Category Archives: Renewable Energy

Politics and Marriage

Before anyone begins reading this assuming that it is an blog post focusing on the gay marriage issue in Maine, let me state that it’s nothing of the sort. (For one, that’s nothing that concerns how we run the homesteading portion of our lives, but it’s also something Joe and I agree on and are both in favor for.)

This post deals with the issue of two very like minded people who are married to one another having a difference in opinion about an environment impacting decision that will be made in our town. Currently there is a plan in the works to see a natural gas pipeline go from Kittery up through the Kennebec Valley and eventually up into Canada. This pipeline would be directly effecting towns like Augusta, Farmingdale, Fairfield, Oakland, Norridgewock, Madison, and Skowhegan.

While both we are both environmentally conscious people, we each have very different views on the pipeline. To help others see how different these views really are, we’ve decided to share them.

Tasha: I’m not happy about the gas line coming through because, instead of wasting more money by creating temporary relief to the fuel issue, that money should be used to looking at sustainable, long term fuel solutions and subsidies for those that are already using/converting to long term solutions, such as algae based bio-fuel, wood, and solar. Tax credits for curbing fuel usage would also be a bonus as well, as it would hopefully teach more people to look at their own consumption and not simply keep swapping from one form of another.

My other concerns include the environmental impact that the construction of the line will have along the Kennebec River and how the pipeline will effect the river at the crossing points. None of this information has been readily made to the public as far as the environmental impact is concerned. It’s unfortunate that so many of those for this massive project are only thinking of the monetary aspect and not the damage that might be incurred on the Kennebec Valley.  What about when this gas line is no longer usable? What good does all that damage do for the next generations? I’m not asking these questions in order to get an answer, per say, but asking them to get others thinking about the “what ifs.”

 

Joe: I’m always happy to see cleaner fuel methods moving forward and becoming available to the public.  It’s true that Natural Gas is not a permanent solution, but it IS much cleaner than fuel oil which many in the Northeast burn as their primary source of heat.  It is also more abundant in North America than oil, reducing our foreign oil needs as well as putting money into our local economies.  Natural Gas is also less expensive than current alternative heating options, excluding cord wood of course.

We all know we need to shift from our current fuel usages.  I think that this process is best to be done in baby steps gradually moving towards more sustainable practices.  Currently we are no where near close to using sustainable and safe energy sources as our primary fuels, so we need to use the best we have.  If we always use the best we have, and are always striving towards the “next generation” fuel source, we will eventually get there and we will keep our planet as clean as possible.  If we try to make the jump to fully sustainable practices too quickly, only the rich will be able to afford to do it and the mass populace won’t catch on – in fact, it could attach a stigma to the technology keeping it from ever catching on fully.  We want to make sure solar, geothermal, heat pumps, hydrogen cars, ethanol (algae and cellulose based) are ready for the big time before they are pushed as “the way to go.”  In the mean time, Natural Gas is a great stop gap – and it’s cheap to boot.  I don’t want to see us continue on with our wasteful ways simply hoping that eventually we’ll have the perfect solution when it may never come.  At a minimum it may come at a much later time and meanwhile we are destroying the world around us.  So, just like everything else, we should do the best with what we have.

As you can see, while we have two very different views on the current situation, our long-term view is the same. That being said, this shouldn’t be romanticized in any fashion. Our ability to discuss these differences is something that has taken these past eight years to build to, and as with everything, will never reach perfection. How do we do this? Simple enough: we agree to disagree, which is easy when the overall outcome that both people want to see happen is the same. Right now this is severely easy to do in the case of natural gas because it’s not something that effects our home right now and most likely won’t even be made available to us because of where we live in town. If it was to effect us directly, we would be looking at hours of research and soul searching on both our parts regarding the topic, along with some very lengthy conversations about whether or not we would utilize the product available.

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Let there be fire!

I’m not going to make this a long, lengthy post as I think Joe would be the best one to handle explaining all the background and particulars of our long journey to wood burning, but we’ve done it!

We’ve been using the stove for over a month and love it. We do still have oil backup since Teeny (lovebird) can’t get below 62F for long at all, but it’s barely been running.

Needless to say, we love it! 🙂

Ideal “Heat Plan” for our home

This came from my other blog, thatraymond.com

I have come up with various schemes for heating our home efficiently, cheaply and safely. In the past they have all revolved around a hydronic system since we already have baseboard heat. However, we lose our service contract for our oil furnace if we tie in to the system with a solid fuel boiler. Plus hydronic systems need to stay above freezing at all times and since there is no chimney space for another appliance in the house, we would need it in an add-on or in an out building.

Here come’s the magic: wood burning forced hot air furnace. It gives you redundancy (run out of oil, still have wood heat/have a leak in the baseboard, still have forced hot air), it would allow the burning appliance to be in an unheated, unplumbed (ie-cheaper to build and easier to insure and get permits for) add-on to the house and it wouldn’t matter if you went on vacation for a week (the oil would keep the house warm like it does now, and the add-on and furnace would get cold but it wouldn’t matter).

So here is the plan:

* Home heat: Wood forced hot air/oil boiler with baseboard heat
* Hot water: Solar hot water/oil boiler (with indirect tank setup)
* Run the oil boiler with a outside temperature reset

Right now we are heating entirely on oil and burn 650 gallons/year for our 1,250 square ft home. With this new setup I would expect to burn less than 50 gallons/year. This would save us $1,500 per year. Even accounting for gas and wear and tear on the truck getting wood as well as chainsaw fuel and maintenance etc that would mean we’d still save a minimum of $1,000 per year and a maximum of $1,300 per year.

Let’s do some math:

Furnace – $3,100

* $1,100 – US Stove hot air furnace model 1357M
* $1,500 -add-on to house
* $500 – chimney and other hookups

40 gallon Tank water heat zone for oil – $1,500

Solar hot water system – $3,000

Total cost: $7,600

In 6-8 years time we would be saving money.

Immediately we would be saving the environment.

Over the lifespan of the systems (25 years or so) we would save between $17,000 – $25,000.

I would estimate that 80% of the savings here is through the wood furnace alone. That said, you could pay less than half of the initial burden and get most of the gains of this system.