Sunday, July 30, 2006

Summer Time - And the Livin's Easy!

It' now a year since we built the extension onto the house and made several improvements to the downstairs.

Our living room is not only brighter, with the addition of two extra windows, but the extra insulation used in the new extension has made it cooler in summer, and less draughty in winter.

The new high-efficiency condensing gas boiler has saved over 3500 units of gas in the last year, which at today's prices is worth over £100.

The solar water heating panel is providing us with sufficient hot water for our summertime needs, which means that the boiler is not used for hot water for June, July and August.

The new shower has been very popular and it has not only reduced our water consumption, compared to the bath, but one can feel particularly smug when the water was heated only by the solar panel.

The "electricity diet" has been running since last September,and we have managed to keep our average consumption down to just 8 kWh per day.

We have found that even with sensible use of the dishwaster and washing machine, that our daily power consumption seldom exceeds 10kWh.

July has been particularly hot, so my best investment was a cheap electric fan, which makes the workroom comfortable even on the hottest of afternoons. It uses only 40W making it very economical to run, and a direct localised cooling breeze is far more effective, than having to install costly air-conditioning equipment. At under £15 - it was a bargain!

However it is easy to get complacent during the hot summer months, and forget that within only 8 weeks or so, it will be time to put the heating on again.

This autumn should see the start of my renewable fuelled heat and power system, which has not been needed in the summer months.

In addition, our new woodstove and boiler will be installed in September, ready for the chilly Winter nights.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Hotter Than July

Today is July 1st and it is expected to be the hottest day so far this year.

At 3pm I measured the temperature in the shade of my apple tree at 30 degrees C.

The solar panel is working well with an outlet temperature of 66.5 C, already having got my water tank up to a pleasant 40C - ideal for free, solar heated showers. It will probably reach 45 degrees by the time the sun passes by the panel.

The solar panel receives head on sunshine from about 3pm, at round about the same time that Elaine decides that it could well be warm enough to sit outside!

Personally, I prefer the shade of the apple tree, and often sit there in the early evening, to wind down after peering into a computer screen for 8 or 10 hours.

Start it Up!

I have been busy fitting a starter motor to my veg oil fuelled Lister generator. I had managed to acquire a powerful 6kW dc permanent magnet motor some time ago, and it was just a case of making a suitable bracket and belt driving it to the Lister.

The motor is coupled by pulleys and belts to the alternator shaft, and runs at 1200rpm when the alternator is doing the correct 1500rpm speed for 50Hz ac electicity.

The photo opposite is taken from above showing the twobelt drives linking engine to alternator and alternator to starter motor.

Last night I powered the starter for the first time,using 12V to begin with and then working up to 36V supplied from 3 large leisure batteries.

The starter works well, and certainly beats cranking by hand.

This type of motor also works very well as a generator, because it is permanently connected to the engine via the belts, and when the engine is turning the alternator at 1500rpm, the starter makes 134V dc, which can be fed straight back into the battery bank of my rather big, 5kW inverter.

The much appreciated sunshine for the last few weeks has allowed us to get our hot water almost entirely from the Navitron solar water heating panel. On dull days I start the Lister engine up for an hour, and the electricity generated goes straight to the immersion heater in the hot water cylinder, via a direct cable.

We have not used any gas for water heating for the last month. At this time last year our old gas boiler was using 6kWh a day just burning the pilot light. Now we only use gas for cooking, and average 1.5 units per day.

With the hot summer weather, it is difficult to remain focussed on the aims of producing a self-built renewable heat and power system capable of supplying all my winter needs.

The engine is now running reliably on waste vegetable oil, and the new starter makes it so much easier to crank it over.

The hombrew power system is rapidly starting to outgrow my humble 8 x 6 shed, so I am planning a simple extension made from exterior plywood on a timber frame.

So much to do, time to get cracking!