Valiant PremiAIR 4 Stove Fan

In our article Valiant Heat Powered Stove Fan published back in 2012 we reviewed the FIR300 Self-Powered Stove Fan from Valiant and showed how this device can help increase the temperature in the room being heated by a logburner or multifuel stove.

Comparison of Fir300 and Fir361 stove fans from ValiantThe reviewed FIR300 stove fan is pictured above on the left next to the new PremiAIR 4″ Stove Fan (FIR361) also from Valiant which we will soon be reviewing in detail.

The immediately obvious differences are the four blades instead of two which should increase the air flow, a new motor, and a more compact design with the motor housed within the heatsink rather than protruding out from it.

The heatsink on the new PremiAIR 4″ has a larger surface area with a new design for faster heat dissipation. Therefore more power should be available to the motor by the seebeck effect increasing the effectiveness of the stove fan.

Rear view of Fir361 PremiAIR 4 inch stove fan from ValiantWhen reviewing the FIR300 stove fan, we used an accurate digital thermometer and manually logged the temperature in the room minute by minute. For our FIR361 review we will put together a multi-sensor datalogger using a Raspberry Pi and/or Arduino to collect much more data for analysis so that the effectiveness of the fan can be judged – one sensor at sofa height, one at ceiling height, one close to the stove, etc.

UPDATE JAN 2014 – We have now published our detailed article: Valiant PremiAIR 4 Heat Powered Stove Fan Testing on the REUK website. In the end, rather than building another SD Card Datalogger for this project, we used a Raspberry Pi Model A+. We will be publishing a detailed article in the coming months on how we programmed and set up this datalogger (including the source code), and also how viewed the data in real time through a mobile phone browser.

Butanol – the Biofuel of the Future

Ethanol from crop waste, corn, and sugar beet etc is currently added in small percentages to petrol to reduce fossil fuel use. It has lower energy density than petrol (lower mileage), is corrosive to engines (cannot be used in high concentrations), and it absorbs water from the atmosphere which can cause engine problems. 

Butanol is a heavier alcohol without any of these problems, but is more expensive to process (ferment and distill) from crops than ethanol. New research has led to new families of catalysts which will enable existing ethanol plants to output butanol by adding one reactive conversion step at the end of their processing.

This brings us one step closer to butanol (renewable fuel biobutanol) being commercially viable as the biofuel of the future to replace petrol.

Take a look here at our new article Butanol vs Ethanol Fuel of the Future for more information.

The Cost of the Move to Biomass

There is an article in this weeks Economist which looks at the potential downside of the EU’s move toward Biomass as a means to reach its target of generating 20% of its power by renewable energy.

EU planners want 1210 Terawatt hours (TWh) of energy to come from biomass by 2020 (compared to 500 TWh from wind power). The majority of that biomass will be used to heat things – primarily in domestic wood burning stoves and boilers in Eastern Europe, but there will still be more electricity generated by burning the remaining 20% of the biomass than from all solar and offshore wind turbine generation.

While some of the biomass will come from crop residues and other waste products, the majority will be from wood – trees from sustainable forestry.

Biomass for electricity generation

While this is seen as being carbon neutral – plant a tree, it absorbs carbon, burn that tree, it releases the carbon, plant a new tree, and so on, in reality this is not the whole story. Biomass power stations need fuel, and large power stations need a lot of fuel – far more than can be sourced locally. Therefore huge volumes of biomass material need to be processed (using electricity – probably not renewably generated) and moved hundreds or even thousands of miles from forest to power station (most likely using diesel).

3.3 square kilometres of forest per 1MW of output from a biomass power station, so huge swathes of biodiverse natural ecosystems are likely to be displaced by unnatural plantations with the loss of wildlife habitats and other environmental issues.

Natural woodland ecosystem

The Economist’s argument is that with all these problems, public money should not be spent on biomass subsidies which distort the market, and instead ‘the market’ should be left to choose the cheapest and cleanest renewable technology (and to invest in future renewable technologies) by setting a carbon tax which makes fossil fuels more expensive to use.