solar power and vacant land : LUSENET : Renewable Energy / Home Power : One Thread

A recurring theme in solar power discussions is the high price of the hardware. Theres some serious sticker shock for most people when they first investigate the technology. I remember it well, but it didnt last long. The savings on our off-grid property more than made up for it. But that was eight years ago. So I would have thought that what was obvious to us way back then would be pretty common knowledge by now, but perhaps not. So here are some comments and predictions. Theyre about as big a revelation as claiming that the sun will rise tomorrow. And nothing here will be of much use to those who need to be close to schools etc. Its aimed at those who can be more flexible, and might be wondering whether their next house should be a lot like their last one, or instead maybe a little different. All these words really only make a single point, that a big part of the price break currently available on off-grid property will disappear once solar power becomes commonplace. If you already understand that, then you neednt read the long version.

Ill bet that every single person reading this piece knows of land near where they live that was a whole lot cheaper ten years ago than it is now. Most of you have repeated this mantra many times, if only Id bought some of that when it was cheap. It always seems that the great opportunities have passed us by. But thats not true, in fact I think that solar power has created some new ones that people are ignoring. Its not so much about making money though, but rather about spending less.

Heres the situation. Theres usually a big difference between the price of normal vacant land, and all the other land that might require some imagination to develop. If the property is off-grid, then that accounts for part of the difference. That has always been true, and it still holds. But for how much longer? At present, developers are a long way from offering simple solutions for off-grid property. Buyers need to take on the burden themselves, and demonstrate a tiny vestige of pioneer spirit. Not that they need to be Lewis and Clark, just show a little initiative. At the same time, its hardly a bold prediction to say that alternative energy hardware will be vastly improved in the next decade or so. By then real estate salesmen will be able to babble on about how easy it is to install and operate, and how well it works. They may even be able to offer drop-in power/HVAC combination units. Certainly theyll be able to talk about multiple wireless communication methods, similar to the many television reception options we enjoy already. They will offer tours of wireless model homes, and quote prices for turnkey packages. And theyll rightly be able to claim that any fool can live in an off-grid home. Because by then, for the most part, the hardware will be idiot proofed, and it will cost less as well.

Ah, but thats way off in the future you say, and the hardware is just too expensive to even consider until then. Is it really? I tell people that installing a home power system is like paying for all their electricity ten or twenty years in advance. Is that such a bad deal? Arent they going to have to pay for the power anyway? Lets say that todays price for a capable solar power system is about $10k, or even two or three times that for larger setups. An outrageous amount of money right? And lets say for the sake of argument that the price will drop by half in a decade or so. But how much will the price of the vacant land go up in the same period, taking into account the certainty that solar power will be so user friendly by then? A lot more most likely. Ill use our local area to illustrate some numbers. Off grid property here goes for about $500 an acre in 40 acre parcels. Thats $20k, so at first glance it may seem foolish to spend half or more as much again just for power. But the finished cost is still a fraction of what many people spend for much smaller parcels of normal land. Not to mention that those smaller parcels come with the assurance of having the power companys hand in your pocket in perpetuity. The difference in the land prices reflect the extra effort it takes to do things that are out of the ordinary, like installing a solar power system. But that differential is bound to diminish as wireless living becomes more mainstream. Sooner or later, at least as they relate to power and communication, on and off-grid land prices will be the same.

But now youre thinking that the power and communication elements are only part of the equation. And youre right, there are some other efforts youll have to make. Theres no free lunch. At the edge of the populated areas the sidewalks and streetlights peter out, and the pavement ends. If youre used to the comforting familiarity of road signs and gas stations, you might wonder how anyone could live in such a place, devoid of lawns, landscaping, and trash pickup. But just as you can bet that there will be another AOL disc in your mailbox next week, you can rest assured that in a few years there will be houses in that lonely wilderness outside of your town. Youve seen it happen over and over as suburbia crawls inexorably outward. So if others can keep building houses on that vacant land, how hard can it be? Were the first people in the new areas super-human, or did they just have a little foresight? Not long after each new expansion, theres that same old chorus: I remember when it was just scrub-land, and they were giving it away. Singing that song are the ones afraid to drive their freshly waxed SUVs on a gravel road. Theyre waiting for the pavement to be extended up to a new fast food joint on the mountain, so that theyll have a destination when theyre in the mood to rough it. Theyll always be waiting for some hand holding before making any move, so theyll always end up cheek by jowl with the hordes of others of like mind. Which is just about the greatest thing that could happen, and best of luck to them. Because so long as they all stay in a clump, there will be that much less competition for those interesting parcels a little farther out of town.

Vacant land is not in short supply around here, and our area is not unique. There might even be a couple of thousand 40 acre parcels up for grabs in this county alone. They vary from bare dirt flat-land not far from town, to remote timbered mountain peaks. What may be limited though are the opportunities to catch a cheap ride on the train while its still pulling out of the station. Before long it will have picked up speed, and theyll be able to raise the price of the tickets.


-- wayne millen (, January 26, 2000


Wayne, good post. I agree with most of what you say. But I am not so sure about the solar energy part. From what I've read (and I DON'T have personal experience, because of the high cost of solar) the cost per kilowatt hour for the power generated by a solar setup is over 40 cents. I pay five and a half cents per kilowatt hour. My son, 250 miles north of here (I'm in Southwest Oregon) pays about half as much as I do.

So I don't get it. Why would I want to pay seven times as much for electricity as I pay for grid power, not to mention what appears to be a system which requires constant babysitting?

I agree with your other points, though. I guess if I didn't already have land and a house, I'd be looking for off grid land which had hydroelectric potential. (an adequate amount of water when I needed power, with as much head as I could get.

Small hydro, under adequate conditions, will generate way, way more power per dollar than solar; not only the set up cost, but also the continuing costs to operate.

And yes, I do realize that land with hydro potential is harder to find that land with solar potential, except maybe in the Pacific Northwest, where the sun hardly ever shines in the winter, when we need the most power.

-- jumpoff joe (, January 26, 2000.

Should I address you as Jumpoff, or Mr. Joe. Just kidding. Youre right, depending on how you look at it, solar power is expensive. You cant just add it to a grid-connected home and expect to save money. But utility prices will have to rise, and solar hardware prices will fall. And if youre looking to buy property and build a home, a solar power system can be the goose that laid the golden egg.

Plus, there are a few reasons to use it as a supplement to the grid. Heres just one. What anyone pays for grid power is not the real cost. I dont know how to put a number on the final price that will be paid for all those power plants. Youd have to add up the environmental damage caused by all the dams, the after effects of the pollution, and the cost of disposing of the nuclear waste. If you have grandchildren, ask them to send us a note in the great beyond, Ill be interested to know how it works out. One things for sure, theyre going to be pissed at us for our selfishness.

There seem to be a fair number of people paying for these systems partly or largely because theyre green. I really admire that. Its nice that some people will put their money on the line for something they believe in. Especially in light of the fact that most people cant even be persuaded to shut off the faucet while theyre brushing their teeth.


-- wayne (, January 27, 2000.

Wayne - I don't know if you had the opportunity to check out Joe's earlier thread on his heat pump system. It's really amazing, but certainly wouldn't be practical in your neck of the woods.

The energy future for most of us, especially suburban rats such as myself, is going to be a combination of a whole lot of things, depending on where each of us lives. PV arrays; passive solar heating; fuel cells; back yard hydro; geothermal; and who knows what else is on the horizon.

There are two things about the whole subject of energy self sufficiency (or near-energy self sufficiency, if you will) that really engages me, personally. 1) The opportunity to take control of one's own energy needs, to the extent practical, and 2) The chance to learn something that is, in some cases, well out of the average person's comfort zone or level of technical competency.

Myself, I learn as I go - hey, how can I write intelligently about this stuff if I don't do it myself - and folks like you and Joe make wonderful mentors for neophytes like me. ;-)

-- Rick Cowles (, January 27, 2000.

Hi Rick

Yes, I did see his post about the heat pump. It was the first thread I clicked on when I found your site. He calls it ground source, but I call it water source. His term is more correct, but its the same thing either way. We got our first one about 20 years ago, but theyve been around since the beginning of refrigeration. They cost a little more up-front, which is the main reason theyre not more popular. Although once I heard a heating contractor say I dont care what you claim, you cant get heat out of water. Attitudes like that dont help. Our first one was a central unit, open loop. Our second was a central unit, with a closed loop, including a buried 7500 gallon tank. In this house we used three separate units (Carrier 50KQ007), on a single closed loop, but with 3 separate circulating pumps. Each unit is capable of heating the entire house capacity wise, but there needs to be 3 to avoid circulation problems. Each unit is 750 watts, 220V. I cant find the spec book on them, their output varies with the underground water loop temperature, and also depends whether theyre in heating or cooling mode. You may have seen these things in motels, they use them in multi-unit configurations like that on a central boiler or chiller. Of course they dont get the benefit of the ground temperature when theyre used that way.

Glad to see youre a fan of learn as you go. Thats my favorite method. I find that my mistakes cause the info to stick better.

Talk to you later,


-- wayne (, January 27, 2000.

Wayne, you can call me Malcolm, if you have trouble with my nickame. No problem.

I think you have a good philosophy regarding solar energy, and I agree with it, at least to a point.

I don't have a problem with paying more per kilowatt hour in order to be environmentally friendly. I do such things all the time. But I have a bit of trouble justifying eight times as much. As I stated earlier, I think, Charlie Collins, of fame, states that solar power will cost about $.40+ per kilowatt hour.

Oops! I just went back to his site, and I must have remembered crooked, because the site says $.30 per kwh, based on a ten year replacement value, which is a lot better. Still, what with Charlie's estimate of $40,000 for start up costs for a large house, it's a big investment. That translates to $4000 per year.

I wonder if you have data which show cheaper costs?

I know that, for me, solar is on my "maybe someday" list. I've focused on more cost effective forms of alternative energy so far, including high tech wood heater, ground source heat pump (and I call it that because the water I use gets heated to 50+ degrees by being underground; some water source heat pumps take water from other sources), solar water heaters, attached solar green houses, passive solar house design. This latter is very important, I think, because it is something that can reduce fuel consumption with little or even NO added cost.

I am open minded about solar, but don't agree with some of its proponents, including Charlie Collins, who say that you are ECONOMICALLY better off to choose solar over grid power if you live more than 1/2 mile from the power lines. That's just not true, in my book.

My first solar purchase will likely be a solar water pump, just because no batteries are needed. I'll post here when and if I get a system designed and installed. It will most likely be some sort of hybrid system, insofar as I am trying to find low cost, mass production electric motors, and plan to use one to power a "stock" pump. I'm too cheap to pay $2500 for a 1/2 hp. 12 volt sub pump, when a 1/2 hp. 240 volt pump costs only about three and a half.

Do you think a starter motor from a car would perform as a pump drive? Or would it burn itself up from continuous use?

You say, "What anyone pays for grid power is not the real cost. I dont know how to put a number on the final price that will be paid for all those power plants. Youd have to add up the environmental damage caused by all the dams, the after effects of the pollution, and the cost of disposing of the nuclear waste. If you have grandchildren, ask them to send us a note in the great beyond, Ill be interested to know how it works out. One things for sure, theyre going to be pissed at us for our selfishness."

Man, do I agree with that! And I appreciate your input; it helps me look more at the big picture, rather than just the economic one, which always seems to play such a big part.


-- jumpoff joe (, January 28, 2000.

Rick, I also am a learn it by doing it type of guy; however, I have attempted to reinvent the wheel so many times in the last 24 years that I am really into doing a lot of research before jumping into projects I'm not up to speed on now. Saves a lot of time and money, and enables me to have more success.

Which is why I really enjoy your site; it's a way for all of us to share some of our experiences, and yes, mistakes, so we can all benefit.

I should write a book about all my projects that didn't work. I don't know if it would be a comedy or a tragedy.

-- jumpoff joe (, January 28, 2000.

Malcolm/Jumpoff Joe

Interesting stuff, all the ins and outs of solar. I think its pretty hard to compare grid to solar, no matter how you slice it. Better to look at the big picture as you said, total cost to develop a new property. For instance, a friend is building a nice house some distance from here, and he has grid power, which cost him plenty, plus the monthly bills. He has a radio phone, which cost $13K. He has five miles of road to look after, and will get no help on that. He has a school bond to pay, every year for the next twenty years. Its a little colder where he is so it will cost more to heat, etc. So he has some higher costs than us, and some lower ones as well. I could go on all day trying to compare his place to ours, and no two people would agree which project cost less. It all depends on your goals, and how much you value each element of the equation. One person might say that they would never live in rattlesnake country, the next might say they would never live in mosquito country. One single item could be a deal breaker for somebody, but the same item might be worth a fortune to the next guy. Privacy is a good example of that.

As for coming up with hard and fast rules like its economical as soon as you get past half a mile, thats an over-generalization, and I wish Charley wouldnt do that. Every case, every company, every area, is different. I know one guy who got his grid power for free, right after the guy next door paid $10K to run the wire 3 miles. Based on that one case, I got an education on how the power and phone companies figure this stuff, and it is way too complicated to make even the most basic generalization. The utility companies hate having to dole out bad news, but they have to do it all the time when someone buys property based on what some other guy paid for service. Usually one phone call could have set the record straight.

Thats one of my pet peeves, and its all too common. Around here the developers make it real easy to buy the land, low down, and low payments per month. Thats good. But then the fun starts. The owners find out that most of the stuff they learned from the locals is hooey, and the rest doesnt apply to them. Then they start whining to all the various agencies that somebody should have told them, there ought to a law, etc. etc.

As for the average cost of solar, it doesnt have to be a killer. Anyone who starts by using propane will be able to do a pretty fair job for about $10k on an average house, if there is such a thing. If that adds too much to the cost of the land, then buy cheaper land. In any event its not going to be the deal breaker on rural property, the more mundane stuff like commuting distance, job availability, etc. are all more important.

No need to re-invent the wheel on well pumps. We just have a normal submersible. It gets trickier if the water is deep etc. Lots of alternatives though, at least one solution for every problem.

I dont think youll have any trouble figuring out the big picture should you decide to start a new project. If you were smart enough to see the wisdom of a ground source heat pump, then all this other stuff is just grade school math, and attitude.


-- wayne (, January 28, 2000.

I added a picture of the Carrier 50KQ console ground source heat pump to our web page. Its on the second page of the solar power section. I also found the spec book, its 7000 Btuh nominal. There are other models in the series.


-- wayne (, January 29, 2000.

Wayne, I just realized, by going to the picture you posted of your Carrier heat pump, that you are the very person whose site I found from a posting on this site, Exteme Power Self Sufficiency. I am still impressed by everything you did at your homesite, and the road you built to get there. I will say again, "Wow"!

I agree every situation is different, and probably every state and power company are different.

As far as starting with propane, I guess you're right that propane is a good way to do some things, if you don't have grid power, tho it is rather expensive otherwise. I heat with wood, myself (although the groundsource heat pump, which I actually installed for air conditioning, has been so darn easy and cheap that I do allow it to bring to house up to 70 degrees in time to roll out of bed. But the house is rarely less than 65 when it turns on around five thirty anyway, that I figure I'm only spending 25-30 cents per day for this luxury. Ironically, my house, being well insulated, and earth sheltered on the downstairs part, has stayed so cool, aided by a whole house fan which I turn on at five thirty or six most mornings in the summer, that we have only used the heat pump for air conditioning a total of maybe ten or twenty hours in two years! So I could have done without it altogether, and just toughed it out for a couple of evenings a year, as it turns out.

As I have said repeatedly, I believe wood heat is one of the most environmentally friendly heat sources we have, next to hydro. It seems to me that the CO2 put out by the wood heater would have been put out by the decay of the wood anyway, as it decomposed. Yes, there are obviously other noxious gases and particulates, but they sure seem less noxious that oil or coal fired power plants, for instance. Not to mention that wood truly is a renewable resource. I have enough land that I NEVER have to cut any living tree to get firewood; I only cut dead trees, and leave most the biggest dead ones for wildlife trees.

Also, the wood is free. It takes less than a dollar's worth of gasoline to cut a cord of wood. If you cut and split it a year or two before you burn it, and keep it dry, it burns very cleanly, in a good wood heater.

About reinventing the wheel regarding well pumps, I have to admit I have reinvented many, many wheels over the years. But while I agree that there are "Lots of alternatives though, at least one solution for every problem". I don't want to spend the money "they" want for a DC pump, and while you mention having a standard submersible well pump, one can't run one like yours without a batteries, inverters, and all the hardware that goes with that. I am interested in a pump that does not need anything but the solar panels, and probably, but not necessarily, a linear current booster. Hence, my plan to use alternative parts and equipment. "Standard" pumps suffer from lack of mass production, I guess.

I like the looks of your little room sized (yes?) ground source heat pumps. I have't seen any that size before. Didn't you say that at least one of them is open loop? So do you use your well for the water source on this? How many gallons per minute does it use?

Only new project in the pipeline right now is a POSSIBLE land purchase of eighty acres with two creeks with wonderful flow all winter, and more than adequate flow in summer. Each tributary has over two hundred fifty feet of fall through the property. Enough hydro in winter to light a small community. We're thinking about this land to start our "Purple Haze Retirement Center" with a bunch of our fellow almost ready to retirees. Hydro has been my dream for a long time, just never have had a piece that was right for it. Also am planning on putting in a very small hydro system on my current piece of land, possibly. The little creek I have here is so ephemeral that it's going to be more of fun project than anything else, though. The big stream, way down the hill, has enough power to light a small city, but the drop is only 20 feet or so, so the equipment and permits (there are fish in the large stream) make the cost prohibitive. As in WAY prohibitive. Not to mention that I don't want to dig a pipeline along 2000 feet of creek to run a turbine. The riparian area is world class beautiful, and I dont' want to mess it up. I like small streams with lots of fall better.

Gotta go. How's everything out in the desert these days? I hope you've managed to run off all the people dumping their trash along your road. I certainly haven't. Here, though, the trash tends to break down rather rapidly, especially as it gets covered with a pretty good layer of leaves in the fall.

-- jumpoff joe (, January 31, 2000.


Have you heard of the Bowjon well pump? Its a wind powered thing. It has an old fashioned looking rotor blade attached to a standard air compressor. The compressed air goes down the well hole into a cheezy looking PVC thing, with some kind of venturi inside I guess. Then the air/water mix goes back up a small tube into a storage tank. Runs something like $1500 for the whole package. Has some limitations on depth and submergence, but definitely would be good for some applications.

It does take a little larger system to run a regular submersible, but that may be the cheapest option for some people when they figure total cost. Did you notice that Harbor Freight is selling subs now? Very cheap, but limited models.

The heat pumps work with between 1.0 and 2.5 gallons per minute. You can hook them up any number of ways, but Ive used a single closed loop. I havent dug the trench for the underground part of the loop yet, but I plan to siamese the outbound run alongside the incoming household water. The return line will be in its own trench. Combined with the limited run times, I shouldnt have to make the loop all that long.

Your plan to use hydro sounds like a winner. I wish we had the water here to do it with. We did have a small seep on our property when we moved here, and it was about 300 feet higher than the house. But it disappeared within six months of digging the well, so we suspect they were both fed by the same source. Doubt if we could have made anything out of it anyway.

The hunting ends tomorrow I think, no problems this year. Perhaps the word is getting around that a grouchy guy lives up here, causing them to move up the road aways.



-- wayne (, January 31, 2000.

Hi, Wayne.

I am familiar with the Bowjon Pump. Neat idea. I haven't evaluated its efficiency, because there is not much wind here, except during winter rainstorms, when I get fifty mph winds sometimes, but not very often. Mostly the wind is only two or three mph, which isn't practical for any wind applications, as far as I've found out. I guess anything which would generate a significant amount of power at wind speeds below about ten mph would have to be significantly large, and be significantly strongly built to handle the periodic high winds.

I have read, in various wind power writings, that the available energy in wind is directly proportional to the cube of the wind speed. I don't understand why; I would have intuitively thought it would be proportional to the square, but the literature all seems to be in agreement.

Anyway, if it's proportional to the cube, I can see why you wouldn't want to mess around with low wind speed areas.

I have seen other water pumps which are designed to work off compressed air. In fact, I once ran a 1/2" poly pipe down a 1 1/4" pvc "well casing" which was left in place by our friendly neighborhood Bureau of Reclamation after they drilled core samples all over the valley in an effort to design a dam across my creek. By blowing air (no, using a compressor, not my mouth) down to near the bottom of the hole, which is 100 feet deep, I was able to blow all the water out. The hole produced only about 1/2 gpm, which convinced me to drill a well somewhere else. But it was kind of fun setting this thing up. I suspect you could make a compressed air pump by dropping a 1 1/4" pvc pipe down a well, leaving some perforations right above the bottom of the pipe, then running 1/2" poly pipe down the hole to a few feet above the bottom of the 1 1/4 pvc, then blowing air down the poly pipe. I'm sure you would need enough pressure to overcome the static head of the water (one psi per 2.31 feet of head) plus some extra to move whatever volume of water you wanted, or had available. If you put the poly pipe too close to the bottom of the pvc pipe, I believe you'd blow air out the bottom of the pvc pipe, and the air would bubble uselessly to the top of the water in the well.

I've no idea how efficient this system would be in terms of kilowatts per gallon of water delivered, but I like the idea of being able to have all your equipment except pipe above ground. Plus, a smaller diameter well could be drilled, or driven, or jetted than the standard 6" cased well.

I agree, if a person plans, or already has, a whole house solar electric system, it probably makes some sense to use a standard sub pump, as they are so much cheaper than specialty pumps. I am not familiar with Harbor Freight. I'll look for them on the net. Thanks.

Is this per unit? I know I have experimented around with my heat pump. The more water you run through it (and that is very easy for me to adjust, as there is a solenoid valve with a needle valve or some such on top for adjusting the flow) the greater the difference between ambient room temperature and the temperature of the air coming out of the ceiling and floor vents. But there's a law of diminishing returns. A little more water is good; a lot more water is only a little better. Between higher pumping costs and wasting water, I tend to keep mine at 4 1/2 to 5 gallons per minute.

< I plan to siamese the outbound run alongside the incoming household water. The return line will be in its own trench. Combined with the limited run times, I shouldnt have to make the loop all that long.>

I like the idea of siamesing the lines (I assume that means you're running them right next to each other?) That should help raise the temp of the loop in the winter and lower it in the summer; both good things to do. I wish I would have given myself the option (and since you haven't yet installed your loop, you may want to consider this) of running my greywater drainage "siamesed" to my supply water for the heat pump. I have a three hundred foot run of pipe from my well to my house (where the heat pump is, naturally). I could have run my greywater down most of this same trench, warming the incoming water significantly, had I had the foresight. I'd have to have a valve to redirect the greywater elsewhere in the summer, as I wouldn't want to warm the incoming water during the summer.

As to your loop lenght, I you could talk to your HVAC dealer, but I would think that the longer the loop, the more efficient it would be. If you ran the water through too short a loop, it would not be in contact with the "warm" earth long enough to warm up as much as it would in a longer loop. Again, there is a law of diminishing returns, though. Also, the longer the loop, the less the earth will be cooled off by your cold (very cold) return water; this is especially important in the efficiency of the heat pump. Of course, if you use the heat pump only rarely, it does not come into play very much, as you may not be cooling off the earth much with limited usage.

I've been contacting various agencie to see if the cost and frustration of paperwork will exceed the benefit of installing the system. I'll let you know, but even finding out what's what with the boo-rats has been quite time consuming, so it may take a while.

Glad the hunting's almost over. Two hunters actually came up to the one rental I have just up the driveway, and told them that they "had permission" from one of my other neighbors and from Fish and Wildlife (they actually DID have verbal permission from F and W!) kill some elk who were damaging my neighbors' lawn and fruit trees. Fortunately, my renters read them the riot act and sent them on their way.

You'd think the neighbors and the F and W would ASK before turning a couple of hunters loose on the neighborhood. Oh well. My neighbor's a good guy; I don't think he realized what these crazies were going to do. Meanwhile, the elk (all fifteen of them) have moved back up the mountain, now that the rains have come and the little tribs are running.


-- jumpoff joe (, February 01, 2000.


Youll find Harbor Freight at . But their web site is pretty lame. Sign up for a catalog. Caution, you will get enough catalogs each week to heat your house if you put them all in the stove. Some of the stuff they sell is crappy, some is brand name, with everything in between. Watch out for different prices for the same item between catalogs, or even in the same catalog!

The heat pump flow rates are per unit. But well only ever run one at a time anyway, so the loop length will not need to be long. Ill be using the auxiliary temperature sensors connected to the solar hot water heating controller to get a digital readout of incoming and outgoing temps. Ill know in short order if I guessed the length adequately.

On our last house with a central heat pump and a 7500 gallon tank for a heat sink, the tank temperature would rise if we ran the air conditioning for weeks on end. We cured that by having the irrigation system run through the tank. That lowered the temps, and the trees never complained about being irrigated with warm water.


-- wayne (, February 01, 2000.

Hi, Wayne.

Thanks for the warning about Harbor Freight's catalog frequency. Perhaps one of us should design a "junk mail powered home". All you'd have to do is answer about ten percent of the junk mail offers you get, and you'd probably have at least a "cord" of junkmail delivered to your door each month...

These temperature sensors you mention--can you hook them up to your computer to monitor the temperatures throughout the day? I've designed a few different solar water heaters, which work well during non freezing weather, but I need a better way to monitor the temps than the present method, which is frequent measurement with a hand held thermometer. I have been planning to get a few thermos to install semi-permanently, but I would still have to read them frequently. And I'm not always here.

Have you ever thought about putting in an underground, highly insulated storage tank with enough capacity to store all, or most, the heat you'd need for a winter's heating and/or all the cooling you'd need for a summer's cooling? I have. Haven't yet calculated how many gallons would be needed, though. I like the concept (like solar heating the tank all summer to get it piping hot), but I suspect the size would be ridiculously large.

I like your having run your irrigation water through the 7500 gallon tank. I belatedly thought of running my irrigation water through my concrete slab floor in the dining room (with ceramic tiles on top). It would have cooled the floor nicely, and preheated the irrigation water. I agree that the plants not only never complain, but should do better with prewarmed water.

Well, I'm going to check out that Harbor Freight place.


-- jumpoff joe (, February 03, 2000.


The sensors I used are just the standard resistance types. Usually theyre hooked to a blind controller which compares two sensors, and runs the circulating pump accordingly. At a little higher cost my controller has a digital readout of the sensor temps. No simple way to hook them to a computer. But if you try Home Automation, or Home Controls, you should be able to find some kind of sensors that can be remote monitored. If you really want to get into it, check out the comp.homeautomation NG. Those guys automate anything you can think of.

Never considered trying to store heat as you mentioned, its just not worth the trouble for our application. It has been a mild winter here anyway (65 today!), and we have yet to feel the need for any supplemental heat.

Youre going to like HF. Your mailman might wish you hadnt heard of it, but other than that a good supplier.


-- wayne (, February 03, 2000.

Thanks, Wayne, for even more information and sources of information.

As far as the heat storage bit, I'm doubtful it would be cost effective, but I'll probably crunch some number, just in case. It would be really sweet to have a system which eliminated heating and cooling costs, obviously.


-- jumpoff joe (, February 07, 2000.

Gee, Electricity was going for 2.5 cents a kilowatt hour last week, but on the open, deregulated market it's going for $3 (yes, three dollars) a kilowatt hour. Consumers can expect to see that within the next few years, if not by next Oct. when the Pacific Northwest goes to an RTO (Regional Transfer Organization). The energy "stuff" is about to hit the fan and consumers should be checking out alternative sources now while they're still available. Once the rush is on the cost will go and demand until manufacturing catches up with demand. If you want to follow the energy story, check out the articles on the website, Goldendale Sentinel. We're covering it. New articles out this week. New articles out on Thursday, posted by Friday.


-- Becky (, December 11, 2000.

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