Piragis Northwoods Company & The Boundary Waters Catalog ~ Ely, MN
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Energy Efficiency at Piragis Northwoods Company:
Pictures from Summer of 2010 Installation
The year was 1979 and we just opened up a new store selling wood stove in our garage on Chapman St in Ely. It was a hot July and I spent my week sitting in my garage reading about wood heat and wood stoves and waiting for my first customer. Well, Charlie and Kris Kidd came over one evening and bought a stove from me. It was a Petit Godin, a French stove that burns coal or wood dropped in the long way from the top. That was the start of my business. Window Quilts followed wood stoves and after that big heavy cast iron Buderus boilers and Tarm furnaces. We were committed to energy efficiency back then not because we'd ever heard of global warming but because the US was too dependent on oil and the supply was vulnerable. Boy, hard to believe we are still in that boat and still dependent on Mideast oil 32 years later. Up here at the "end of the road" we never quit burning wood or trying to limit our energy needs. Now we call it reducing our carbon footprint and we have an even more important reason to get off fossil fuels.
Heavy iron stoves turned to ultra light Kevlar canoes and my back is far better for it. We still heat with wood at our home and supplement it with a ground source heat pump and 6KW of photovoltaic solar panels. A building the size of our store is another story. Wood is out just because we have too many cooks making the soup here and wood piles take up too much room to heat a 8,000 sq. ft. complex. We did insulating years ago but we continue to seek out every leaky window and door and add more insulation to attics. Our next energy saving project will be to spray foam on the basement walls where conductive heat loss is rampant in our cold winter. 100 year old Ely buildings typically had no insulation so we're still looking for those hard to find spots. 3 years ago we updated our oil furnaces with brand new high efficiency furnaces and installed two air to air heat pumps to override oil furnaces in weather above 15 degrees. So now we use very little oil in a winter and consume more electric power instead. To supplement our power use we installed 48, 220 watt solar panels on our roofs this past summer. On a sunny day we make ½ or more of our own power. We also installed two solar water panels to heat our domestic hot water here in the store and in our outfitting/outlet store where clients take showers after canoe trips.
Results of our efforts to go green have been good so far. We reduced our total energy consumption for the last six months of 2010 by 25% over last year and this fall was a cold one with not much sun. Now the sun is out and the solar is cooking. Stop by when you're in town and ask for a quick tour of the solar panels. We'll happily take you out on the back roof and give you more information to help you decide if solar is right for you. Click here to see what our solar panels are doing right now: http://egauge282.d.egauge.net/. You can always click on the big yellow sun on our home page also to get real time graphs of our solar output.