Local Heat: Earth, Wood, Grass & Solar

This year, the Cornell Cooperative’s annual spring tour of alternative energy looked mostly in Franklin.

The Love and Hope Cat Sanctuary on Stewart Road draws heat directly from the earth. Two wings of the 9,000 sq. ft. Sanctuary are each supplied by separate fields of buried tubing 70 X 80 feet. Inside two heat exchangers concentrate the heat and circulate it through radiant floor systems. The original propane system serves as backup. The purchase of the two ECONAR Geothermal 2000 systems was financed with a 2% loan from NYSERDA. The monthly payments are less than the monthly propane bill was. Equipment to cool the Sanctuary in summer is being installed. For more on the Sanctuary, see the article on page one.

Just next door on Henry Edwards Road, the Pinnys (Jody and Cindy) burn wood in a Tulikivi soapstone fireplace to heat their 1,500 sq. ft. lumber framed home. (Soapstone is a heat resistant rock, which is soft and slippery like soap because of the talc in it.) A single firing in the morning heats-up the stone, which radiates heat for the rest of the day. The amount of wood needed for a firing is so small that Jody carries it in each morning. Only when the temperatures drop into the teens or below is a second firing needed in the evening. Two to three cords of wood are enough for the year.

Outside the village, the town garage burns grass pellets. The equipment bays are heated with an outdoor boiler, and the meeting room is heated with a stove. The original oil boiler serves as backup. A grant from the Catskill Watershead Corporation paid for the equipment and a year’s supply of pellets. The Town has spent $3,000 for installation.

The grass pellets were made locally at Enviro Energy’s plant in Unadilla, which is owned and operated by the Miller family of Franklin. This operation has been described in an article in NFR, Volume II, #2. What is new since then is that the Millers can now reliably produce grass pellets from mowings, preferably from fields that have been neglected for a few years. A home might need 100 to 150 of the 40 lb. bags at $4.50@. The higher ash content of grass can cause problems with some stoves and the Millers are experimenting with a grass/wood mix. Also grass pellets can be mixed with coal.

Back north of the village on the Otego Road, the Hebbards (Don and Louise) use solar to heat their 1,800 sq. ft. timber frame home. During the heat of the day, hot air is collected in the cupola and circulated through four feet of stone in the cellar. At night the circulation is reversed and warm air from the cellar is blown through the house. Propane provides backup heat. Solar panels on the south-facing slope of the roof provides much of the homes electricity. They are experimenting with a home-made solar hot water system.

Over the hill in the village of Otego, Flying Rabbit Farm heats their greenhouse with grass pellets in a Verner boiler. (This farm sells its produce at the Franklin Farmers’ Market.) Also the boiler heats vegetable oil to make biodiesel, which powers some of the farm equipment. Ash from the boiler is used as fertilizer. The Dolans (Dave and Mary) also generate electricity and hot water from sun light.

In far off Sidney, the decade-old Quality Hardwoods has installed a furnace to burn some of its wood waste to provide heat for the two drying kilns. The Bio Mass Combustion furnace feeds wood wastes automatically, but the ash is removed manually. The rest of the wood waste is shipped to New England to make wood pellets, except for the shavings which are packaged for animal bedding. The Deckers sell most of the hard and soft woods wholesale, but some is sold retail at their plant on Route 8.