January 2019 . . . Water-To-Water Heat Pump Update

We like the results, but it has taken up much of a year, to learn by prototyping the job, which was mostly pipe fitting labor. This was even slower than the conventional pipe fitting work. We clearly needed an alternative from 47 winters of wood heating, which also occupied too much time, as I generally do all or most of my own labor. My wife especially deserves an automated heating system, in case I’m not here. I adopted the water-to-water heat pump because we already had a good drilled well. This can be used as a geothermal, water-heat-source. It will take longer to see the full impact and annual operational expenses.

We have large greenhouse spaces integrated with our home, all built and maintained at very low cost, which we combined with the traditional, rough edged, rural maintenance styles of long past decades. This unpolished life style is not for the consumerist mindset. Cruder life styles were common when I arrived in Maine, (seeking my fortune, early in 1969, at age 20). I considered this a liberation from other restrictive models of living. I wanted to explore life close to nature, while at the same time tinker with constructive projects. Geothermal upgrading is just one outcome of decades working here.


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I share my findings of the lowest possible cost, water pipe fittings. The added heating is delivered with my experimental, low-level-heat-output, plastic-drain-pipe radiators. These materials demand considerable space, by comparison to higher-heat furnace-pipes. My system should be molded into concrete slabs which could reduce concrete floor costs, as well, but only if ever this prototyping were ever fully developed and approved. I took a prototyper’s chance, as this fit our circumstances with our imaginative house.

The heat pump system still needs more radiator capacity, meaning that I have to make one more geothermal radiator, to get more heat exchange. I came up with a good plan which needs a larger, summer-season, mud-friendly work-space, (to build the next radiator). Our parlor stove makes up for the insufficient radiators for now. More labor awaits me, as my lifestyle balances a variety of work types.

The drainpipe manufacturer could never recommend this experiment, but here in rural Maine we are allowed to build our own homes and fixtures. In another lifetime I would aim for other goals, but in this life, our unusual greenhouse lifestyle, has sustained us for 47 years, (at this writing). This liberated state of living prompted me to try out the drainpipes for the radiator material. These drain pipes are designed for underground drainage only. I dared to innovate. I previously tested a smaller version with our wood heated hot water, up to 130º F (or 54 º C). This was a short piece of 8” diameter drain pipe which startled us when it expanded like an accordion, out onto our floor! It snaked it’s way out from it’s place under the couch. (See image below). Experiments keep life interesting, even with plumbing.

This unpredicted expansion was due to the gravity-fed hot water lines, as only a small amount of pressure inside the drain pipe will expand or lengthen such ribbed pipe. Softening of the plastic happens at warm temperatures, but is harmless when better supported mechanically. The ribbed geometry needs considerable bracing to prevent the accordion- expansion effect, because the ribs were intended to support “compressive-only”, load capacity when underground. This expansion was actually easy to push back into place and then screw some some wood bracing to hold it steady. This first tank proved interesting enough to eventually apply the concept to our heat pump. The electrical consumption of conventional radiators uses up lots of power, to circulate the hot water, all of which inspired the difficult investment of labor. Large radiator pipes ease the pumping requirement and lower the operating cost. This year i built a large tank and installed about 60 ft of 6inch drainpipe, as one geothermal radiator, only in one downstairs space.

In this geothermal project, i risked shortcomings, as the winter was too quickly passing by. My excuse was also that i wanted to test the maximum possible spacing around these geo thermal radiator pipes, for better air contact and better heat exchange. The maximum heat-level of my particular brand of heat pump is around 120º which is considerably less than fire-heated levels. A better frame work is needed, but later. Peace meal building is fine for me.

Also i started this work in the winter and we wanted to have these tests as soon as possible. Necessity is a motivator like none other and i left some details loosely imperfect. Once again, some parts of the geothermal radiator managed to wiggle out of place. I will let it stay squirmed until summer before emptying the water in my garden and then weld up some better metal frameworks.

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My low cost method for connecting the geo thermal radiators uses regular Portland cement with little or no sand, but key for me was to use a special commercial product, which roots a powdery crystal compound inside leaky cracks. This is marketed for concrete waterproofing, but i am using it here, for plumbing purposes. Portland cement can apparently adapt all pipe types, for low pressure connections, but thoughtful care is required for good results. I'm building a low pressure, open loop, water system. Other tests showed me higher pressure is more leak prone with this outrageously low-cost pipe-fitting method. I think this can be OK for irrigation pipes and manifolds, possibly not for high pressure pipe fitting, but future materials may yet surprise us here.

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We dared to cut a lot of costs in making our home, from the actual junk yard which it was, upon our arrival in 1971. We endured many things but are grateful for our life , as is. We often risked inadequacies for our own home renovation, justifying this as picturesque experiences of the realm. The marketplace of rural concepts had invented the word: ‘rusticate’ to celebrate an escape from overly synthetic life styling. There are subtler principles to be focussed upon and values to be gained.

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I actually do most prototyping work with makeshift arrangements of things. One incentive is a humoring vision for added inspiration, to persist with unrelenting labors. A stranded island, or a ship isolated at sea, provides a sense of freedom from involuntary lifestyles. Isolated but with plenty of useful materials and it so turned out that recycling and repurposing supports this visionary situation, but in land based homesteading, which becomes freer only after decades of servitude, to earn and build such a homestead, in the first place. The overly marketed style of wasting natural resources and of pillaging environments, primarily for wasteful profiteering, has always urged my vision and my struggle of getting-away, to an isolated rural place. It liberated me from external servitude, and then captivated me as a self-supporting lifestyle. (While it reduces redundant consumption, which proportionally stresses the world, hereby arguably resulting, as a better service to evolution of humanity).

For a little more technical detail, below is included a picture of prototyping without a dedicated workshop. Here is my prototyping of the cement adaptor, to fit large pipes together with small pipes, but without the usual, expensive fixtures. This experiment suggests additional experiments which question the state of the art, of living more lightly on the planet. If the experiment proves durable, then it might deserve further development.

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The holes in the molded pipe end, are later used to insert connecting, smaller pipes, but here again using the cement as an adaptor and as a water seal, for low pressure water only. This blog is only for informational purposes and free thinking people, to help consider ways to live more gently on a planet, which is currently suffering wasteful, industrial stresses. This method explores a small possibility of reduction of world stresses by reducing redundancy. Necessity motivates a zest for life.

I invite discussion on relevant topics. I believe individuals can do there small part to harmonize life on the planet if they explore for practical solutions such as gentler building processes, based on the laws of life. Searching for the laws of life, that alone, will do the most for harmonizing life on earth.

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