Monday, July 15, 2013
Small budget alternative energy, the early years
My lovely wife and I were married at 20 years old, about 35 years ago. Several years and two children later, my lovely wife and I bought our first house. It was 22 foot by 22 foot 4 room house. The bathroom was so small, it only had a tub and a toilet -no sink. There was an attached garage that later became a bedroom and a full sized bathroom. We paid $15,000 for the house.
We had very little money, but we did have a place of our own. *not counting the bank, of course.
Heating in New Hampshire is always an issue. The house came with an oil fired hot air furnace, the type normally installed in trailers. I improved the efficiency of the furnace by fixing some duct issues. Soon after, I put in a simple woodstove. Some years that was my sole source of heat. Heating oil was over 70 cents a gallon. Who could afford that?
This house sat on the end of a 50 X 100 lot in town. Not a lot of room for processing firewood. Fortunately, my dad had a larger piece of land, about a ½ mile away. I'd get my wood delivered to his place, where I'd borrow his chainsaw to cut it up. It was also split there. All the wood was moved to my house in a borrowed homemade trailer pulled by my 1977 Honda Civic. It took a lot of trips to get 5 cords of wood to my house.
My hot water was electric. With small kids in the house, we used plenty of hot water. Something had to be done about the electric bill. I salvaged a 30 gallon water tank from a kerosene heater. With some salvaged copper pipe and a bit of soldering, it was rigged it up with a small heating coil. The coil sat on top of the woodstove and circulated hot water using convection. The wood fired tank would feed into the electric. My water heating bill dropped 90%.
That was fine for the winter, but what about summer when the woodstove wasn't working? Remember, still had very little money. As soon as it became too warm for the woodstove, I'd disconnect the salvaged tank and move it outside in a sunny area. I gave it a good coat of black paint. Someone had given me a big coil of black plastic pipe. That sat on shed roof. Water would come into the tank, start to warm up, then get a boost from running through the coil of plastic pipe. While not as productive as the woodstove, it still reduced my electric bill 70 – 80%.
Over the years we made steady improvements to that house. When I sold it, there was enough money to get me started on my dome home in the country, where I could be even more self reliant and independent.