Thursday, December 31, 2009

Solar Thermal Roof

An entire closed-loop, serpentine solar-thermal-roof may be built with ½” copper pipes bonded to aluminum flashing and covered with glazing materials such as glass or polycarbonate, but once installed it will be difficult to maintain. Also remember, the copper used to collect and transfer heat into a heat storage system could get pricey. If you do decide to go with a large serpentine system you may want to consider using PEX although PEX will require a larger surface area for heat exchange.

This particular serpentine solar thermal roof would require 85 Copper pipes ½”x 10’. At a cost of $25 per pipe the cost of Copper alone would be more than $2,100. The finished roof wouldn’t look too bad but the final price tag for a commercially installed solar thermal roof heating and hot water system like this might run as high as $20,000.

The Hot Box

The story of traping the sun’s heat energy might begin with a cave man choosing a south facing cave or an Anasizi Indian laying mud brick against a south facing canyon wall. But we shall begin this solar heating story with Horace de Saussure, a noted Swiss naturalist, who invented the “Hot Box”. Horace was born in Switzerland and spent much of his time mountain climbing throughout the Alps and into France. For this reason many people believed him to be French. At any rate the “Hot Box” concept is basic to understanding the nature of a solar collector. No one seemed to care much about “Hot Boxes” back in 1767. France was in debt and the peasants of France were more concerned with making bread than warming themselves with sunlight.
Horace would tell you the heating effect of sunlight passing through glass was known for some time and that is true, but Horace brought this phenomena to the publics attention in 1767 when he recorded a temperature of 230*F inside his home made “Hot Box”. Unfortunately, the people of France were on the verge of a revolution, and a box that trapped the sun’s was of little interest at that time. More than a century passed before some clever technicians began to apply Saussure’s invention.
De Saussure, Herschel, and Langley all demonstrated that temperatures exceeding the boiling point of water could be produced in a glass-covered box. De Saussure stated almost self-effacingly, "Someday some usefulness might be drawn from this device for it is actually quite small, inexpensive, and easy to make." Indeed, his modest hope was more than fulfilled: the hot box became the prototype for the solar collectors of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries—collectors that were able to supply hot water and heat for homes. Unfortunately conventional solar collectors are still not as cost effective as they could be due to the high initial investment.

The Modified Trickle Down solar heating system was specially developed for do it yourselfers with carpentry skills, interested in saving money. This system makes use of commonly available, low-cost materials and recycled materials. MTD works best when flush mounted on a properly oriented roof. Once the concept is understood it may be incorporated into the design of an energy independent MTD house.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Journey up Green Mountain

We are creatures of habit and architects of our own destruction, but we do have the opportunity to climb Green Mountain while there's still time. Dick Chaney would say: Enough with the sunshine … It’s foolish to think a person could obtain all their life sustaining requirements from the sun. You see Dick does not believe there’s enough sunlight for everyone, but he wrong. The Earth actually intersects more sun energy in 12 hours than the energy equivalent found in the remaining world oil reserves so let’s hope there’s enough sunlight to go around.

What are we fighting for?
Is capitalism such a noble cause that that we must inflict it on the rest of the world just to make a few wealthy people wealthier?
We uproot trees in the name of progress.
We suck out irreplaceable resources from "Mother Earth" to keep our toes warm at night.
We fowl the air we breathe and the water we drink.
We poison our foods with insecticides and preservatives.
We bulldoze through acres of pristine forests to throw up thousands of ticky-tacky houses that all look the same.
We force our animal neighbors into extinction.

Did you know that polar bears and hippos are now officially on the endangered species list. Climate change, unregulated hunting and habitat destruction are causes, but what is the cure. The buffalo is long gone and more than 16,000 species of animals and plants are at risk of disappearing in the very near future. Can the human animal make the necessary adaptation to avoid being placed on the endangered species list? Is the hand of greed to only force guiding the human spirit? Have we lost our childhood curiosity in the mad race to have the best car or best house or best wife on the block?
And what do we me mean by best?
How do we connect with our neighbor?
How do we connect with our job?
How do we connect with our planet?
How do we connect with our sun?
How do we connect with our universe?
How do we connect with ourselves?

Who are we? Who are you? Are you only the sum total of your habits? Do you believe in Santa Clause? Do you wonder about the ground beneath your feet? Do you worry about losing that job you never liked? How can you boost your self-esteem? How do you and feel about the world you live in? What is your greatest fear?

When it comes to writing my greatest fear is starting? No one wants to start out on a path that leads down a dead end street. We have become so critical of ourselves that it’s difficult to get started on the trek up “Green Mountain”.
There are many green mountains to choose from.
How shall we spend our energy?
Will our adventure be a noble quest?
Will we have the energy needed to complete our task?
Do we have a clear plan?
Will we be able to form the habits needed to carry us to the peak?
Will we enjoy the process?

There are so many things to consider that most of us never get started. I know that I spend most of my time just staring at a blank computer screen although I have always believed writing is a noble profession, and I also believed Garrison Keeler when he said: “ The world has enough writers what we need now are editors.” I know it’s a conundrum, but always remember it’s easier to delete than it is to write so write first and delete later.

A new habit takes 21 days to establish. So it’s just a matter of choosing the right habits and sticking with them… that shouldn't’t be too difficult. Choose the right mountain. Pack the best gear. Anticipate possible problems (worst case scenarios). Have a plan B as George Peppard would say. Be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.
When you’re ready, stay focused and don’t look down as you approach the summit. Just take one step at a time and enjoy the journey. You’ll succeed if you have a good plan and are well prepared. If you have a cool solar thermal article that you’d like to share with the world send it in and we’ll find a place for it and we’ll change the world together… one step at a time up Green Mountain.