal isotopic composition of fuel rods in service for awhile, and heat transfer rates vs. physical properties/chemical reactions (melt properties and oxidizing the fuel rods.) Now I could design a passive/natural circulation system that could handle the load on a new reactor design, but that isn't going to happen because it is EXPENSIVE and BIG and would still be subject to new failure modes...some not unrelated to the seismic event that happened in Japan.

    New nuke fission plants aren't going to happen because the installed cost per kwh will exceed new solar and wind. And in the meantime, our local municipal electric use has been declining each year despite an increase in population...perhaps not unsurpising since folks like myself have cut annual electricity use by 60% compared to the previous occupants. (Ditto for water use, and about a 30+% reduction in nat. gas.) And I haven't changed my lifestyle to do it.

    Efficiency improvement is where the real change is needed. Obama has been slow in this regard too. There is a lot that could be done in improving basement insulation for example. Or how about dryer efficiency standards/tiers? Or ovens? Or set top cable boxes? How about drainwater heat recovery? Requiring insulation of hot water lines? Insulating tub/jacuzzi walls.

    Wish my house and every other in the neighborhood had solar cells on the roof. Can't see that it would be much different than having shingles or windows up there. Shingles aren't exactly works of art...

  3. #63
    General Engineering Contractor ballvalve's Avatar
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    As for closed hydro, I'm of mixed opinion on that. It won't do what we need it to long term, and it ruins rivers and valleys as well as killing ecosystems. I like to kayak, canoe, fish, hike, and camp so I would prefer not to have every bit of flowing water treated as a dammable (damnable?) resource.
    As I sit, the house vibrates a bit from all the water rushing past. The property is a triangle - I think the only one in this huge county- and was the 2nd mining claim filed in the history of california. Gold came out of natural pools here by the bucketful in the beginning, and a year later the harder gotten gold, from mines up the hill was being crushed here in a 40' diameter water wheel driving 6 arrastra's and later stamp mills. I have done careful surveys and digs here and have verified the location of the water mill. Brought up many artifacts. I actually have the water rights that were filed in 1850 [the owners were a doctor and a genius son of a university teacher that spoke 5 languages - men that knew how to do things right]

    The triangle took in the junction of 2 creeks that drain the entire district, and join about 40' from my door. Luckily the house is built on a rock and bolted to it. For 6 months of the year, this property could power a few hundred homes, and more. Just 200' beyond is a waterfall, GPS tells me about 500' of fall in perhaps a 1500' lateral run. But that portion is on BLM, and problematic to develop in this age.

    I have a small dam and a run of river scheme, which would not effect your river fun - but if anyone tries to kayak here, he better get his last rites from the priest and add a steel cage to the boat. And adjacent to me are 4 more such falls in similiar canyons. But there is no incentive to utilize them, and ugly regulatory horrors to overcome. Those easern millsites can readily be converted to fish safe pickups and still let you boat around.

    Main issue? Our idiot legislators allow net metering only for solar. So for me to use my water power efficiently, I would have to do a "fake" solar array and then feed it with my water power as a criminal.

    A CCC type program would take our kids from watching tv and unemployment and let them lay pipe down my canyon. they would learn a REAL trade and the payback would be enormous. Everyone forgets that water runs 24 hours and especially nicely when its dark and rainy. try that with the visua pollution of solar. Imagine Prague and the hill cities of Italy with the roofs covered with that crap. We are in a primitive moment for power generation.

  4. #64
    In the trades Dana's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ballvalve View Post
    Since we get 45% of our power from coal, 25% from nuclear and about 15% hydro, the remainder can barely be seen in the pie scale. What possible good [outside of the rural home without wires] is this 1% of solar doing for us? The feel good factor is the reality.

    I live near a historic gold rush town and some imbecile motel owner just placed an array of panels that look like a outdoor theatre screen in the center of the once most charming view of 1850's Californiana. When I was younger, I would have gone out there at night with a few hudson sprayers filled with auto enamel and painted them black.

    Why does'nt Obama fill the white house yard with panels next to his wifes abandoned garden?

    Open up all the closed east of Mississippi small hydro and you'll have beat solar by 5 points instantly. But, damn, a minnow might get hurt - never mind. Better to let that invisible cloud of mercury settle all over our landscape, and kill the minnows, frogs and people nice and slowly.

    Our only hope is a small failsafe nuclear reactor, and eventually a true clean engineering solution to make power.

    Grnma's firing up her 68' caddy right now to go buy some bottled water at the wally world. And she complains about 4$ gasoline? Most europeans are paying 7 to 8$ a gallon and driving cars that weigh as much as some of those behemouths that have to go sideways through the check out aisle. Enough fuel in one of them to heat your house for a month.

    Dana - you like number crunching - how many BTU's in a 450 pound human?
    Are you talkin' dead human, digested at 60% efficiecency by a cannibal, or are you talkin' source-fuel BTUs as boiler-fuel? Or are you talkin' BTU/hr emitted? (For the latter there's actually a number- about 700BTU/hr at rest. For a skinny 100lb girl you're talking about 425BTU/hr.)

    Even failsafe nukes suck at ramp-up/down time, and you'd have to boil the Mississippi for cooling capacity during off-peak or suffer the days-long startup ramp. Until that fundamental physic changes, at more than about a 35-40% grid mix you'd be a screwed as France about what to do with the excess power. (France sells off-peak power in massive quantities to neighboring Italy and Spain at a financial loss, then buys peak power back at a premium.) During very hot periods under heavy demand the cooling capacity of the nukes themselves becomes an issue, and they have to throttle back, or risk overheating their cooling water. If that's our only hope, we're doomed.

    Distributed micro and mini-generator grid sources turn out to be better baseload generators than they might seem at first-blush. Solar PV has the advantage of being only slightly out of phase with peak loads related to air conditioning (and A/C tends to be absolute annual peaks as well.) Broadly distributed PV has the effect of peak-shaving the A/C loads, even without smart-grid control. Putting A/C and chillers under grid control (and paying the owners for the ability to do so) is still cheaper than PV though. But the cost of small-scale PV has plummeted over the past 5 years, and will be at-parity with fossil generated power for lifecycle cost per kwh by the end of the decade (even without carbon taxes.)

    Rooftop PV doesn't have to look like bird-crap on a Cadillac, even if many installations do, and it's possible to use PV even in historical districts with a bit of discretion on placement. Much of those issues have been in the "barely regulated" category for some time since there wasn't enough going in to garner the political attention. But that is changing (and fast!), particularly for large-scale ground-mounted PV in bucolic New England pastures next to McMansion developments, or marring the grand vista on southwestern highways. But it sound like the very existence of the crummy motel in a funky gold rush town was already the first blight on the landscape, the PV array is just the icing on the cake? :-) As I understand it, there aren't many architects or rocket scientists making a living running a motel...

    But that installation, in combination with dozens like it (in size, if not aesthetic) in the same area can take a signifcant chunk off the air-conditioning peaks, even when supplying only 5% of the annual total. The net effect on grid stability and grid capacity is quite a positive one simply by placement of the peak-generator near the load. And that's the very real good that 1% is doing for you. Solar output is also forecast-able by weather and time of day, easy for grid operators to plan for, and every oil or gas-fired peaker you DON'T have to fire up and idle to be able to deliver the peak load is huge, from a cost savings point of view. Not having to upgrade the transmission line capacity as soon in developing areas is also a significant savings. PV's inherent peak-power timing is worth subsidizing, even if it's considerably more expensive than getting there via efficiency (which is still a deep & cheap well to tap.)

    Broadly distributed wind behaves much like a predicable (if uncontrolled) base load generator- the regional net output is readily quantifiable 24-48 hours in advance based on weather forecasting, and can be planned for by the grid operators. In conjunction with highly flexible gas-fired generators the mix can be readily "hardened" to deliver any arbitrary level deemed economic. In regions or facilties with significant thermal needs, hardening wind with mini and micro cogenerators works VERY well. (The bulk of Denmark's power grid is run with cogeneration & wind. The German utility LichtBlick is taking that a step further, and installing broadly distributed home-sized gas-fired ~10KW cogenerators that supply space heating and domestic hot water to the building owners, and paying them for the excess electricity. The control of the cogenerator is done remotely by the utility, which uses it to grid-harden their extensive wind resources, and they guarantee by contract to always have sufficient heat in the thermal buffer tanks for the home's thermal needs. They believe they can eventually achieve net-renewable power fraction of grid power at the 80%+ with this sort of system. This is in a country with crummy solar and even crummier wind resources to work with, yet they're doing it.

    This is not an April Fool's Joke, and it's more than a feel-good:



    In my neighborhood gas-fired micro cogenerators are net-metered in much the same way as PV solar, but the number of vendors is pretty small. The guy in the office down the hall from me has the ~1.2kW Honda installed in his house, now finishing up his 4th or 5th heating season with it. Between the Honda and the mod-con that it came coupled with the system paid for itself in 3 years, but he's in a 20cent/kwh electricity market.

    The US has far better solar resources than Germany, much of which is located near loads. We in the US also have decent wind resources that are already near loads (&/or existing transmission lines), and very substantial wind resources in the midwest that would require a significant grid-infrastructure upgrade to bring to market. We don't yet have a LichtBlick driving a smart-grids and grid-hardening schemes though, but that may come in time.

    But by far the cheapest & deepest power resource available in the US is efficiency- cheaper and more cost effective than any new production, renewable, fossil, or nukes. This is one of many reasons why I'm a fan of mini-split heat pumps for space heating, at least in US climate zones 2 through 5 (even parts of zone 6.) Buying or subsidizing a nukes-worth of mini-splits for homes & offices heating with resistance-electric baseboards/furnaces has a far lower lifecycle cost than ANY power generation of similar capacity. And that's just a tiny tip of the efficiency iceberg. Yet people still piss & moan about lighting efficiency mandates that are NPV+ in a financial analysis of less than one year, let alone the half-decade or so it takes to break even on a mini-split in markets where electricity is still cheap. In 12-cent/kwh areas 3 year simple payback is typical on ductless heat pumps.

  5. #65
    General Engineering Contractor ballvalve's Avatar
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    Are you talkin' dead human, digested at 60% efficiecency by a cannibal, or are you talkin' source-fuel BTUs as boiler-fuel? Or are you talkin' BTU/hr emitted? (For the latter there's actually a number- about 700BTU/hr at rest. For a skinny 100lb girl you're talking about 425BTU/hr.)
    I am thinking like an old school German as boiler fuel....

    Thanks for the interesting post. If Germany can get 7% from water, then the US at 12% makes my point about all the wasted small water sources here. It's truly a huge discrepancy considering our size and water sources. The Mississippi river would likely run the entire eastern US if you could capture it.

    Even failsafe nukes suck at ramp-up/down time, and you'd have to boil the Mississippi for cooling capacity during off-peak or suffer the days-long startup ramp. Until that fundamental physic changes, at more than about a 35-40% grid mix you'd be a screwed as France about what to do with the excess power. (France sells off-peak power in massive quantities to neighboring Italy and Spain at a financial loss, then buys peak power back at a premium.) During very hot periods under heavy demand the cooling capacity of the nukes themselves becomes an issue, and they have to throttle back, or risk overheating their cooling water. If that's our only hope, we're doomed.
    Okay, build them all ON the river, you won't boil that off. Design the intakes to capture the dreaded jumping carp from China that are destroying the eco system and will soon kill off the great lakes.

    When Germany shuts off nuclear, which it is doing, they will have a big problem, and will likely buy from France for some time.

    If they ramp up wind, 'silent spring' will come sooner, as no birds will remain in Germany.

  6. #66
    In the trades Dana's Avatar
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    The bird issue is highly overstated by the opponents of wind, based on large numbers of smaller turbines built 30 years ago or more. Siting them where the foundation & access roads access nesting sites has a much larger effect on birds than getting whacked by the blades. This was a hot issue in the Netherlands in the late '90s, so they studied the hell out of it before moving ahead, looking primarily at Denmark Those studies determined that wind-turbine related bird population problems related to wind is primarily a habitat disturbance issue (which is a factor in ANY development), and that mortality from collisions with blades or towers is a nearly fixed number of birds per turbine per year ratio, unrelated to the swept area or total power of the turbine. As the size of the turbines grows, far fewer birds are killed per mwh output- it's far better to have one 10mw wind turbine than 100x array of 100kw turbines. (As it turns out it's cheaper too.) Migratory birds hitting tall buildings in high-rise cities puts a bigger dent in bird populations than multi-megawatt wind turbines in migration paths.

    Replacing all of the coal-fired power in Germany with wind would still be a net-win for European birds. (Getting rid of Czech and Slovak coal plants would be even more beneficial- there are some real dead-forest zones in some of those mountains.) Germany burns a lot of coal, but they've decided to clean up that act. Many are suggesting that by forgoing nukes they're dooming themselves to burning more coal than was in the plan, but there's scant evidence to support that thesis. Coal-seam natural gas driving mini/micro cogeneration seems to have more a future in Germany than expensive "clean coal" (or dirty coal) power plants.


    Most French nukes are already on rivers, and they have to get EU permission and pay for the environmental impacts to run them at max during heat waves, and even that hasn't proved enough. And even if the cooling factor is 100% covered at 100% of capacity, the turn-on ramps still limits nukes to about a 40% grid solution before massive power dumping has to occur, which is how the French ratepayers and taxpayers are getting totally screwed. They're great for baseload generation, but pretty lousy for everything else. And the lifecycle cost per kwh of a new-nuke is stratospheric compared to almost every other option. Spending the same money on efficiency at the load is on the order of 1000x better ROI in terms of reduced base load, and that keg has barely been tapped in most of the US (if somewhat more in CA). Spending the money on smart-grid/load-management has at least 100x better return. And even at current prices, small scale distributed PV is cost-competitive with any centralized peak-generator, albeit primarily useful only for tempering air-conditioning peaks.

    As of last year reaped Denmark reaped 21% of the total grid power from wind, and during periods of high wind the outpu capacity exceeds 100% of load, so they can this nearly-free excess to their neighbors and get paid for it. Spain sells nearly-free excess wind power to both France and Morocco when it's windy. There's no marginal cost to wind power- once it's been built, any excess has a HUGE gross margin. I'll take the Danish model over the French any day (and apparently that's the take in Germany as well.) The Danes project that they'll be able to deliver 50% of the entire load with wind alone by 2025, using existing technology for grid-hardening it. We'll see how well they manage that- it will require some grid-smarts at both the load and generator, but there doesn't appear to be any technical roadblocks that would turn it into a French style net financial loss on excess power.

    FWIW: About a third of all new power generation in the US last year was in wind. In Iowa wind now accounts for about 20% (nearly Danish levels) of grid source fraction for the state as a whole.

  7. #67
    General Engineering Contractor ballvalve's Avatar
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    (Getting rid of Czech and Slovak coal plants would be even more beneficial- there are some real dead-forest zones in some of those mountains.)
    FWIW, I have driven nearly every mountain road in both those countries, and spend much time in an incredible country manor High in the Tatra's near the Polish border - once used by the germans as a command post - partisan pits still remaining in the forest- and I never saw a stressed or patch of dying trees. There are a few huge swaths knocked down by an infamous windstorm. You may find some near a few old school steel mills in northern Czech, but any tree kills are overrated. If you find them you can give 60% of the kill to Germany and the Ukraine. Slovakia does have a nuclear plant that the Austrians are paying to slowly shut down. Slovakia has the lowest population density of any european nation, and likely some of the most conservative. I see few coal plants, and what they use is nearly all imported now - their high sulphur mines are long closed.

    Even in Poland, king of coal, the forest seem rather healthy. They are fracking now by Americans. I have a house there where the monstrous gas lines run from Russia. The main disaster is the cloud of crap that came from Chernobyl. I must say, all the forests in Ukraine have oddly dead leaf tips and peculiar growth. Even the people look a bit yellow on the edges.

    I have been very close to the heart of darkness- Chernobyl, but I still advocate nuclear because most of the plants have been built quite foolishly. Chernobyl was just a farce, with socialist robots performing tests they knew should never happen.

    http://www.globalenergyworld.com/new..._till_2025.htm

    http://www.slideshare.net/ReportLink...report-q2-2010

    Most of Slovakia pollution comes from a monstrous aluminum smelter built in a soviet scheme, too far economically from a bauxite source. People knew not to live near it, and I believe most of it is now mothballed.

    Mycelium concentrates radioisotopes, so Polish and of course Belarus and Ukraine Mushrooms are suspect. Though they clean the forest floor.

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