Alternative heat and power sources

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Well-known member
Nov 18, 2015
Great news , Ive been able to secure my foot on the property ladder finally ,
A modest workmans terraced cottage in a great location , everything I need is within 5 -10mins walk ,hardware ,grocery ,transport ,river ,woods and coast are only a stones throw away
You could either tear the place back down to the dirt and start again or renovate what exists already ,
Im gonna take option B , do most of the work myself over time , save a packet and end up with a really nice cosy place at the end of it .

There a machine invented by the Germans back in the 30's , its known as the Webasto , often truck or boat owners use them as a diesel powered heat source ,
Upto around 5kW in heat output ,either hot air or hot water output ,
Supps around 350ml of diesel an hour at full throttle , it can also be made to run on various used oils , biodiesel or other renewable sources .
Big jeeps tend to have them , the hot water kind , it acts as a preheater for the engine coolant when things start to freeze up ,
The basic unit consists of a combustion chamber , a fuel pump ,a glow plug, a fan and a microcontroller .
Its incredibly simple and reliable , the other thing is now theres a China made version for around 100 euros ,
Its not quite as refined as its German counterpart , a little more noisey and with a few well worth doing modifications to improve the fueling system etc .
It of course requires an exhaust flue ,air intake and a 12v battery to run the fan and micro . Its programable ,with a 7day timer , it only consumes around 40w of electricity to run the fan and electronics . A guy on youtube was able to produce heat for around 7p per Kw hour on a mix of kerosene and used cooking oil , that compares with around 35p per unit from his mains electricity utillity co.

The other thing that caught me eye recently is a portable power system called Ecoflow ,
It consists of a battery pack with charge controller , solar panels , a really cool 80cc petrol/propane powered generator with electric start , that automatically senses your battery charge level and power requirements and kicks in as required , it combines to make an off grid power system with around 3-10kw output depending on battery configuration .

My idea is to diversify my options regarding fuel source ,
So I'll have a traditional wood stove in the centre of the house, I can get as much windfall timber as I need not far away , I'll incorporate a kettle into the exhaust flue to make the cups of tea ,
I'll put up a few panels to gather the suns light and help top up my batteries during the day ,
There whats known as a night saver circuit in the property ,this basically is switched in by a timed set of contacts from 11pm at night until 7am in the morning and get you your electricity at a saving of around 30% on the normal cost of unit during peak hours .
Maybe boost things with the generator during times of high demand ,
Sell any excess power back to the grid , one utillity company here now pay you around 15 cent per kwh which means I can more or less always be in credit with the utillity company . The real beauty is during times of vacancy the amount of power you export goes up and offsets the standing charges .

Finally the Webasto can run in the depths of winter and provide hot water to radiators in upstair rooms and back kitchen .
The exhaust system needs thinking about , obviously you dont want to be sucking fumes back into your home or causing an issue for neighbours etc .

Ive decided to give a maritime theme to the place , so lots of wood and metal , head height is quite restricted especially upstairs and it very much has that cabin feel to it , The stairs looks like it was reclaimed from a ship , its all metal , at the moment its clad in timber which looks horrible , I was able to open up a few of the steps yesterday and get the old carpet off it , low and behold it now has the familiar clank of a metal staircase when you use it , a rub of a grinder and wire brush will bring the rusty hulk back to bare metal , I'll hit it with cans of clear laquer after that and it will look amazing .
Ive a milion and one jobs to get done , hard to know where to start ....
I just wanted to update this post on my current state of play with the Webasto ,
Ive ordered most of the parts I need ,
Currently the project stands at the following ,

BMW X5 Webasto unit 80
multicontrol panel , 92
USB diagnostic interface 45
Exhaust and muffler 100
Marine fuel can 65
Gaskets,seals kit 30
Water pump 30
430 euros

Thats by no means the end of the list but its getting there ,

The unit has been demonstrated running on a wide range of fuels ,
Kerosene(also know as parafin) gives best bang for buck , its less than a euro a liter , contains more raw power than diesel ,but its dirty stuff , theres a reason cars in the road arent allowed use it ,
Diesel is very easily available , still smelly old crap though , comes in around 1.50 euros per liter ,
Next up is refined lamp oil and barbeque lighting fluid , that starts off around 6 euros a liter , maybe a little less if your lucky , its a bit cleaner than the others , 4-5 times the price at least ,
Then theres alcohol of one kind or another , ethanol costs around 12 euros per liter , and offers half the power of diesel , Its burns with a blue flame very cleanly , its renewable , we have the capacity in this country to produce it , lots of it .

The big question I have for the Irish minister for the environment is ,

What is the real price of ethanol in this country , theres truck loads of the same stuff thats used to make Whiskey at the local distillery being shipped off down to the oil terminal for mixing into the fuel supply , why cant I get a few liters at a good price to heat my home ,cleanly and effeciently ,

During covid the many distilleries were happy to add extra production runs to fulfill orders for high strenght ethanol hand sanitiser , it might be possible to get a few gallons of the stuff surplus at a good price nowadays , I bet it burns great .
Ethanol in the US is generally made from corn. I saw the price of corn increase significantly after ethanol's addition to gasoline was mandated. There is no free lunch.

WRT Heat and Power, efficiency is important. Insulating homes can reduce energy input needs. My modern heat pump that I purchased without any government subsidy has probably paid for itself by now, 🤔 but my cheap house had resistance electric heat.

We once had a sugar beet industry in this country , it was wound down about 20 years ago , its a shame because it was a huge natural resource. Now were a net importer of sugar from the UK mainly ,
While of course the finest grains are used to make the whiskey , its makes little difference for fuel production what raw materials are used ,
The sugar beet is still grown as fodder for livestock , makes a good source for small scale biofuel production . Its most likely whats used by the modern day Moonshiners here by virtue of availabillity and low cost .

I'll suplement the 5kw Webasto water heater with a solid fuel stove with upto 6kw output , along with upgraded windows ,doors and extra insulation its adequate for my needs .
Im tearing out a bunch of electric storage heaters , they cost around 30 cent per kwh to run , diesel from the pump does the job for a half the price , on demand ,with no need to bulk buy , no utillity company standing charge or estimated billing , plus the service of the unit is simple enough to do yourself , it all adds up to a substantial saving over gas or electricity heating where you have to call in qualified people to deal with faults .

Running the webasto on the lower settings with diesel tends to get it clogged up , as it doesnt burn at high enough temp for the soot deposits to vapourise properly ,
We know that the unit makes the most smoke on start up , maybe starting it up on ethanol might reduce emissions , after a certain time then switching over to diesel or kero for maximum power , then back to ethanol at the end of the cycle , ready to restart cleanly next time .
There is still a thriving sugar beet industry in the UK, much of it here in East Anglia. There is a large processing plant at Bury St. Edmunds. The waste heat from the process is used to heat acres of greenhouses. Years ago these used to grow tomatoes but they have since moved over to cannabis production (the legal kind).


Oh thats interesting ,
We made a big mistake shutting down the sugar industry in Ireland ,
The sugar beet ,which is a bit like a turnip ,tollerates the damp soil very well , it produces foliage thats good for fodder and the main stump is probably the best fast growing source of sugar you could get in this climate .

The real problem with making alcohol available as a fuel source is the potential for misuse or harm . We could have a renewable source of energy , at a good price , that could help very many living in fuel poverty , but the safety of other people with addiction issues seems to take priority , or thats what they will tell us , Id say its got more to do with big energy keeping its cut of the pie .

As were seeing EU regulations regarding motor fuel mean any excess ehtanol gets basically donated to the petrochem industry , this scheme needs to be abandoned and the renewable energy sector needs to be made stand on its own two feet , some of the profit might be returned in the form of better services to people who suffer alcohol addiction , so its a circular economy , the same as using the excess heat from sugar production to , in turn help other crops grow .
While there are certainly downsides to easier availabillity of alcohol ,that must be balanced off against the greater good , which is autonomy from the filthy dirty petrochemical industry .
Virtually any wasted or spoiled grains and plant matter could be used to suplement ethanol production for fuel , it doesnt matter if the mash and subsequent distillate smells like vomit , in fact its better if it does because less people might try and drink it .
Isnt it about time we stopped jacking off the Jolly Green Giant (Big Energy) ?
The unit will be placed outside in its own enclosure , as its hot water that transports the heat indoors fumes arent really an issue the same as an air heater .
A Co2 fire extinguisher might be usefull to have around just in case of emergency ,
CO2 extinguisher will also provide gas for your mig-welder in a pinch;-) As a young man I'd scavenge outdated extinguishers for welding gas. Many a old Austin or Ford got fixed up this way! The regulator valve fit right on the thread left after the hose was screwed off.
Congrats with the house, looking to get into a similar setup here in the south of DK...
I have an old CO2 extinguisher that I bought for my business back in the 70s, so the typical dry fire extinguishers wouldn't trash my computers.

I just checked and the dates on the tag have faded away... it is still pretty heavy so I hope it is still functional?

I know a guy who does a bit of rallying in MKII Ford Escorts , he might have a surplus Co2 system lying around somewhere.

I was able to buy a cheap solar charge controler, they range from 12-20 euros , a friend recently installed a similar one and was having good results with it , He also wants to try the diesel air heater to heat his workshop .
These cheap charge controlers arent reccomended for use with lithium ion batteries , the last thing I need in any case is another potential source of fire , so I 'll just stick with an old fashioned 12v lead acid car battery . The heater unit itself consumes around 40 w while running , thats the air fan ,the fuel pump and the water circulation pump , glow plug draws around 10 amps for a minute or two at start up , its no sweat to a car battery which supplies hundreds of amps under normal usage . The charge controler also has a lighting circuit output , with leds power consumption is minimal and of course I dont need an electrician to install or maintain a 12 v circuit.

What I dont know is the reliabillity of the solar panels , theres also the worry about noxious chemicals leaching out , some of the better panels have aluminium and glass housings ,cheaper ones are typically made of laminated plastic , The big question is when these solar panels and led bulbs we have now are eventually dumped ,are we setting in chain an even bigger ecological disaster , plastics are already a huge problem is this regard , is the Jolly Green Giant selling us a another bunch of bullshit ? The CFL bulbs days are numbered , I think its generally accepted now these had a terrible impact on the environment . Are we about to make the same mistake again now with solar ? I see led based glass bulbs out there , in all likelyhood habits wont change and these will get dumped into household refuse/ landfill .

1680769489486.png found a very cheap three way valve , maybe a bit too cheap for this job , I'd probably prefer something with a metal housing because theres fuel involved .

Still though for test purposes it should work , I can easily arrange a timed relay to switch the fuel source from ethanol at start up to kerosene after its had time to warm up , It will cost a bit extra to run the heater this way but hopefully it reduces emissions and soot build up to a great degree.
Ethanol having a different viscosity to either diesel or Kerosene will have a faster flow rate through the dosing pump ,so that may partially compensate for the lower energy .Via the diagnostic software theres also a programable ramp up/shutdown sequence which the technician can change , that might be taylored for use with ethanol .
That valve is made for water. There's a high chance your fuel might dissolve it. I had a quick look and it seems the same valves are sold for use with fuel. You can't tell from a pic tho...

Good electric "Normal" (water) valves aren't cheap, but their fuel resistant counterparts usually are expensive. There's some useful info about how 3-way valves operate:
I wouldn't worry about leaking chemicals. In my disparate collection of small solar cells, none has leaked anything yet. Some are decades old. None are of top quality. There's even solar film you can form to surfaces that aren't flat these days.
There are many vehicles with dual fuel tanks, so there are quite a few reasonably priced 12V dual fuel switches available. Just search for "fuel selector valve" to find them.
Webasto specifies the maximum ID of the fuel line must be less than 3 mm to prevent bubbles forming , automotive fuel line tends to be a bit heavier gauge ,
The best installation manual I found was by a UK company , they specialise in boat installations ,giving full diagrams of the various possibilites , it doesnt reccomend the use of thermostatically controled valves or any other kind of water pump than the one specified ,
There are certain differences with a domestic installation in that you have the motive power of mains water from the road to feed the cylinder , thats in turn heated via the coil . It should be possible to heat the tank to between 65 and 70 degrees then use the cold water feed to push the hot water to the tap and shower . I think its a preasurised system Im after not gravity fed ,

There is a few fuel selector valves around , automotive and aviation , not really what youd want and there pricey ,
There seems to be 1/4 fuel solenoid valves available from China , brass ,
I could have a pair one ethanol one Kero ,and a timed relay that alternates the ground connection , so its one or the other , in the case of loss of power or dissconnection the solenoids automatically both go to the closed position . which is handy ,
Using old fashioned copper tube and brass fittings seems like the best option , its what they reccomend for marine applications .
Fuel filtering in the case of diesel or Kero might be a good plan also , perhaps a carbon filter again something from the automotive end might suit .


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They supply any needs you have locally by suplementing the utillity , but in times of low demand you export back to the grid ,

Even using a battery is questionable at the price , word on the street says , just export dont even bother trying to store it , but if you could get a HV battery from a writen off Prius with the right charge controler it might work , ideally you'd charge the battery , then swap over to feeding the utillity ,
or maybe even charging the HV battery via the utillity simplifies matters further , and scoops up any available photovoltaic power on tap automatically .
If things are scaled correctly in terms of panel output and consumption /vs whats exported it seems like the utillity company might be writing me a cheque for the kerosene/ethanol I use to heat the water, thats sounds like a good deal ,
The heater diagnostic cable and software shipped quickly from Lithuania via the German postal system I was able to power up the unit and check the fault codes . I tried a low quality 12V 1.5A SMPS ,it had just enough juice to test the pcb and the fuel pump ,as soon as I tried to start the air blower the SMPS went into cough/fart overload mode and the software showed all kinds of unrelated errors .
An old style transformer based 12V supply of 2A rating had no problem pulling the microcontroler board and intake fan upto speed , there was no point in trying to energise the glow plug at 10 amps draw .
The softwares abillity to diagnose faults like a disconected wire on any of the pumps or sensors is impressive , theres a comprehensive series of lockouts so that the unit cant be started with any kind of fault . Ive also discovered the 'engineering' mode on the software , it looks like all the operating parameters are accessible .

I'm waiting on the control panel to arrive next ,

Its definately going to be a lead acid battery to run the heating system , its what its designed for and it should give a very long lifespan as it doesnt have to crank over an engine on a cold morning .
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