David Baillie

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since Jan 07, 2016
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books chicken dog earthworks homestead kids cooking solar wood heat woodworking
Builder, tinkered, gardener, charcoal gasification enthusiast.
North central Ontario
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Recent posts by David Baillie

All my experience with gasification tells me your desire to use large bulky wood will hurt you. The low efficiency outdoor boilers work on just about anything but they are a smouldering mess. The more efficient the design, such as a gasification boiler, the more attention you will need to the fuel consistency. I think you should consider a large water reservoir and twice a week fire off a well cut well dried load. Fuel prep is everything in gasification. Fuel prep is even more important for running engines. I like charcoal myself so I split the gasification process into heat from the wood stove and high grade fuel charcoal.
Cheers,  David
1 week ago

Sebastian Köln wrote:Every conversion means losses. They can be anywhere between 90% to 10%.

Here are my guesstimated efficiencies for your proposed setup:
Solar -> electricity: 15% (solar panels)
electrical -> mechanical 80% (motor)
mechanical -> pneumatic 30% (compressor)
pneumatic -> mechanical: 30% (turbine)
mechanical -> electrical: 80% (generator)

That makes a total of 0.15 * 0.8 * 0.3 * 0.3 * 0.8 = 0.00864 (0.8% efficiency). So for every 1000W of solar input, you get 8W out.
This is compared to just hooking up the solar panels to the battery (15% efficiency -> 150W output for 1000W solar input).

hi sebastian you are right except for the efficiency of solar panels. A 1000 watt array would produce 1000 watts of electricity. The 15 percent efficiency number refers to how much of the solar energy hitting the panel is converted to electricityso your true energy harvested would be 57.6 Watt hours of the original 1000 Watt hours using your other efficiency numbers...
Cheers, David
2 weeks ago
Very nice setup Debi. That Trace is a rock solid inverter. In California I wouldn't even bother changing the trace pwm charge controller. In my northern clime the mppt chargers made solar much more viable. Do you have a softstart feature on your pump? Grundfos makes a great ac softstart pump that will do away with that great startup dimming while keeping your costs down by staying ac. Here is Grundfos' video talking about the difference and an install...

Cheers,  David
3 weeks ago
It does not seem to have nozzles so its a fema type design but I could be wrong. No radiator or filtering either so you would have to build those for engine use. Fema types are prone to tar making unless run at continuous output like say a fan for heating purposes. If your main purpose is a kiln then fine but I would want to see some longer run times before id hook it up to a generator. Smaller wood units are tricky. Using a processed fuel like pellets does save a lot of the headaches though. I found charcoal gasifiers to be more suitable for small engine use. I consider gasifiers to be biogas since they use biomass break it down with heat and release a flammable gas.
Cheers,  David
3 weeks ago
Hi Mark,
When you do go down the road to a better Battery try to balance out total storage capacity with amount of solar array so that you can spend a good amount of time in a day in absorb. What can happen with an oversized battery is it can spend a great deal of its life in float or on heavy discharge days it will spend several days in bulk trying to catch up. For smaller arrays the amount of amps it can put into the battery at absorb is not ideal for that sized battery. I would choose a smaller battery bank and spend the difference on a larger array. The Surrette/Rolls 1450 size batteries are a nice compromise and one man can lift the damn things!
Cheers,  David
1 month ago
Its interesting to get feedback from an aquion owner. My understanding is after they declared bankruptcy the whole production facility was bought and transferred to China. They have advantages as mentioned, but some drawbacks. They do take up a lot of floorspace for the amount of energy they store and have a low rate of charge and discharge so maybe not great for large solar arrays or high draw situation unless you have many strings to pull from. Total lifespan in the real world is still unknown.
Cheers,   David
1 month ago
Interesting replies. The average I have used in the past is 150w Hr for a cyclist over a 1 hour period. I have numbers for a 6cu ft chest freezer converted to a fridge that says 175W Hr and my 12 volt shurflo pump uses 96W/hr pumping 2 Gallons per minute. If you were to go this route a battery thrown into the mix would be the way to do it so you could store whatever you were not using that instant and allow for compressors starting up and down time.
Nicole I can't tell you about the total environmental cost of making solar panels but I can tell you that when people talk about solar only lasting a few years generally they mean consumer products not power equipment. I have a 20 year old inverter still chugging along and come across 25 year old panels still outputting 80 percent of their sticker ratings.If you gave me a corner that gets 2 hrs of sun in the winter you would have the equivalent of 4 hours of cycling for less than $800. The battery would wear out in 7 to 10 years but it is fully recyclable, the panels at least 25 and the charge controller 10-20. The trick to shady areas is name brand gear and good design. 10 years ago partial shade was trickier but with higher voltage panels and better charge controllers its gotten easier.
Cheers,  David
1 month ago
usually a sandpoint is driven into the ground so you really do not want more then a two inch pipe due to increasing friction and difficulty to hammer it in.  I do find people misunderstand what it is. Some people think of it as an unpressurised reservoir of water like a drilled well when it is more like a straw in that it uses a vacuum to suck the water out of the ground.  If flow is a problem install two 10 ft apart.
Cheers,  David
1 month ago

Cat Hargreaves wrote:We are looking to build in Island County. They have very strict regulations and building off grid is basically not allowed for an actual house. Septic is required and as far as I know, a self-install is not permitted. Septic is so expensive! Would it be cheaper to develop an alternative greywater/blackwater system? And possible to technically pass inspection?

Where about is Island county?

I don't have problems with the septic requirements as I understand where the municipality is coming from. Every homeowner will swear up and down that they are there forever so what they choose to install should be their decision. The reality in my area is average ownership is close to 7 years. Add in proximity to water and growing populations and it can be a slow moving train wreck down the road which then falls back on them. If I was trying to save money on septic and was building myself I would take the install course and DIY a compliant system... That is allowed here. They sell the ribbed plastic tanks and you can get the engineered bed parts cheaply enough. Aggregate is always a problem on islands depending on soil type. Probably not an easier or much cheaper route but it would be fun. Option two would be to see exactly what they require, ontario has very strict rules but they do make allowances for composting toilet options with grey water treatment. That is a cheaper option and easier to self install... I might also try to shrink the house footprint to shrink the septic requirements and cut costs. As to off grid being impossible you would have to let me know the area. Usually they have guidelines you must meet such as inspections, certified components, and minimum service capacity not illegal just lots of hoops...  
2 months ago

K Eilander wrote:Okay, so we've all heard of (and probably own) a kill-a-watt for monitoring power-hungry loads.

But how to detect drains that:
a) Aren't connected to a 110 power outlet
b) Change over time -- is your fridge going out?
c) connected to that one outlet that you never thought about (did you remember to turn that one light bulb in the attic off?  ... are you sure?)

What I envision is a little circuit that can sit next to my breaker box and attach to all outgoing hot lines to tell me if, say, breaker #3 is pulling a load even at night.

Should be possible. I'm vaguely picturing something like arduno+some kind of sensor+analog mux
(+being careful not to electrocute myself)


Hmm well I have used the Ted monitors: look at this link here:   http://www.theenergydetective.com/prohomestore.html
You choose either a clamp on the mains or separate clamps on each load. We've used them for monitoring a whole house to figure out load profiles. They start reasonable and get pricey depending on the level of detail you want.  There are  cheaper meters on amazon as well but you get much less detail.
Cheers,  David
2 months ago