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Get Powered Up! Certified Energy Manager Jeff Yago answers your alternative energy questions

Wondering about a great new energy-saving device
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Sorry. Jeff no longer answers questions online.
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Archive for the ‘Safety’ Category


Woodstove/fireplace with a water jacket for hydronic floor

Thursday, May 14th, 2009


I am looking at replacing a traditional fireplace with a wood stove insert that can be used in a hydronic floor system.

I looked over your article on the fireplace you installed in your home and have spoke to and web searched for wood stoves that circulate water for heated floors and find only the “long burners” for outside or commercial “furnaces”, nothing that would be appropriate for a great room/ranch application.  Can you point me toward manufacturers that have this type of product?

Thank you.

Mark J. Bechtel


As I mentioned in answers to similar questions to this web site, most of these manufacturers have gone out of business due to not being able to meet new regulations and codes related to wood-fired boilers. There are several web sites that describe how to build your own, but installers are switching to the outdoor models for safety.

I feel our hydronic fireplace system is very safe, but I have included both a temperature and a separate pressure relief valve, and a way to keep the pump working if there is a power outage.  Many of these early systems were well made but the piping systems were poorly designed and installed.

Hope this helps,

Jeff Yago


Solar panel safety concerns

Friday, August 29th, 2008

I am in the process of using solar panels as my total source of energy but have been hearing that some of the products in the solar panels are cause for concern. Have you heard any concerns with any of the products used in the solar panels, such as cadmium telluride.?




What you are probably hearing about is the European Union issued a directive in 2006 that clarified their regulations on banned materials in products imported. From this long list it further identified 6 materials that it considered “the worst of the worst” which they were now applying even stronger limitations. One of the six totally banned materials was cadmium, and the normal restriction of 1000 parts per million on all other restricted materials was lowered to only 100 parts per million allowed for these. This applies to any single part of any product sold, so even if only one tiny part contains any of these materials, the entire product is banned.

Cadmium Telluride has been used for years in many electronic components and recently in some thin film solar cells due to its very high efficiency to convert sunlight into electrical energy. However, only a few solar module manufacturers use thin film technology, and only a few of the thin film materials use cadmium telluride in their manufacturing process.

Thin film solar modules made by First Solar Inc. was identified when this import ban was imposed, as having 470,000 parts per million of cadmium telluride in one of the layers of the thin film. I do not know if they have changed their product line since this ban or if they do not plan to market overseas. Although cadmium telluride is less of a danger to humans than the banned cadmium, it appears that any company still making modules that have even a tiny amount of cadmium telluride in the process will not be allowed to be sold anywhere in Europe due to the cadmium ban.

I am not aware of this banned material being used in solar modules other than thin film, and am not aware of any bio-hazard associated with any brands of single crystal and poly-crystal modules, but its always good to check before making a purchase. Also, some solar module manufacturers offer a recycling program to keep more toxic materials from going into landfills. I would be more concerned with the very toxic materials being used in new battery technology than in solar modules, due to the much shorter lifespan of batteries.

Good Luck,

Jeff Yago



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