How not to use technology

17 05 2021

I was pointed to this video on social media where the virtues of using technology to achieve net zero emissions were extolled. I was underwhelmed to the point it persuaded me to write a new post about why this is the wrong way to go, especially as we now face the very real possibility of near term collapse. Especially after living in our house for a couple of years now, and appreciating the pros and cons of doing a variety of things to survive the coming shit storm…

To begin with, the whole idea of net zero emissions is a trap. Either you have zero emissions, or you don’t. I was guilty of this way of thinking myself when we lived in Queensland with our grid tied solar power system. I even fell for the financial benefits side of things making me think that if it made us money, it must be good for the climate. Today I think much more along the lines of surplus energy economics because while ‘they’ will have you believe the world runs on money, it utterly needs energy, and not just any old energy, it must be SURPLUS ENERGY….

This video shows an older house disconnected from the gas lines for heating. At first glance it looks like a good idea, but a $95,000 good idea? Obviously, insulating the house is a must, but sourcing the heat that the insulation stops escaping is what I want to discuss here.

Canada’s climate (and I’ve been there) makes Tasmania’s look like a picnic in the park. Calgary’s winter minimums probably drop to -20°C at times, and solar panels would get covered in snow to boot. The days are even shorter than ours, and it’s almost certainly cloudier. Even way back in 1979 when we crossed Canada, I remember thinking it would be extremely difficult to live there without fossil fuels…

Heat pumps to the rescue. With only solar energy to power this house, everything has to be electric. In fact the future demands for electricity in a net zero emissions world don’t even begin contemplation. Most of Canada’s electricity is either hydro or nuclear, so it’s mostly emissions free anyway, but it’s not designed to run a 100% electric world that likely involves cars too…..

how we stay warm with zero emissions technology

Our passive house uses solar power directly for warmth. It’s so efficient that at times we’ve had to open windows when it’s well below 10°C outside because it’s getting too hot!

right there is some 12kW of solar gain trapped by insulation and double glazing… and it’s just one room.

To recoup the energy used to power all those heat pumps (erroneously described as 250% efficient in the video) no less than 10kW of PVs are needed to pay for the winter load in summer. That’s FIVE TIMES as much solar power as we consume. So much for energy efficiency.

Whoever put this show together is obviously not thinking about collapse either, because once TSHTF in Canada, and it will, all bets are off, they’ll be freezing in that house….. There are going to be a lot of disappointed technoutopians in the next decade or two…



4 responses

17 05 2021
leonard dieckmann

the big problem, it seems to me, is that the government or whatever, keep moving the goalposts.

17 05 2021
Hugh Spencer

I used to live in Winnipeg -Jan temperatures went (regularly) to -40 (where both F and C scales actually agree! – “Forty below”). In an old 2 storey wooden share house on Bannatyne Ave, insulated with sawdust – most of which had compacted (and no vapour barrier). We had a gas furnace – and our big issue was dryness 5% humidity (very rough on the nasal system). So I rigged up a sprayer – to spray water into the air ducts. Boy it made a difference to liveability – but we never (1970) considered the energy costs involved (the landlord paid for the gas).
Also in Winnipeg – several years later, friends lived in almost hermetically sealed apartments with newly installed vapour barriers – there the issue became high humidity in the apartments (80+ %). Much later we developed air-to-air counter-current air exchangers ( exchange room air with fresh air with minimum heat loss) – you would have thought that this technology would have been grabbed – no.
Heat pump technology – I’m not sure of the COP (efficiency) claims, but they are an instant, but increasingly complex technological response to a more solveable (but more disruptive) problem (insulation). Plus, most use fluorocarbons as a refrigerant –
It’s going to be interesting…

17 05 2021

Indeed, interesting times and all that….

18 05 2021

I feel your anger. This demonstrates the power of denial and confusing wishes with reality. People want to believe they can have cars and 24/7 utilities–to live exactly like they do now. The alternative they can’t contemplate.

Also, your house isn’t doing anything new. As a little kid I can remember the ‘energy crises’ and the push to solar. Trombe walls–I always loved the name. But nothing changed in the US. Not even the simplest things. Reagan and Thatcher came, and that really set our course.

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