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Energy Conservation — Key Methods

How to save energy through both societal and individual actions.

Re: Energy Conservation — Key Methods

Unread postby Tanada » Fri 16 Dec 2016, 12:03:06

ROCKMAN wrote:papa - Forget Douglas. LOL. You ever burn cedar? Full of it in parts of south Texas. Grows like a weed and a very bad water thief. Burns like wood soaked in kerosene. Which is pretty close to what it is.


Growing up for a time my dad had a wood stove installed in the house. Said that having taken out the two coal stoves for the kitchen and central heating when he bought the house was a big mistake only discovered when the oil shocks of the 1970's made fuel oil very expensive even with his brand new 1968 model. I spent a lot of time stacking wood for a few winters in the 70's and we classified all the evergreen wood as Gopher Wood. As in after you throw this billet into the furnace you better 'go for wood' because by the time you walk to the wood pile and back it will be half gone. A good gnarly oak root ball from a sapling in the woods the farmer next door had cleared would burn two or three hours. An equal size chunk of Gopher Wood would burn in 30-45 minutes. We used the root stump balls from the cleared land that had been bulldozed up into a pile at the edge of the woods after the weather had washed all the dirt out of the roots and they had spent a couple years seasoning in all weather. We got the gopher wood when my dad made the mistake of hiring a couple local teens to deliver two cords of wood to get us through the winter and what they delivered was all Gopher Wood, stuff their dad didn't want for the home fireplace. Saplings no more than 3 inch diameter and lots of resin filled evergreen wood all of which is great for a small fire to cook breakfast but useless for a fire to keep the house warm overnight without a stoker having to refill the furnace every hour on the hour. We ended up using the Gopher Wood for the hours between school hours and bed time and stoked up with oak or ash for the long slow burn overnight.

Thanx for the memories, had not thought much about the old wood stove for years.
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Re: Energy Conservation — Key Methods

Unread postby careinke » Sat 17 Dec 2016, 07:35:12

ROCKMAN wrote:papa - "too valuable to use as firewood". Where I owned some property cedar was so thick and worthless folks would PAY to have it bulldozed and burned. Not suitable for lumber: less then 5" diameter.


I have a lot of cedar that is 5' in diameter and I would not even think of using it as firewo......OH you said 5 Inches in diameter. :roll:
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Re: Energy Conservation — Key Methods

Unread postby careinke » Sat 17 Dec 2016, 07:40:41

When I want the fire to last the night, I throw a big log of Madrone. It doesn't burn real hot, but it burns for a long time.
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Re: Energy Conservation — Key Methods

Unread postby papalegba » Sun 18 Dec 2016, 20:16:12

ROCKMAN wrote:papa - "too valuable to use as firewood". Where I owned some property cedar was so thick and worthless folks would PAY to have it bulldozed and burned. Not suitable for lumber: less then 5" diameter.


I wonder if it's the same tree - western red cedar is a lot like redwood - very rot resistant and aromatic. Some time in the next couple of years I'm going to have to redo my deck and will probably end up paying over 10K for cedar lumber.
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Re: Energy Conservation — Key Methods

Unread postby papalegba » Mon 19 Dec 2016, 17:20:39

What we have around here are Thuja plicata, a noble species...
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Re: Energy Conservation — Key Methods

Unread postby papalegba » Mon 19 Dec 2016, 19:41:48

Sure, but can you make a hot tub or sauna out of their wood?
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Re: Energy Conservation — Key Methods

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Mon 19 Dec 2016, 21:28:39

Although burning wood only releases the amount of carbon sequestered when the tree grew, IMHO it is not an environmentally sound practice. To begin with, atmospheric carbon which the tree continuously removed from the air for decades is released suddenly in concentrated form. Secondly the incomplete combustion releases carcinogens. Third even the best wood stoves when installed indoors subject the structure to fire danger and are a safety hazard for children especially. (This last problen can be solved by using an outdoor wood furnace to heat water to heat the residence.)

I believe the correct goal is to live in a residence that is superinsulated and requires very little energy for HVAC systems. Then a wind turbine, a small hydropower setup, or solar PV makes the residence a zero net energy home via electric heat pumps. Induction cooktops heat pans rapidly while using only 40% the energy of an electric cooktop and 75% the energy of a gas cooktop.

Your house is all electric, emits no carbon for HVAC or cooking, and is cheap to own when retired. The addition of a pair of Tesla Powerwall batteries makes it an off-grid home. Granted the type of residence I described costs 30% more to build, but payback is less than a decade, and then it is all gravy.
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Re: Energy Conservation — Key Methods

Unread postby yellowcanoe » Mon 19 Dec 2016, 23:52:45

pstarr wrote:Superinsulation and calking can trap body humidity, result in unsightly pneumonia problems. A slightly leaky house may actually be better.


Air tight houses need to have a heat recovery ventilator to bring in fresh air and remove humid air from the house. A friend of mine who built several air tight, super insulated houses said that dry wallers were always happy to work in one of these homes because the heat recovery ventilator was quite effective at removing humidity. This reduced the amount of time they had to wait before being able to apply the next coat of drywall compound.

Unfortunately it seems that most new construction doesn't include a heat recovery ventilator even though the Canadian building code requires new homes to be much better insulated and sealed. I would assume that builders don't want to seal a house to the point where a heat recovery ventilator would be a necessity because of the added cost.
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Re: Energy Conservation — Key Methods

Unread postby ROCKMAN » Tue 20 Dec 2016, 01:07:53

"Wood heat is carbon neutral.". Hmm...only in the time frame of decades. Burn a cord of wood this winter and that CO2 released is only neutralized over many decades in the future. Until then that heat generated in the next few months will represent today a positive gain in atmospheric CO2

Now multiply that gain by millions of tons of wood converted to atmospheric CO2 this winter that will take millions of trees planted this year to neutralize over the next several decades. And while those saplings are sucking a tiny pit of CO2 next winter millions of tons of more biomass will be converted to atmospheric CO2 at the same time. And the winter after that, etc, etc.
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Re: Energy Conservation — Key Methods

Unread postby papalegba » Tue 20 Dec 2016, 01:14:11

pstarr wrote:
KaiserJeep wrote:Although burning wood only releases the amount of carbon sequestered when the tree grew, IMHO it is not an environmentally sound practice. To begin with, atmospheric carbon which the tree continuously removed from the air for decades is released suddenly in concentrated form.
Not true. Wood heat is carbon neutral. Relative to fossil fuels (which took millions of years to form) a a cut tree is replaced by a new tree in a very short time, at most a decade or two. Long before that shrubs move in. And adjacent trees send their own new growth toward the empty spaces left by the fallen tree. Takes up CO2 very fast. Very fast. Believe me.



I'm with pstarr on wood heating. Yes, firewood is carbon neutral, and if the woodlot is managed properly, it can be carbon negative even while supplying firewood - over time the biomass can continue to increase because of thinning and judiciously cutting openings in the forest so the remaining trees continue put on more wood than was taken out.
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Re: Energy Conservation — Key Methods

Unread postby ROCKMAN » Tue 20 Dec 2016, 01:37:23

papa - "...over time the biomass can continue to increase because of thinning". I have doubts. Unless you're burning just a very small amount of biomass you releasing much more CO2 that year then the additional growth is pulling out of the atmosphere that same year. As I explained above unless your new yearly growth is pulling as much CO2 out as you burn that same year you can not be neutral in a short time frame.

Let's take a redjculously extreme example: cut down and burn a full grown tree. That releases X tons of CO2. And that same time you plant a super sapling that grows to the same size in 10 years and thus pulls 1/10 of X tons per year from the atmosphere. So after 12 months you've added 0.9X tons of CO2 to the atmosphere. And next year you cut and burn another tree (+ X tons) and plant another sapling (- 1/10 X tons) so at the end of 2 years you've add 2X tons to the atmosphere and removed 2/10 of X tons with Tree 1 and 1/10 of X tons with Tree 2. So after 2 years there's has been 2X tons added and 3/10 of X tons removed. IOW a net gain of 1.7X tons of CO2.

IOW even in a many decades long time frame you can't be neutral if you keep burning biomass. Only if you wait until the first tree you burned is replaced by the new mature tree of the same size can the CO2 be neutralized.

That's how I see the calculus. You see it differently?
Last edited by ROCKMAN on Tue 20 Dec 2016, 01:58:26, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Energy Conservation — Key Methods

Unread postby papalegba » Tue 20 Dec 2016, 03:12:30

ROCKMAN: Like pstarr said. If I cut a little hole in my forest, the surrounding trees enjoy a flush of growth from the new space and sunlight they are provided - possibly adding more biomass than what I've removed in firewood, but at the very least the same amount. Meanwhile, the rest of the forest keeps growing more wood. A very old forest with very large trees holds a lot more biomass - carbon - than a young forest. By selectively thinning and opening up holes here and there, I'm helping my forest get to maturity faster than it would on is own.

pstarr wrote:It depends on the rotation and the nature of the harvest. I've selectively timbered trees for lumber and wood. Small wood lots are also sustainable. The hole left in the forest opens the adjoining trees to more solar gain. Adjoining trees get more light, grow faster, and new branches spread over the hole eventually. The ground is quickly filled with green undergrowth.

The horizontal plane of green facing upward toward the sun is the critical measure of solar insolation. Photosynthesis and carbon uptake quickly return to normal as long as no direct sunlight hits earth. It is actually CO2 neutral quite quickly.

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Re: Energy Conservation — Key Methods

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Tue 20 Dec 2016, 10:17:25

Wood heat has another problem. The USA is not a country with enough wood to satisfy our space heating needs. The North American continent of 300 years ago is gone. We have a tiny fraction of the forests that formerly existed. Once we can no longer burn natural gas and butane/propane as the energy supply declines due to peak oil, consider the alternatives.

Yes, I understand managed woodlots, state forests, national forests, and parks. Irrelevent, as all these sources of wood cannot replace natural gas for more than 5 years before they are gone.

Oil and gas will not disappear overnight but they will escalate in cost. How long can you afford to run your furnace if gas is 2X as expensive? Or 4X? Or 10X?

Lots of people own fireplaces and do not use them. Some have stove inserts, or real freestanding stoves, or even wood furnaces. The demand for wood rises as the gas supplies decline, to 10X, then 100X the present level. How long can you afford wood when "Peak Wood" happens and the suppliy declines in 5 years or less? Can you guard your own woodlot 24X7 from thieves seeking only to keep their children from freezing?

I have thought a lot about this. Electric heat in the form of a ground source heat pump plus a personal power plant and batteries will heat/cool an off-grid superinsulated home. No carbon fuels of any kind required, other than during the energy-intensive construction and fabrication of the heat pump and power plant components. Buy those from the solar-powered Tesla Gigafactory if you can. Buy them and build that superinsulated home NOW before the recent Peak Oil makes it unaffordable.

The implications of peak oil mean that you are today as affluent as you are ever likely to be. Things will only go downhill from today. We have been talking about this for years, and now The Long Emergency has begun.
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Re: Energy Conservation — Key Methods

Unread postby Tanada » Tue 20 Dec 2016, 12:42:43

If I ever win the lottery or something I want to build an authentic Second Empire style home using modern materials with at least 8 inch thick walls super insulated and a fully modern HVAC ground source heat pump. But I would still have authentic fireplaces where I could have a cozy fire. For one thing it goes with the design and for another it gives you an emergency heat capability most homes lack.

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Re: Energy Conservation — Key Methods

Unread postby papalegba » Tue 20 Dec 2016, 13:58:22

Wood heating might not work for everybody, but for those of us in the boonies, it works just fine and will work indefinitely if we manage our woodlots properly - assuming, of course, that climate change doesn't completely ruin our forests.

As for the super-insulated house, I've been living in one I built 22 years ago and it works great. Build it tightly sealed with the best windows you can afford, and then leave at least one window open to ensure good ventilation. In our case, we leave the window of the Japanese bathroom in the back corner of the house open about six inches - it's as cold as the outdoors back there, but in the main living area where the wood stove is, it's as toasty as can be. The whole thing is only 1200 square feet, so doesn't take a lot wood to keep it warm and I don't have to spend much of my life cutting, hauling, splitting and stacking.
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