Monday, November 14, 2016

Ian Woofenden's Renewable Energy Workshops

I just want to give people a heads up on some excellent DIY renewable energy workshops provided by Ian Woofenden.

These workshops cover practical, standalone systems on solar electric, solar thermal, wind power, small hydro power and energy efficiency.

Ian's workshops are known for a practical and realistic approach to DIY renewable energy -- they are based on Ian's decades of real experience in designing, building and consulting on actual systems and decades of living in an off grid home. Expect to leave one of Ian's workshops with actual hands on knowledge and experience that will get you ready to build a practical system of your own.  Just as important, the workshops will provide you with the knowledge and tools to determine if a renewable energy system is a good choice for your situation.

Ian is also a senior editor and author for Home Power Magazine -- search their archives for his many hands on, practical and honest renewable energy project articles.

Ian's next workshop will be in Costa Rica and will be on Solar Electricity for the Developing World. This is the overview for the up coming workshop:
"Learn about solar electricity for developing world in the developing world! This workshop provides an introduction to stand-alone solar-electric (PV) system design and installation, with a focus on small, rural systems.  The workshop combines classroom sessions with a strong emphasis on real-world projects in the community, along with hands on labs.  You will have the opportunity to understand, design, and install lighting and cell phone-charging systems that can dramatically improve the living conditions of the local people.  This is an experimental program, with real-world focus.  Come and learn the basics of simple stand-alone solar-electric systems for rural people by doing, sharing, and experiencing on projects in the developing world."

You can find out more about this and his past and planned workshops at his website Renewable Reality.









Thanks to Ian for providing these excellent workshops.

Gary

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A 35 mpg RV Setup

Mike and Nancy have come up with this unique and very efficient camping arrangement.  They pull a tear drop trailer behind their Honda Insight hybrid.  They achieve an amazing 35 mpg and have full sleeping and cooking facilities — they even have a shower!

Honda Insight and Little Guy teardrop trailer.

The Honda Insight is a standard 2001 with the addition of a custom trailer hitch made by Mike.  A transmission cooler has also been added.

The teardrop trailer is a "Little Guy" that provides a full sized bed for two and a small kitchen accessed via the back hatch on the trailer as is usual for teardrop trailers.  The Little Guy weighs only about 500 lbs.

They have even added a solar heated shower enclosure they can set up to take hot showers.
Shower enclosure with pressure tank water system.


Without the trailer attached, the Insight gets 50+ mpg and with the teardrop trailer attached and going the full speed limit plus it gets 35 mpg -- pretty amazing for a full function RV.


The Little Guy teardrop and added Air Cond and Heating unit.

While Honda does not advise towing with the Insight, Mike says it works well and has not seen any adverse effects.

More here...

Its great to see teardrop trailers becoming popular again.

Gary
June 27, 2016



Wednesday, March 30, 2016

FlipFlic - An Innovative Energy Saving KickStarter Project

The developers of a new KickStarter project called FlipFlic gave me a heads up about their idea.  I was impressed with their design's simplicity, cleanness, low price and its potential to save energy and increase convenience and decided to pass the idea on here.

FlipFlic is a Smartphone controlled device that automatically opens or closes blinds based on the time of day, or temperature, or light level.

Some of the nice features:

  • Easy to install.
  • Smartphone controlled.
  • Blind open/close can be based on time of day, temperature, or light levels.
  • Solar powered.
  • Low price.

The FlipFlic compact motor unit replaces the existing wand on the blinds.

It is solar powered, so no batteries to replace or wires to run.

Use your Smartphone to set up the times, temperatures, or light levels
that control the opening and closing of the blinds.


The initial offering works with either horizontal or vertical slat style blinds.  Kseniia tells me that the team has it in their plans to develop version that will also work with cellular shades, which,  I think, offers an even greater potential for energy saving due to the greater insulating value of these blinds.


Our house uses lots cellular shades with side tracks to reduce winter heat loss and reduce summer heat gain.  They work great and have a large energy saving and short payback period.  But, the twice a day ritual of raising and lowering the shades can get to be a hassle.  I'm really looking forward to this device to have more control with less hassle.



Gary

Friday, April 3, 2015

A Unique Straw Bale Arch Home Design

I really like this new straw bale home design by Brian Waite.  Its not very often you see a completely new home design that is energy  efficient, sustainable, AND well suited to being built by the home owner, but this one is all of the above.

Brian's new design straw bale home prototype

The design uses a number of identical prebuilt arches for the main structure of the house. The arches are spaced one straw bale apart so that the bales can be stacked between the arches with no trimming.

Arches being set up.
 The arches are light enough to be erected by one person with the aid of a hand winch.  In fact, the entire house was built by Brain with only common tools.

Straw bales install snugly between arches.

 The straw bales are stacked from the floor up to the peak in one continuous stack.

Because the arches provide all of the structural support for the roof, all of the interior walls (if used) are non-structural and would be easy to move over time.

The house has a  number of other unique features, including a means to secure the straw bales without settling, and a passive vent system that keeps the straw bales dry.

Another unique feature that Brain is testing is a quad glazed window design that is made from two standard double glazed glass units.

Quad glazed window made from two standard double glazed units.

 It seems to me that this is a simple design that is well suited to owner builders while offering an R value up toward US 6.

All the details here...

I want to thank Doug alerting me to this fine new design.

Gary
April 3, 2015










Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Kume Shade: Simple, Homemade, Low-cost Insulating Curtains

The Kume "family" in Chile has come up with a new design for thermal shades that I think is very interesting and may be a good solution for you if  you are looking for thermal shades.

The Kume shade if various states of rollup
The Kume shades fit in the window frame and roll up to stow in a built in catch at the top -- the rollup only takes a few seconds.

The shades use four layers to provide better insulating value.

Layer 1 is a front insulating (and decorative) material, 2 is a moisture barrier, 3 and 4 are wood batten spacers, and 5 is the back insulation panel.

IR picture shows the Kume shade in action


The shade materials are relatively cheap and the shade is easy to build.  The instructions are very complete.
Good, detailed build instructions


The room facing layer can be a decorative insulating fabric, so the shades can be very nice looking.



One thing this shade appears to address is the problem of condensation on the window and frame that can occur the room air is humid, the outside temperature is cold, and the shade does not prevent room air from circulating behind the shade.  This design's combination of fabric that seals against the window frame and a moisture barrier address this problem.

I'd be very interested in hearing from anyone who build these shades on how well they do.

The Kume "family" is a group of friends and relatives living in Chile who are working together on projects that will have a positive effect on climate change.

For complete details on the design and build ...

For lots more on other thermal shade and window insulating techniques...

Gary
March 7, 2015

Monday, January 19, 2015

Large DIY Serpentine Drainback Solar Space Heating Project

Tim, Doug, and Will provide a very detailed description of a unique solar space heating system along with quite a bit of design information.

The system uses solar to heat water, which is in turn used for space heating in a radiant floor system. One of the most unique features of the system is that the drain back solar collector uses serpentine path absorbers rather than the usual vertical riser tubes. This arrangement allows the entire south face of the building to be used as a collector, right up to the peak of the roof. In addition to providing more collector area and more heat, it has a very nice look.

View of the full wall drain back collector.

The absorber uses a serpentine arrangement of tubes to carry heat from the absorber to the tank rather than the more usual vertical riser tube arrangement.  This allows the absorber to cover the entire wall all the way up to the peak.  This makes for a very nice looking full glazed wall.

Shows the serpentine absorber being fitted to the wall.  

The entire south wall is glazed with greenhouse style twinwall polycarbonate.  The full glazed wall makes for a very nice looking collector.

Full wall collector with glazing in place.

The system also uses a unique heat storage tank design that is partitioned into a warmer and a cooler section.  The collector circuit pulls water from the cold side of the tank and returns it to the warm side, and the radiant floor circuit pulls water from the warm side of the tank and returns it to the cooler side.  The idea is to allow the collector to run cooler, and therefore more efficiently.

The partitioned solar heat storage tank under construction.





Gary
January 19, 2015

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Progress on the Fuel Efficient Camper Conversion

As I described a while back when we are working on a fuel efficient and lower emissions RV-Camper Van.  Ours is based on a converting a RAM ProMaster  van into a self-sufficient camper.

Last time we gave an initial description of our thoughts and deeds so far on the conversion -- this is an update on what has been done since then -- its getting pretty close.

Electrical:
The electrical system has been completed except for the installation of the solar panel on the roof.

Overview diagram of the electrical system.

Nearly all of the electrical system -- batteries, inverter/charger, solar charge
controller, breakers and distribution panel.

Testing the solar panel (which will go on the roof) with rest of system.
The electrical system provides power as 12 volts DC or as 120 volts AC from the batteries, and provides for charging the batteries from solar, or the van engine, or shore power.


Floor and Paneling:
The floor and the paneling for the walls and the ceiling are completed.

The floor incorporates an inch of polyiso rigid board insulation and is finished off with some conventional kitchen flooring.

The finished floor

Insulation board and underlayment going in.

The wall and ceiling paneling are both hardboard paneling with insulation underneath.

Paneling going up 

Just about completed paneling with trim.
Windows:
We added three windows.   Nothing like cutting big holes in the side of your new van!

Now with windows!

kind of breezy in this configuration.


Other:
Also completed or mostly done:

  • Furnace
  • Grey and fresh water tanks and plumbing
  • Roof ventilation fan
  • Galley, sink, stove.
  • High efficiency electric refrigerator 
Thanks to Gordon's post, we are probably going to go with a homemade composting toilet.

The grey water tank is a bit unusual in that its home made...

All the details on progress so far here...


Gary

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Solar Heated Stock Tank Does Well In Really Cold Climate

Its the time of year to think about doing a solar heated stock tank that will save a lot of ice breaking and electricity for tank heaters over the window.

Karolyn has worked  out a nice design for a solar heated stock than that performed well over the very cold winter last year in Minnesota.



South wall of tank is solar collector that heats tank.


Drinking opening with flaps provides improved freeze protection.


This design is rugged and provides good freeze protection.






Gary
October 9, 2014

Thursday, August 28, 2014

DIY Composting Toilet for RV's and Small Spaces

Gordon and Sue provide detailed information on designing, building, and successfully using a compact composting toilet that he built for their small RV.



Gordon's DIY composting toilet is based on a recycled plastic barrel that was used to ship olives.  






The toilet seat was salvaged from an RV toilet.



The box surrounding the barrel has all the supplies needed to keep the toilet running smoothly.

A small muffin fan (1.3 watts) continuously draws fresh air from the RV into the composting chamber and exhausts it to the black duct to the outside.  This keeps the composting process aerobic and eliminates any smell.




A picture of the small RV that the composting toilet is used in and the venting outlet for the toilet.

Probably even more valuable than the how to build it information is the how to successfully use the composting toilet so that it works well and produces no odor.  Between the RV and their tiny cabin, Gordon and Sue have many years of experience living successfully with various composting toilets.

For the full story on Gordon and Sue's composting toilet...


In addition to the material on Gordon's composting toilet, I've added a section on composting toilets for RV's and small spaces with some good info on compact commercial composting toilets and how to use them...


Gary
August 28, 2014

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Small, Simple, Efficient RAM ProMaster DIY Camper Van Conversion

We have enjoyed RVing over the years, but lost our last RV in a highway crunch.

One thing we did not enjoy about RVing was the 10 mpg gas bills and the 2 lbs per mile of CO2 emissions. So, this project is about getting back into RVing with a smaller footprint.


The RAM ProMaster 1500, hi roof, 136 WB at start of conversion

Objectives for the new van conversion:

  •  Keep it simple 
  •  An open feel inside
  •  20+ mpg
  •  Comfortable beds for 2
  •  No need for hookups 
  •  Drives like a car
  •  Able to handle some back roads 

The RAM ProMaster we bought for the conversion is a high roof, 1500, 136 WB. This gives us an area to work with of about 10.1 ft long by 6.5 ft wide (behind the driver/passenger seats). The inside height is about 76 inches.  A really Tiny House :)

It was the smallest and lightest vehicle we could find that we think will also provide enough space  and stand up height.  

Just as an aside, it would be very interesting to see what could be done with an even smaller vehicle -- maybe something like the Ford Transit Connect -- a 30 mpg RV!

So, this is going to be a several month project, and I'm just going to be adding to it as things go along. 

I'd very much like to hear ideas, comments, and suggestions that we might be able to incorporate as things progress.

I've put up a new section on BuildItSolar with pages for each major part of the conversion: layout, insulation, paneling, flooring, electrical system, ...  The main page for the conversion is here...

Progress so far...

Layout:

We have pretty much decided on this layout:


We did a very crude mockup of this layout in the van:

The two beds are in the back and make into a seating area during the day, galley is on right behind drivers seat.  There will be some more storage cabinets around the edge up high.  New windows will be added in 3 or 4 locations (about where the blue tape is).

We like this nice open feel of this and the high quality beds.

More on other layouts we considered...


Insulation:

Did the insulation of the walls and ceiling using spray foam polyurethane insulation.  I used one of the two component kits that provide the two pressurized bottles and spray nozzle and hoses.  



Had never used one of these kits before, but it worked out pretty well.

All the details on insulating here...

Electrical:

I've been working on the electrical system design.

Its a bit more complicated than I would like in that we want to be able to spend a couple days (or more) away from hookups.  It has a fairly large battery and the battery can be charged via solar (on the roof), the van alternator, or from shore power.

I've worked out a tentative list of components.

Would appreciate any comments on the design or the components.


Floor:

Today's project is the floor.





I've put up a new section on BuildItSolar with pages for each major part of the conversion: layout, insulation, paneling, flooring, electrical system, ...  The main page for the conversion is here...


Gary July 22, 2014




 
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