Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…


Like many geeks I fantasise about turning my house into it’s own power station using renewable tech like solar panels. Wind doesn’t scale down, solar does. Having moved house, it’s now viable to consider installing solar panels. In fact since the govt recently introduced very high new feed-in-tarrifs, its super sensible to do so. Effectively you get a 7% return on the investment, better than most banks for the forseeable future. And that’s not even accounting for eco-smugness.

Anyway, the installation costs of solar are way beyond my means right now, but I’m making tiny steps towards energy independence. We bought one of these:

That’s a wood-burning stove, not the cat. Wood-burning is very very efficient (in a closed, not open fire). The local power source is longleat, a few miles away. Wood gets delivered by the ton. A ton of wood is a LOT, and you can’t burn it ‘green’, it has to be left to dry out and ‘season’, hence we built a log store:

Which I’m very proud of. It has proper tiles and everything! There is just one drawback though. We built the log store to house the 1 ton of wood we bought from longleat, but then we had 3 trees chopped down in the garden. I had underestimated the amount of wood that generates, and that’s it, in the log store, almost full.

So the longleat wood which we paid for, is going mouldy in the garage whilst our freshly cut (free!) wood is in the log store. I have neither the energy of enthusiasm to build yet another log store. (It cost about £200 in materials, and a few days hammering and screwing).

Anyway, the good news is that the felling of the trees was triple-efficient. Not only do we generate wood we can burn that never leaves the site (eco-smugness++), but it means more sun falls on the once shaded house, which makes it warmer (eco-smugness+++) and opens up the long term possibility of having solar panels. (eco-smugness*2).

I’ve wanted solar power for so many years that I reckon I’ll have a special celebration 90%  games discount day if I ever get some installed :D

Yesterday we had fog drifting over the fields, men wielding chainsaws and some big bird of prey circling the house. It was like a stephen king novel.

12 thoughts on Eco-progresso!

  1. being green is very important – and in Pakistan, its no longer a luxury for the rich or an experiment for tree huggers.
    We actually use a similar closed wood-gas generator to make electricity. You’re absolutely right that wood burns very efficiently and we find it 40-60% cheaper than producing electricity from Diesel…

    but ofc, its also good for just staying warm :P

  2. i dont care about being green at all, i like wood-burning stoves because theyre a) cheap to operate and b) work even if the power or gas is out. just… be careful, because they can get REALLY hot, REALLY fast… a lot hotter than you want, or would even believe possible. ive got a slagged stereo floor speaker to prove it :) first time i used the stove, it got so hot i couldnt stay within 10 feet of it for more than a few seconds and wound up having to spray it down with water to keep from burning the house down… yeah, i know… “city-folk :eyeroll:”, right?

    i was standing there, watching the carpet 5 feet away melt, thinking… man, i really need a way to eject the warp core :)

  3. Ours never goes much above 500 degrees, which boils a kettle, but doesn’t actually melt the floor. What stove did you ahve and what sort of filithium-encrusted wood did you burn???

  4. The initial King novel image in my mind was a little strange: fog, chainsaw and a Klingon ship cruising near your house? Typing ‘bird of prey’ into an online dictionary made it clear. Didn’t know that this is a real bird…

    I’m looking forward to the 90% games discount :)

  5. i dont recall the brand we had in the house… but it was a free-standing full-sized cast-iron stove, almost the size of a normal fireplace, set in a bricked corner of the house (bricked on the inside, i mean)… the mistake i made was loading it like id load a fireplace. WAY too much wood. i also didnt have any experience setting the airflow for it, so im sure i gave it too much of that as well. too much wood + too much air = inferno inside stove and an absurd level of radiant heat.

    i do metal smithing as a hobby, and i kid you not, that thing was every bit as hot as a forge. it had a metal thermocouple-type thermometer on the top surface of the stove, and i dont recall what the max temp was on it, but the thing was way past pegged, just as far around as it could go. ive always kinda wondered if the stove would have melted if i had let it go… probably not, but the house would have definitely burned down.

    but anyway, if green is your thing, then yeah a wood-burning stove is the way to go… way way more efficient than a fireplace…

  6. Isn’t burning wood supposed to create some environment-problematic stuff?

    Solar of course is nice (the newest tech esp.) I guess you would need some
    heat pump to get some heat out of mother earth to be independent from wood
    Gotta be independent when the Zombies are rushing…

    I like those cats!
    Poor Milo! What race was he of? Savannah Cat?

  7. milo was a bengal cat, very nice, very pesky.

    You can buy a woodland in england for about £25k that lets you take up to 5 tons of wood a year for personal use. Assuming the costs of felling and transproting are 50% of that, that leaves 2.5 tons. Assuming you need 1 ton, thats 12.5k investment for perpetually renewable wood source. Competitive with solar.
    Solar is more geeky, but then solar is intermittent. Trees grow more reliably :D
    Of course, you need to find that £25k and put up with being a landowner of some remote bit of land.
    I find the economics of it interesting though.

  8. Hey interesting work there. What you mean about wind dont scale down? There are many types and models of house-scale wind turbines.

  9. Yes, but they are horribly inefficient in comparison with solar. If you double the blade size of a turbine, you quadruple the area on which it absorbs energy. With solar, its a linear relationship.
    Big wind turbines are awesome. Small ones are more of a gimmick :( (Just my opinion :D)

  10. Ah interesting, I havent made the reasearch myself yet, but is something that Im really interested in. The day I go ahead and implement something, maybe we can exchange notes :)

  11. yes, the tree surgeons stacked that, not me. I would have been under strict orders to stack it neatly, but you dont criticise 3 guys with chainsaws.

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