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Electrifying Steam Heat

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ElliotFirestone
ElliotFirestone Member Posts: 8
edited November 2022 in THE MAIN WALL
Hi! I wrote an article about electrification and steam heat.


Let me know what you think!

Comments

  • MaxMercy
    MaxMercy Member Posts: 514
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    I admit I didn't read the article (yet), but unless one has a significant solar array with gov incentives to purchase it, it will cost a lot more to run an electric heat *anything* in most areas. Where I am, electricity is .25c / kwh. As expensive as oil is right now, overall it will be much cheaper in any 5 average.

    JB11701
  • pedmec
    pedmec Member Posts: 994
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    propaganda. the author thinks that the power plants are going to be decarbonized. Totally unimformed. they want to build coal fired power plants, again.
    ElliotFirestoneTonKadirtbike59Rich_49jim s_2
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,394
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    Always nice to hear from an optimist.
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
    ElliotFirestone
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 1,906
    edited November 2022
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    Interesting article! I think too much attention is paid to NYC - while huge, it’s got the smallest northern US per capita consumption if my memory serves. Steam can be one of the last processes we electrify. I think electrification will be cheaper than efficiency for all but the worst buildings. Retrofits are pricey, payback is usually never. 
    robertfromnj
  • ElliotFirestone
    ElliotFirestone Member Posts: 8
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    Hi Larry!

    I agree that efficiency is key, and in my work on single family houses, we emphasized insulation and other efficiency measures over mechanicals. I think that there's a lot right already about the building I live in, and short of exterior insulation, not a lot of opportunity for further efficiency. My non-cooling electricity usage is only 2.5 kWh per day, and that's with me using electricity for cooking more than the average.

    Thanks for reading! I really appreciate it.
    melvinmelvin
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,095
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    If you have access to your own electric meter, there may be a main breaker just under it.

    Possibly labeled with the amperage, if you have only 4 plug fuses it may be only 60 amps.
    Maybe 240 or 120 volts service.
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 2,307
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    In the seventies & eighties inventors tried thermocompressing steam. Ultimate heat pump for steam heat.
  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 3,364
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    "I agree that efficiency is key, and in my work on single family houses, we emphasized insulation and other efficiency measures over mechanicals. I think that there's a lot right already about the building I live in, and short of exterior insulation, not a lot of opportunity for further efficiency. My non-cooling electricity usage is only 2.5 kWh per day, and that's with me using electricity for cooking more than the average.

    Thanks for reading! I really appreciate it."

    Hi @ElliotFirestone , It would be fun to have a look at your place and its past energy bills. I may be some combination of arrogant, dim, and lucky, but I imagine we could cut your energy usage in half. B)

    Yours, Larry



    melvinmelvin
  • ElliotFirestone
    ElliotFirestone Member Posts: 8
    edited November 2022
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    Alright Larry! Thanks for the opportunity.

    Assuming you've read the whole article, you already know my apartment building pretty well. I don't know if my air fryer or microwave usage can be cut without increasing my deli budget, I turn off the LED lights when I don't use them, and my fridge is a 2015 Frigidaire I don't own. As per the article, my connection fee for gas is $32ish, and my connection fee for electricity is $17 or so. Given that the $49 for connection is more than half of the $73.65 I paid last month, the cost for energy won't be cut in half without eliminating my fossil gas connection.

    If you live on under 2 kWh per day, I'm impressed!

    If you are referring to the natural gas usage of my building, I'm still not sure how to cut that without exterior insulation. The hot water appears to be condensing gas, as I mentioned. The steam heat is more than likely 80-85% efficient, and cannot be controlled per unit. Pre-heating the DHW with a steam economizer might be possible, but I haven't been in my basement, unfortunately.

    Thanks! I eagerly await your response.
  • ElliotFirestone
    ElliotFirestone Member Posts: 8
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    Hi MaxxMercy:

    If you want to skip ahead to the financial portion in Part Four, here it is.

    https://medium.com/@elliot.firestone/road-bumps-for-heat-pumps-part-four-the-return-of-the-math-7bed9d4a1744

    Even with NYC electricity prices, heating with a modern efficient heat pump is slightly cheaper than fossil gas.
    MaxMercy
  • ElliotFirestone
    ElliotFirestone Member Posts: 8
    edited November 2022
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    @JUGHNE,

    I do not have access to my meter. However, I've attached a picture of my panel. I admit that I'm tempted to open it up, but I haven't.

    Bonus points if you can tell me what brand it is!
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,950
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    @JUGHNE,

    I do not have access to my meter. However, I've attached a picture of my panel. I admit that I'm tempted to open it up, but I haven't.

    Bonus points if you can tell me what brand it is!

    Siemens or a similar brand.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,553
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    @ElliotFirestone, we cut the ConEd steam consumption at The General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of the City of New York by 43% just by de-knuckleheading the piping and a few other things. The story is here:https://heatinghelp.com/blog/saving-history/

    I enjoyed your article. Thanks for sharing.
    Retired and loving it.
    ElliotFirestonemelvinmelvin
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 1,396
    edited November 2022
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    Elliot said in his article:
    "Because steam heat is 212 degrees, old hot water radiators are designed for 180 degree water, and modern efficient hydronic (hot water) systems perform best at 140 degrees or less, modern radiators typically need to be larger."
    @ElliotFirestone Since you and your generation know everything, I'm going to test your knowledge. The difference between 212 and 140 is 72 degrees. Is it just this 72 degrees that allows steam radiators to be smaller, or is there something else that is not covered in your quote above?
    I DIY.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,950
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    @ElliotFirestone, we cut the ConEd steam consumption at The General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of the City of New York by 43% just by de-knuckleheading the piping and a few other things. The story is here:https://heatinghelp.com/blog/saving-history/

    I enjoyed your article. Thanks for sharing.

    And, our company cut the fuel consumption of this co-op apartment building by about a third just by venting the system properly and straightening out the controls. Go here:

    https://heatinghelp.com/find-a-contractor/detail/all-steamed-up-inc

    You aren't the first to come on here and advocate ripping out steam systems. This one was a classic (from a previous version of the Wall, so some of the posts are not in order):

    https://forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/145002/actual-savings-over-steam-heating

    And, who is supposed to pay for all the things you propose? Do you really think your "imaginary" assistance program will ever come to pass in this environment? Fat chance.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    jim s_2
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 1,396
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    @ElliotFirestone said "First, the gas stoves should be replaced with electric units, preferably induction."
    Why Induction? Doesn't that cost more than a basic electric resistance stove? Reading between the lines, I'm guessing you want people like me to buy a bunch of city people fancypants stoves. Although I can afford any stove I want, I have a simple GE electric resistance stove from the 1980's. Are you pushing for less carbon emissions or wealth redistribution (communism)?
    I DIY.
    GGrossjim s_2
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,567
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    WMno57 said:

    "Because steam heat is 212 degrees, old hot water radiators are designed for 180 degree water, and modern efficient hydronic (hot water) systems perform best at 140 degrees or less, modern radiators typically need to be larger."
    @ElliotFirestone Since you and your generation know everything, I'm going to test your knowledge. The difference between 212 and 140 is 72 degrees. Is it just this 72 degrees that allows steam radiators to be smaller, or is there something else that is not covered in your quote above?

    The short answer is that yes, it is that 72 degrees difference that allows steam radiators to be smaller -- a lot smaller.

    The heat transferred away from a heat source is transferred in three forms: conduction, convection, and direct radiation. The rate of heat transfer in the first two -- conduction and convection -- is almost linearly related to the temperature difference between the source and the receptor (it isn't quite linear, but close enough) so, to take a radiator in a space with standard conditions -- the space is at 72 F -- it is the difference between that space and the radiator which determines the heat output per unit effective area. In the case of 140 degree water, the difference is 68 degrees; in the case of steam, the difference is 140 degrees and, correspondingly the steam radiator will produce very nearly twice the heat (or could be half the size) as the hot water radiator. Direct radiation -- while very important in a boiler! -- is normally not a significant part of the heat transfer, though it is why one feels "heat" from a hot radiator or the sun. The direct radiation given off by an object -- any object -- varies as the fourth power of the absolute temperature of the radiating surface, but the math gets messy since the receiving object is also radiating in accordance with its absolute temperature. Fortunately for the poor folks designing these things, direct radiation can be ignored for the most part.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    melvinmelvin
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 8,157
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    So if I get this right, somewhere there is a electric plant that is burning coal. That coal is making steam. That steam is driving a turbine. That turbine is making electricity. That electricity is delivered via wires, and transformers and relays and sub stations and more wires to a house. The electricity in that house is heating up some water. The water turns into steam. That steam goes into the radiators to heat the home. and we all live happily ever after.

    Did I get that right?

    Maybe we should think of something more complicated that uses computers. The computer can use electricity to calculate how to use less electricity.

    Makes sense. Not to me, but it makes sense to somebody.

    Edward Young Retired

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

  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 1,396
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    @Jamie Hall something else happens in a steam radiator that transfers a tremendous amount of heat from the steam to the cast iron. You didn't cover it, but I know you know what it is.
    Let's let Elliot think about this before we give away the answer.
    I DIY.
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 1,396
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    @EdTheHeaterMan, we can throw some computers into the mix. Computers in appliances, heat pumps, smart meters, and grid operations. All these computers will communicate with each other to be "Grid Aware" and do "Demand Shaping". What could possibly go wrong? One possible gotcha; Russian, Chinese, ISIS or Al-Qaeda computers insert themselves into our computer's conversation. But that could never happen could it?
    I DIY.
    EdTheHeaterManjim s_2
  • Hot_water_fan
    Hot_water_fan Member Posts: 1,906
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    I admit I didn't read the article (yet), but unless one has a significant solar array with gov incentives to purchase it, it will cost a lot more to run an electric heat *anything* in most areas. Where I am, electricity is .25c / kwh. As expensive as oil is right now, overall it will be much cheaper in any 5 average.


    Unsubsidized solar will do too - it's cheap. The issue is less the cost of electricity generation, it's the cost of distribution. Which, perhaps surprisingly, can be helped by heating with electricity.
  • Erin Holohan Haskell
    Erin Holohan Haskell Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 2,335
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    Let's turn this around. Please follow site rules - be respectful of one another and no politics.

    President
    HeatingHelp.com

  • fentonc
    fentonc Member Posts: 241
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    @EdTheHeaterMan - In the case of NYC, that's not correct. NYISO gets approximately zero percent of its electricity from burning coal (and the rest of the US grid is rapidly reducing its coal consumption). You can see the current real-time status for NY here: https://www.nyiso.com/real-time-dashboard - About 45% of it is currently natural gas, while 55% is a mix of non-carbon-emitting sources (nuclear and hydro primarily, with some wind and solar thrown in). We've been successfully distributing electricity for a variety of end-uses for over a century now, and it's no less rube-goldberg than recovering natural gas via hydraulic fracturing in Texas or Pennsylvania and (leakily) piping it to an apartment in NYC so someone can cook their dinner or keep their apartment warm. They're both complicated systems we have lots of experience managing and adapting to changing needs.

    GGrossEdTheHeaterManElliotFirestoneAlbany Chris
  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 3,364
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    Hi @ElliotFirestone , I was a bit cagey with my words. I said we could cut your energy usage in half. B) Still, let's look at three areas.

    Water heating... Low flow fixtures. Sizing piping according to Appendix M, or better, size pipe according to the supply pressure and physics. This can drastically reduce pipe size and the volume it holds. This saves water, energy and time spent waiting for hot water. Insulate all hot lines. Use heat recapture, like shower drain heat recovery. This can save 60% of those BTUs. Use either a low-tech solar thermal syatem, or PV and heat pump water heater. I have solar thermal systems out there that do 90% of the water heating year-round.

    Space heating... Blower door testing done along with a thermal camera. This shows just where the problems are (they could be air leaks through interior walls, but you'll only find those with an IR camera). Go with some sort of heat recovery ventilation to maintain healthy indoor air. Consider interior storms or other measures, depending on what your testing has shown you. Think about heating the people rather than the entire space.

    Electrical use... Get a Kill-A-Watt meter and measure everything to see where the energy is actually being used. A chest style fridge will use far less energy than the standard upright. TV's consume more power during their many off hours than when they are being watched. This contributes to a steady energy drain, even when everything is turned off. So, use power strips for electronics. My house needed sixteen GFI outlets. Testing showed that they each draw one watt, all the time. So, I used three GFI breakers, which draw 1/4 watt each, to provide power to the wet locations. That saved me from a steady 15.25 watt loss. Many homes have a steady 300 watt loss. Of course, LEDs use less energy than older bulbs, but painting the ceiling bright white, and allowing light to flow through translucent walls prevents the lights from needing to be turned on so much.

    Anyway those are a few ideas. I know much of the work I think is necessary should only be done during a gut rehab, so cost is a concern, but it's good to know what tools you have at hand and what sequence is best for getting them done, so you're not working ineffectively, or stepping on your own toes.

    Yours, Larry
    dirtbike59melvinmelvinTreebeard
  • fentonc
    fentonc Member Posts: 241
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    @WMno57 - As @Jamie Hall nicely explained, the metal mostly heats the room based on its temperature differential with the room. The latent heat of vaporization/condensation is great for moving heat from the boiler to the radiator, but when it comes to heating the room, neither the radiator nor the room particularly care why the radiator is hot nor how it got that way.
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 1,396
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    fentonc said:

    recovering natural gas via hydraulic fracturing in Texas or Pennsylvania and (leakily) piping it to an apartment in NYC so someone can cook their dinner or keep their apartment warm. They're both complicated systems we have lots of experience managing and adapting to changing needs.

    Why does the Environmental Defense Fund want to stop the program in Chicago that is fixing the leaks?
    https://forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/182249/environmental-defense-fund-not-in-favor-of-upgrading-chicago-gas-infrastructure
    https://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-biz-peoples-gas-pipeline-replacement-renewable-energy-20201222-i6er5w2abjeazg34ywajhfvg7q-story.html
    How are we going to run all the new Heat Pumps funded by IRA2022 if we don't start building more fission plants?
    I DIY.
    CLamb
  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 4,916
    edited November 2022
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    WMno57 said:
    @Jamie Hall something else happens in a steam radiator that transfers a tremendous amount of heat from the steam to the cast iron. You didn't cover it, but I know you know what it is. Let's let Elliot think about this before we give away the answer.

  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 1,396
    edited November 2022
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    The latent heat of vaporization/condensation with steam heat allows a smaller radiator than what would be needed in terms of radiator size if you didn't have the heat from the phase change. So there is more than 72 degrees F (212 - 140) of reason why retrofitting steam buildings will be difficult.
    Steam, the OG heat pump!
    If you could maintain a partial vacuum in the system you might be able to do it with lower temperature water or some other engineered fluid. Practical application of this is theoretical at this point, but maybe someday.
    It is also theoretical that there will be enough electrical generating capacity to run all the heat pumps. But let's just rush blindly forward and assume. We could just pull some dates out of our RDRS and throw them out there as dates we force everyone to get off fossil fuels by. How about 2050? That's a nice round number.
    It is unrealistic to completely eliminate all burning of fossil fuels for energy. Furthermore, drilling and fracking for oil will continue for plastic and chemical production. A realistic goal would be to put less carbon into the atmosphere combined with carbon sequestration. But the Demonize Oil crowd are being fed a fairy tale by some who feel they are "useful idiots". Not my words, look up the term to understand who is behind the Green Push. If someone feels I am being disrespectful with the above language, they are missing the point. People who misuse concern for the environment to further their nefarious purposes are the ones who are disrespecting all of us.
    I DIY.
  • ElliotFirestone
    ElliotFirestone Member Posts: 8
    edited November 2022
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    Wow! I spend my day away from the computer and come back to this! I'm glad that I'm getting some attention!

    Dan, thanks for reading! I enjoyed the article you linked to. I'm glad that steam systems will stay in place wherever ConEd steam is available. Who knows, they might even bring that system uptown one of these decades, along with the 2nd avenue line.

    Are any of you familiar with "metro steam" as described here? To me, the concept of steam radiators in series doesn't make a lick of sense.

    Update: read this, makes sense now.
  • JakeCK
    JakeCK Member Posts: 1,404
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    Phase change
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 1,396
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    "Metro steam systems operate best
    with variable vacuum control which allows the
    steam temperature to change with the weather."

    Very cool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I DIY.
    CLamb
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,553
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     @Jamie Hall, that was technically poetic. I appreciate you so much. Thanks. 
    Retired and loving it.
    ttekushan_3
  • dirtbike59
    dirtbike59 Member Posts: 8
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    I’ve been watching many sides of the energy debate for a few years. There’s a few things solar and wind proponents don’t wanna admit. The basic one is it’s not always sunny or windy. Another one that’s not widely talked about is the minerals needed. China has a majority of the minerals needed under their control. On top of that most of the solar panel coming out from there are made with slave labor. Not to mention the child labor in cobalt mines. 

    I watch California put bans on internal combustion engine and gas appliances then a few days later they ask people to not charge their cars at night. You wanna go full electric ok. But we aren’t even talking about the number of nuclear plants needed. Then the wiring upgrades the grid will need. That’s a 30-40 year investment no one is taking about. Meanwhile China and other countries are putting coal plants online cause it’s cheap and fast. 

    Short term focus should be put on better building practices like insulation, high efficiency heating systems and heat pumps where reasonable. But the talk of 3rd and 4th generation nuke plants isn’t even happening here.
    WMno57jim s_2
  • Voyager
    Voyager Member Posts: 395
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    Hi! I wrote an article about electrification and steam heat.


    Let me know what you think!
    I think the basic premise is flawed. Your article states early on that “As anyone who is reading this already knows, climate change is a real problem facing all humans alive on this planet today.” I read the article and I don’t know at all that climate change is a real problem. I actually don’t think it is a problem and I have studied this topic since the 1990s, before it became a popular topic of conversation. Earth’s climate has had dramatic changes over a long period of time and long before humans were a factor at all. So, yes, I believe in climate change, but, no, I don’t believe it is anthropogenic.

    Anyone who wants to hear from the “other side” of this issue may be interested in watching some of the videos from CDN or reading their newsletter if you prefer that over video. https://youtu.be/4NduRERX24I

    I am all for energy conservation as it simply is both good economics and good stewardship of our natural resources. I am not trying to inject politics here, but suffice to say I am not in favor of making technology policy based on false premises such as anthropogenic climate change. I would much rather see technology policy based on what makes sense economically and from an overall stewardship of resources, not just energy resources. We need to look at the entire ecosystem to include mining, metals, etc. and try to maximize the overall benefit of these resources. Just my $0.02.
  • jacobsond
    jacobsond Member Posts: 90
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    honestly I pretty much stopped reading when he is under the assumption that mans carbon use is causing climate change. That right there told be everything I need to know about his work and assumptions.

    There was an error rendering this rich post.

    jim s_2
  • rgilbert100
    rgilbert100 Member Posts: 3
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    I have a small four family rental property in Brooklyn and participated in the electrification program when ConEf was giving 40% back on installations.   I put in hyper-heat Mitsubishi units to replace my steam in the building.   At that time I did not have to decommission my boiler.  ConEd actually changed the program with two weeks notice shortly after I did my work requiring decommissioning for full incentives.  I am not sure about the program now.   The advantages are really during the cooling season since the mini splits are much more efficient than window air conditioners that my tenants were previously using.  I still have some old leases where I have to provide the heat so I’m still using my steam boiler until those tenants leave.  

    It was a great program soncr all you had to do was find an approved contractor.  You only paid your portion of the work because the incentives directly went to the contractor.

    My next step would be replacing the hot water gas system.  
  • Sal Santamaura
    Sal Santamaura Member Posts: 532
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    Voyager said:

    ...I believe in climate change, but, no, I don’t believe it is anthropogenic...I am not in favor of making technology policy based on false premises such as anthropogenic climate change...

    This denial of reality ignores the fact that, while climate has always changed, with few exceptions it's done so at a slow enough rate to enable gradual adaptation by species, including our own. Homo sapiens' contribution to climate change has been radically speeding it up since the industrial revolution by spewing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The optimum term might be "anthropogenic climate change acceleration." It's changing so fast that massive impacts of global warming aren't part of a theoretical future, but are already outstripping humanity's ability to cope, resulting in many deaths and dislocations.
    jacobsond said:

    honestly I pretty much stopped reading when he is under the assumption that mans carbon use is causing climate change...

    Same denial. Same misunderstanding.
    Treebeard
This discussion has been closed.