Home Solar Thermal Dirt Battery


In this video I’m going to explore the
idea of making a battery that can store enormous amounts of energy for months
from nothing more than common dirt. Simple Tek Technology Agriculture and
Energy videos hitting the subscribe button tells YouTube these are the kind
of videos you want to see more of. click the subscribe button now this is a
concept video I’m looking for peer review and help to refine this topic via
your comments ideas questions and/or criticism below. people talk about
getting off oil and greenhouse gas causing energy sources and the solutions
we hear are things like wind and solar electric generation these of course have
to work with a battery and new lithium and solid-state batteries are stepping
up to make these energy sources viable what gets ignored, especially in climates
that experience winter, is heat. Everybody thinks electricity but the real
game-changer is thermal energy. that’s why the biggest solar electric plants
are thermal and not photovoltaic. the Sun provides two times more thermal energy
per square meter than photovoltaic energy. in Canada and the northern United
States as well as most of northern Europe and Asia, generating heat just to
warm the house can use as much as two thirds of all energy consumed by a
household. the electrical energy concerns are much less than thermal. now heat can
be generated by electricity but storing enough electricity in a
battery to heat a household over the winter is cost prohibitive. Are there
other options? power from alternative energy comes only from a few sources
there’s wind, hydro, and the two types of solar. wind works but tends to work best
only with huge mega watt windmills the small micro turbines, unless you live
weather is constant 15 mile per hour winds, tend not to produce reliable
energy. hydro dams work great too but unless you have a stream running through
your property that you can legally dam it’s once again only for the huge mega
watt government sponsored projects now when people think solar they think
photovoltaic energy panels like the ones on your solar calculator or your rooftop
these are great but there is another kind of solar energy one that produces
several times more energy for the same surface area exposed to the Sun. Thermal.
if you want an idea of how powerful thermal energy is just feel the heat of
a sunbeam in your living room. first a working example this all sounds well and
good but there are actual working examples of this technology with modern
homes in place right now in Canada there’s a new home development in
Alberta called Drake landing. it has about 50 homes where they placed thermal
solar collectors on the rooftops of every homes detached garage and the heat
is collected and sent to a central dirt battery in the ground that stores the
energy for use in the winter. it’s actually been running for a decade now
with no problems. now Drake landing is a high-end tech example of implementation
of this technology using very sophisticated equipment and science here
it’s simple tea we like things simple so I’m going to outline how to make a
large simple dirt battery yourself using items anyone can buy from your local
hardware store or online from Amazon eBay or other online retailers. So how do
we make a dirt battery? Well there are three parts to a dirt battery. the first
part is the dirt itself. a dirt battery won’t work everywhere. it can be modified
to work anywhere but this type I’m going to explain needs a particular type of
dirt. my dirt battery works best in an area that has hard pan clay or gravel at
least six to seven feet deep size matters here as a rule of thumb you’ll
need about two times the volume of your house and dirt are three to four times
the volume of a greenhouse.The dirt needs to be excavated, now this sounds
like a lot of work but a 20 tonne excavator like the one shown in the
picture here can move this amount of material quite quickly
it only needs to be moved to one side as it will be put back in the hole right
away. size works to the advantage of a dirt battery as heat works very slowly
through clay the larger the volume the less heat you will lose over time now
our dirt batteries aren’t anywhere near the size of Drake landing so I don’t get
the advantage of an overly massive area like they do, but they are big to
compensate for this size difference insulation is used to hold more heat in
my battery for longer periods of time the best most affordable insulation I
could find was Air Crete. Now if you can get super cheap styrofoam hard boards
then by all means use them but I can make a four by eight four to six inch
thick sheet of Air Crete for about five dollars, exponentially cheaper than any
styrofoam I can find her. Once the hole is dug you pour four to six inches of
Air Crete over the bottom of the hole it’ll take a day or two for this to dry
and then you add the air Crete hardboard sheets to the wall against the dirt, fill
it in with PEX tubing throughout and then pour air Crete on the top to
insulate seal everything before landscaping. This provides a blanket of
insulation around the dirt battery meaning I shouldn’t need as much area
like Drake landing. Drake landing achieves insulation via sheer size and
that heat moves slowly through dirt I rely on actual insulating materials. Now
insulating a large area like this is costly upwards of $2,000 for the air
Crete alone other insulation materials might cost you six to ten thousand
dollars but bear in mind this is for a heating system that requires only about
a hundred watts to run or the same energy as a household light bulb to heat
your entire house all winter long.This is also for a heating system that
doesn’t require much to any effort to operate either now let’s compare this to
another alternative energy heating system. An outside wood boiler, where you
have to physically put wood into it every day twice a day and still pay a
cost of about ten thousand dollars to buy it
and have it installed. Second is the heat input system. I like the simplicity of
PEX tubing, it’s cheap and easy to use. I recommend using several runs of pex
placed throughout the soil inside the insulation with runs of at least 200
feet long each connected to a thermal solar collector above the ground five
runs like this minimum would be my recommendation, but more is better. I’m
using half-inch pex and each run is connected to its own thermal solar
collector. That way every run is independent of the others for long-term
stability. A small pump drives the liquid from the solar collector to the ground
and back which can be powered by a solar panel or an electrical cord from your
house on a light sensor so the pump doesn’t run when the Sun isn’t shining.
that way only hot liquid is pumped through the ground to store for heat
later. The proper fluid to use is glycol in the PEX tubing to prevent freezing in
the winter but I’d like to hear comments on the idea of using windshield-wiper
minus 40 degree fluid for someone on a budget.
Will it degrade? If you actually know anything on this material please discuss
the pros and cons in the comments below as I actually really like to know more
about it. The ground will slowly heat up over the summer with this system
Drake landing gets the ground upwards of 80 degrees Celsius in the fall, now I
don’t expect this system to do more than 60 degrees but testing will give the
real answer as time goes on. The third part is extracting the heat. I know of
two methods to extract heat from this system, liquid and gas. The first I’ll
explorer is gas. It’s pretty simple, when installing the pex into the ground
above each row of PEX you install a row of weeping tile with an input and output
from the house or building you wanna heat. 200 to 300 feet again on three to
five runs each with a small vent fan in the house pulling air through the tubes
warming the air and delivering it to the house will work much like a furnace.
Temperature can be regulated through a thermostat turning the fans on and off
that’s it simple ducted heat that you can place throughout the house
thermostatically-controlled you can even have a different weeping
tile set to every room and a thermostat in each room allowing for different
temperatures throughout the house all individually automatically controlled.
The other possible method to extract heat from the dirt battery in the ground
is via liquid, you just run a second set of PEX tubing throughout the dirt
battery to extract the heat from the dirt battery and then run that tubing
into the house connected to a radiant floor or radiator to deliver the heat
wherever needed. That’s it. Drake Landing uses this method in the homes there,
connecting a radiator to a furnace to deliver heat throughout the house on a
thermostat on demand. Radiant floors heat houses like this all over the place it’s
existing technology that is extremely efficient even more so than ducted
furnaces. Thank you for listening. I intend to build the system in the next
year or so and I would really appreciate your comments and ideas before I break
ground. I value all comments, even from the idiots, so please let me know what
you think. I believe this is a viable solar heating system that should last
30-plus years for about the same cost as a propane furnace to install and cost
less than a wood boiler with virtually no work to keep it up and running
other than some simple seasonal maintenance checks. Don’t forget to
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17 thoughts on “Home Solar Thermal Dirt Battery”

  1. rv sorce says:

    If you used the liquid transfer method would you have to have a dip stick or some method to check for leaks and refill as needed?
    Also this sounds a lot like a heat pump that's buried or is this over simplifying ?

  2. M Olcott says:

    i like your long term thinking on why you are choosing this system. there is a lot of math that goes into these systems. i think you would be ok on the washer fluid but id have to wonder at the heat capacity of each liquid. the glycol IIRC was thicker, i would think this means it can carry more heat energy than the WW fluid. the glycol is also used in some pretty high temp systems too that would risk the WW fluid pressurizing and maybe flashing over to steam. ( which i know is not a concern for you)

  3. Gordy Bishop says:

    The issue I have with air recovery is if there ever was a leak…water from your system or natural moisture….then you can start getting mold mildew bacterial growth that would not be noticed for a while. I would like the air if maybe covered in the air create and sealed better.

  4. BrokerBarber says:

    Geo thermal ! I love it!

  5. Joshua Dolan says:

    I like this idea as an alternative to retrofit an existing house vs. my dream of building an Earthship. Love some aircrete too… Got a nice demo of it during my time in Taos at the Earthship Academy.

    My initial thought is why have ducts to force air through or even a second loop of pex? Why not just branch off at your manifold and supply a heat exchanger in the home? Run the circ pump when the t-stat calls for heat but have an electronic valve that cuts the supply to your collectors after sundown. Little thermal loss to night air from collectors as they would be valved off and only one hydronic loop needed. (Multiple pickup coils in the battery could potentially make cool spots if say one zone was always demanding more heat… seems like it would need balancing somehow.)

  6. Jeremy Ratcliff says:

    I'm interested in your ideas. Im looking at a variation on this system where I will be building a south facing greenhouse with a thick, insulated wall with the pex pipe running through it. As the sun hits the wall ,it heats the thermal mass of concrete and the per pipe with the fluid, which is pumped to a large insulated buffer tank. Keep us posted on your progress. Jeremy

  7. Justa Ghost says:

    Warning idiot around. With the same basic idea without the thermal solar collectors should be able to cool a house and drop dependencies on Air conditioning units. Sorry I'm in a hot climate and fighting the opposite problems.

  8. Master V says:

    Recochem | Winter Proof Water System Antifreeze – 9.46 L – Pink can be found at Rona for under $15,
    Would be a better alternative than windshield washer fluid.

  9. rstevewarmorycom says:

    Easier way! Pex is fine, but do it this way, 18" post holes drilled by a post-hole screw on the PTO of a tractor with pipe extensions. Drill a rectangular field of these postholes, 3 feet apart, 15 feet deep. Coil your pex loops into the holes as they are filled, trench 6 – 8 feet deep all around the posthole field. Pour air-crete in the trench lined in the inside wall with foam insulation sheets. Put a rain water harvesting roof over the whole field two feet tall. Insulate it to R60 top and sides. Bring the pex to connectors and small pump under the rain roof. Use weak glycol antifreeze and water. Circulate to a heat exchanger in the home or basement with a fan and ducts. At 15 feet deep the earth temp is naturally about 55 – 57 F/13 -14 C, but you can boost it with thermal solar. You can store heat in the summer by cooling the home using the same device. Insulate house well and double/triple pane all other windows, and increase south facing windows, put insulative batten shutters on all windows, closeable for night from inside. Also, solar thermal collectors can be mounted on or adjacent to the rain harvesting roof. Use them to boost the stored thermal energy.

  10. Howard Nelson says:

    One set of liquid tubing in the storage battery is all that’s needed.

  11. Kijiji2017 Porter says:

    I just picked up a few coils of geo tubing for a heat pumps system. Have began trying to find more information on it.
    What part of the country are you in. Like to here about the ideas that are work. Looking at building a garage /greenhouse with a system that will heat the house too.
    Hopefully there someone watching Will give some directions in this. With the new pumps it sounds good, but having trouble finding a unit that's not going to cost thousands to setup. Think of taking a course or to to find out more. Thanks to all that help.

  12. Mark Schroter says:

    Fluid transfer via geothermal exists. When you multiply it with a heat pump it is feasible to use in cold climates. Not cheap though, but it could be cheaper with greater adoption. It doesn't solve the electricity storage problem though. Air to mass heat exchange can be used for a low tech replacement, you may need to consider bacterial contamination though.

  13. Mark Schroter says:

    With respect to fluids, We typically use propylene glycol but you could try an alcohol based antifreeze. I suspect it may cause problems with a grundfos pump and would talk to them directly first.

  14. Mark Schroter says:

    I am on the fence with insulation and wonder if it is worth the extra expense. Would it be better to not increase the entire mean temp of the subsurface? Would this have negative consequences? For example drying the ground out? I don't have any answers to this myself.

  15. Joseph DuPont says:

    Salt water. Anti freeze is a pollutant nightmare

  16. Joseph DuPont says:

    Nice idea..but. you build your home over the heat sink. Or a large swimming g pool

  17. R Coyote says:

    Nice video .. I'm doing something similar. I am building a quanset home! The ridges in the vertical wall facing the sun are going to double as sun boxes. The heat will be send into the ground and some into the ceiling. The ceiling is airtight! Within each bedroom there is a heat exchanger for each bedroom. The heat is extracted out of the ceiling at night (passed thru UV light). They are independent!

    The rest of the heat will go into the ground as you described. It will be retrieved with by the radiant floor using pex! The battery will be about an acre in size…

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