Art from Plastic and Wood

After the musings on Life, the Universe and Everything you deserve a break – and a post with not too much verbiage.

I am borrowing some images from a series of posts the Chief Engineer is currently running on our German blog. (My job title is Science Officer, but we don’t have a Captain).

This is a client’s project. In this case the building has just been built, and the design of water tank and the solar collector for the heat pump had been taken into account in an early stage of the project.

The general concept is the same as shown in earlier posts. The water tank serving as the heat pump’s heat source is placed directly underneath the garage, and the solar/air collector is put on top of it – as a railing to the ‘terrace’.

This is to become the pillars that will support the heat exchanger in the water tank:

Carefully designed to allow for transporting by a small car:

… if you temporarily remove the back seat:

This is the future water tank  / ‘ice storage’ and the supporting construction. The tank will also be used as a rainwater cistern.

Here the heat exchanger tubes have finally been mounted: The same type of ribbed pipes are used that also form the solar collector.

Since the Chief Engineer would have been a carpenter or artist working with wood in an alternative universe, the supporting construction for the solar collector is mainly made from wood.

The larch wood laths with the plastic brackets that will hold the collector tubes:

The German post has been titled with The Coronation of a Garage:

The top and bottom wooden cross-bars are mounted to metal pickets. Then the vertical wooden laths are attached to the horizontal ones and the tubes are clipped on to them – laths are placed in front or behind the tubes alternately.

If somebody from the geek / IT / security world clicked on this and managed to scroll down here – there is also nerdy stuff! We click Refresh on the control system’s web portal all the time right now. But I will keep my promise and stick to the more palpable stuff – in this post!

13 Comments Add yours

  1. How could I have possibly missed this post! I don’t follow a lot of blogs, just a few that I REALLY enjoy reading and yours is most definitely one of them.
    It is very interesting how you ahve made the installation so modular. I still have a few questions:
    1–the tank. How on earth did it get there? Was it constructed before the garage or did you have to remove the floor and just go for it using, maybe, a small rented backhoe?
    2–the piping system. How long does it go without regular inspection for leaks and corrosion?
    3–how long does it take to build the piping system in the tank and does the chief engineer do it as a solo job or with a partner?
    4–the wood supports: what kind of wood and how is it protected from the weather?

    1. elkement says:

      1. The pit was built before the garage was built – in this case it is a new house and the heat pump system was factored in.

      2. The piping of the brine circuit is made from plastic so there should be no corrosion. As for leaks: Frankly we don’t have long-term experience yet – there were no leaks within 3 years. The pipes are the same as used for heating swimming pools and the vendor ( states they will sustain ‘up to 50 years’ [Edit 2, 2017: Removed stale link: Archived version here:
      (It is the same pipes in the tank and at the solar collector.)

      3. It could be done by one person only – it is done by the Chief Engineer, the client, or a plumber. Our goal is to provide mainly planning or proper documentation so that we don’t need to provide much onsite support. [Edit 2017: Goal reached – we only do ‘remote’ projects now. Our clients build the heat exchangers themselves.]
      How long does it take? Installing the heat exchanger takes about a day but it takes another day to prepare all the pieces.

      4. Larch wood – should not require any special protection or coating. It is used for roofs or facades and never painted.

  2. M. Hatzel says:

    Very nice. I’ve read about places in Canada, especially in Ontario where the cost of hydro and gas lines are too expensive to install that people must be off-grid and supplying their own heat and power. This is how your project had some familiarity for me. Now that I see it in images, there are similarities, but also some differences. I think the storage tank/cistern is something new, and also more efficient. My husband has said there is also a difference in the solar collector system you’ve posted about before. I will see if I can find some of those articles.

    1. elkement says:

      Thanks, Michelle – I am always interested in examples for living off-grid. Here, in a rather densely populated country we have rather cheap gas and a well-developed infrastructure so you have to present a compelling calculation that shows why – or better: after how many years – this system would outperform fossil fuels. But the most recent Russian-Ukrainian gas crises changed a lot – which price tag to put on the risk that gas supply might simply be cut off?

      Our system depends on electrical power but an outage of a few hours could be tolerated if that is factored in in the design.

      Before I had post the very first article on our heat pump system I tried hard to find any English articles that explain how such a water tank / ‘ice storage’ system with a heat pump works in principle to I could link to them – but I did not find any. I conclude that such systems are not used yet in North America (and neither in Australia). I suspect this is because ground source or other brine / water heat pumps are not that popular – compared to air / air water heat pumps that are part of the ventilation system.

      This type of solar collector (in the main / only heating system) only makes sense in conjunction with a heat pump – the water would never get warmer than ~50°C (and in order not to damage the heat pump you limit the temperature to 20°C). But in winter it is more efficient in harvesting energy from the air (also during the night) than flat plate or vacuum tube collectors used in direct solar heating.

      There have been pilot projects in Austria that demonstrated that using enormous areas of classical solar collectors plus extremely large hot and heavily insulated water tanks (much larger than our lukewarm water tank) it is on principle possible to heat a building with solar energy only.

      1. M. Hatzel says:

        I have tried to locate the magazine archives on line, but it stopped publishing a couple of years ago. I am going to dig out my print copies to see if I can find the one I’m thinking about. I’m fairly confident we saved that issue, as my husband and I are quite interested in this. Give me a few days and I’ll get back to you on it!

        1. Joseph Nebus says:

          I believe I’ve run across a couple articles describing this kind of system, in newspapers or the like, but I would be surprised if I could find them again. (I might even be mixing it up with descriptions of other systems, come to think of it.)

          1. elkement says:

            Joseph – I would be really interested if you can recall the vendor or project. According to my research there is just one company in the world (in Germany) that produces systems based on latent-heat / ice storages as off-the-shelf solutions… and they are mainly having business in Germany only. Then they do some spectacular large projects too with enormous water tanks (millions of liters) that would serve a number of house – probably there was an article about one of those in international media.

            Then there is another German system using a very small ‘ice storages’ – but this concept is very different, and then there are some other tinkerers who do small numbers of tailor-made solutions – like us. I haven’t found any reference to anything not situated in Germany though, and nothing in English.

  3. As the kids would say, “Totally cool.” Oops … I suppose I should say, “Totally warm.” I’m really impressed that this design blends so nicely into the existing architecture. I think you should enter the design into some sort of ‘Green’ competition. I’m sure there are such things. I should really click the link to learn more about how these systems work. We’re thinking about moving to a home with a solar hot water system, and I know so little about it works that I’m getting a bit nervous! But … the whole ‘moving’ thing is quite top-secret (so … there I go, posting it on the web!) .. so don’t tell anyone! D

    1. elkement says:

      Thanks for your kind words, Dave!
      This is probably the first time somebody disclosed a secret in comments on my blog!! So you are moving? With all your sheep??

      1. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. This is really TOP SECRET! Don’t want Google and the data miners out there to pick up on the association between me and the word ‘move.’ Yikes. We are thinking very seriously of moving. And, if we should, the sheep will NOT be going with us. Very sad. I’m not sure Joanna and I have thought through all of the potential fallout yet. We’re meeting with a financial consultant next week .. keep your fingers crossed and stay tuned.

        1. elkement says:

          I wish you all the best – and will silently wait for updates!!

  4. Mike Howe says:

    Very neat and clever Elke, love it

    1. elkement says:

      Thanks. Mike – I am honored as I know your sense of aesthetics and your experience with your own heating system using solar energy!

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.