Daniel Richardson

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since Feb 10, 2018
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Recent posts by Daniel Richardson

Definitely do look into the wooden tanks, I have an HOA(even out in the country) that wouldn't go for one.  All of the shotcrete that I have seen applied had fewer cracks than a traditional poured wall and gunite is probably even better.  Gunite is mixed at the spray tip, whereas shotcrete is mixed before and pumped.  A poured wall can be done right, but you have to have a good mix design for whatever concrete you use.  The biggest advantage to the shotcrete is that you can get nice double curved shapes which do strengthen things.  I am kind of split on a couple options though to tell the truth.

I have done ponds that were large and decorative but only consisted of a simple 4' tall wall on a strip footing.  There was no concrete bottom to these, only a foot of specialized sand on top of a pond liner(for ballast and protection) that ran up the concrete wall.  Yes, the liner was some kind of rubber, but I know that they make some that are safe for drinking.  The advantage to this design is that the depth of water is only 4' and doesn't put as much pressure at the base and we used like $20000 in materials to hold 240,000 gallons of water.  The disadvantage is that it will require more space and doesn't have a cover, which I will need, to prevent evaporation and help keep the water clean and algae free.  The cover might even be used to collect rain.  If you excavated properly, you might even be able to forgo the concrete entirely.  I think I've convinced myself ha!  I would get a smaller tank to hold the potable water after treatment, but for plants and livestock the pond would be good enough.
1 week ago
I've been thinking a lot about this as well for my property and done some pricing.  Old fashioned wooden water tanks surprised me with the cost/longevity advantages.  I've built a lot of large concrete tanks and they almost always require epoxy coating inside or tile, plus there have been cracks.  In the end, I think I will go with something like a shotcrete swimming pool with a cover.  Tank capacity is really something where you can see the benefits of exponential growth.  Double the size, quadruple the capacity kind of thing.  I think 2 good sized tanks would be ideal so you could do maintenance/cleaning on 1 periodically.    
1 week ago
This probably won't work with honey, but I've known several people who had bad allergies and lost them when going on a low carb diet and doing keto.  Worth a shot before giving up something you love and uprooting.
1 month ago
We use Honey Smoked Salmon (in the yellow packages) in our chowder because it is easy to find and taste great to me.  I think the smoked fish is key to getting the best flavor.  I accidentally burned some while reheating in the pot and the smell was terrible.  I haven't been able to sell the meal to my wife lately because of it and you're making me hungry!  
1 month ago
S Bengi, nice sketch! That is exactly what I'm considering, but with adding a mechanical heat engine.  So Thermal > Mechanical > Electrical.  

To be clear, I am considering installing a 100,000 gallon(378541 liter) hot water tank.  I am on a well and want a cistern anyways, so dual purpose.  The tank in your picture looks like it could be 40,000 gallons?  Just a guess.  It would be out in the field, not under the house, though that might not be so bad in the winter.  The house is all concrete, along with the floors, so there is a lot of thermal mass. I am aware that solar thermal collectors do wear out, usually from overheating or freezing.  There have been a lot of lessons learned in this field and maybe I won't have to learn too much the hard way.  I was considering using regular 11/16" clear insulated glass. I'm pretty sure the manufacturing and recycling is a lot easier than PV panels and doesn't produce silicon tetrachloride.  What is nice is that I could use flat-plate thermal, PV, wind, or fossil fuels to heat the water if need be.  Flexibility is nice and I have survivalist leanings sometimes.  I'm less hung up about how to heat the reservoir and more hooked on not using chemical batteries that require a lot of care to maximize a fairly short life.

Sebastian, I was thinking of sizing the heat engine to something like 4kW of constant electrical power and feeding any unused back into the heat reservoir by ohmic heating.  A large flywheel could help with surges, and some chemical batteries might be needed.  I would ultimately go with what the engineers think is best.  Large, low temperature differential heat engines are almost unheard of because they have such low power density and efficiency; the economics don't work out for commercial applications.  There certainly isn't anything mysterious or exotic about them.  I'm curious about how big it could be, I'm guessing maybe the size of a small room.  I would require pumps to move the water around, and it might make some sense to use some mechanical energy from the heat engine to run them.  

David, you're right of course about the complexity and cost.  Out of the 3 of you who've replied thus far, everyone is on the side of impractical.  Give me a week or so to get in touch with some engineers to find out just how impractical this idea is and if I can live with it.  I'll let you know what I find and thanks for the input!  Thinking about the heat reservoir, what if I just used wet soil rather than a tank and sealed and insulated around it?  My soil is very expansive and holds a lot of water, at least %40 by volume while still retaining shape.  This could be cheaper with less maintenance than a tank.  Ever heard of anyone doing this?  
4 months ago
So I'm building a house and planning to go off-grid.  I briefly explained some of my reasons here.
My gut is telling me to be practical and get something off the shelf that is easy to put together; however, this idea keeps nagging at me.

The idea is this:
Heat engine + very large insulated storage tank + very large array of homemade flat-plate collectors = Long term energy independence
I know this is an old idea with a high upfront cost.

Could someone check my math?  I compared lithium-ion batteries because that seems to be where the technology is going.

The energy density of water at a practical 50 degrees C temperature difference is 0.2093 MJ/L.
However, taking the highest possible conversion efficiency into account, it is 0.0314 MJ/L. I bet in reality it will be half this.
Lithium-ion batteries are 0.9 MJ/L.
This makes lithium-ion at least 29 times more dense than hot water.
Lithium-ion batteries are definately more compact than hot water, but cost, fires, and longevity of any chemical battery are concerns.
At some scale heat storage makes more sense than battery storage.
Heat engines at these temperatures can be designed to last lifetimes.  This is one of my favorite aspects, set it and mostly forget it.
The average home in the US uses ~900 kWh per month, this is ~3.24GJ.
This means you would need 103144  liters of hot water to power a home for a month.
This is 27248 gallons, or 3643 cubic feet.
This is a square pond 30.18' long and 4' deep.
More efficiently a cube tank with a length of 15.39', but hydrostatic pressure makes shorter tanks more practical.

In reality I would build a much larger tank(s).  I've built a couple 100k gallon ones before and I have plenty of space.
The thing is that the vast majority of my energy usage will be for heating, not electrical appliances.  Cooling is another big user, but I want to build an icehouse too.
I am already going with hydronic heating and I won't have to deal with conversion inefficiencies.
With a large enough heat reservoir I could even capture excess summer sun for the winter.
Still toying with flat-plate designs, but think I will try something like this.  We have very similar property and I will learn from his mistakes and keep them vertical.
My plan was to find a couple student mechanical engineers at a local college and pay them to design and help build the heat engine.  I'm talking something big and slow and steady, like 60 RPMs.

So what do you think? No nasty PV manufacturing and degradation and few if any batteries to go bad.   Terrible efficiencies, but that's the price you pay I guess.
4 months ago
Not insane, I really like your idea and think it would work well. Simple and practical.  I'm envisioning the stove to be interior and not connected to an exterior wall, correct?

A burner like this one:

Will heat very efficiently, more so than a flame.

I spent a lot of nights camping in my uninsulated shed last winter (for fun) and this heater was really nice to have.  I could go about a week on a 20 gallon tank.  
5 months ago
I can see that you sprayed a good bit of foam in the roof, but I would triple check for air leaks.  It is amazing how much heat can escape like a chimney if you have a tiny opening in the floor and roof. Light up a bunch of incense inside and see what happens.  Good work!
5 months ago
Great sketch! I just remembered a website that I read 20 years ago that might help you...it's still up!  It has a copy of Nuclear War Survival Skills by Cresson H. Kearny.  It's a really good read with loads of practical information.


If I were you, I'd leave room to dress up the terraces from the inside after you backfill and let it dry some.
5 months ago
Bob, are you going to give this idea a go? I kinda want to see it!  I saw a guy use a pond liner for a roof in Grand Designs S14E06 on Netflix, though it wasn't a pit house.

I couldn't think of any good way to solve the insulation problem without the foam board.  You can see effects of moisture without insulation in S13E04.

I do think that you might be able to get by with less if you used a ditch witch or a small bucket on an excavator to dig a deep trench around the room, dropped a sheet of 2" foam board in vertically, and back filled the outside with gravel.  If you had a heat source, the soil between the insulation and the room might eventually stabilize above the dew point.
5 months ago