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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

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..

The Limits to Growth and Greece: Systemic or Financial Collapse?

Could it be that the ongoing Greek collapse is a symptom of the more general collapse that the Limits to Growth model generates for the first two decades of the 21st century? Author Ugo Bardi (Extracted: How the Quest for Mineral Wealth is Plundering the Planet) examines the correlation between what is unfolding between Greece […] Read More..

Permaculture Q&A: Mulching Options for Your Garden

As Permaculture Month continues, we are making our expert authors available to answer your burning permaculture questions. If you have a question to submit, fill out this form. This week, Lottie from Florida asked if there are other garden mulch options that are as effective as hay. Josh Trought, one of our soil building and garden management […] Read More..

Designing Your Own Solar Cooker & Dehydrator

In today’s world, nearly everything we use, from phones and computers to cars and kitchen appliances, requires energy derived from fossil fuels. Wouldn’t it be nice to offset some of that energy use by harnessing the renewable power of the sun? Josh Trought, founder of D Acres—an educational center in New Hampshire that researches, applies, […] Read More..

Building a Sustainable Community: The D Acres Model

If you were going to create a community-based homestead or farm from scratch, where would you start? What building materials would you use? What crops would you grow and what animals would you raise? How would you develop an organizational structure and connect with your community? And, how would you make sure all of this […] Read More..
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