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Wind turbines for heat?

Posted by ajsmama (My Page) on
Thu, Mar 19, 09 at 13:11

My parents have an app. 35 yr old house, not well insulated, new windows (except for the 70" x 54" picture window in east-facing FR - that's still single pane). Electric baseboard heat, 40 gal electric HWH. Just the 2 of them. Most of the house is single floor (half the upstairs is dad's BR and small bath, the other half is unfinished attic). Not sure of the size of the main floor but guesstimate is 1800 sf. They use a woodstove in the basement for all their heat except when my dad is in FL app. 1 month each winter, but maybe that's getting too much for him even with me and DH to help cut/stack the wood.

My mom mentioned to me that with the tax credits they are thinking of wind turbine(s) - I think just for heat since they don't spend much on lights, appliances, or HW (she uses clothesline except in dead of winter). Maybe she was thinking there would be an easy way to wire into baseboards but I don't think so. Is wind like solar where you need to convert DC to AC, would they need a transfer switch to wire into breaker box? I don't think she's looked into cost at all, but she said GT like we have would be too much $$$ (she figured $20k, I told her we spent $36K so maybe they could get ground floor done for $20K after tax credit). I just don't think this is cost effective - any thoughts? I was thinking an energy audit to show them where they can better seal/insulate (get my dad to replace that picture window!) and then if they really wanted alternative to wood/electric get estimates on GT just for ground floor, easy to run ducts in basement though low ceilings, upstairs BR/bath my dad only turns on baseboard at night. Maybe solar HW, even though I don't think they use much HW?

They do live in an area 3 on windspeed maps. Thanks

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Wind turbines for heat?

I just talked to my mom and she is looking to reduce their overall electric bill - which is a whopping $100-$150/mo! (ours with GT and budget billing is $265/mo but of course we have 4 people who take more showers, use more dishes and get more clothes dirty in a 2700sf house we heat to 68*). I told her she should have the energy audit done first. She had no idea what turbines cost (I wondered if she needed batteries but she said if there was no wind they'd still be connected to grid).

This wasn't anything they were going to do "right away" she said (though who knows how long the credits will last?). They're replacing the old jalousy windows in the uninsulated sunroom first, maybe if they enclose the bottom (where my dad just throws junk) and insulate the floor/ceiling they could use that for passive solar? The brick chimney in FR backs up to sunroom so they have some mass, room has windows floor-to-ceiling (at least now, may frame and put smaller windows in) on north, east, and south sides.

Thanks for the links - I checked one map, they're zone 3. I'll check the others.

RE: Wind turbines for heat?

One nice thing about getting the audit done is that if its a good one, they will give your mom some guidance on which things will pay off the best, and which might not be worth doing.
If the sunroom faces south and gets good sun, it could be a good source of heat. The best approach for using sunrooms to heat the house is to keep the thermal mass down -- you want the sunroom to heat up fast and not store heat itself. As soon as the temperature near the top of the sunroom gets up to around 80F, then have a way to transfer the heat from sunroom to house. The transfer is best accomplished with an opening up high to transfer hot air from sunroom to house, and another down low to return cool air from the house to the sunroom. Its best if you can have a fan in the upper opening that is controlled with a thermal switch that turns it on and off automatically -- this can be a replacement switch for an attic ventilation fan -- HD has them.
Its best to have some form of insulating cover on the sunroom floor, otherwise the floor mass will tend to heat up, and this makes the sunroom air heat more slowly. Even a carpet would help quite a bit.

Sunrooms can be quite effective -- they can generate a lot of heat, and since its already there, the cost of adding a bit more to make it an efficient house heater should be small.

Attached url is about low thermal mass sunspaces for heating by William Shurcliff -- my all time favorite solar author.


Here is a link that might be useful: Low thermal mass sunspaces for heating

RE: Wind turbines for heat?

Thanks Gary - but they're just doing new windows (maybe framing some walls and putting in doublehung?) in existing sunroom, so I'm sure they're keeping the slider, or maybe replacing the door but keeping the framing for same size. There is no room to put openings into house other than the door. The sunroom is just wide enough for the slider and the back of the chimney - that darn picture window is other side of the chimney and they still want the view from the FR so won't extend the sunroom across the whole back of the FR. They tend to keep the slider open except on really hot of really cold days.

The sunroom's 3 open sides face north, east, and south. Chimney is on east wall. Won't it help to have the bricks absorbing heat to release it into FR on other side? Of course that could be a problem in summer.

Thanks for the link.

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