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Turning wood into electricity for 2 months of the winter  RSS feed

 
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At first you want to drop down your usage of electricity as far as possible without loosing to much comfort. As rule of thumb. everything generating heat uses much electricity. There are some cheapo meters that can be plugged in between appliances. If you run those for 24h or so you get an idea. Sure it depends on personal usage, I found out that the biggest consumer were warm water as well as the washing machine.

Switched to a wood powered boiler, 80l water from 5-10 C to nearly 100 C in about 1h with 4-5 (roughly) kg of dry fire wood. Though after about 30 min you can take a shower. The above mentioned meter showed that the washing machine is another heavy user of electricity. Primally due to heating the water. There are machines you can feed in directly hot & cold water and it will mix it on its own. Though they are not cheap and ours was not old. There are also small appliances to premix the water, but expensive. The problem, most machines check the temperature and will just drain to hot water out like crazy. I found a "eco" setting where our machine would not check the temperature. So I attached the machine to a casual one-hand mixer tap, allowing to set the temperature manually. After 10 minutes you can switch to cold water, as only the first liters will be normally heated. Though that can be automated with a small self constructed appliance. This dropped consumption from about 1.5 kWh to 0.15 kWh per washing cycle!

As others pointed out, going micro-hydro if you have the possibility is the only way to generate power cheap. Even if you can drain just 200W, it is 24/7 so you get 4.8 kWh/day and when you need most, during winter times you have usually enough water flow. So you do not need big battery banks (expensive). So if you heat, cook, bake, heat your warm water and more with firewood you'll be fine. For backup purposes some cheap generator will be fine, running on fuel or/and wood.

So saving and using wood will allow you to get away with a smaller (cheaper) system to obtain electricity. The most important with firewood is to have/get it really dry (<15% humidity), Takes usually about 2 years drying. So planning is important and you need enough forest, so you do not take more out then what is growing/year.
 
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Thanks Mike!  I have used a KillaWatt meter to measure all our 110V uses.  I was worried after reading your post so I just checked my spreadsheet and our washer (front load but nothing special) uses 0.1 KWH per load.  We only do a load a week so our annual electrical use for clothes washing is 5 KWH, or fifty cents.  Phew, that's not our problem.

I'd LOVE to have microhydro but we don't have moving water.

Some day I'll make a solar water heater (or hook something up to our wood stove in a safe manner) so our water heating will be renewable as well.  
 
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Mike Jay wrote:Thanks Mike!  I have used a KillaWatt meter to measure all our 110V uses.  I was worried after reading your post so I just checked my spreadsheet and our washer (front load but nothing special) uses 0.1 KWH per load.  We only do a load a week so our annual electrical use for clothes washing is 5 KWH, or fifty cents.  Phew, that's not our problem. [..]



It seems to me your meter is broken, you are washing cold or supplying already hot water to the machine? Otherwise I can't think of how you get away with 0.1 kWh/washing cycle?
 
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I have hot and cold running to it and we do loads on the "warm" setting.  I'm pretty sure the meter is working, maybe I messed up.  I'll check again on the next load.
 
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Mike Jay wrote:I have hot and cold running to it and we do loads on the "warm" setting.  I'm pretty sure the meter is working, maybe I messed up.  I'll check again on the next load.



As written, if you supply hot water the 0.1 kWh are reasonable, although it was not clear from your first post to me.
 
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Sorry about that.  It's pretty standard to have hot and cold water going to cloths washing machines around here.  I didn't even think to mention it.
 
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Mike Jay wrote:Sorry about that.  It's pretty standard to have hot and cold water going to cloths washing machines around here.  I didn't even think to mention it.



OK, got it. Here those machines are pretty rare and according to tests some are not even that efficient. Of course you need something cheaper then electricity to heat up the water. Solar fluid tubes systems should be in the summer times optimum, but if you want thermosiphon (w/o pumps/etc) a bit tricky to setup, as the panels need to be below the boiler.
 
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Mike Homest wrote:

Mike Jay wrote:Sorry about that.  It's pretty standard to have hot and cold water going to cloths washing machines around here.  I didn't even think to mention it.



OK, got it. Here those machines are pretty rare and according to tests some are not even that efficient. Of course you need something cheaper then electricity to heat up the water. Solar fluid tubes systems should be in the summer times optimum, but if you want thermosiphon (w/o pumps/etc) a bit tricky to setup, as the panels need to be below the boiler.


Where abouts are you Mike? I know all front loaders I come across have hot and cold. I generally do a hot wash and cold rinse. Power consumption is usually just shy of 200 WHr. I use a propane hot water tank and a conditioning tank fed off the wood stove. If I time it right the water feeding the propane water heater is almost up to temperature already. In terms of efficiency it depends what you are testing for. The front loaders use more electricity for the same amount of laundry BUT use far less water and remove far more of it in the rinse cycle. If you are heating water to wash and use a dryer the front loader wins hands down. If you are water stressed the front loader also wins. The top load is a simpler machine so should last longer.
Cheers,  David  
 
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David Baillie wrote:

Mike Homest wrote:

Mike Jay wrote:Sorry about that.  It's pretty standard to have hot and cold water going to cloths washing machines around here.  I didn't even think to mention it.



OK, got it. Here those machines are pretty rare and according to tests some are not even that efficient. Of course you need something cheaper then electricity to heat up the water. Solar fluid tubes systems should be in the summer times optimum, but if you want thermosiphon (w/o pumps/etc) a bit tricky to setup, as the panels need to be below the boiler.


Where abouts are you Mike? I know all front loaders I come across have hot and cold. I generally do a hot wash and cold rinse. Power consumption is usually just shy of 200 WHr. I use a propane hot water tank and a conditioning tank fed off the wood stove. If I time it right the water feeding the propane water heater is almost up to temperature already. In terms of efficiency it depends what you are testing for. The front loaders use more electricity for the same amount of laundry BUT use far less water and remove far more of it in the rinse cycle. If you are heating water to wash and use a dryer the front loader wins hands down. If you are water stressed the front loader also wins. The top load is a simpler machine so should last longer.
Cheers,  David  



David,

I am from Europe and washing machines with cold and hot water intake are available but rare, though for whatever reason only online? It doesn't depend if front- or toploader. Dunno about water consumption, since we have own water. Usually the speed of skidding determines how much energy a dryer needs to use. Although newer heat pump dryer beat the crap out of condensers in terms of efficiency.
 
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