Energy News: Instant Flow Water Heater, Peat Fuel, and More

This installment of an ongoing energy news feature includes stories about the instant flow water heater and inquiries into the potential of peat fuel.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
March/April 1979
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The Soviet Union and Ireland were already using peat fuel, and Sweden and some US states were looking into it.
PHOTO: TREVORB/FOTOLIA


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The following energy news stories were drawn from multiple sources.


Instant Flow Water Heater

A water heater the size of a Webster's Collegiate Dictionary can instantly raise tap water to a temperature of 145°F or higher and eliminate the need for hot water tanks and pipes. Most people believe that the cost ($120) per "Instant-Flo" heater is too high, but the National Bureau of Standards suggests that the one-faucet water warmers could be used as boosters for dishwashers and washing machines.

Peat Fuel

Peat bogs in the United States are being eyed as a potential fuel source, since a pound of the material—when dried to a 50% moisture content and then burned—can produce about 5,000 Btu's. The Minnesota Gas Company and the Institute of Gas Technology have already spent $1.5 million on a peat gasification study and hope to invest $5 million more. Sweden thinks its peat reserves could provide one-fifth of that nation's energy needs, while the Soviets and the Irish already produce electricity from the decayed vegetable fuel.

Kelp Power

A quarter-acre marine biomass module will soon be constructed—under the auspices of the Department of Energy, the Gas Research Institute, and the General Electric Company—off the California coast. It is hoped that the experimental installation will determine the technical and economic feasibility of a commercial-sized system for the production of methane from seaweed.

Peach Pit Power

Ground peach pits produce 80% of the steam needed to can food at the Tri·Valley Growers plant in Modesto, California. (The remaining 20% is provided by gas and oil.) This new fuel source is expected to save the region's growers more than $180,000 a year, and eliminate problems caused by the storage of a large stockpile of peach stones.

Heat Pump Surcharge

A $30 surcharge may be imposed on Maryland customers who add electric heat pumps to work in conjunction with their gas furnaces. (The pump is said to save $159 on the average annual heat bill.) The Washington Gas Light Company defended the possible penalty by claiming it would prevent those customers who didn't install the energy-saving pumps from having to pay a greater share of the utility's fixed costs.

Passive Solar Payoff

Passive systems pay. According to a recent article in Chemical and Engineering News, passive solar heating systems (which are built into, rather than added onto, a structure) are among the most cost-efficient methods of storing the sun's energy. However, since the idea of passive solar architecture is to allow heat to be stored in and released from materials that are a part of the structure, the effectiveness of such systems is vitally dependent on both design and the choice of building materials. While construction costs for such a home or office may be somewhat higher than those of a building without a passive system, the initial expense will usually be recovered in approximately 10 years, as compared to the 30 years needed to get back an investment in a mechanized "active" solar system.

Magnetic Insulation

"Nightwall Clips" by Zomeworks allow you to attach lightweight sheets of rigid insulation board over ordinary windows at night (to cut down on heat loss), and then remove those panels during the day. The company doesn't sell insulation, but instead markets flexible magnetic strips which can—with their adhesive backing—be attached to the insulating material and to the window, and make adding or subtracting insulation as simple as matching up or pulling apart the magnetic surfaces.

Diesel Emissions Hazard

Diesel-fueled engines, long thought to meet federal emission standards economically, have recently been found to emit 50 to 80 times more harmful hydrocarbons than do gasoline engines. The fumes also contain more sulfur and nitrogen compounds and higher levels of trace elements, all of which are toxic and probably carcinogenic.

Nuclear Safety Report Subpoenaed

When the Nuclear Regulatory Commission held a Health and Public Safety hearing on Oklahoma's proposed Black Fox Nuclear Power Plant last October, every one of the 300 antinuclear protesters in attendance used his or her five-minute presentation to ask that the General Electric Reid Report be made public. (The report presents the results of an in-house study conducted by General Electric in 1976, and warns that current GE nuclear reactors have 27 unresolved safety problems.) As a result of the repeated requests, the Reid paper was subpoenaed and received by the lawyer for Citizens Action for Safe Energy, Inc. (CASE). The group cannot reveal the contents of the study, but recommends that other antinuclear organizations follow this precedent-setting method to help bring the GE report before the public eye.

Energy Briefs

SOLAR WATER HEATING SYSTEMS are now required in all new homes built in unincorporated areas of San Diego county, according to a new law that became effective January 12 .... Over two million miles of road testing by 45 Nebraska state vehicles show A FIVE PERCENT INCREASE IN MILES PER GALLON with the use of gasohol, and similar tests in Illinois demonstrated a 6.1% mileage increase .... For the period from 1918 to 1976, the U.S. government's costs for INCENTIVES TO STIMULATE ENERGY PRODUCTION AMOUNTED TO $134 BILLION (in 1976 dollars) and break down as follows: Coal 5%, Hydro 10%, Gas 12%, Nuclear 13%, Oil 60% .... A FREE SOLAR ENERGY CATALOG is available from Centerline Company. Just send them a business-sized, self-addressed, stamped envelope .... NASA turned over a 200-KILOWATT WIND MACHINE to Clayton, New Mexico for use in its municipal system. In the first two months' of operation, the unit ran a total of 587 hours and generated 56,770 KWH of electricity.


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