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Massachusetts wants to take my boiler away!

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AdmiralYoda
AdmiralYoda Member Posts: 629
edited April 2022 in Strictly Steam
Sorry for the dramatic title. I was listening to the radio on the way in to work and there was an executive for each of the three natural gas companies in MA as well as a representative of the state's EPA, and a renewable expert.

There is initiative in MA to reduce and eventually eliminate natural gas as an energy source. Their reasoning was that natural gas is Methane based and that the ancient pipeline infrastructure leaks considerably and the Methane/natural gas that is leaking is a significant contributor to climate change. Add to this that we are burning a fossil fuel, and emitting CO2 regardless of the state of the infrastructure.

The gas companies want to become energy companies, not necessarily gas providers. Their plan, and I didn't catch every word of it so I don't know the timeline...but here is their short and long term plans and goals.

Step 1:
They want to reclaim as much methane as possible from landfills, agriculture, livestock, etc. They say this can supply up to 15% of the natural gas needed to heat homes. They call this RNG (Renewable Natural Gas) or SNG (Sustainable Natural Gas).

The also want to add Hydrogen to the mix as well. Though electrolysis is expensive at the moment, if a breakthrough happens it can be a cheap source of Hydrogen.

The rationale is that if they were to spend money to improve the pipeline infrastructure, which they estimate to be in excess of $20 Billion...they might as well re-pipe it to be compatible with a Hydrogen/RNG blend.

Step 2:
Rather than remain a fuel provider, which is carbon intensive no matter what...they want to be an energy provider. The longer term goal is to install geothermal plants that will deliver heated liquid directly to the home or building which can then be used to create heat. I don't know if that is to supply a heat pump or some heat exchanger. That is quite the infrastructure change. Apparently there is a pilot program in the works for Framingham, MA.

I can't see any of this happening in the near term but I'm wondering how that will impact those with Steam heat. Perhaps our boilers will be happy with RNG/SNG and Hydrogen...but for better or worse it would seem that there will be some change in the future.

And I can see the pushback from home/property owners being significant. Who is going to pay to rip out an old steam system and install a forced hot water or other heating technology? Who is going to pay for the heat loss calculation for a 100+ year old building with unknown insulation and building characteristics? What happens when there is Asbestos present?

I wonder what percentage of gas customers use steam....as these are the folks that will be most impacted.

Thoughts?
«13

Comments

  • SteamingatMohawk
    SteamingatMohawk Member Posts: 1,004
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    Energy initiatives shifting consumption to greater use of electricity in a system with a single source to the user (the grid) creates a greater risk of danger if/when the grid goes down.

    While expanding the number and types of energy sources to the grid may be an honorable objective, I fear total reliance on the grid and only the grid may be a horrible decision.

    What is the backup..., windmills, solar arrays, dams, backup energy storage, home size nuclear reactors and whatever else mankind can dream up in and around your house?

    Rational decisions including consideration of adverse consequences is needed, not just "stop burning carbon in any form".

    100 years from now, what would have been the right answer?



  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,322
    edited March 2022
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    This shouldn't surprise you, @AdmiralYoda . You enquire about the time line. Since the programs have already begun in some communities, I'd say "now". The minor detail that there are no acceptable or affordable alternatives doesn't bother the enlightened ones a bit.

    You ask who's going to pay -- unless you happen to be in a politically favoured group, you are. You ae also going to pay for the ones in the politically favoured groups, and you are going to pay for the poorly thought out schemes as well.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    delcrossvHomerJSmithIronman
  • AdmiralYoda
    AdmiralYoda Member Posts: 629
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    My luck, when I finally have to replace my 40 year old boiler...it's replacement will be outlawed shortly after installation.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,539
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    I agree with @ethicalpaul

    The same was said 45 years ago after the oil embargo, but cutbacks on new construction I think will start.

    This is also brought on by the gas utilities to hobble along with outdated infrastructure. Since the early 80s the gas company has signed up every customer they could get knowing the infrastructure couldn't hold up

    I was told Boston still has wooden gas pipe.

    It was just about 10 years ago New York blew up an apartment complex due to a Cast Iron gas main from ...........1885

    There are a lot of locations downtown West Hartford Ct is one where the gas pressure is limited to about 6" of wc.

    Why? Because as a gas company employee told me "If we turn up the pressure we give away a lot of free gas"


    Much of the underground piping leaks and they don't care. They charge us for the gas anyhow
    ethicalpaul
  • fentonc
    fentonc Member Posts: 237
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    I see a lot of handwringing on here, but I think the answer is that no one is going to 'take away' your boiler, you'll ditch it when you have a cheaper alternative, or when you go to sell your house and it's considered a liability (like underground oil tanks). My electric rates have been going up 3-4% a year, and my gas rates have been going up 10-12% per year - at this point an ASHP with an average COP of 2.4 would be cheaper to heat my house with than using my 80% efficient boiler, and next year I'll probably need a COP of like 2.2 (when I can already buy systems that would probably average 3+ COP over the season for my area). I've been seeing outdoor mitsubishi units and DIY Mr Cools popping up all over my neighborhood in the last year (along with electric cars and solar panels).
    Hot_water_fan
  • AdmiralYoda
    AdmiralYoda Member Posts: 629
    edited March 2022
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    @ethicalpaul and @EBEBRATT-Ed The title of this discussion was not intended to be alarming or imply that radical changes are underway. I actually intended to add some sarcasm. I fully understand they aren't going to take away my boiler.

    Despite their best intentions, I don't see how they can easily achieve their goals. There is a ton of gas infrastructure in place and it would probably be very disruptive to replace it. A quick google search says that an estimated 2-3% of all natural gas that is produced escapes to the atmosphere through infrastructure leaks, with an economic value of $2 billion per year.

    Are they going to rip up every road to install fancy new gas lines that can handle methane AND hydrogen? Something tells me that's a no. And if they do who is going to pay for it? The gas company will, and who gets pay their bill...US!

    More of a rant than anything.
    ethicalpaul
  • Zman
    Zman Member Posts: 7,569
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    That 2-3% number is national average. I suspect that some older cities are in the double digits. A utility that is still using untested pipes from 1885 is IMO grossly negligent.
    "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough"
    Albert Einstein
    CLamb
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 1,856
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    Are they going to rip up every road to install fancy new gas lines that can handle methane AND hydrogen? Something tells me that's a no. And if they do who is going to pay for it? The gas company will, and who gets pay their bill...US!


    I think it's more likely gas companies go bankrupt! People aren't ditching electricity anytime soon, but my house has already ditched coal then gas for heating (maybe oil too, who knows). Exxon wasn't originally a wood company as far as I know, times change.
    fentoncethicalpaul
  • SteamingatMohawk
    SteamingatMohawk Member Posts: 1,004
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    In the village where my rental is located, every year there is work by National Grid repairing/replacing gas connections in the street, because of detectable leaks.

    More than 20 years ago a tenant notified me of a gas odor in the house/yard. It turns out it was one of those leaks.

    I am surprised no one has commented on the long view about becoming hostage to the grid.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,322
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    I wish I could agree with those who say no one is going to take away your gas or oil boiler.

    Not yet.

    However, if precedent from abroad is factored in -- and much US politics does follow European and particularly United Kingdom efforts after a few years -- that is, in fact, exactly what they are going to do, and are currently doing. It's true that it started out with new construction. Then it morphed to you can't replace an old one when it broke. Now it is in parts of the UK that the authorities can and do disconnect you and take out your old equipment. You, of course, pay for the inadequate replacement -- which only works when the power stays on, which it doesn't since neither the grid nor the generating capacity is there.

    Can't happen here? Don't be too sure.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    MaxMercyIronman
  • yesimon
    yesimon Member Posts: 45
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    Boilers and furnaces still require electricity for ignition and circulator/blower, almost always tied directly into the main electrical panel. The fantasy that burning fossil fuels will insulate you from "the unstable grid and greedy electric companies" is just that - a fantasy.
    luketheplumber
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,704
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    In NJ they don't even try to fix all the known gas leaks. They log them and prioritize them with the complaint ones getting top priority. There are thousands
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,701
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    yesimon said:

    Boilers and furnaces still require electricity for ignition and circulator/blower, almost always tied directly into the main electrical panel. The fantasy that burning fossil fuels will insulate you from "the unstable grid and greedy electric companies" is just that - a fantasy.

    I can run my steamer off of a car battery for about a week without a charge.
    I also have a natural gas fed generator.

    When the electric grid goes down, my heat stays on.

    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
  • yesimon
    yesimon Member Posts: 45
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    I also have a natural gas fed generator.

    When the electric grid goes down, my heat stays on.

    Interestingly enough, generators can backup electrified heating as well.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,322
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    yesimon said:

    I also have a natural gas fed generator.

    When the electric grid goes down, my heat stays on.

    Interestingly enough, generators can backup electrified heating as well.
    If you have a big enough one... but you're getting up to the Big Mama size generator there.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    PC7060Robert O'Brien
  • fentonc
    fentonc Member Posts: 237
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    I don't know of any houses in my neighborhood (all gas/oil and hydronic or steam heat) that have backup generators wired to run their heat, as heating systems are usually hard-wired in and most people with generators just use them with extension cords. If you have a very unreliable grid, having a backup propane/gas/diesel tank and a generator to run your ASHP seems like it would work just fine.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,701
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    yesimon said:
    I also have a natural gas fed generator. When the electric grid goes down, my heat stays on.
    Interestingly enough, generators can backup electrified heating as well.
    How exactly will that work?

    I'm curious.

    Because all of the generators I have run on fossil fuels.  They will not do much without them.


    My 10kw portable that I built to run on natural gas  runs my entire house.  Heat and all.  But it needs fuel.


    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
    Robert O'Brien
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,662
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    Am I the only one that starts singing Kodachrome every time I see this post?
    ethicalpaulPC7060
  • HomerJSmith
    HomerJSmith Member Posts: 2,441
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    Why a 125 yrs ago we had the money to lay the gas lines and today we don't have the money to even repair them???
    ChrisJdelcrossv
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 2,259
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    Methane contributing to climate change is a fairly recent contention. How do trace gases affect climate?
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,322
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    Using a backup generator to run one's house works well, assuming you have the fuel. Cedric's home has a 16 KW gasoline and a 20 KW diesel generator; either will run the house and the farm. However, we don't have electric heat. One of the guest cottages on the property -- a small 2 room affair -- does have electric heat. The 16 KW generator will run that -- just barely.

    To @HomerJSmith 's comment -- we don't have the money to maintain them (or the electric grid) because we, the general public, refuse to pay enough to the companies to do it. Plain and simple. Also applies to public water service and wastewater treatment.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    Canucker
  • PMJ
    PMJ Member Posts: 1,265
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    The gas company has been busy replacing all the gas lines around me all the way up to the houses. They abandon the old ones in place and push new under the tree lawns with little disruption and no tearing up of roads. Doesn't look like a plan to turn it off any time soon.

    There isn't close to the generating capacity nor the distribution capacity to switch everyone to electric heat and fast charge all their cars. This reality will ultimately control how fast any of this can happen. Supplying all the energy we use that is now supplied by gas and oil for heating and cars through the electric grid will take an enormous investment with the accompanying consumer rate increases to pay for it and the time to install it. Lots of pushing and shoving yet to play out here.
    1926 1000EDR Mouat 2 pipe vapor system,1957 Bryant Boiler 463,000 BTU input, Natural vacuum operation with single solenoid vent, Custom PLC control
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,701
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    Using a backup generator to run one's house works well, assuming you have the fuel. Cedric's home has a 16 KW gasoline and a 20 KW diesel generator; either will run the house and the farm. However, we don't have electric heat. One of the guest cottages on the property -- a small 2 room affair -- does have electric heat. The 16 KW generator will run that -- just barely. To @HomerJSmith 's comment -- we don't have the money to maintain them (or the electric grid) because we, the general public, refuse to pay enough to the companies to do it. Plain and simple. Also applies to public water service and wastewater treatment.
    Is that really the case?

    Shouldn't the pricing of electric, gas and water be based on how much it costs to maintain everything?

    I don't control how much these companies charge or how they allocate their money.  They send me bills and I pay them.  Same as everyone else.


    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
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 1,856
    edited March 2022
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    There isn't close to the generating capacity nor the distribution capacity to switch everyone to electric heat and fast charge all their cars. This reality will ultimately control how fast any of this can happen. Supplying all the energy we use that is now supplied by gas and oil for heating and cars through the electric grid will take an enormous investment with the accompanying consumer rate increases to pay for it and the time to install it. Lots of pushing and shoving yet to play out here.
    There’s an optimist case here: much of our electric  distribution capacity is focused on the summer peak. Increased electricity use for heating (since winters are longer than summers in the northern US) will increase utilization substantially. Since wind and solar are already cheaper than new gas/coal, there’s a short that generation and distribution both decrease as the grid cleans up. What about storage? Well - storage helps all generation kinds. So as economic storage enters the picture, all sources benefit. If utilities play this right, electricity costs could begin to fall. Obviously, it will not happen overnight, but no one serious is claiming it will. We’ve expanded the grid from 0 to today, we can add growth easily. 
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,322
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    Actually, @ChrisJ , you do have a remarkable amount of control as to how much the companies charge. It's called the state Public Utilities Commission, which is a politically appointed body. And, if you notice, every time they propose a rate increase to pay for maintenance, the public howls and the increase is denied. Then when something does fail, or a storm knocks out the grid, the obvious thing to do is to fine them hundreds of thousands of dollars... makes sense to me.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    CLamb
  • AdmiralYoda
    AdmiralYoda Member Posts: 629
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    Well my first post was really about big brother changing the infrastructure to handle a methane/hydrogen blend, followed eventually by municipal geothermal super heated "something" to directly heat houses....not so much the electrification of heat but....

    Since we've run off the rails a bit I would say that I am in favor in the electrification of EVERYTHING. Not by todays power plants, and not even by tomorrow's promise of fusion energy. But by your good old nuclear fission power.

    Most people read/hear nuclear and think of a Chernobyl style reactor. They can be made so much more compact and unimaginably more safe. No chance of runaway, Homer Simpson forgets to turn it off no big deal, an impact/or sabotage...no real risk of containment failure.

    The nuclear fuel is waaaaaaay less enriched than our grandfathers and much less toxic. In fact these reactors can even use and recycle old toxic nuclear waste as fuel. And they are small enough to power every town or county.

    Think a large power transfer station, taking 100 kilovolt+ lines down to typical street voltage. Roughly the same size but handles a couple hundred thousand people. The answer is Molten Salt Reactors.
    dabrakemandelcrossv
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,701
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    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
    bburdSlamDunkCanucker
  • fentonc
    fentonc Member Posts: 237
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    I think the municipal geothermal and even the hydrogen blend stuff is just wishful thinking by gas-only utility companies that are trying to imagine a future decades from now where they still exist and are profitable. The nice thing about electrification is the fungible nature of it - even if you're running off of a coal power plant today, as soon as a fancy nuclear reactor (or some more canadian hydro, or wind or solar, which are being built out at a fairly crazy clip) comes online, everyone's heating immediately starts generating less CO2 without them lifting a finger. Even if you're running a natural gas plant to generate your power (which needs way less gas distribution infrastructure than all the residential networks), with a COP of like 2 for an ASHP you're already getting more BTUs from the same gas than most residential boilers or furnaces. As @Hot_water_fan pointed out, the grid in the northeast already has spare capacity in the winter, and it's going to take many years for any transition to take place no matter what, so continuing to upgrade the grid as we go doesn't seem intractable.

    The CAISO page is pretty interesting to look at to see an example of a really high-renewables grid, and how much their CO2 output has dropped in just the last few years.
    Hot_water_fan
  • PMJ
    PMJ Member Posts: 1,265
    edited March 2022
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    fentonc said:

    I think the municipal geothermal and even the hydrogen blend stuff is just wishful thinking by gas-only utility companies that are trying to imagine a future decades from now where they still exist and are profitable. The nice thing about electrification is the fungible nature of it - even if you're running off of a coal power plant today, as soon as a fancy nuclear reactor (or some more canadian hydro, or wind or solar, which are being built out at a fairly crazy clip) comes online, everyone's heating immediately starts generating less CO2 without them lifting a finger. Even if you're running a natural gas plant to generate your power (which needs way less gas distribution infrastructure than all the residential networks), with a COP of like 2 for an ASHP you're already getting more BTUs from the same gas than most residential boilers or furnaces. As @Hot_water_fan pointed out, the grid in the northeast already has spare capacity in the winter, and it's going to take many years for any transition to take place no matter what, so continuing to upgrade the grid as we go doesn't seem intractable.

    The CAISO page is pretty interesting to look at to see an example of a really high-renewables grid, and how much their CO2 output has dropped in just the last few years.

    My 200amp service looks maxed out if it tried to do what my boiler does now, and I haven't added in fast charging two electric vehicles yet. Most of my neighbors still only have 100amp service. I'm missing something about these claims about excess capacity.
    1926 1000EDR Mouat 2 pipe vapor system,1957 Bryant Boiler 463,000 BTU input, Natural vacuum operation with single solenoid vent, Custom PLC control
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,322
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    PMJ said:

    fentonc said:

    I think the municipal geothermal and even the hydrogen blend stuff is just wishful thinking by gas-only utility companies that are trying to imagine a future decades from now where they still exist and are profitable. The nice thing about electrification is the fungible nature of it - even if you're running off of a coal power plant today, as soon as a fancy nuclear reactor (or some more canadian hydro, or wind or solar, which are being built out at a fairly crazy clip) comes online, everyone's heating immediately starts generating less CO2 without them lifting a finger. Even if you're running a natural gas plant to generate your power (which needs way less gas distribution infrastructure than all the residential networks), with a COP of like 2 for an ASHP you're already getting more BTUs from the same gas than most residential boilers or furnaces. As @Hot_water_fan pointed out, the grid in the northeast already has spare capacity in the winter, and it's going to take many years for any transition to take place no matter what, so continuing to upgrade the grid as we go doesn't seem intractable.

    The CAISO page is pretty interesting to look at to see an example of a really high-renewables grid, and how much their CO2 output has dropped in just the last few years.

    My 200amp service looks maxed out if it tried to do what my boiler does now, and I haven't added in fast charging two electric vehicles yet. Most of my neighbors still only have 100amp service. I'm missing something about these claims about excess capacity.
    No you're not...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    delcrossv
  • fentonc
    fentonc Member Posts: 237
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    The 'excess capacity' is in the sense that the maximum power demand in the northeast is typically in the summer, due to air conditioning, and air conditioning and heating demand tend to not overlap. So NYISO, for instance, has like ~40GW of capacity, summer peak demand is ~33GW and winter peak demand is currently ~24GW. My particular house has an ~80% efficient 140K BTU/hr boiler, so it would nominally need ~32.8 KW of (resistive) electric power to replace it, but it's also about 4x oversized vs the design temp, so 8KW would have met my actual peak demand this winter. A 50A breaker (on my 200A panel) would probably be fine even for resistive heating, and an ASHP would probably average a COP closer to 3 than 1 over the season.

    Out of curiosity - what is your house's heat loss, what other power intensive things are you running in the winter? Maybe you would need 400A service to your house or something, but the grid probably wouldn't buckle because of it.
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 1,856
    edited March 2022
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    My 200amp service looks maxed out if it tried to do what my boiler does now, and I haven't added in fast charging two electric vehicles yet. Most of my neighbors still only have 100amp service. I'm missing something about these claims about excess capacity.
    Many houses in the northeast originally had 0 amp panels! 
  • PMJ
    PMJ Member Posts: 1,265
    edited March 2022
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    fentonc said:

    The 'excess capacity' is in the sense that the maximum power demand in the northeast is typically in the summer, due to air conditioning, and air conditioning and heating demand tend to not overlap. So NYISO, for instance, has like ~40GW of capacity, summer peak demand is ~33GW and winter peak demand is currently ~24GW. My particular house has an ~80% efficient 140K BTU/hr boiler, so it would nominally need ~32.8 KW of (resistive) electric power to replace it, but it's also about 4x oversized vs the design temp, so 8KW would have met my actual peak demand this winter. A 50A breaker (on my 200A panel) would probably be fine even for resistive heating, and an ASHP would probably average a COP closer to 3 than 1 over the season.

    Out of curiosity - what is your house's heat loss, what other power intensive things are you running in the winter? Maybe you would need 400A service to your house or something, but the grid probably wouldn't buckle because of it.

    Peak summer electric demand is higher because cooling is already all electric. The cooling project is a much smaller one than the heating project too up north. So no, the current grid can't handle shifting all winter demand to it currently covered by fossil fuel...not close. All the feeds and the transformers in my neighborhood would have to be upsized to get us all 400amp service. That is, assuming the substation feeds could handle it - a big if.

    I have an 80% efficient 469kbtu/hr boiler. You do the math.
    1926 1000EDR Mouat 2 pipe vapor system,1957 Bryant Boiler 463,000 BTU input, Natural vacuum operation with single solenoid vent, Custom PLC control
  • fentonc
    fentonc Member Posts: 237
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    The current grid can't handle all of winter demand, but it could handle much more of it than it currently does, and that gives the utilities years of lead time to upgrade infrastructure as needed. Regarding your house - sure, let's give it a go: Nominally you have a boiler that consumes 469 KBTU/hr x 0.80 = 375 KBTU/hr of heat, which would be 3.75 x 29.3 = 110 KW, but that doesn't tell us anything about your home's heat loss or design temperature, just what your current boiler is capable of. Mine burns for about 25% of the day at the design temp and is grossly oversized (which doesn't seem to be particularly uncommon). If your boiler ran on gas non-stop for a full day around here, it would cost about $250/day to operate, so it seems like any solution is going to be relatively expensive (and doing things to improve the envelope of the house seem like they have a lot of room to be cost effective). So what's your home's actual heat loss and design temp? And what's your current fuel? Do you already have A/C and ductwork installed? What sized A/C units?
    ethicalpaul
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,322
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    OK, I'll give you another one, with a known heat loss: Cedric's home. The design day heat loss is very close to 200,000 BTUh or about 65 kilowatts. Somewhere around 300 amperes for single phase 240 volts. Cedric's home is one of the larger on our piece of the grid, so saying 40 KW per house is reasonable. There are about 30 such houses on our bit of the grid, which is six miles of 23 KV single phase power. Can it handle that much power? Not even close. Is it unusual in our area? Nope -- that's what pretty much everyone has around here.

    Again, I'm with @PMJ on this one.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    delcrossv
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,701
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    OK, I'll give you another one, with a known heat loss: Cedric's home. The design day heat loss is very close to 200,000 BTUh or about 65 kilowatts. Somewhere around 300 amperes for single phase 240 volts. Cedric's home is one of the larger on our piece of the grid, so saying 40 KW per house is reasonable. There are about 30 such houses on our bit of the grid, which is six miles of 23 KV single phase power. Can it handle that much power? Not even close. Is it unusual in our area? Nope -- that's what pretty much everyone has around here.

    Again, I'm with @PMJ on this one.

    My house's actual heatloss at -8F was 72,000 btu/h. That's according to the Ecosteam and that's assuming the boiler's actual output is 104,000 like it says etc. so there's a fudge factor there.

    But It should be very close to reality.

    I stopped using design day numbers because in my area you're supposed to use +6F and we see below zero several times a year, every year. The record low is -19F. In a modern house with good insulation it may not make a huge difference but in my 2 story tent it matters a lot.

    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
    mattmia2
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,478
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    When I first bought my palace the gas was supplied my Boston Gas and the electricity was supplied by Mass Electric. Power failures occurred during bad storms but they were fixed quickly, during the blizzard of '78 we lost power for two days and that was very unusual. Luckily my apartment had a stove with a gas log on it so it may have been dark but it was warm and dark, played a lot of cribbage by candlelight. Mr Watson lived a few miles from me so the infrastructure around here is pretty old.

    National Grid came in in the 80's and took over both, prices went up but not by a huge amount. Then NG convinced the state utility board (now known as the rubber stamp board) that it would be more efficient to split the utilities into two entities. One would generate or procure the energy while the other would distribute the energy. So what we now have are separate companies (one pair for gas and another pair for electric) each with it's own overhead and profit doing the job that one used to do with half the overhead expense.

    Since this is a cost plus business they have no real need to keep costs low especially with that compliant rubber stamp board. Now they raise either the supply or distribution every year and the rubber stamp board goes along with all of it. The few communities that still generate their own town electricity do so for less money than NG does even though they pay quite a bit more for fuel and that's because there are fewer people sucking on that teat!

    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • PMJ
    PMJ Member Posts: 1,265
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    fentonc said:

    The current grid can't handle all of winter demand, but it could handle much more of it than it currently does, and that gives the utilities years of lead time to upgrade infrastructure as needed. Regarding your house - sure, let's give it a go: Nominally you have a boiler that consumes 469 KBTU/hr x 0.80 = 375 KBTU/hr of heat, which would be 3.75 x 29.3 = 110 KW, but that doesn't tell us anything about your home's heat loss or design temperature, just what your current boiler is capable of. Mine burns for about 25% of the day at the design temp and is grossly oversized (which doesn't seem to be particularly uncommon). If your boiler ran on gas non-stop for a full day around here, it would cost about $250/day to operate, so it seems like any solution is going to be relatively expensive (and doing things to improve the envelope of the house seem like they have a lot of room to be cost effective). So what's your home's actual heat loss and design temp? And what's your current fuel? Do you already have A/C and ductwork installed? What sized A/C units?

    I don't know my exact heat loss. My boiler runs 25% on an average day and pushes 50% at -20F. So 200 amps is maxed out on design day by heating alone. On many other days not quite as cold we wouldn't be able to run everything obviously.

    So we agree that switching all this heating capacity to electric will be a major investment and take a lot of time to upgrade the grid. That was my only point.

    Also we are also out of power all too regularly these days - while there hasn't been one day in the 65 years I have been here when gas wasn't available in the pipe. I have a gas generator but also still have a standing pilot and can easily make steam manually with no power at all. I will be resisting giving up this option to stay warm and hang everything I do on that wire coming from the pole.




    1926 1000EDR Mouat 2 pipe vapor system,1957 Bryant Boiler 463,000 BTU input, Natural vacuum operation with single solenoid vent, Custom PLC control
  • fentonc
    fentonc Member Posts: 237
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    As both @Jamie Hall and @ChrisJ noted, I was just going for 'actual heating requirements' rather than just label on the boiler. Jamie's is obviously the more challenging one, but from the sound of it (30 lots on a 6-mile feeder, 200KBTU/hr actual heat loss), these are very large houses on very large lots, with correspondingly high property values and heating bills. Imagining we're in some distant, lower-carbon-intensity future...
    - Given his proposed 40KW x 30 houses requirement, that's an average of 166A at 240V single phase per house (or 1.2MW total, so ~52A on 23KV), assuming everyone was using space heaters (which would be crazy). That actually sounds pretty close to normal 200A service, even if upstream substations might need to be upgraded to handle actual peak demand.

    - Given likely large lot sizes, this seems like a reasonable application for GSHPs (if it gets cold enough that you can't count on a reasonable COP from an ASHP) and low-temp hydronic heating, which might knock 2/3 off of our power requirement (assuming COP=3), so we're down to an average of 13.3 KW/house, or 400KW for the whole neighborhood (17.4A at 23KV).

    - Add on some ~10-25KW rooftop or ground mount solar, and even with no net-metering your operating costs probably aren't that bad.

    Am I missing an order of magnitude or something somewhere? These numbers don't really sound that crazy, especially not when considered incrementally over the next decade or two.


    ethicalpaul
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