Air Conditioning and Heating in Palm Harbor
Fast, affordable heating & A/C service.
Serving North Pinellas County.
I have an interest in our country becoming energy independent with cleaner energy sources, and I like to daydream about having $0 power bills so I can tell "the man" to take a hike. I have done a lot of reading on this subject, and I see LOTS of misinformation and or conflicting information in the media. I would like to clarify some things in a condensed form of what I have read, so anyone can get to the highlights real fast, and then do more detailed reading on each highlight if interested. Lets start with bio fuels since they are in the news a lot lately. Two renewable biofuels are ethanol (alcohol) and biodiesel (vegetable oil based diesel fuel). I will start with Ethanol since it seems to be in the news most lately, and most are already using it in their cars (as most gasoline now has 10 percent of ethanol blended in). The book Alcohol Can Be A Gas by David Blume is a great book for anyone interested in this.
Corn is not the ideal crop for producing ethanol on a yield per acre basis compared to many other crops, but it is what is used for figures for comparison of ethanol to gasoline. That skews the data in a negative way unfairly against ethanol from the start.
Myth: Ethanol production is using up our food.
Fact: Most of the corn grown in this country is not used for human food, it is used for animal feed. That is the corn they are using to make ethanol. An even bigger fact is that the production of corn based ethanol only uses the starch in the corn, and what remains is called distillers grain which is still used for cattle feed. Cows can't digest the starch in the corn anyway, and they actually gain more weight on the distillers grain that is left over from ethanol production, which still has all the protein and nutrients in it, than if they were just fed the regular corn.
We also have 100 million acres of land in the US that used to be cultivated and no longer is, because we do not have markets for the crops. For perspective, the US currently grows 70-90 million acres of corn. In the US, we have around 500 million acres of prime farmland. We have an additional billion acres of farmland which is still great for growing crops, and an additional billion acres of what is called arid land in the southwest, and we can grow crops that are optimized for each of these zones. Examples in the arid land areas - Mesquite, Prickly Pear Cactus, Agave Cactus, all have better ethanol yield per acre than corn. So we have a HUGE untapped farming capability in the US.
Myth: Ethanol production takes a huge amount of water.
Fact:It takes only 2.7 gallons of water to produce one gallon of ethanol, significantly less than the 92.5 gallons of water it takes to produce a gallon of gasoline.
To put ethanol production into perspective, it takes*:
150 gallons of water to make one Sunday newspaper.
*according to the University of Florida Extension Office
I think the real huge water figures you hear are when people are including all the water it takes to grow the corn crop used for it. But in reality, very little corn is actually irrigated. Most is just watered by stuff that falls out of the sky free of charge in what we call "rain".
Myth: It takes more energy to produce ethanol than it actually creates.
Fact: Figures that I have read vary, from 30 percent more energy gained, to a figure as high as 600+ percent energy gained for ethanol produced from more efficient crops than corn. It takes energy to refine crude oil into gasoline as well. I am not sure what that equation calculates to, but from my reading and talking to people in the refining industry, the real value of crude oil to refiners is the other chemicals they make from it. Gasoline is one of the things left over from the refining process. So I guess we are all paying to burn up the refiners hazardous waste.
Myth: Biofuels are subsidized or they wouldn't be viable.
Fact: Oil is subsidized as well - in the form of our military being deployed around the world to the hotspots where most of the oil seems to be. We don't see that cost at the pump, but we do pay for that in our taxes. How much does a barrel of oil, or a gallon of gasoline really cost when you factor that cost into it? Oil does get other subsidies as well, I see new ones pretty regular when reading biofuels vs petroleum debates.
One of the results that effects every citizen of the U.S. is, that every dollar that is spent on ethanol and other biofuels in this country stays in this country. The money doesn't go to a country that hates us and uses that money against us.
Ethanol and biofuel create jobs here in the US.
Brazil has an ethanol program that has been in place for 30 years, and they are very successful with it. I believe the law there states that all gas stations have to have ALL the fuel choices available, and drivers can choose what is the best deal that day to fuel up their cars. (Most people there have flex fuel vehicles).
It costs auto manufacturers less than $50 dollars more to make a vehicle "flex fuel".
Ethanol is 105 octane (thats why they use it for racing fuel). Normal gasoline is 87 octane. While it is true that there is less btus of energy in a gallon of ethanol vs. a gallon of gasoline, if engines were optimized to take advantage of ethanol's higher octane rating, it would make up much or maybe all of the mileage difference.
Ethanol burns much cleaner than gasoline. Better for air quality and also better for engine life.
The first ever "flex fuel vehicle" was the Model T Ford. There is a video about that in the links below.
One thing I saw in my reading lately that I haven't seen in the news has to do with a chemical they are or were putting in gasoline called MTBE. It said something about lots of MTBE being found in our ground water all over the place and that ethanol is a good substitute for MTBE. You can do an internet search on MTBE vs ethanol if you are interested.
Biodiesel (vegetable oil based diesel fuel)
A diesel engine will run very well on vegetable oil based fuels and has MANY advantages over petroleum based fuels. Those stories you may have heard about people running their diesel cars on old french fry oil are true. Now before you go off and try to dump a jug of Wesson oil in your fuel tank there are some things you need to know. The book From the Fryer to the Fuel Tank by Joshua Tickell is a great book for anyone interested in this. A lot of the same arguments that are pro-ethanol apply to biodiesel as well. In addition, here are some highlights of the book:
Dr. Rudolf Diesel first developed the diesel engine in 1895 with the full intention of running it on a variety of fuels including vegetable oils and he showed his engine at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900 using peanut oil as fuel.
Waste vegetable oil can be processed into biodiesel which will run in any diesel vehicle without any modification. Individuals are making biodiesel in their garages out of old cooking oil all over the country.
Diesel vehicles will run on straight vegetable oil but the oilmust be heated first to atomize properly. This requires some modification and kits are available. (Basically it uses your vehicles cooling system to heat up a tank of vegetable oil. You start and shut down your vehicle on regular biodiesel).
Vegetable oil and biodiesel are non toxic and biodegrade much faster than petroleum. If there was ever a major vegetable oil spill it would be a much better situation than a petroleum spill (up to 98 percent biodegration in 3 weeks for biodiesel).
Vegetable oil and biodiesel are completely renewable fuels and can be grown here on land the government currently pays farmers not to grow on.
Carbon neutral. Carbon dioxide released from burning biodiesel is absorbed by next years crop.
Most other emissions are far better for biodiesel than petroleum. Only exception is Nitrous Oxide emissions which are slightly worse.
Great lubricating qualities for engine and said to increase engine life.
There are many crops with far higher vegetable oil production per acre than soybeans. Soy biodiesel is always what is used for economic comparison but soy is not the best choice, just as corn is not the best choice for ethanol production. The best crop for biodiesel BY FAR is algae, which doesn't even use food producing farm land.
Solar and Wind Power
I recently heard a radio program that had a guest that was a Stanford University Professor named Mark Z. Jacobson that said that solar and wind could each power the whole earth on their own, using existing technology. That included cars. With a combination of solar, wind and hydro power being used, they could help each of the individual technologies weaknesses, like if the wind isn't blowing someplace, the sun might be shining etc. He wrote an essay about it. If interested, you can read that essay here.
Almost Free Hot Water
I get almost free hot water at my house when my air conditioner runs. I have installed what is called a heat recovery unit or "HRU". It ties into the hot gas discharge on my air conditioner compressor (I have a heat pump actually). Another copper pipe taps off my water heater and is coiled to where it is touching the hot gas discharge pipe from my air conditioner inside the HRU box. A little pump inside the HRU circulates water from my hot water heater to the HRU when the air conditioner runs. The HRU transfers the waste heat removed from your house into your hot water. The little water pump draws around 72 watts (about a light bulb worth of electric power) , which is a lot better than the 4500 watts my water heater tank has. During the warmer months, when my air conditioner runs more often, this HRU provides 100 percent of my hot water and I have the circuit breaker pulled for my water heater during this time. These HRUs are supposed to increase your air conditioners capacity and efficiency as well. They have been around for a long time, but fell out of favor when energy was cheap.
HRU how it normally is.
HRU opened up. Not much inside. Just the copper tubing for the water and the hot freon coiled together, and the brown thing is the little pump that circulates water between the HRU and the water heater. The pump only runs when the air conditioner runs. During the Summer months, my hot water is "burn you hot", even with the water heater circuit breaker pulled the whole time.
Some Alternative Energy Links
ethanol fuel show part 1 I was not a big fan of the potential of ethanol fuel until I heard this guy on a radio show a few years ago. He has a GREAT book called Alcohol Can Be A Gas and a website at www.alcoholcanbeagas.com
First Flex Fuel vehicle Ford's first "Flex Fuel" vehicle was the Model T!
www.sandia.gov/news-center/news-releases/2004/renew-energy-batt/Stirling.html Project to produce electricity with solar powered Stirling engines. I think that this is a much better option for our countries electric needs than traditional power plant options.
Video of Stirling Energy Systems project above Youtube video of Stirling Enerygy Systems California solar projects.
Stirling Engine powered cars Ford, GM, and American Motors Corp. spent millions of dollars developing Stirling engines for cars, back in the 1970's. AMC had a 1979 Spirit equipped with an experimental Stirling engine powerplant called the "P-40". The Spirit was capable of burning gasoline, diesel, or gasohol. The P-40 Stirling engine promised less pollution, 30% better mileage, and the same level of performance as the car's standard internal combustion engine. Well gas got cheap and all this ground to a halt. How would the P-40 engine perform with today's technology added to it? Anyway, if you want to read where I found this go to the link and it is #3.
Thermal Depolymerization A machine that turns anything into oil! This is from a Discover Magazine article in May 2003. It is already built and I am not sure why this is not bigger news.
MagneGas Here is another fuel choice I have recently learned about. I have seen the vehicles with the "this vehicle runs on MagneGas" decals on them around town but didn't know what it was. The city of Dunedin, Florida was looking into using Magnegas not that long ago.
www.biodieselnow.com/ Run your diesel car or truck on vegetable oil! Not only does it work, it works well and has many advantages over regular diesel fuel!. When Dr. Rudolph Diesel first developed the Diesel engine in 1895, he intended for it to be run on a variety of fuels including vegetable oil. He showed his engine at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900 using peanut oil as fuel.
www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/findacar.htm Check the gas mileage on a vehicle you are interested in, old or new. In the mid eighties we had normal production cars that got 50 MPG that were carbureted! Now you have to buy a hybrid to get the same mileage! Look up 1985-91 Honda Civic HF or 1992-95 Honda Civic VX.
www.phys.ufl.edu/~liz/home.html An off the grid house built in Interlachen, Florida. A good read and a great place to find ideas to cut your utility bills.
Progress Energy Progress Energy Florida's website. Has tips to lower your electric bill.
Electric Bike Video This lady rides her electric bike to work everyday and the grocery store as well. She has a special trailer for the grocery store. Electric bicycles require no registration or insurance in many or most states and are worth a look. There are many different options available.
Hybrid car that gets up to 250 mpg Car companies say that they can't do better than they are as far as gas mileage. This guy modified his Toyota Prius himself and it gets up to 250 mpg.
I have built a small power generating wind turbine from free plans I found online. All it does is light an LED light but it is a great intro into building power generating wind turbines. It is a quick project as well. It could be completed in an afternoon easily. It would be a great science project for a kid. The rotor is a Savonius type made from a 1.5 litre water bottle.
Here is the permanent magnet alternator. I wound it with #30 magnet wire from Radio Shack. I found the neodymium magnets for it on Ebay.
Here it is in action with a hair dryer on low setting providing the wind. See the LED lit up in the lower right side of the picture?
I made a battery out of some green unripe oranges, nails and copper wire. It lit an LED light. Its been 2 or three weeks now, this is still in my back yard. The oranges are getting old but the LED is still lit!
Tried another home made "battery" with salt water from the Gulf of Mexico and some improved plates (still scrap copper and galvanized steel) and it is a good bit more powerful! It lit several LEDs at once. Also successfully ran a AA battery powered clock and a hand held 9v battery powered radio with it. These home made batteries and my little wind turbine are part of my "get one over on the man starter kit".
Air Conditioning and Heating
Fast, affordable heating & A/C service.
Serving North Pinellas County.