Saturday, January 2, 2010

A New Year -- Where to go?

2009 was a good year for Build-It-Solar.  4.2 million people visited over the year, and (more importantly) many stayed and read a lot.  I used to get excited when 200 people visited the site in a day, and now its well over 10,000 almost every day -- amazing!

I want to thank everyone who visited Build-It-Solar over the year, and sent in comments or questions.   And, thanks especially to those who took the time to send information in on their projects -- its these projects that make the site work.

I'd like to make the site better during 2010  -- do you have any suggestions?

   - What do you like most? 
   - What areas do you find the most useful?
   - Where would you most like to see new content added?
   - What do you not like?
   - Any ideas for improvements format or presentation?
   - Any new areas you would like to see covered?
Some new areas I've been thinking about:
- The algae to oil area -- any chance of doing this on a DIY scale?
- A new area on solar/renewable for "home and garden" (solar tractors, mowers, lights, ...
- Adding an detailed "introduction" to each major area (Space Heating, PV, ...) that goes over the basics, covers some of the Physics, provides some design information,  and ties into the links and projects for that area.
- Doing a heat from compost trial.
- Working through the Passive House Institute software -- providing some pointers on getting started with it.

Perhaps building (with Nick and Nathan) a working version of Nick Pine's design for a "Deployable Doubt Dispeller" -- a small (e.g. 8 ft cube) "home" that would maintain a 70F inside temperature all winter here in Montana with simple active solar heating only.

Have a great new year.



  1. Gary,
    I admire your desire to improve, guess that's an important trait to have when wanting to promote inovation. But occasionally we need to take a look from the view at our particular point on the "mountain climb" and enjoy and appreciate what we've accomplished so far. Build it Solar is THE site when it comes to renewable energy home building ideas that are within the grasp of the average builder. In my own little town in the U.P. of Michigan, I have several enthusiasts (and builders) that have been impacted by your site. I have sold and delivered aluminum absorbers to all areas of the country, moving an overstock order of aluminum purchased for my own projects. It amazes me how many people you and your website have not only touched, but have motivated to taking on their own projects.
    I hope you find "new areas" for the website in 2010. But most importantly, I hope you continue the great work that has been the stimulus for Build It Solar's tremendous growth and popularity. The sharing of ideas from all these different minds is not only infectious to the new web site visitor, it helps the active builders with improvements and further refinements on their own projects.
    It is absolutely amazing to think of the lives that have been touched, the clean energy that's been made, and the "greener lives" that have been lived, from your sharing of ideas on the Build It Solar web site.
    Tom Sullivan

  2. As one whose life has not only been touched but enriched, I can only say 'Amen'.

  3. Gary,
    A big THANK YOU!! for all your work in bringing us this information. I like Build it Solar just the way it is but if you can improve on it, I say, full steam ahead!
    I live in fear of the day you finally have enough of this.

  4. I'm incredibly grateful for all you do with this site -- thank you!
    As for improvements, I'm very much an amateur when it comes to technical stuff. So, when I go to a category (for example, Energy Conservation) and the first 20 or so items are highly technical references/guides, it's a bit daunting. I know techno-geeks eat this stuff for breakfast, but maybe the easier stuff should go up front -- just to make those of us just starting out a little more comfortable.

  5. Hi,
    So, maybe an introductory article for each main section that assumes no knowledge of the subject? This could provide a some basic info, and then point to a few of the items in the section with the easier ones first?
    Thanks Tom, Gordon, Rowland -- good stuff to think about.

  6. Gary,
    I have to agree with Tom. This is THE site if you want great information and inspiration on where to start. I am so grateful I found your site! I have taken on many projects including a solar DHW based upon your $1000 system. Have many plans for projects this coming summer. Hopefully later this winter I will finally get some time to work on that article for you as well on the one-wire sensors. Thank you so much for this site.
    The only improvement might be the addition of a forum? I know you frequent other forums, but one here might increase the awareness even further and allow people to post up questions they might have. In a forum format you would not have to always be the one to respond, thus affording you more time for your projects. I have no idea how much work that would be for you (or cost), but I do know you can delegate some of it off to moderators as far as policing the sites.

  7. Hi Doug,
    I have thought seriously about starting a forum.
    It would be nice to have a place to discuss solar and energy issues associated with the site. I think that the cost is small.
    The things that have stopped me from doing this are that as near as I can tell it takes quite a bit of time to run one of these, and they appear to be much more subject to hacker mischief than a regular website.
    The other thing is that there are some good forums out there, and maybe its better to support these rather than competing with them. It takes quite few members to make a forum work, and I would not want to take away people from forums that don't have a big excess of members now.
    If there are any issues that people particularity want to discuss here, I'm happy to start a blog item so that the comments area can be used for a discussion -- just let me know.

  8. Good points Gary. Hey there is one place the site could make an improvement. I have browsed much of the site, and seen links to the forums you visit on a regular basis. Maybe you could make a list of those sites on the home page. I may have seen one, but after looking the last day or so, I haven't found it.

  9. Thanks Doug -- good idea.
    I added a link to the list of discussion forums on the homepage in the "Questions" area, and also a new entry for discussion forums in the References area. Hopefully a bit easier to find.

  10. Hi Gary
    Many Many thanks for the effort you put into your site. I did not realise you had that many visitors, and yet you took the time to reply to my emails, ..... not many like that arround.
    I agree with all the positive comments above.
    From Belfast N. Ireland, Happy New Year.

  11. I as well had no idea of the success you have with 10,000 visits a day. Great stuff keep up the good work.
    Here are my ideas about where to take the site.
    1. Allow viewers to make a profile. Simple first name, general location, and then toggle boxes of various areas you have in your site. Then when they click on a box as having done that project, allow them to input manufacturer, products used, and rating those products. Lastly what changes they would do after having done the project. I read through the projects and I love the data. But would love to understand how to best replicate what they are doing. So overall the collective knowledge of the group becomes more developed over time.

  12. Hi John,
    Thanks -- Good ideas.
    But, well beyond my meager skill levels to implement :)
    I could ask everyone who turns in a project to (optionally) fill out a standard form that would cover the things you mentioned -- seems like this would be easy to do, and helpful?

  13. Maybe an an idea would be an "I Did It Like This..." section within each category, Have them maybe give the components used, what worked, what didn't; something along those lines?
    PS, I have plenty of "What didn't work out so well's to add!

  14. Hi Gary
    While growing up I could not wait to get my hands on a Popular Science Magazine. I'd stay awake at night with a flashlight reading every word and ad. You couldn't shut me up at the breakfast table the next morning. I loved those feelings of wanting to know more. Your web site has been an instigation to my youthfull ways time and time again. The difference being, it's not a flashlight, but the laptop, and my lovely wife of 40 years is telling me to call it a night. For the site .. I like the ability to select from a Category as well as the Monthly Archives. Seeing or reading about a follow through on a project is always a win-win.
    Maybe a section on homebrewed PIC controller circuits for solar ideas. (low current timers, temp sensors, simple led voltage checkers, etc ..) or grounding systems and PV panel lightening protection.
    Whatever you decide will be alright by me.

  15. Hey just wanted to say I really enjoy your site. I refer people from my website all the time to yours for ideas on diy renewable energy. I wish I had half the visitors that you do.
    Good work!

  16. Any new areas you would like to see covered?
    How about a section on passive solar businesses, what they do, what makes them successful. One business could accomplish more than a large number of DIYers and continue working for many years.

  17. Hi Doug,
    I'm not sure an army of DIYers won't accomplish more than you think :) -- but, I like the idea.
    I do get emails from people looking for advice on how to get into the solar business -- which is great to see. I'll see if I can't put together a page of resources for people looking to get started.
    Part of my thinking in starting up the site was that the DIY industry is huge -- many, many, many billions of dollars a year. But, little of it is focused on renewable energy projects -- you can go down to the HD and find a dozen books on how to build a deck, but not one one how to build a solar water heater. It would be nice if we could work out a way to bring renewable energy DIY into the mainstream.


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