Friday, March 16, 2007

Tesla was a Genius.

I was thinking the other day about how there are many off grid homes and other highly efficient homes who use gas for heating and cooking. So, in my ultimate sustainable house, why don't I use gas?

The answer is this. I can't make gas. I can make electricity, but not gas. The same thing goes for why I like electric cars so much, I can make electricity, but not gas.

So, this is the reason why I have not implemented gas appliances in my house design. For ultimate sustainability, you must provide for yourself everything you need on a consistent basis. Additionally, your supply cannot be dependent on a large supply of some resource far away. Unfortunately, that rule can still apply to batteries.

Speaking specifically of natural gas and propane, we have a substance that is a fossil fuel, which by nature has a limited supply, and by limited supply, an increasing price. Also, it must be burned to release energy. Burning uses oxygen, and creates carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and carbon dioxide as well as water. In a nearly sealed house, these things can cause problems. Carbon monoxide is obviously poisonous, nitrogen oxide is the main component of acid rain, carbon dioxide can be an asphyxiate, and water can condensate and cause mold.

Natural gas like other fossil fuels will increase sharply in price in the very near future. Production of oil has already begun to drop, and there will probably be a half hearted switch to natural gas for cars which will increase demand without increasing supply. Who in the last year hasn't had their gas rates raised at least once? One month this last winter, we spent $140 just on gas for a small house. Our electric bill in the heat of summer was never that high. The sorry thing is that I know there are many of you out there who have to pay even more than that.

So what fuels do I feel are worth while? First, electricity is the universal fuel, it powers everything, it can easily be generated in a wide variety of ways, it makes the digital world possible, it can be stored for a limited amount of time, and it can be made to do almost anything. This is why my house is all electric. Yes, it will mean that I will have to have additional generating capacity to make all the kWh's I need, but I will never have to have any fuel tanks filled up at a cost I have absolutely no control of.

Ethanol is second on the list, because it is something that everyone can make who has access to sugar and water. Additionally, you can drink it, and it can be used in car engines with little modification. You can use it as a fuel to distill it, or to heat fermenting tanks.

Third is biodiesel because not everyone has access to the oils or the chemicals necessary to process them into fuel. But as a biofuel it is very clean and useful and can be made in country and to use it in a modern diesel engine requires no modification.

Fourth is biogas. Unless you have a good source of poo, or alot of organic material for biogas digestion, this is gonna be out of your reach. However, there are many sources of poo and other materials and biogas can be refined to utilities grade natural gas to replace or dilute it. It is also a completely natural process which goes on whether we take advantage of it or not. So I say let's. In fact, in China, there are millions of household sized biogas digesters that provide methane for cooking, heating, and light.

And Tesla invented alternating current so that electricity could be used all over the place, that's why he was a genius.


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