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Bob Green Innes,


Hamiltonian by birth & occupation!  

.... seeking to restore values, traditions, institutions, laws and protections Canadians once enjoyed
      .....lost by apathy
          ..... but stolen nonetheless

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Blog #4, Nov 8, 2010. Solar Heater vs Smart Meter -
          how to not to save a quarter of a cent.

It's been awhile. I thought maybe things would die off after the election so I put a little effort into getting caught up on what had slid during that excitement. But to my delight, the meter ticked over a few times and when that happens, your humble scribe got all excited - must make amends by getting back into it.

Besides, its another gorgeous solar day for blogging from the rooftop . November 8 (already!) and its about 12 degreesC with little wind to chill me out so i'm warming up and recharging my Vitamin D in a little sun-facing cubby. This time I have my baseball hat so I can see the screen with a bit of squinting. I've even figured out that one should set the display scheme to high contrast white. I had it on the black background for normal use because I figure black saves a bit of power - which can be important if i'm running off the solar battery at the cabin.

So how, on such a gorgeous day and place, can there be any kind of solar dilemma? Well, it has to do with the Hydro system which has introduced smart meters to this jusisdiction in an effort to encourage conservation and to avoid having to spend billions building power plants that nobody wants - if the recent brouhaha in Oakville is anything to go by. Really, you'd think that folks would want reliable power over brownouts any day, especially when the fuel was going to be natural gas which everybody is burning in their furnaces anyway. Oi. NIMBY run amok.

Anyway, getting back to the issue, Hydro is now, as of Nov 1, charging time-of-use (TOU) rates of 9.9c during peak demand and 5.1c at night. They have a silly mid-demand charge of 8.1 cents - woopdeedo. I respectfully ask all Danish readers to stop hooting in astonishment - we Canuk power guzzlers could never deal with your 40 cent charges. The trigger times change according to season and the mid vs peak siliness, but to keep it simple, just remember they start screwing us at 7AM and stop screwing us at 9pm. Isn't that nice of them??!!

I'm all for a little incentive to save energy but now, the control decisions for my solar collectors have now been made far more complicated. All solar heat collectors require the use of fans and/or pumps which can chew up electicity.

Today for instance, I debated whether to capture some solar water for my shower. Since its late in the season, the water is not coming out very warm, not nearly warm enough for my scrawny butt. I tried to sell my dear wifie on the idea but after putting her fingies in the luke-cool stream, decided to warm up her vocabulary a bit to ensure I understand that my energy saving offer was tentamount to suggesting that her personhood was so underappreciated that my discomfort in the subsequent months is likely to be quite severe. My kid, who like many kids, does not like overly hot water, was unavailable. Given that the outcome might have been worse, this was a good thing.

Normally I would solve this by just mixing in little hot water from the hot water tank and be satisfied I had done my bit by saving a little bit of energy overall, which should be good for the environment, no? But therein lies the rub. If i do this during the daytime, the higher day rate means i will spend more money to save a tiny bit of heat and pollution. Not good for my auld Scottish blood! I hope you understand.

One obvious solution is to run down, turn off the hot water heater, make a nice mix for a shower and turn on the hot water heater after the night rates have started. For 1/4 cent savings? Today, the smart meter beats the solar heater. What is on the job list though is to install a timer on the water heater to prevent it heating water during the day and hoping that a nightime heating cycle will be sufficient (recovery is slow which is another story for another day). This will be have to done shortly, especially since one of our household takes a morning shower at about the same time as the day rate begins. Ouch.

My record at getting jobs done is not the greatest so what that really means is that it's time to shut down the solar collector for the season. Sigh, no more of those savings and no more of those great free solar showers. Gummerment 1, me 0. What else is new?

The solution for the water will not work for the air heater. We have several small fans drawing free heat from under some metalwork at the front which is facing south. Hot air does not store like hot water so this means I must use the high price day power to capture the sun's energy. Therefore, it seems that the province has penalized my humble solar system. Its not a powerful system but just the same, any heat it can find is a welcome salve for my comfort and pocketbookt. Just some small fans and a bit of hidden ductwork.

What to do? Well, its about 4 pm and the collector will soon be in shadow so its time to quit my little piece of heaven and go down and shut off the system. That wasn't the province's fault but I will be having to do a more careful assussment of the heat gain vs cost issue. Ideally the greenie in me wants to save energy/pollution. But the near doubling of the cost to do that puts a serious damper on my enthusiasm and by extension, my comfort.

For instance, part of the heat goes to warm the basement so I was starting the fans a little early since the basement is cooler anyway. Or I often let the fans run on a bit while the system cools down since any energy burned ends up inside as slightly warmer air. This often occurs in solar systems, especially on partially overcast days which makes control quite frustrating. By the time the sun warms the collector,enough to turn on any heat sensor (non existent at the moment) the sun disappears and the system cools down again. This leads to a requirement for more sophistication in the control system but who can afford a control system anyway for such a small non-commercial system? That gets into another tangent but I've tested your patience enough for today.

All i can say is Bah, Solar Humbug. On such a beautiful day.


Stay tuned for more curmudgeonly thoughts, such as what I think should be done to resolve smart meters vs solar heatinng, but I haven't quite figured that one out yet. Perhaps you can help me figure this out.

Bob Green I

leave the fake one *

Please be patient. Hopefully you can check back for your comment or response in the next day or two. Thanks. Bob

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Recent Blogs

Re - recent bid for trustee

Coming Up

    MyStoneyCreek asks pertinent questions - i'd better explain myself - if that is possible!

    Solar energy vs the last of the PIIGS vs local efforts

    Banking, money risks, a modest proposal

    Reflections on a Greek phrase

    Forcing my mind to grapple further with that pesky smart meter thing. I'd hate to be a party pooper when it comes to the good intent of the smart meter - BUT.........

    So much to mention - GMO foods, fluoridation, dogcast listening, Puppy - maybe I'll put up a sort of note space for miscellaneous

    Ongoing economic meltdown - two threads: Hamilton's unique problems and the more general economic melting down of the US. Four Horsemen.

    Global warming questions and myths. I'll borrow this for now.

    Eventually, thoughts on the deeper questions that vex our world.

Favs & Locals

Pet Peeves

    * retired Professional Engineer, married, father of 2 including one still in the system.

    * pursuing many interests - partial list below

    * small-c conservative (but not a Harper PC - that's the party of big business!)

    * investigating causes of economic problems, finding troubling trends and possibilities

    * Former candidate, Hamilton East Stoney Creek, FCP, Public System Trustee, Ward 4

Links to other Interests.


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Updated Oct 2010