Wednesday, August 29, 2007

There's a Hole in the Bucket


I am still waiting for promised Information from the company making the Super Efficient Electrical Heating Claim. In the meantime I will discuss some basic principles of heating, to the best of my limited knowledge.

The Leaking Bucket Principle

Heat loss is to a room or a house, as a leak is to a bucket of water. The bigger the hole in the bucket, the more water you will have to keep poring to keep it full.

A poorly insulated house is like a bucket with a great big hole in it. You have to pour in a great deal more just to keep it topped up.

Every building, no matter how well insulated, has some heat leakage. A superbly well insulated house would be like a bucket with a small hole in it - say a 2 or 3 mm hole. It is fairly easy to keep it topped up. A poorly insulated house is like a bucket with a great big 50 mm hole in the bottom. It is very hard indeed to keep up with the amount needed to keep it full, because it just pours away so fast.

Older houses tend not to have good insulation and fall into the letter category. There is usually no cavity insulation, sometimes no cavity either in the walls. Most older homes don't have double glazing, or good attic insulation. Nor do they have under floor insulation. This type of house takes a huge amount of heating just to keep it passable warm.

What are the principles involved in this Super Efficient Heating Claim?

The company are claiming that their figures are for fairly average houses, specifically not very well insulated homes. Perhaps houses equivalent to the bucket with a 15 to 25 mm hole in the bottom. Just to keep the bucket topped up it takes a fair flow of water, or in the case of the house, a fair flow of electricity, oil etc.

Heat loss, as the leak in the house bucket is called, can be measured in Kilo Watts or BTUs (British Thermal Units)

There is no escape from heat loss, and to replace the lost heat, it takes a pre-determined amount of power for a given size of room with a given amount of insulation.

Just like if there is a bucket with a leak so it takes say 4 litres per minute to keep it full, any less flow of water and the bucket will just gradually empty. Same with a room with a given heat loss, you gotta put in what is lost to maintain the temperature.

This company's claim seems to be contradicting this bit of accepted heating science. Or maybe I am missing something???

I am waiting to hear more, and as soon as I do I will let you know.


Monday, August 27, 2007

Astounding Heating Claim


Another Email from me to the Company
making the Extraordinary Claim of
Electrical Heating with Efficiency
Greater than Geo-Thermal

Hi Again,

Your claim has me both extremely fascinated and sceptical. I am truly on tender hooks awaiting further information on this amazing public claim in heating efficiency that you have made.

I have written a couple of pieces on the blog - without mentioning your or your company's name. If you are ready to make a more scientific and formal claim for your system, I would truly appreciate hearing from you without too much delay.

If you have what you say you have, your claim is WAY beyond the ordinary - and into another realm altogether.

While I hope that what you say you have can be fully justified by science, I have to admit to being very doubtful and sceptical, as I was with the Steorn claim last year.

I hope to hear from you soon. I am being asked to name the company I have written about, but will refrain from doing so for the meantime - in order to give you some time to respond more fully.

My best regards,


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Extraordinary Heating Efficiency?


How Long Does it Take
to Boil a Kettle?

I have been thinking about this Irish claim for a super efficient home heating system and I thought that with heating a house there are far too may variables involved in determining the efficiency of the heat source. All the variables just tend to obscure and confuse the basic principle involved - how much electrical power does it take to raise the temperature in a given volume of air, concrete, water - its all the same really.

The thought came to me that boiling a kettle is exactly the same task as heating a house, only reduced to a simple minimum.

Challenge to this Claim!!

My 3Kw electric kettle can boil about 1.7 litres of cold water in approximately 2 minutes. If these guys can boil 1.7 litres of cold water with one of their 1kw elements in the same time - this would prove the validity of their claim to me. They could also take out a patent on efficient kettle elements while they are at it.

I am becoming more doubtful of the claim by the hour - but I still live in hope, and will await further contact and figures from the company.


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Super Efficient Electrical Heating?


or Not?

Here is the Published Heating Claim of the Irish Company,
extracted from their advertising material:


I have removed the extracts from the Internet published claim of AirOption Ltd. due to their somewhat defensive response for further information to support their claim.

... it appears that we are attracting the type of notice we don’t want. In view of this we will be making no further statements whatsoever in relation to our product or technology until such time as we see fit.

All information or other matters given are strictly proprietary and their publication or misrepresentation are forbidden.

We would thank you therefore to be careful in how you may represent or misrepresent all matters relating to Airoption Ltd.

Thank you,

Airoption Ltd

You can check the information yourself on their website at:

The basis of their claim is that they can heat an 1800 sq foot average house for the year using 3.5Kw of heating and at a cost not exceeding €500 per year. It would appear the system is underfloor electrical heating.

I have been in touch with the company who make this further claim:


Again I have removed their response to my request for further information for this blog due to their response. (see above)

The basis of the information was to say that they were able to heat the test house/houses on much less that the published figure of €500 of electricity per year.


This is a claim equivalent to that of Steorn. To heat an 1800 sq foot average house for a total annual bill of €350 to €500. This is either the answer to the energy crisis or these guys have got their calculation all wrong.

My home is just over 1800 sq feet and moderately insulated. One year our oil boiler broke and we did not have the cash to immediately replace it. We used open fires and electricity. The electricity bill was very high and that was using coal fires in addition. I know how much electrical power it takes to heat a room or a house. If these guys can heat a house with an average 700 watts - they have some amazing mojo on their hands!!!!

I hope these guys have discovered the philosophers stone of heating - but somehow I seriously doubt it. I will await more information with an open mind.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Amazing Irish Heating Efficiency Claim


Amazing Irish Claim
Super Super Super Efficient
Electrical Heating

Yet again, my West Cork alternative energy expert has pointed me towards a very interesting claim being made by an Irish alternative energy company.

This company, among its other products, are offering an under-floor electric heating system which it claims uses only 3.5 Kw and no more than €500 euros worth of power in an average year for an average sized Irish house.


If this is true for the average home - this is really extraordinary and deserves publicity. Somehow I have serious doubts about the level of the claim.

I did a rough heating loss calculation for an bog average 3 bed house with a moderate level of insulation, and my estimate is that it would take at least 3 times the electricity being claimed to adequately heat the house to say 21 degrees.

Questions Immediately Spring to Mind:

1. How does a mere 3.5Kw heat an average home in mid winter with say minus 2 degrees and wind outside?
2. How do they justify an annual running cost of €500 = 3571 Units at their figure of .14c KWh. That's an average of just 1000 hours in the full year of electricity - or just 3 hours per day.

Anyone in the heating business will know the following rough formula for calculating heat requirement:

1 kW of heating output will approximately heat:

25 cubic meters of a well insulated room.
15 cubic meters of an average insulated room.
10 cubic meters of a poorly insulated room.

An average living room might be say 12' x18' x8'.
This approximately equals 50 cubic meters.
To heat 50 cubic meters properly in a well insulated room it would need 2Kw.

That would leave only 1.5 Kw to heat the rest of the house according to this claim!!!

Intrigued but Doubtful.

I am really intrigued and wondering what have these guys stumbled upon, but, as I said, I have serious doubts about the scientific basis of their claim!!!

I have some engineering and heating background. I worked with Shell BP as a heating engineer many years ago. I therefore have a basic knowledge of heat loss, thermal efficiency, and heat requirements.

I also know from practical experience, living in flats without central heating, that 1Kw, a one bar electric fire, will not keep an average living room warm enough for much of the year even if it is run 24 hours a day - due simply to heat loss in the average house.

Even with 100% efficiency Watts to BTU’s conversion I cannot see or understand how this system can work- unless the system is running "Over Unity" or has some other source of energy such as "geothermal". 3.5Kw will simply not be enough to heat an average home on a winters day.

Awaiting Information.

I have made contact with this company and have had initial response. I will await further information before naming the company.

I would really love to know the scientific principle behind this heating method, along of course with some independent figures and measurements. The type of measurement of interest would be "Watts (Volts x Amps) in v/s BTUs" out. This would be an easy enough measurement to achieve. So if the heating elements can output higher BTUs than a basic heating wire - it would show up in the figures very quickly.

Underfloor systems cannot by their nature react to requirement very quickly due to thermal lag i.e. they have to heat the floor material first. Therefore no matter how efficient a control system is, if someone leaves the door open for a while, there is going to be a chilly room for a while. The thermostat will pick this up and will turn up the heating - but by the time the flooring materials heats and the floor material to air transfer of heat takes place - a good bit of time will have passed.

This underfloor system is essentially a storage system using the heat lag of the floor material. There are suggestion that an efficient control system is the basis of its success. I know from science and experience that no amount of control can substitute for heat quantity.

A one bar fire will not heat a big cold room on a freezing windy winters night - no matter how sophisticated the control system is!!!

Basic science!


Monday, August 20, 2007

Plurion Systems Answer



Answers Back

This morning, Monday 20th August, I received a reply from Dr. Ian Vallance of Plurion. He firstly takes a swipe at me. (perhaps justifiably, and my apologies for any grief taken, I have been highly annoyed by many companies ignoring information requests, so I now tend to operate on a hair trigger) He then goes on to give some useful information.

Here is the e-mail verbatim:


Can I suggest before making “humorous” statements in your blog you allow small professional organizations the opportunity of a little time to respond appropriately to a request for information. You do neither yourself, your organization, nor your cause/interest any service by potentially insulting those who you seek to make contact with.

Plurion as I say are still a small organization and have limited resources to commit to requests for information about our activities but I hope my answer will convey that we are very serious about making a significant contribution to the future energy supply business. We are in the process of establishing a new website where we hope to include background information which may be useful for an organization like yours

In the meantime my specific comments (given in blue) to you enquiry are included below and will perhaps explain why an immediate response was not forth coming.

In the meantime I am interested in any views you might have on “the domestic” market, e.g. what storage capacity would you think suitable and how long should it last at maximum capacity, sustainable cost to end user of any storage unit. And on the short comings any of technologies capable of supplying this market.

Dr. Ian Vallance
Project Manager
Plurion Limited
Southfield Industrial Estate
Fife KY6 2TF

Here is my original email to Plurion with the answers interspersed:


I write a small blog on alternative energy. Currently I am looking at storage systems and came across your site. Is your battery system scalable to domestic level? The household with a 3Kw wind turbine system needing storage?

Plurion’s Ce/Zn technology can in principle be operated on any scale, and in fact we use low Kw units for development purposes. However the main thrust of Plurions strategy is not the domestic market.

We are currently still in the product development phase and involved in projects which will see us product a 1 megawatt electrical storage facility for a major electricity supplier by late Q4 2008/ early Q1 2009. This unit will be capable of supplying at the 1Mw level for up to 8 hours. (The unit of course could be drawn upon at various rates e.g. it would supply 8Mw for one hour or at 125kw for 64 hours.

This unit will be made up of X4 250kw (Valid Production Prototype (VPP)) units, (also naturally with 8 hour capacity) simply linked together, the easy of combining their operation being an important plank of our development approach

On the way to producing these 250Kw VPP we will operate a 65Kw unit here at our Glenrothes operation. We hope to make appropriate announcements on this issue on our new web site when it is up and running soon.
Our aim is to supply the electrical energy storage market with 250Kw batteries which can be easily combined by end users to provide storage on any scale their generation facilities require. I know you understand the various generation methodologies we know will benefit from our technology offering.

I would like to write a piece on your systems. Do you have some photographs of your product in operational situations that you would be willing to send me?

As we are still in the development phase I hope you will understand why we are not in a position to supply you or anyone else with photographs of our products.

I would be obliged to hear from you,



Sunday, August 19, 2007

Plurion Batteries couldn't be Arsed to Answer


I have been researching large capacity battery storage and was pointed towards Plurion Batteries by my West Cork friend. I found the information on their site very interesting and wrote to them asking for some photos and specific information to publish here on the blog.

I received no answer, so the best part of a week later I wrote again, AND AGAIN received no answer.

Ignoring requests for information seems a rather stupid thing from any manufacturer wanting to promote their goods. It could of course be put down to oversight (double oversight), or ignorance on the other hand.

Dear Plurion Batteries,
Being ignored is not a very nice thing and is perceived
as "couldn't care less" attitude at the least, or downright
ignorance at worst by myself and, I suspect, most people.

Yours Sincerely,



Monday, August 13, 2007

Storing Wind and Solar Power


Capable of
Serious Storage

I have been directed to looking at battery storage by a good friend in West Cork who is an expert on wind power and alternative energy generally.

I have been reading up on an exciting type of high capacity battery called "Flow Batteries". These are a species of rechargeable battery where the battery fluid or electrolyte is what is charged up and hold the energy. Therefore you could take a flat battery and pour in some charged up fluid and hey-presto you got power.

You can therefore use large storage tanks for this fluid and pump it through the battery cells – increasing the capacity of the battery many times.

Flow cell batteries are a type of “fuel cell”

Redox Battery

One type of Flow Battery of note is the the redox (reduction-oxidation) flow battery this is where the fluid has all the juice dissolved in it AFAIK. The energy of this battery is related to the volume of fluid in the tanks. The power on the other hand is related to the size and number of cells.

What I think that means is:

MORE CELLS = More Volts (Size of Engine)
MORE FLUID = More Ampere Hours (More petrol in the tank)

Then the Heavy Duty Science and Chemistry Kicks In.

It all gets very-very technical and complicated after that. Suffice it to say these batteries have some serious storage capacity and are suitable for holding gobs and gobs of power derived from windmills, PV Solar Cells etc.

This is most useful because with wind turbines, much of the time the wind is blowing in the middle of the night when you don’t want the power – so it goes to waste. With a redox battery – you could store up all this nice juice and use it to cook the lunch and heat the house.

I will be writing up more as I learn it on battery storage systems.

Batteries ain't what they used to be.


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Wind to Hydrogen


Link to media VIDEO of wind to hydrogen project:


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Wind to Hydrogen Energy Storage


The US has developed
Wind to Hydrogen Energy Storage

U.S. National Renewable Energy Lab has announced a system that uses electricity from wind turbines to produce and store pure hydrogen. This is an important development, as the problem with wind energy is how to store the unwanted power at certain time for use at peak periods. It therefore doesn’t matter when the wind blows, as energy can be stored in the form of hydrogen – a readily usable fuel.

The gizmos in question are called electrolyzers, which pass the wind-generated electricity through water to split the liquid into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is used later to generate electricity from either an internal combustion engine or possibly from fuel cells.

The coupling of wind turbines with hydrogen production overcomes some difficult problems with storage and does it in a clean and environmentally friendly way.