Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

Project: Batch Solar Water Heater

Stephen and Rebekah Hren, authors of The Carbon-Free Home: 36 Remodeling Projects to Help Kick the Fossil-Fuel Habit, just installed a small solar hot water heater on their North Carolina townhouse. Their house, as you might have guessed, is already carbon-free, so this is just icing on the cake. If you’re not yet in a carbon-free home, installing a solar hot water heater will save you money and fuel all year round…yes…even in the winter. Here’s a project from The Carbon-Free Home that explains the steps. Batch Solar Water Heater Project Time: 3 to 4 days. Cost: $500–3,000. Energy Saved: High. Ease of Use: Variable; depends on climate. Maintenance Level: Low. Skill Levels: Carpentry: Intermediate. Plumbing: Advanced. Electrical: Basic. Materials: Variable, depending on complexity of system; include ball valves, check valves, boiler valves, 75 psi pressure-relief valve, tempering valve, roofer’s caulk, glycol, stainless-steel lag screws and washers, roof collars, panel mounting hardware, flexible and rigid ¾-inch copper piping, pipe hangers, pipe insulation, various copper fittings, hose. Tools: Soldering kit (including flux, torch, solder, and so on), pipe cutter, measuring tape, drill and drill bits, holesaw kit, razor knife, pencil, screwdriver, hammer, fire extinguisher, rope, ladders. Sophisticated batch-collection systems are plumbed into household water lines, so the usual household pressure moves the water through the collector, as opposed to a pump moving antifreeze or distilled water through a heat-exchanging system. Quite a variety of ways exist to plumb batch collectors. The batch collector can be the only source of hot water, or it can feed a backup tank adjacent to the normal tank, or it can feed straight into the regular household electric or gas heater. It is possible to plumb batch collectors with backup gas or electric tanks. This ensures the collector can be bypassed in cold weather or, vice versa, the backup tanks(s) can be bypassed and turned off when it is sunny enough to rely solely on the batch collector. It is also possible to place a batch collector (or any other solar thermal system) in-line with an instantaneous hot-water heater, but it must be a model with incoming water temperature sensing. Off the shelf, high-end batch collectors are installed in a very similar fashion to the closed-loop pressurized system detailed above. The main differences lie in plumbing—adding the extra backup tank if there is one—and in the fact that batch collectors don’t need a pump or controller because household water pressure pushes water through the collector. High-end batch collectors should come with a plumbing diagram to follow. Three-way (bypass) valves on the supply and return lines allow various configurations, including bypassing a backup tank or bypassing the batch collector. Many plans can be found at the DIY Web site Resources

The 5 Rules of Lean Thinking

Are you ready to co-create the future? These 5 Rules of Lean Thinking are a useful tool as we set out to collectively invent a post-market future.Surviving the Future is a story drawn from the fertile ground of the late David Fleming’s extraordinary Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive It. That […] Read More

Imagination, Purpose & Flexibility: Creating an Independent Farmstead – Q&A (part 1)

Twenty years ago, the land that authors Shawn and Beth Dougherty purchased and have come to name the Sow’s Ear was deemed “not suitable for agriculture” by the state of Ohio. Today, their family raises and grows 90% of their own food.Such self-sufficiency is largely the result of basing their farming practices around intensive pasture […] Read More

Using Permaculture Principles to Design Resilient Cities

The Permaculture City begins in the garden but takes what we have learned there and applies it to a much broader range of human experience; we’re not just gardening plants but people, neighborhoods, and even cultures.Author Toby Hemenway (Gaia’s Garden) lays out how permaculture design can help towndwellers solve the challenges of meeting our needs […] Read More

Overshoot, Collapse, and Creating a Better Future

In 2016, Earth Overshoot Day happened on August 8—the day when we’ve exhausted the planet’s resources for the year, and are essentially borrowing from future years to maintain our existence today.Perhaps you celebrated this day with a counter-solution: a vegetarian meal, telecommuted, or turned off the air conditioning. There’s a lot more you could be […] Read More

Save Energy & Money This Winter: Seal Up Your Drafty House

Unless you’ve taken special preventative precautions, it’s likely that on cold days much of your house’s heat pours out through your (closed) windows. Most houses—especially old houses—have drafty, uninsulated windows that do little to prevent heat from dumping out into the cold night. Even if your windows aren’t drafty, the expensive heat your furnace has […] Read More
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