February 12 , 2000
Taking the Next Step
A few years ago I attended a hydronic heating presentation (at the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair) hosted by Steve Krug, owner of Next Step Energy Systems. Steve's presentation on the basics of radiant heating, started me thinking about how I could incorporate such a system in our cordwood house. It was either his subliminal messages during the presentation, or his bad humor that changed my religious beliefs. Yes, I once belonged to the "Forced-Air" religion but now I have felt the heat and have become a "Radiantist". I believe in radiant floor heat. Not only radiant floor heat, but I have also become a sun worshiper. (Why not the sun's energy is free!)
Although I have not fully decided on the final design, it became increasingly apparent that hydronic solar panels were in my future. Hydronic solar panels are not the same as PV (photovoltaic) panels. PV panels convert sunlight into electricity whereas hydronic panels use the sun to heat water. If you've got a lot of thermal mass in your home, you can store quite a bit of heat from the sun on sunny to partly cloudy days.
Hydronic panels are a bit harder to find nowadays, compared when the energy crisis was occurring back in the 70's. There are only a few manufacturers making them today and the panels are quite expensive. My goal has been to find some good, used panels. Steve was able to find (10) Solar King, 4' x 10' panels.
We arranged to meet on Saturday morning for Steve to drop off the panels. Steve called me on Friday and said that we may need some extra help unloading the panels. I knew that 4' x 8' panels were heavy, but I could move them myself. I couldn't imagine why we needed help, but I decided to ask my (favorite) brother-in-law if he wouldn't mind going on a road trip. (I figured, he already helped me unload 32 face cords of wood, and helped me pour the footings and he was still talking to me -- so what the heck, I'd ask him for another favor!)
So, off to Minnesota we went -- Jo, Jon and myself all nice and cozy inside of my pickup truck. Steve and his wife Kathy met us near the property and followed us to our place. There wasn't much snow on our driveway and Steve got up it with no problem.
Steve was not kidding about the weight of the panels. They were really, really heavy. The tempered glass used on these panels are quite hefty to say the least. Steve's truck was also iced over pretty good making things a bit on the slippery side. But, low and behold we were able to get them out without anyone getting hurt. I guess I'll have to have a panel raising party when it comes time to mount them by the house. (By the way, the panels are not going to be mounted on the roof. They will be mounted on a frame located on the hill in front of the house.)
Just as we were finishing up, the snow started to fall. Our original intentions were to stay up there for the weekend, but a snow system was on the way. So, after making a few stops in La Crosse, we were back on the road again, trying to stay ahead of the snow. (The snow was coming down quite vigorously when we left.)
At least now I've got the panels that will put a big dent in our heating bills for the house! A special "Thanks" goes out to Steve for getting us the panels and Jon for helping to get the panels off of the truck.