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'70s energy conservation

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DanHolohan
DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,552
Here's one for you old-timers. I was thinking about some of the wacky things people did to save money during the first OPEC embargo. I remember people venting their clothes dryers inside their house. They put pantyhose over the end of the dryer hose.

Oh, and then there were the people who rerouted their baseboard loops through their fireplaces so their boilers would turn on as often. That never ended well.

And how about those coils place in the chimney to pick up that heat that would otherwise be lost to space?

Your turn.
Retired and loving it.
ayetchvacker
«1

Comments

  • neilc
    neilc Member Posts: 2,711
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    close all the OA dampers,

    whoops,

    covid
    known to beat dead horses
  • KC_Jones
    KC_Jones Member Posts: 5,745
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    A former co worker lives in a house that has 7'-6" ceilings to reduce the volume of conditioned air in the space. It was a bit odd, and extremely challenging when he decided to put an addition on.

    It was also built with 2x6 walls, R50 insulation in the attic etc. His heating and cooling was indeed low, but the ceiling height was odd.
    2014 Weil Mclain EG-40
    EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Boiler Control
    Boiler pictures updated 2/21/15
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,752
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    Jimmy Carter, "Put on a sweater and turn the thermostat down" Waiting in the gas lines, thrilled that my PU truck had commercial plates, could get gas every day everyone else was odd-even.

    Flue dampers, heat reclaimers in the stack, the beginning of the end of the standing pilot. Honeywell was pushing "stack damper kits" with electronic ignition to get rid of the standing pilot. Actually this may have been an 80s thing.

    People actually had some interest in upgrading their boilers and burners. Carlin 100CRD and beckett AF had been out for 8 years or so and the "smaller boilers" Like the Wiel P-66 were showing up.

    Most of the residential stuff I was working on where still "snowman" boilers running Petro oil burners from the 20s & 30s. Oil was like $.25/gallon when I started in "73" I think
    kcopp
  • ScottSecor
    ScottSecor Member Posts: 863
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    I have seen more than my fair share of "heat reclaimers" attached to the smoke pipe on residential boilers. Removed many, never installed one of them.

    Blowers for the fireplaces were my favorite though. Nothing like blowing some fresh oak or maple firewood smoke into the whole house, instead of just the den. I guess the blower might have also blown a little cigar, cigarette or pipe smoke as well.
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 1,387
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    DIY conversions of V8 gasoline engines to inline fours.
    Early efforts of the US auto makers to improve MPG.
    My dad bought a new 1977 Olds Delta88 with a Buick 231 V6(never ran right with the early emission controls).
    DIY swapping small Perkins, Cat and Detroit Diesels into pickup trucks.
    First factory Diesels in autos and light Trucks.
    Saw a 1978 Dodge pickup with the rare OEM Mitsubishi Diesel for sale recently (Pre Cummins).
    GM conversion of the Olds Gas 350 to Diesel (I had an 1981 Buick Riviera with this engine).
    Cadilliac's V8-6-4 (early failed attempt at displacement on demand)
    I DIY.
    reggiayetchvacker
  • reggi
    reggi Member Posts: 522
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    Argh... using a manual push mower... gasoline was precious.. and a bit later the Honeywell programmable thermostat... with 4 Women in the house... maybe 5.. There weren't enough pegs for all their settings...poor boiler survived... So did I 
    One way to get familiar something you know nothing about is to ask a really smart person a really stupid question
  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 3,356
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    Okay, Window quilts that were sewn at home. They worked, but things did get dark!... Strange attempts at getting hot water from wood burning things. People didn't understand heat transfer, corrosion or the power of steam... Wearing three hats. I still have a friend who's known for that... Thermally actuated vent dampers. They work until something falls into them and they get stuck... And I played with water heaters, (only at my own place). Following some old ideas, I put the draft hood down by the base of the tank and kept it in pilot mode, making a heat trap out of the flue. It got water quite hot, but took a while to recover. ;)

    Yours, Larry
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,544
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    Closing off outside air exchange -- oh the indoor air quality! Daylight Savings in winter in Vermont -- kids waiting in the snowbanks on the sides of counry roads (no street lights, folks) 3 hours before dawn made them mighty hard to see...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 919
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    In 1977 or 1978 my boss bought me a Cheve pickup truck with a 350 cu in olds engine converted to diesel. The design was crap and the engine needed a major overhaul every 20,000 miles or less. No power and would not start in cold weather.

    Penns Valley S D just east of State College Pa. converted 2 of their 3 fire tube boilers with S T Johnson rotary burners to burn soft coal. using Auburn Ram stokers. Those 2 boilers could now burn #2 oil or soft coal. The cost of #2 oil had increased from $.25 to close to $1.00.

    Solar energy was touted as the next greatest thing. Everyone was making solar collectors using liquids of all types, even metal cans mounted in a wooden box covered with a transparent covering, with these units mounted in window sills, automatic or manual window shades made from insulated materials, that were closed at night, eutectic solutions and tubes containing phase change material that was set somewhere they could be warmed by the sun during the day. People spent gobs of money on extra insulation, houses built with 2X6 walls (I built one) and any thing you could think of or dream of.

    As for gas lines, I like @EBEBRATT_ED I got into fights over my license plate, since I was able to buy fuel anytime. Ah, the good old days.
  • Robert_25
    Robert_25 Member Posts: 531
    edited February 2022
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    All kinds of wood burning devices vented into a flue common with an oil burner.  Nothing like a barometric damper to feed a chimney fire.
  • Solid_Fuel_Man
    Solid_Fuel_Man Member Posts: 2,646
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    Up here in the most forested continental state there are many wood boilers and stoves from that era still hanging around. They were mostly unused until oil went back up to over $3 a decade ago then the alternative energy was moving. Still lots of coal burners from that era as well. 

    I've been into many "Gold Seal" all electric homes with electric resistance baseboard and all electric appliances. Most have had a chimney shoe horned in at some point and have a furnace with a bunch of hardware store 6" ductwork in them now. Nuclear power was the future and we wouldn't ever look back at burning stuff to stay warm....sound familiar? 

    Frankly, some of the "Magik Heat" reclaimers I've seen on furnaces and boilers work quite well and have been doing so for over 40 years.... but now we aren't satisfied with a 650F stack temp!
    Serving Northern Maine HVAC & Controls. I burn wood, it smells good!
    MikeAmann
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,596
    edited February 2022
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    My parents taped plastic to all the windows. We had a cast iron pot belly stove in corner of our kitchen. When Burns Bros had a coal delivery in the neighborhood, we'd ask the driver for a couple bags of coal. He let us sweep and keep what he spilled every week. It was enough to keep us warm. Several buildings in the neighborhood burned coal.

    I was twelve-13 years old so I watched my neighborhood friends syphon gasoline out of parked cars and sell it drivers waiting in line.
    ayetchvacker
  • Robert O'Brien
    Robert O'Brien Member Posts: 3,542
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    Enertrol
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
    EdTheHeaterManMikeAmannScottSecor
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 2,307
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    Before Montreal Protocol and double wall requirements desuperheater from A/C did heat some domestic hot water. Save a couple of dollars per month in summer time. Even in the seventies it was chickenfeed unless there were multiple women/girls washing hair each day.

    Certainly ice storage made sense when off peak rates applied or demand charges prevailed.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,090
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    I did see a guy with a rather ingenious simple idea for individual fuel injector gas engines.

    He had a pendulum hanging on the inside of the motor compartment which would operate microswitches.
    It was adjusted such that when going down hill or slowing down the pendulum would swing and shut off some of the injectors, going uphill or rapid acceleration would swing the weight the other way and turn on the reserve injectors.

    He claimed vastly improved mileage....of course.

    It seemed like a simple shade tree method to turn an 8 cylinder into a 4.
    IIRC some car company had that engine, but am certain it was not that simple.


    Also I would guess that JC Whitney did a booming business in the 70's.

    And yet today you can but super efficient electric heaters from the Amish.
    Probably COP's of 3 or so.... ;)
    DaveinscrantonSolid_Fuel_ManCLamb
  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 3,356
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    Remember this? Lots of interesting ideas. First printed in 1968. I think I still have mine around someplace. B)

    Yours, Larry
    Solid_Fuel_Manmattmia2
  • flat_twin
    flat_twin Member Posts: 352
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    Kerosene heaters sold like crazy during the 70's. Kerosun was the king and there were many other brands too. Similar to the decades old Perfection heaters but with some safety features. Ceramic disc space heaters were a hot item too. I still have a little brown Pelonis disc heater from that period. The marketing guys named it "The Furnace".
  • bburd
    bburd Member Posts: 926
    edited February 2022
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    My high school in New England was heated by an oil fired steam system, mostly via unit ventilators. During the second (1979) oil crisis, most of the outside air intakes were covered with clear plexiglas with an open notch about 2” x 4” to admit a small amount of fresh air.

    ”We don’t need no stinking ventilation standards…“ 

    The thermostats in my junior high school, which also had oil fired steam heat, had “72°” written by hand next to the temperature adjustment. The building was completed in 1972, just before the first (1973) oil crisis.

    Oddly, this was in a region where the usual attitude is: “You’re cold? Put on a sweatah!” Research has shown that a winter classroom temperature over 68°F results in drowsy students.

    I helped quite a few friends and family members insulate attics and basement rim joists and weatherstrip doors and windows, and did the same when I bought a house built before insulation became standard. Installed quite a few clock thermostats too. 

    Bburd
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 8,153
    edited February 2022
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    OMG, @Robert O'Brien ! I installed a bunch of those. Enertrol I also remember they had a problem getting homeowner to believe that little red plastic box (smaller than a thermostat) with a couple of wires coming out of it was worth the price. Within a year, they put it inside a 4x8x10 sheet metal box with wire terminals and a relay or two then raised the price. It sold like crazy!

    I think my brother has an old picture of my father (in his 50s) standing next to a 100# bag of coal for sale at $19.95 in the 1970s. He remembers delivering a ton of coal as a teenager for $19.95.

    We operated a gas station in Cape May County NJ for several years During the 1970s and sold Kerosun ventless heaters, sold K-1 Kerosene from a 500 gallon tank, and also sold bags of coal. Anything to reduce the inefficient central heater usage.

    There was also a man who started a company called EnergyStackVent. He got hackers to install his rebranded, overpriced, automatic vent dampers. He would pay $50.00 per install. Then he would call me to fix the screw-ups. His sales pitch actually got large building owners to add them to the 24" vent pipes. I remember he asked me for an estimate for labor to install one of those big ones. It was on a Commercial positive draft Kenawee boiler that was not properly tuned up. After I installed the totally useless auto vent damper, I took a combustion test and found the system totally out of adjustment. Turns out there was a compressor that provided about 30 PSI secondary air to atomize the oil. The air pressure gauge (0-60 psi) had a mark on 30 psi but was operating at about 16 psi. I was way over my head on this one, but I kept looking at everything and found a loose fan belt on the compressor. As soon as I applied a little tension to the belt, the air pressure jumped to 30 psi and the flame cleared right up.

    A quick run to the supply house for a smaller belt, a few minor primary air adjustments and the boiler was operating at 82% efficiency. That building owner believed his savings were a result of the auto vent damper. The things we would do for a buck!

    Edward Young Retired

    After you make that expensive repair and you still have the same problem, What will you check next?

    Solid_Fuel_Manmattmia2CLambayetchvacker
  • bobbob
    bobbob Member Posts: 70
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    I hope none of you guys fell for the cattle magnet scam. You taped them alongside your fuel line near the carburetor in your vehicle. The magnets somehow rearranged the molecules in the gasoline and would increase your mpg. I know someone who paid $8 for a pair of them. He had a Monte Carlo with a 350 v-8.
    He did all kinds of things to increase his highway mileage to above 16 mpg. A fine screen under the quadrajet which broke up and helped vaporize the fuel, removing the catalytic converter. It is embarassing to him now to think of all the things I--I mean he--tried. Gas mileage did not increase one foot per gallon
    Solid_Fuel_Man
  • MikeAmann
    MikeAmann Member Posts: 998
    edited February 2022
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    Since you brought it up @bobbob
    The 200 MPG carburetor did in fact work. It would work today if you could get your hands on pure gasoline. Tetra-ethyl lead was not put into gasoline to prevent valve recession. It was to gum up the 200 MPG system. When the EPA found that the TEL was hazardous, a new something had to be added to the gasoline. Otherwise those carbs would get high mileage again. MTBE to the rescue. This time the government told the people it was for clean air. Not!
    A lot of the inventors that tried to market the system were never heard from again.
    Solid_Fuel_ManChrisJmattmia2CLambayetchvacker
  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 919
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    Here is another stupid one, Put a box of some description in your basement and run all your "gray water" drains from the tub and shower and sinks to that box then run your incoming domestic water lines through a coil in that box to preheat your cold incoming water. You could actually buy these boxes of different sizes depending on the number of people in your family. Then for your family to remain safe from a leaking coil they began selling double wall heat exchangers with weep lines mounted inside the double wall heat exchanger so you could tell if there was a possibility of cross contamination. I would guess that most of us over the age of 70 have seen just about every energy saving scheme that was sold to the gullible public.

    My dad even insisted that all the burners on the kitchen stove have metal hot plates on them to increase the heat output and efficiency of each burner. WOW, did they save the money on their heating bill.

    Then there was the device that you could install around your incoming electric wiring to somehow straighten out the electrons and increase the efficiency of your electric devices.
  • reggi
    reggi Member Posts: 522
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    @DanHolohan Timely Subject with skyrocketing prices , inflation, shortages, energy restrictions, and on and on...
    I'm guessing there's a message in your question... thanks.. but many will be looking for the miracle devices stocked in warehouses or containers waiting for the right time to be marketed....or some fool City Mandate irresponsible change that the Citizens and Businesses start to exodus..
    Russian, Saudi Arabia Oil prices strengthening... ... well let's just say I don't have any splinters...
    AND what were you Doing During the FIRST CRISIS ?
    One way to get familiar something you know nothing about is to ask a really smart person a really stupid question
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,552
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    I was I was learning. 
    Retired and loving it.
    ChrisJreggi
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,859
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    MikeAmann said:



    Since you brought it up @bobbob
    The 200 MPG carburetor did in fact work. It would work today if you could get your hands on pure gasoline. Tetra-ethyl lead was not put into gasoline to prevent valve recession. It was to gum up the 200 MPG system. When the EPA found that the TEL was hazardous, a new something had to be added to the gasoline. Otherwise those carbs would get high mileage again. MTBE to the rescue. This time the government told the people it was for clean air. Not!
    A lot of the inventors that tried to market the system were never heard from again.

    Leaded gasoline was created by Charles F. Kettering in the 1920s and it's entire intention was to reduce knocking and allow increased compression. It helping reduce microwelding of exhaust valves but that was a side effect.

    The "200 MPG carburetor" is ridiculous and has nothing to do with reality and certainly had nothing to do with tetraethyl lead and gasoline. Most of the energy lost by an internal combustion engine is through heat and it doesn't matter how you feed it that issue remains.

    When they eliminated lead obviously something had to be added to increase the octane again and MTBE works. However these days you'll find ethanol is preferred in most places.

    If you feel MTBE was there only to clog some mystic carburetor I'm curious why E10 and E85 would have issues with it? There's no MTBE.

    P.S. MTBE is a good solvent and is a good cleaner and will even dissolve gallstones. Just saying.. ;)



    /RANT.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
    Solid_Fuel_Manmattmia2bburdCLamb
  • reggi
    reggi Member Posts: 522
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    I was I was learning. 
    Ahh you saw and heard the deadmen talk in their work and books ... Your destiny was set... Good Choice .. Thank you for caring
    One way to get familiar something you know nothing about is to ask a really smart person a really stupid question
  • Solid_Fuel_Man
    Solid_Fuel_Man Member Posts: 2,646
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    I did a study a few decades (as a mechanic) ago on the efficiency of internal combustion engines. Specifically gasoline. 

    We actually could increase gas mileage with today's technology with extremely lean conditions while cruising. The trouble is that makes something we are all familiar with Nitric Oxide.....NOx. And could be taken care of in the exhaust, however the extreme heat would melt catalytic converters. The very devices which would take care of the NOx. 

    So it isn't a conspiracy, it is science. And I do tend to be a bit of a conspiracy guy. 
    Serving Northern Maine HVAC & Controls. I burn wood, it smells good!
    ayetchvacker
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,859
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    I did a study a few decades (as a mechanic) ago on the efficiency of internal combustion engines. Specifically gasoline. 

    We actually could increase gas mileage with today's technology with extremely lean conditions while cruising. The trouble is that makes something we are all familiar with Nitric Oxide.....NOx. And could be taken care of in the exhaust, however the extreme heat would melt catalytic converters. The very devices which would take care of the NOx. 

    So it isn't a conspiracy, it is science. And I do tend to be a bit of a conspiracy guy. 

    Isn't that what EGR was used for though, to lower the temperatures and NOx levels?
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
    Solid_Fuel_Man
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,544
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    It's astonishing how lean modern engines do run at low power output. One of the reasons they get good economy, relatively speaking -- although a lot of the improvement is simply reduced weight of the vehicle (physics is an awful nuisance, sometimes). Problem with that is that if they run a little bit too lean for some reason you wind up with funny looking exhaust valves and holes in pistons where they don't belong.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,859
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    It's astonishing how lean modern engines do run at low power output. One of the reasons they get good economy, relatively speaking -- although a lot of the improvement is simply reduced weight of the vehicle (physics is an awful nuisance, sometimes). Problem with that is that if they run a little bit too lean for some reason you wind up with funny looking exhaust valves and holes in pistons where they don't belong.

    The computer won't let you. I don't think.

    At least, in the 2012 GM's I had you had limp home mode, but apparently if it's really bad the check engine light blinks and it lets you know things went pear shaped.

    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • Illinoisfarmer
    Illinoisfarmer Member Posts: 52
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    Ahh, the 70s. A group of our electric coops bought a 20% share in the Clinton Power Station that was in the planning stages when the crisis began and going to be nuclear fueled. The idea was that electricity would be so cheap it wouldn't even need to be metered. Construction cost was budgeted at $427 million. Actual cost (when opened) was $4.25 billion. Our coop rates reflected this as the decade drew to a close. Illinois Power eventually sold the finished Station to Exelon for $40 million in the late 90s. It's still operating.

    A great many of the houses built around here in that era are 'Gold Medalian'. They were constructed all electric, usually with Intertherm hot water electric baseboards for heat. They also had a cool Gold Medalion doorbell at the front door, if I remember correctly. Quite a few of them remain - still with that baseboard heat - which I guess says a lot about either the comfort, durability and convenience of those Intertherms, or about the stubbornness of folks (like me) in admitting we made a mistake.

    I think that era also put an end to widespread oil heating in this part of the world. We already had decent propane infrastructure for grain drying, it didn't take much to utilize the same equipment through the winter for farm home heating. My FS fuel man told me a couple years ago that he only had 1 heating oil customer left. People that can't get natural gas generally use propane, geothermal or a propane/ASHP hybrid.

    As far as transportation, I was still a kid, but I remember my dad parking his 3/4 ton 4X4 pickup truck (that probably got 8mpg on a good day) and purchasing a (gasp) El Camino for 'everyday' trips. There's nothing that says macho to the other kids in your grade school than getting dropped off at practice by an El Camino. It was baby blue.
    Solid_Fuel_Man
  • Robert O'Brien
    Robert O'Brien Member Posts: 3,542
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    https://flairproducts.net/pdfs/StackPackbrochure.pdf

    The famous (infamous?) Stack Pack
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
    ScottSecor
  • ScottSecor
    ScottSecor Member Posts: 863
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    These were pretty popular here in NJ md 1980's

  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,840
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    I removed one of those from my mom's furnace. Also remember when it was installed with the furnace in 1987.
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,090
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    Those "Stack Packs" were claiming 23% savings!!
    I wonder how they came up with that number?
    The vent dampers of today might claim what....7-10% max?
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,944
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    Depends on what you hook them up to. On an old chimney designed for coal firing, where the draft can pull pets and small children up to the roof, they really do keep the boiler from cooling down between cycles. And don't forget- they also reduce air infiltration into the building.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    ScottSecor
  • JakeCK
    JakeCK Member Posts: 1,401
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    I'm just glad I ordered all new storms for my original 90+ yr old wood windows. And I really suspect I'm going to appreciate having a large solar array and heat pump water heater in the coming years. 

    This funny business in eastern Europe is going to get interesting. 
  • bobbob
    bobbob Member Posts: 70
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    One fuel saving experiment I remember was in Popular Mechanics. Some university converted a smaller car to electric power. The electricity was generated by a small Honda motorcycle engine running a generator which recharged the batteries. Experiments were done to find the most economical RPM of the engine, and it was set to run at constant speed at that RPM. The batteries used were common car batteries. That was around late 60' or early 70's. Never heard more about it. With today's incredible breakthroughs in battery technology it sounds like a feasible idea for today. I still think about that once in a while and dream of trying something like that for my personal runabout.
  • bobbob
    bobbob Member Posts: 70
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    BTW, I am seeing alot of positive remarks about "storm windows." Have they made great strides in these that I am unaware of? I always felt they were a huge scam that was perpetrated in the 60's. They had aluminum frames that sweated, the windows never slid up and down well. I felt they might block a little wind if your house windows were really bad leaky. The only use I could find for them was for framing in a porch to make it a 3 season room. I will have to do some research to find out what is making them so popular again today
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,859
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    bobbob said:

    BTW, I am seeing alot of positive remarks about "storm windows." Have they made great strides in these that I am unaware of? I always felt they were a huge scam that was perpetrated in the 60's. They had aluminum frames that sweated, the windows never slid up and down well. I felt they might block a little wind if your house windows were really bad leaky. The only use I could find for them was for framing in a porch to make it a 3 season room. I will have to do some research to find out what is making them so popular again today

    They were never a scam and if they're sweating your main windows are that bad, so the storm windows are still a huge improvement.

    A decent storm window + a decent window provide a very large air gap which should out perform dual pane windows.

    They are a huge pain, regardless but they do work.

    My dad built a cabin in the 80s and used dual storm windows because it was cheap. Meaning, two storm windows with a gap in between, no "real window" so to speak.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
    JakeCKmattmia2