My generator shed is about 100' from the house; well-insulated and baffled in a way that we just about have to look at the remote panel in the house when starting the generator to know that it started and is running. I appreciate peace and quiet--which is why I put the thing 100' feet away--and with a woodshed standing in between.
I knew when I made this arrangement that I would be be closing off the door to any kind of heat recovery scheme--at least as far as involving the house. I have given serious thought to using that excess heat from the generator to run through a small (yet unbuilt) building that would be in effect a kiln for drying rough-cut lumber. As you might know, the longer these "un-built buildings" remain unbuilt, the more fanciful and complex they become.
As far as the generator as a heat source goes, my whole design has always sought to run that generator for as short and infrequent a period as possible. Under most circumstances, the generator runs a half-hour every other day for a laundry session (combined with water pumping and perhaps other chores. In periods of cloudy weather, it also can be called on to run for 10-15 minutes sessions every couple hours at night to give a boost to our battery bank. That is not a lot of run time-- nor does it allow the generator to reach it's full heat output very often. The generator is an 1800 RPM unit--an Onan 4.0 BFA RV generator, air cooled and gasoline fueled. I bought it new 25 years ago. The most serious work I've done on it was replacing the brushes and points. Fine Equipment! It's shed is a rather complicated affair built from block and concrete--with three separate compartments below for starting battery, fuel tank, and muffler---and the generator atop a slab above--with a roof and walls surrounding it. The Onan is designed to blow a steady stream of cooling air through baffles surrounding it's alternator and then the engine--and then blow this air down and over the exhaust pipe and muffler.
Without a whole lot of work, I could capture all of this heat (except for what actually comes out of the muffler--and port it into my un-built lumber kiln. The lumber would get a bit of drying time every now and then--but would dry far faster and more thoroughly than at present just ricked up in the usual air-drying arrangement.
While that scheme does nothing as far as adding heat to my hot water system, it would cause me no small amount of delight in knowing that I would be squeezing every last dime out of the dollars I am sending to the oil companies.
My purpose in life is to amaze future archaeologists.
Thanks, Jim -- when I saw the number of posters on these forums hailing from far-northern regions, I suspected I would be getting some good problem solving tips. It always seemed to me that more problems exist in trying to live in a cold climate.
I've been to Anchorage twice for several weeks of work. I won't count the 30-minute refueling stop made in 1968 while enroute to Southeast Asia... all I remember about those thirty minutes is that everyone but me made a dash to the terminal to buy snacks. I stood just outside of the airplane---looking off the taxiway and across fields of tall purple grass and at the distant mountains which appeared an almost neon-purple in the late afternoon sun. This must have been those "purple mountain majesties" I had been hearing of whenever "America the Beautiful" was sung. Not a bad thing to see--considering where I was headed for.
My other trips to Alaska remain in my memory mainly as a taste. A carpenter on my crew came in one day with a nice slab of smoked salmon which he gave me. Simply put, it was the best tasting food that I've ever eaten!
Oh yes... Anchorage holds one other special place for me. I had been studying to get my Amateur Radio license for several months, when I got the call for a work assignment up in Anchorage. After working a week or so, I somehow got wind that ham radio tests were going to be given at the local mall that evening. I thought, "Why not here? Why not now?" and wound up getting my ham radio license in Anchorage that night. When I returned to West Virginia, I built my radio station, and made my first contact with a fellow who lives right in our county seat. As it turned out, he was the area examiner for ham licensing and was very surprised to hear someone calling from nearby who had a license he didn't know about. We remain close friends to this day.