Sunday, November 4, 2012

EZ-Bake home heating and organic farming

EZ-bake home heating / organic farming

Did I get you with the title?


Every winter strange thoughts wander into my mind. Some of them get used in books. No, strike that, most of them find a home in my fiction. But some would never make those pages, so they'll have to be content with my little blogs instead.

EZ-Bake home heating / organic farming

Strange phrasing, right? But it tells you everything you need to know, really.

But let me spell it out.

EZ-Bake ovens, pre-lightbulb Ban, used a lightbulb to cook real food in 'toy' ovens for children (under adult supervision!) But with the banning of the Edison lightbulb, these toys had to get with the times and include real heating elements.

When I worked construction, we always had an EZ-Bake oven on the job. Just toss two lightbulbs into a metal toolbox, add in a few dozen cans or jars of soup, and by lunch it was always piping hot. Works great, no need for an expensive microwave that could only reheat one meal every 3 minutes (we never got more than 30min for lunch, so, that was at best 5 people per microwave)

Every winter, people spend hundreds or thousands on heating homes, a lot of them using electricity.

Stay with me: )

Now, think of radiant floor heating. They generally use loops of circulating hot water on the underside of wooden floors. Heat the floor, and you heat the room. Some use electric strips.

But you could EZ-Bake heat a floor too. But why would you, right? Why use lightbulbs to heat?

Well, legally speaking I wouldn't, mostly because they've been banned. But I just saw some Christmas LED lights going up today, and that got me thinking. Keep with me, I know I wander off the path at times, but I eventually get where I'm going. White is the most expensive LED, but reds, yellows, blues, and greens, the cheapest of the LEDs, grow plants better than whites anyway. And they all put out heat in addition to light. In fact, one of the problems with white LEDs that are bright enough to replace a 100watt Edison is keeping the plastic LEDs from melting. That's the big holdup. That's why they're $60-100 still. It isn't only the price of the LEDs, it's the price of cooling them too.

But what if that cooling problem had an easy solution? What if you didn't need to pack a hundred watts of lights into a tiny bulb, but could spread it out across a floor?

What if that overheating disadvantage was actually a goal?

LED radiant floor heating. Stick with me, sharp turn ahead.

In general, when LEDs (whatever the color) use 100watts of electricity, they put out around 100watts of heat (just like Edisons). As with the EZ-Bake example, that's cooking-level heat and not really good for plastic LEDs. Edisons and LEDs put out the same amount of heat per watt used, the difference is the LEDs put out 10 times as much light.

But to heat a house with LEDs would produce a lighthouse worth of light. That's the kind of bright that could be seen twenty miles through the fog. That's no good, right? That's just trading one problem for another, isn't it?

Hold on. Check your seat belt. Watch for signs.

Recap. We've turned the weakness of LEDs (waste heat) into an advantage for radiant floor home heating, but now we have thousands of watts worth of wasted light. We've turned the problem on its head again! This is worse that where we started... or is it.

Just wait. Let me think.

Let me think.

Got it!

Radiant floor heating is mostly a late fall/winter/early spring thing. That's about the time when summer vegetables become pricy again because you have to ship them halfway across the world.

Let's turn this wasted light problem into an advantage again.

We've got a lot of light from our EZ-Bake LED radiant heating system, it's time to put it to use. Shelves in the basement would be the most efficient use of space for growing vegetables, butterflies could do the pollinating (if needed). No pesticides. Totally organic, the crop could be sold to offset the price of electricity, or eaten to reduce food bills.

But you need not have a basement to use such a system.

Lighting shelves, like bookshelves of plants, could grow vegetables and heat individual rooms simultaneously, like how millions use space heaters today. Blackout shades would even let you put them in bedrooms, and still get some shuteye.

Crawlspaces could be put to work too. Imagine this. Paint the undersides of the floors bright white. String up the LEDs like you were hanging Christmas lights between the studs. Lay a 'floor' on the dirt below it, and put 6'x4' planters beneath it on rollers. Remember those jigsaw-like puzzles where they slide past each other as you shuffle them around to assemble the picture? Well, imagine that kind of shuffling going on under a house to rotate the stock. Of course you could simply 'plant' your crop in the crawlspace itself, but harvests would involve a ton of crawling around on your hands and knees. Ideally, you want enclosed systems (like basements and such) to control the bugs, pests, and rodents. Boxes on wheels and a hard floor seem fine for that.

The economics, if my math is right, are very compelling.

The price of heating should remain the same. It could increase 10%, but that's doubtful. In either case, the organic winter crop is FREE and hippie certified for maximum profitability: ) 24/7 lighting could really pound out some organics in a short period of time.

Final thought.

A lot of northern homes heat with oil or natural gas, so going EZ-Bake wouldn't work so well for them.

But lets not leave them out in the cold.

Did you know that a gallon of oil produces the same amount of heat, whether it's burned in a furnace or in a diesel generator... you know, those evil combustion engines.

That's right. Same goes for natural gas.

My simple idea is to do all the burning of these heating fuels in combustion engines instead. The electricity is pure profit, either sell it back to the grid, use it locally, or simply use it to power electric heating elements to heat the home faster and use up to 60% less fuel. The generators could be made for under $1,000 (Non grid compliant) and would likely pay for themselves in the first two years.

More strange thoughts to come.

What was in that brownie anyway : )

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