The One-Acre Farm

Solar Heating Questions

Jim BakerHello again, all! I'm writing this post to ask for feedback, comments, concerns, or even more questions regarding solar heating panels.

YouTube will be my downfall, I am sure. Having watched a few videos on the aforementioned site, I was all fired up about getting some solar panels made for each side of the house, getting them in place, and maybe even looking into some sort of modified system for air transfer for a proposed root cellar I have in my head.

The concept was quite straightforward and simple. Then I watched a few more videos, and suddenly it became rocket science, with guys that have graduated from MIT talking about air mass, air transfer, cycle volumes, and such things as that. Then they start looking at this design versus that design, and this old man is beginning to wonder if this stuff really works. How does someone that knows nothing about computer fans, wiring (other than knowing how to grab the wrong wire at the wrong time when working here at the house), and snap switches (what is a snap switch anyway?) make this contraption work, if it works at all?

And so the question begs: downspout or aluminum soffit? And, going back to my old days in construction, would copper screen painted black be better than anything else as far as screen goes? Sure it costs more, yet if the end result is a better product and it will basically never wear out, why not make the splurge up front?

And how big? I am thinking of these as daytime alternatives to my wood stove (save on the firewood issue!), and although I'm by no means in the coldest part of the world, central North Carolina does have its winters. As we all know, the inside of an unheated structure gets colder than it is outside. More of that air mass, air transfer, air movement, CFM stuff that is way beyond my pay grade.

All kidding aside, will a few-hundred-dollar unit keep the house warm during the day, or will it be more like a thousand spent to keep the house (less than 1200 square feet and poorly insulated) in the 70s range during the better part of a day? Does the outlet and inlet into the unit have to be in the same room, or even same physical opening? Is there such a thing as too big? How long does it take to build a moderate size unit? YouTube does it in less than 26 minutes, which I am quite sure is not correct. Plans abound online as I have seen, yet I want to do this just once, not reconstruct it ten more times because I should have done this or that to start with. I know the ultimate choice is mine to make, yet I would like that choice to be an informed one.

Solar panels
Photo by Fotolia/vladdeep

Any feedback from someone that has done one (or more) of these would be greatly appreciated!

Until then, live long and prosper.

Jim (The One Acre Farm)

Forward Progress, It Seems

Jim BakerFirst of all, let me start by stating that I am no saint, philanthropist, or anything like that. I am a man with a dream; a little late in life, yet still a dream. Had I known about all this and had this passion 25 years ago, things would be a lot different. Yet, like most of my generation, we look at everything as it is now and simply say — it is what it is.

I have a CT scan tomorrow, with a hopefully great prognosis the day after. No coffee in the morning though, so that sucks! Regardless of all that, the past day or so has been spent finally talking to my county Community Garden Liaison, and she has hooked me up with the county coordinator for the Incubator Farm program. And yes, my local County Extension office does have a seed bank, loaner equipment, and more resources than you can shake a proverbial stick at.

Of course, my little chunk of land here does not qualify for everything, yet at the same time, I do qualify for some things. I have also been in touch with the United Way here, and they have clubs (groups, whatever) that will come and offer free labor from time to time, as needed. They usually work through a church organization around here. I would urge everyone that can to volunteer with any of these in your area, and I would encourage others to use the resources that are available. Hope you are reading this, Jennifer and Charlotte.

For all of these, any financial outlay is of course my responsibility. At the same time, the bang for the buck is immeasurable. My place is too small to justify the overall cost (just a few thousand around here) for a small tractor (think Ford N red belly), yet there is enough land that doing it by hand is all but impossible when it is just one person. Regardless of the effort, the skill level, or the desire, one person can only do so much. Yet having access to such equipment, even for a few hours a month, or even a year, could easily make all the difference in the world.

Fortunately for me, I do have some in-laws that will be moving in here, and both of them seem to be more than slightly interested in helping this whole thing come to fruition. My plan, their sweat equity — even now I have to smile at that irony. I am also looking at various Garden Planning programs, which will help those coming in to help me. What I have now is all in my head; not a real good place to keep such plans, I know. If anyone can shed some light on plans that they have used, tried, and like, I would love to hear from you.

I am still hoping to find a lawyer nearby that may be interested in doing some pro-Bono (or reduced fee) advice and legal stuff for me, yet so far that hasn’t happened. I posted an inquiry on one of the Free Lawyer sites I found, and the one response I got from halfway across the state was that her hourly fees would range from $100 an hour to $550. I was confused, since I had checked the box stating I was unable to pay. Oh well, what can you do?

That is about it for now; I will keep you all posted on my prognosis and more about the forward progress of the ailing yet not failing One-Acre Farm. I might be down a little, but I'm far from out! All we all have to do is get up one more time, and good things happen.

Working on farm
Photo by Fototlia/julief514