Friday, June 13, 2008

There is enough sun for everyone!

That's Bert's quote for solar (she has a knack for tag lines!). It is her reply to the question: why consider solar hot air over other options (like changing to a pellet stove) that work at night and when it is cloudy.

We've been continuing our evaluation of solar hot air options. We even went to see one earlier today. It was sunny, but the panel was 15-20% obstructed by overhanging eave. Nonetheless, when turned on, it blew some very warm air into the room. Hot air, not blown very forcefully, but very quietly.

Frankly, I don't see how, if the vents are properly insulated, it would not help to heat a room on a sunny day. I understand that it won't do a thing at night or on a cloudy day, and at those times we will be forced to heat with our oil furnace. Fortunately, we do have lots of very cold, bright sunny days in the winter. Sure this won't do everything, but any help it offers will help me buy less fuel oil next winter and increase my payback.

We're waiting for an evaluation appointment with the other solar installer. I am sure I will learn a lot from the visit, but I don't know whether what I learn will change my position that solar hot air makes sense. Even more so after learning that the State rebate fund is quickly disappearing. My application has been submitted, but I don't have a reservation number yet (so no guarantee that I'll get a rebate).

I suppose my next consideration will be to improve my home insulation/envelope. I have good attic and basement insulation. My problem, I believe, is my windows. They are 15 years old, double pane, but made of wood that it showing it's age. Seals have gone on all of them. I have been replacing the glass, but I am spending a lot of time putting lipstick on a pig-- the wood frames are shot. Unfortunately, new windows are pretty expensive.

After listening to an NPR broadcast about Martin Luther, Bert was inspired and observed that paying for carbon emissions to feel OK about flying around the world, living in a 4000 sq ft. home, or driving in a Hummer are payments for carbon indulgences, not carbon offsets.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Solar energy confusion

For the past several weeks we have been investigating solar options for our home.

We are primarily concerned about the dramatic rise in the cost of heating oil. Heating oil is approximately $2 more per gallon than it was last year at this time. That's nearly double!

We have reviewed and considered solar hot water for water, solar hot water for heating and solar hot air systems. While photovoltaic is interesting, the efficiency of these systems and cost (combined with lack of State rebate money) makes them less relevant to us.

After many hours of research and talking with suppliers and installers, I finally had someone out to evaluate my house. He said that my house is not well sited for solar hot water (roof faces E-W rather than N-S), but well sited for solar hot air. Lots of wall space on gable end that faces south.

(Interestingly, I had received a quote for solar hot water from another installer based on some photos of my home and a Mapquest flyover. I wonder what would have happened when the installer came out to do the installation...)

Early on, we decided to get our contractor friend (Randy Vanier from Vanier Construction, Inc.) involved. He gave me a lift home a few weeks ago (flat tire on my bike!) when we were in the discussion phase. I mentioned our latest project, and he expressed interest in solar technology and asked me to share information with him. (I don't think he expected my enthusiasm for research!). He knows far more than I ever will about anything related to construction, renovation, etc. After the success with our porch addition, Bert trusts him implicitly. Not surprisingly, he posed some good questions at the site visit yesterday and discussed other options for future consideration as well (such as ways to move air in the home, ground mounted hot water).

Anyway, we are full steam ahead on the solar hot air project (I think). We are touring a home tomorrow with a solar hot air system (does it really work? what does it sound like? how does it look? etc.). I'm still waiting for another quote. Then we wait for our State rebate reservation number and I need to follow up on a few remaining questions from Randy. The kind people at Main Green Building Supply have been very patient with my many questions.

I will blog more as the project develops.



Saturday, June 7, 2008

Seasonality of worm compost tea

I am fascinated by making worm compost tea. When we have a rainy stretch, I make it almost every day and sprinkle it all over my yard and garden. I tend to give a little extra to my tomatoes, peppers and blueberries this time of year, hoping for big returns.

I make my tea using the same simple recipe on my website, yet at different times of the year I get very different results. Not just color, but smell. I realize the many variables that could contribute to this-- compost, temperature, the content of my rain water. I often wonder whether different batches are more or less alive and how the nutrients differ among them. If any of you have noted the variability or done any testing, let me know. I am not so much concerned as I am curious.

Also, I'm using a new bubbler this year. I switched to a sandstone bubbler instead of the foam wire. While I don't think I'll ever get the sandstone white again, I am confident the vinegar kills whatever is on it. Unlike the foam bubbler (which I wrapped around my bag) I have to tie it to my compost bag with jute because it floats. In any case, it makes lots of bubbles. The main reasons I switched were the price and concerns over foam rubber and plastic.



Thursday, June 5, 2008

The leap

So I've finally decided to blog. The concept of blogging seemed so vain, yet I learn a lot reading people's blogs. I hope you will find my blog informative.

This blog will generally be about vermiculture (worm composting and related topics). I will try to cover some of the topics that are often asked by those interested in worm composting. I may also stray into other subjects, but I will most often write about worms.

I'm looking forward to getting this started.