Heat Exchange — the OTHER Alternative Energy

Most of the attention on alternative energy is focused upon wind or solar generation, and alternative ways to fuel transportation.  Meanwhile, tremendous amounts of energy continue to be used in heating our homes and water.  Also, there are solar technologies such as the Earthships’ passive solar home designs and parabolic mirror systems.  These “other” alternative energy system may prove far more important, effective and easy to integrate than the more prominent wind turbines, photovoltaic farms, and similar electricity generation systems.  Moreover, heat exchange systems allow that expended energy to be conscripted, recycled, rather than wasted out into the environment.

One example out of Canada is the EcoDrain, which uses a heat exchange system in the shower’s drain pipe to transparently recapture the heat from the water as it goes through the drainpipe, supplimenting the hot water heater’s efforts, reducing the amount of energy which must be expended to bring tap water to a comfortable showering temperature.

Parabolic mirror systems are likewise far more efficient in capturing the sun’s warmth to heat water than earlier pipes painted black which worked by merely passively absorbing whatever light happened to hit it.  The mirrors gather and focus the sun’s rays upon a pipe, collecting the rays from a much larger area than the pipe itself occupies.   Once heated, the water can be used for washing, to heat the home (via an array of pipes and/or an additional heat exchange,) to passively and efficiently maintain a jacuzzi, bath or shower, for a few examples.

Even with wood or fossil fuel stoves, heat exchange chambers will make those furnaces much more efficient.  As such, they will require less fuels, creating a lesser burden on the environment.  When combustion must be used, we have an obligation to be as efficient in our utilization of that resource as possible.

The inverse also holds true; the most effective insulation is the best way to prohibit heat transfers from occuring, keeping the comfortable air within the dwelling, rather than allowing your winter heat to escape or summer cool to be undone.  The value of insulation cannot be overrated. The  use of mylar bubble-wrap as prophylactic (in the form of freezer blankets and window covers) against leaking heat and cooling are a couple amongst many converse applications of heat exchange.

As we embark upon this new age of energy consciousness, it will be imperative that we utilize ALL alternative energy sources to the best of our ability.  Heat Exchangers allow us to capture the sun’s abundant energy as well as providing secondary uses of energy already spent.  Conservation of energy is well-served by focusing on heat exchange related technologies.