Thursday, November 24, 2011

Off grid winter heating.

The depot we run most of the operations out of in Hereford is off grid and it has solar panels and a wind turbine to generate the power it needs. We used to be plugged in to a building next door, just in case we needed power but more of less we were ok, apart from the winter. 

You see... it is easy enough to generate power for lights, computers, charging batteries and that sort of stuff but the real killer is heating. For example our led lighting system uses 10w of power and we can run that from our battery reserve for 265 hours. Yep, 11 days straight, but we easy generate more than enough power to run them. In contrast we could run a 3kw heater for only 1 hour from our reserves. So heating is the tricky thing and if last year is anything to go by we need to be prepared.

So we've been doing some research and we've found some heaters which are used on ships. They combust diesel (like a tiny engine) and this makes heat, they then have a little 12v fan which pulls air around the engine (which heats the air) and blows it out through a tube. We think we can run one of these on biodiesel so we bought one and installed it a few weeks ago. It draws a small current to run the thermostat, fuel pump and fan so we needed to install another battery to double our capacity.
Then cut a few holes in the floor (we routed the cables under the floor)
Then install the heater, we bought in our expert Tone to help with this
Once the heater went in we then drilled a hole through the wall and stuck the fuel tanks in
So more or less we were done, we tested the whole setup away from the site (at our rural testing facility) so we knew things would probably be ok. We stuck a thermostat on the wall on the opposite side of the heater and then plonked a seat over the setup to hide it away. So now the only thing you really know about the heater is this nozzle...
Which is attached to this tube..
Which attaches to the heater

So all in all it is a very simple setup and it has been really brilliant so far. It uses about 1w of battery power to run and if running at full power (2.8kw) it uses 200ml of fuel an hour. To keep a room at a comfortable temperature (17-21 ish) it is barely on and of course the blown heat circulates really well. 

Its been pretty awesome getting it all up to speed and we're confident the workers will be super toasty over winter!


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