Hybrid Car – More Fun with Less Gas

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Posted by Jim Wilkins on October 15, 2008, 6:19 pm

These work fine with a "5HP" gas engine at ~2500 RPM, which is
considerably less than full power.

Jim Wilkins

Posted by Jim Wilkins on October 15, 2008, 5:57 pm

I usually get by on two cords per winter, so the work isn't all that
bad if I don't rush and I can use the exercise, it's nice out in the
woods, and all tractor time is good time. Front end loaders make great

I do have a solar collector for hot water, which I drain in the fall
but sometimes leave open to see how warm it gets in winter. There are
entire overcast weeks here in NH when it won't heat even to freezing.
OTOH on a sunny March day it can reach 190F inside the top of the
empty steel tank.

There is one south-facing second floor window where a collector like
yours might work. I bought a thermostatic greenhouse vent opener from
Harbor Freight but haven't found a good cheap local source of
transparent glazing -- remember the thread about the expensive double-
wall polycarbonate vs the cheap sign board? SunTuf might work, I have
several panels of it on the deck roof to see if it holds up better
than the nearly worthless clear PalRuf. Whatever goes up has to
withstand ice storms and falling branches and not look wierd and
provoke questions, I have enough of that already. For instance:

The chimney is easy to keep clean. There is a steel pipe mast and
swinging boom next to it supporting a weighted nylon brush on a cable.
If I don't let it get too dirty the weight will pull the brush down
the chimney and I pull it back up with the cable, from the ground. It
takes about 5 minutes or less and no climbing to set up, run the brush
up and down 10 times, close up and dump the soot back into the stove.
The pipe is painted dark to disappear against the background of tree
branches. If the background was open sky I'd paint it haze grey like
naval aircraft.

I made the brush out of heavy string trimmer cord with the curve up,
so it goes down the chimney easily and then the bristles expand and
dig in going up. Everything normally near the chimney top is steel and
fireproof, and in this rare case someone could just about duplicate it
with stock hardware-store material.

Jim Wilkins

Posted by Morris Dovey on October 15, 2008, 6:49 pm
 Jim Wilkins wrote:

I lived for a time in one of the 'little houses on the prairie' built by
Laura's uncle back in the 1850's in Minnesota. It was definitely not a
2-cord house (and I'm well-pleased with the semi-tropical weather here
in Iowa, where I haven't yet seen a -100F wind chill.) :-)

Remember that passive air-heaters and water heaters (should) behave
differently. At my altitude, the panels at my link want to operate in
the 110-115F range and if the solar input goes up, the airflow increases
to hold the temperature fairly constant. At a 5000' altitude, the same
panel wants to operate in the 120-125F range, but the behavior is
otherwise the same. I absorb solar energy at /both/ sides of my absorber
plates, which isn't generally attempted with water heaters.

Weird is in the eye of the beholder. :-) Some folks find solar panels
strange and some find 'em ugly - and I, obviously, find 'em beautiful.

I use a 6 mm twinwall polycarbonate that's generally available for
between $0 and $0/sheet (4x8). I first used it in 1980 for a pair of
built-in solar panels on a shop building in Minnesota and it held up
well to wind in the 80-100 mph range, quarter-sized hail, and two young
boys (now grown). I still have scraps from that original glazing, and I
can't see that they've yellowed or become brittle. The brand is
"Polygal" and it comes with a UV-protective coating on one side. It
insulates surprisingly well.

I like what you describe! Where were you back when I was burning all
that wood?!

Nice. It wouldn't (didn't) occur to me to do anything like that.

Morris Dovey
DeSoto Solar
DeSoto, Iowa USA

Posted by Jim Wilkins on October 15, 2008, 7:52 pm
I was up on the roof with a brush on an awkward jointed fiberglass
rod, hoping the snow wouldn't slide and trying to think of a better
and safer approach.

I made the nylon brush because I couldn't find one and didn't want to
risk damaging my expensive new stainless steel chimney with the wire
brush. It's actually simple, a 1/8" steel rod bent double and twisted,
with a loop at each end. I cut the cord long and wedged the rods apart
with a screwdriver to slide each piece in, then stuck it into the
chimney and clipped the ends a little longer than even with the
chimney wall.

The weighted brush and pulley idea isn't original. The house I saw it
on had the chimney in front and the owner (girlfriend's clever father)
removed the scaffold plank and mast between cleanings for looks,
leaving only the mounting brackets. Mine is behind the ridgeline so I
was able to add a small unobtrusive platform beside the chimney when I
reshingled. The platform rests on pipes sealed by vent stack boots, an
idea I've passed on to local solar panel people. The mast is attached
to the platform's handrail.

If I let much creosote build up the weight isn't enough so I have to
climb up and drop a rope down the chimney to pull the brush down. In
really cold weather the brush is too stiff to slide down unless I burn
a few sheets of newspaper to warm the chimney.

Jim Wilkins

Posted by Morris Dovey on October 16, 2008, 12:08 pm
 Jim Wilkins wrote:

Although you may not see it quite that way, this strikes me as an
especially sane and elegant solution. If you haven't already, I'd like
to encourage you to take pictures and do a "How-To" web page.

Even though I no longer heat with wood, I'd be grateful to see photos of
this setup. This is so sensible that I'm almost amazed that I've never
seen anything like it. Sincere compliments to the girfriend's clever
father and to you!

Yup - makes sense. Hmm - wonder if genetic engineers could produce a
'firewood tree' that grew rapidly, burned like ash, and didn't make
creosote... :)

Morris Dovey
DeSoto Solar
DeSoto, Iowa USA

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