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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A side note for the holidays

I want to take a moment away from my normal, blog posts to talk about something personal. Cancer. While I know that this is a festive and joyous holiday season, there are people out there that are fighting for their lives with their own body. People without health insurance to help pay for treatment, or or friends around them to provide the moral support they need to get through such an ordeal. While the world goes on with its holiday festivities, statistics say that on Christmas day, 720 Americans will be diagnosed with Cancer.

While that is not a Christmas present anyone would want to receive, some of these people would gladly shoulder the burden and smile just so that someone else doesn't have to. I know, because I've been in and out of remission all my life fighting this terrible battle, and still i struggle to persevere in spite, because I know I have something to offer my fellow man.

So if any of you know someone struggling, or having a hard time dealing with an illness, or any hardship whatsoever, please take the time to remember them, and see if theres anything you can do to help. At the very least, just letting them know they are not alone can keep a person striving forward for longer than you can possibly imagine.

Thank you to all my followers, and I wish you all a very merry holiday season. Please know someone out there, somewhere, has done something statistically amazing, so that you don't have to suffer.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Part 2 of the daily Grindstone: The Tele-Commute

While I know I haven't posted on here in a while, it's because I've been busy doing a little research about the next topic, "TELECOMMUTING."  Telecommuting is a growing trend with modern day professionals who are looking for a way to help cut expenses while still working.  Many career fields offer the ability to telecommute or partially telecommute, especially in this growing field of information technology.  So what is telecommuting?
Simple.  It's simply doing the work that you can from home.  If you spend all day processing data, or providing tech support to off site satellite offices of your company, then whats the point of driving into an office every day to do a job over the internet or over the phone?  As the field of Information technology grows, and data transferring is getting faster and faster, telecommuting allows your company to save money by not needing such a large facility to house your workspace or supplies or liability insurance for you as a person on site, and save you money because you don't have to drive into work every day.  Now some companies may still require you to come into the office may once or twice a week, but that a sure shot better then 5 or 6 days.

So now your probably asking yourself, who would be interested in hiring someone offsite, and who exactly are they looking for?  Well the answer there is simple; Any company who outsources work to a foreign country could be enticed to hire you as an off site representative.  Companies looking for Writers, Tech Support, IT Personnel, Product Review Technicians, Quality Control, Data Entry, Account Transcribers, Data Analysts, the list goes on and on.  Add to that that this type of work is GREAT for college students because it give you the ease of flexibility in your schedule to attend classes, and do the work from your dorm if necessary, and you have a win win situation.  Not only can you work to get some extra cash to offset college expenses, but you can do it on your own time.

If your interested, the company provides free listings of work proposals that you can bid on, and they act as a micromanagement firm, making sure you get paid for the work you do.  They can provide a great source of extra income for anyone looking for a part time or full time job and they have people looking for employees in just about every field.  They aren't the only company providing such services.  As the Telecommuting and Freelance market grows more and more companies are offering services like these.  Of all the ones I've looked at recently, I would have to say that Elance is the most effective at teaming top not employers up with skilled employees, and a base account is free.  If your looking to maximize your potential, then I suggest that
you also check out which provides an almost identical service, with a slightly different approach.  Both offer free accounts and a user friendly network, as well as an ability to mingle with professionals you would likely have never met before.  What do you have to lose? A piece of your carbon footprint? Yeah, like thats a bad thing...  While your at it, use the links, provided in this article and show support for this blog with the Elance and Freelancer affiliate programs.  Here's hoping that this information helps someone earn a living doing something they love without ever leaving their home... I know its brought me pretty close.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Part 1 of the daily Grindstone: The Commute

Many of us have jobs, or school, or some other daily function of society that we travel to, and at the end of the day, we travel home from.  National Statistical Averages reports an average one-way commute time of 26 minutes (over an average distance of 16 miles). But the variance is huge: On the best days, the average commute is 19 minutes; on the worst days, 46 minutes. That means traffic, at its worst, can double the average commute time, adding 27 minutes each way.  That means that on average, we Americans spend roughly an hour to an hour and a half every day in a car, travelling 30 to 35 miles.  If your the standard person you do this 5 times a week, 49 weeks a year.
Doing the math, that means in a year, you put 7350 to 8575 miles on your car just idling in traffic to get to work in your gas guzzler, putting in about 429 gallons of fuel. At the current national average, this means you spend 1,287 dollars a year, just on the gas you spend while driving to work and home.  That's not counting trips to the store, vacations, dinners out, and everywhere else you travel in your car.  The Average Family in america puts roughly 20,000 to 25,000 miles on their car every year, and trade in their car every 4-6 years.

Let that soak in for a few moments....

Ask yourself what you would do to spend less money on fuel in this country.  As yourself if an Alternative fuel vehicle would work for you. Ask yourself if you can afford a new vehicle. Now ask yourself if you could afford it if it paid you back...

Take into consideration the money you'd save on Gasoline. Take into consideration the tax write-off of $3,500 every year for 5 years ($17,500 total) just for owning an alternative fuel vehicle that produces less emissions then a standard fuel vehicle.  Now take into consideration the social global impact... The oil spill in the gulf, the war in Iraq (which we all know is over the oil) the rising taxes, the damaged economy, the pollution, all are factors of our dependence of gasoline to get to and from work.

I present to you the alternative... I present to you the future.
MDI CitiAirFlow
MDI (Motor Development International) has spent years developing a modern take on an old technology.  This is an Air powered car, thats right AIR.  It utilized a modernized version of a steam powered piston system, only instead of using water and heat to make pressurized air on board, it uses previously compressed air stored in large tanks in its belly, to power the car to comparable highway speeds (85mph max) for a distance of approximately 1000 miles per fill of the tanks (which takes roughly 5-10 minutes using a gas or electric powered air compressor roughly 1 cubic foot in size.  Some models even come equipped with an air compressor powered by the engines pulley system so as to provide a partial fill while driving.
This model here, the CitiAirFlow, seats 6 comfortably, has all the modern amenities as a standard automobile, except it produces ZERO emissions.  Here's the best part, this baby is DOT and EPA rated for US Sales, and if you order one, will only set you back around $24,000.  Now I know what your thinking, but here me out.  While 24,000 is a lot of money, most finance a car for 5 years anyways.  Now do the math.

   24,000     Car purchase price (financed for 5 year)
- 17,500     Green Air Act Tax Rebate (over 5 years)
     6,500/5 (number of years) = 1,300 per year is your total expense (not including taxes and tags)

bare in mind you CURRENTLY spend 1,287 dollars a year on fuel just going back and forth to work... if you put 10,000 miles on your car every year (half the national average), you currently spend $30,000 on gas alone.  With the money you save on gas, you could pay this car off in less then a year!

Did I mention this isn't the economy version?  The OneFlowAir seats 3 to 5 (depending on configuration) and totes a price tag of LESS then $10,000 Dollars US and if applied to the above mathematical model, pays for itself with the tax credit alone, let alone the savings on fuel!
MDI OneAirFlow

With all of these factors, the only question really is, who can we as a society NOT afford vehicles like this? How can we continue to guzzle down fossil fuels like there's plenty of it to last until  the sun burns out, when the truth is, there's no need for it at all?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Some changes...

many of you may have noticed the subtle changes happening on the site in regards to the ads.  I know you fine folks don't come here just for the advertisements, and many of you actually enjoy my blog, but I've tried to team with an ad company whose advertisements would be relevant to my blog posts, and as such, if you saw same thing you liked while reading it, I would figure that you, and an educated person, would click on them to research or buy more.  While tis logic is sound, it doesn't work if the ad's aren't relative to the intrests of the site or its viewers, so with that I shed my ways with Google Adsense (the native monetize for , and moved solely to Adbrite, a company with whom I was running parallel ads as Adsense.
After dropping the few Adsense ads I had (as opposed to the single Adbrite ad I had) I replaced them with Adbrite Ad's and everything seemed to be going according to plan, except somewhere in there, the bids for ads on my site apparently dropped to less then a penny per click (or thats all they were paying) and they dropped their referral program, and didn't notify anyone.
So now, I'd tired of their antics and backwards policies, and have switched yet again, this time to BidVertiser, which seems to be promising (we'll see how it goes).  As for you folks out there using your blogs to try and earn some pocket change, I can tell you that from what I've seen BidVertiser seems to be on equal footing ad Adsense, and pays out monthly (as opposed to Adbrite's 60 day hold policy) and payment is instant if you use PayPal.  So with this in mind, If you'd like to have a look-see, please visit the referral link in the upper right hand of my blog.  So while this ad didn't tell you how to build anything, it certainly tells you how to maintain a profit (or start making one) of something your already doing online... Blogging.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Low Cost Geo-Thermal

So you have a house, and you have a yard, and you want to know how to make them work in harmony, but you don't want to break your wallet, well leys look at exactly what your gonna need to do it.

1 - a shovel, Because just because its cheap, doesn't mean your not going to have to work for it.
2 - a hole saw
3 - a rope, string, twine, something long, at least 100 feet, that you can use to mark your path
4 - a phone
5 - 72 feet of 4 inch PVC piping, sold in 8 foot sections
6 - four 45 degree angles for 4" pvc pipe
7 - four 90 degree angles for 4 inch pvc pipe
8 - about  a dozen 4" to 4" pvc couplers.
9 - pvc glue
10 - two 4 inch computer exaust fans
11 - a good weekend of nice weather.

All in all the materials  should run you less then 100 dollars, which while it's still no chump change, isn't all that hard to save.

Now I'm going to be using my house as an example, but if you don't have a basement, you at least have a crawlspace, and this is going to require getting under your house.  You're going to want to choose a room that has two air vents, as your going to be using them, unless you want to cut 2 holes in your wall.
Your going to have to use the rope to mark out a distance straight away from the wall of the house about 35-40 feet, then turn 90 degrees, measure another 8 to 16 feet, and turn 90 degrees back to the house.  The trick to this is, the short side needs to be the same distance as the air vents are, because the pipe going away and the pipe coming back are going to connect up to those vents.   Once you have your string/rope/etc laid out, get your shovel.  Your going to need to dig the entire length of that rope, from the wall of the house to the bends, then back to the wall of the house.  This hole needs to be at least 30" deep, to clear the north american frost line.  Once you have it dug, take a break, that was a lot of work!
Next your going to connect the pipe together using the couplers, angles and glue, this part should be pretty self explanatory.  The difficult section is using the pipe next to the house, you'll need two 90degree angles to bring the pipe up, then a 45 degree angle to take it into the crawlspace or basement, through the wall.  Once inside connect the other 45 degree to level the pipe out with the floor above you, so you can extend it to the location of the vents.
Remove your vent covers, and insert a 90 degree bend into the vent, facing outward and down, this pipe will be hidden when you put the cover back on, but don't do that just yet. go back under the house and cut your 4 inch hole in the ductwork so you can use a length of pipe to connect the two angled together, Don't forget glue! Seal any gaps in the duct with tape for an airtight seal.
Go back up stairs, and place the fans over the pipes in the air vents, you want one blowing into the pie, and one blowing out.  Wire them both to a  plug close by, and replace our air vent covers.  Air will now circulate through the pipe, colling as the heat is leached into the ground around it, dropping to a nice comfy 65-70 degrees before blowing back into the house.  After several days, it should have lowered the ambient temperature in your house significantly,  decreasing the need for an energy consuming air conditioner.  The best part is, the fans will use less power then a light bulb to run!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The bike, part 1

Since I've had some people ask about it, I figured I'd go into detail a little about it, and maybe even get your advice on a few things.  Bare in mind that bike building, as a process, takes time, way longer then they perceive it to be on TV anyways, especially if your doing it right.  

I've long been in love with Board Track racers, those lords of speed and reckless behavior that risked life and limb on nothing more then over-glorified motorized bicycles, often achieving speeds close to 100 miles an hour, and I'm talking back in 1919 people! You'll notice in the example posted here, that theres even still pedals involved, because you had to pedal it to start, sort of like the mopeds in the 70's and 80's and even still today.  This is my goal, to build something that emulates the past, to show how far we've come, while keeping it simple, and proving that when it comes to style and speed, old school had it to.
Add To this love of board track racers, a love of Bobbers and choppers, (just like almost anyone who's ever lived here in the united states, and you'll see a timeline progression of advancement in bikes that never really veered far off course.  Bobbers, are merely stock bikes, with the minimalist amount of parts and ad on to make it run, While choppers are very similar, a chopper is usually stretched and the front end is kicked out to make it even longer.  Both are great and both are cool in their own right.  And thats where my bike fits in. 
Enter the basis of my bike.  What you see here to the left is none other then a Micargi Leopard. A steel stretched beach cruiser style bike, set in a bobber configuration  on a board track style frame. While this  awesome piece of artwork is formed out of steel, sweat, and attitude, you'll notice its missing some key elements to really make a board track bike, namely, a tank to hold fuel, any form of suspension, and most importantly, an engine.  Now the tank is simple enough, it'll be made of steel as well and designed to fit the the opening in the back bone.  The suspension will be in the way of a replacement front end, in old school springer style, similar to the one pictured above.  Now the engine, now thats a different matter all together.
I've spent the last year of my life thinking about the power plant I want to put into a bike, and I'm still unable to decide.  My three options are;
A) 2-Stroke, essentially making it a beefed up moped style motorbike, only including a transmission so its able to reach  good cruising speed of 50-60mph.
B) Electric, using a 36V electric motor, and beefing it with lithium batteries for maximum power and distance,
C) Steam, using compressed air cylinders to power a steam engine for something different and unique.

While all three appeal to me, and all three are green energy alternatives (thus fitting into my lifestyle nicely) Its that vary factor that is causing such an issue.  I've created a poll, and I'd like to hear your opinions.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A moment to appreciate the history around us...

I'm going to take a moment away from my normal discussion to touch on another subject, which while different, still relates, so please bare with me. I live in Detroit, and while many ask why I moved here (in February of this year), many don't understand the opportunities or the history that surrounds this place and needs to be saved. I moved here to go back to school, and launch my own business, by taking advantage of the falling economy. We bought our home, a rather nice place if I may ad, for a FRACTION of the cost of the same house and land anywhere else in this country. I'm attending school and investing in properties to renovate green, so as to provide low cost living opportunities for low income families, while helping the environment in the process.
I mention all of this because in the interest of cleaning up the community, and preserving our resources and way of life, another group here in Detroit, sought to clean up a local part and stumbled upon a hidden gem... a velodrome. Back in August, a group of renegade landscapers calling themselves "The Mower Gang" hit Dorais Park in Detroit, MI with tractors, hand tools and a fistful of determination. They literally uncovered a relic of a Detroit passed – a Velodrome, or banked racing track, built in the late 60′s amid the tensions and trials of the riots that broke out in the city only a few years prior to its completion.

Now this group is hosting a race, in the spirit of old board track racing (motorized bikes, mopeds, scooters, etc), to raise not only awareness, but also to raise funds for maintaining the park and the velodrome. As an avid fan of board track racers, in fact I'm slowly building one myself, this appeals to my interests, but also as a citizen of Detroit and an avid promoter of "greenovation" and sustainability, this speaks to the very core of us as a people. It stands as proof that we, as a populous, want to create a world where not only do we learn from the past, but preserve it for future generations, and make sure they have a hospitable world for those generations to enjoy such things.
So I take this opportunity to encourage you to do the same, and if your interested, check out for details on the ongoing project. The race will be held on October 16th,2010 and sadly my bike will not be ready in time (unless theirs a miracle), but i will be in attendance with my family to show my support for such an awesome cause!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Geothermal Air Conditioning... Old Testament Style!

I recently got a request to discuss Geothermal energy, and I will but first I want to discuss the oldest form of Geothermal use that is still in existence: Geothermal air conditioning.

Records and evidence of civilizations living in hot areas, such as Persia and Africa, have been using Geothermal Cooling in their dwellings dating back to 2500 BC.  That tells us that even back then, green energy existed.  The sad part is, people who live in those same regions are using the exact same method of cooling today, yet we can't seem to figure this out.
The way this is done is actually very simple, they built a pipe, 10" in diameter out of ceramic into their wall near the base, and it turned  downward, until it was four to 10 feet in the ground, then it turned outward, went straight away from the dwelling for 20 to 50 feet, depending in wealth of the person involved. it then turned a 90 degree turn  traveled 10 feet, turned another 90 degrees and returned back into the house, only it would travel the full length up the wall and would exit near the ceiling.  What this did was caused a circulation of air, that radiated the hot air out of the top of the house, only to radiate and be cooled by the cooler ground temperatures, and return back into the house around 70-75 degrees.
See, the ground maintains a constant temperature, whether its cold or hot outside, at a pretty steady 65 degrees Fahrenheit. and its because of this we use geothermal heating and cooling currently for both heating and cooling our homes, and heating and cooling our water, and providing electricity by using variable temperatures to create a flow or "current" to create energy.  The point here is that we can still use this same technique today.  Ceramic pipes are use for drainage mostly all over the world, but if your building a house, you can still opt to plan for this method of cooling with decent planning.
Now, while I know this doesn't really benefit you as a whole, the point was to help you understand how and why geothermal works on a basic level, so you can think about how it could be implemented in your future life.  In my next post, ill go over some low cost geothermal products that you can use on a low budget, and how doing so can profit you!  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Let the wind blow...

So while we've discussed some very good ways to gain energy from the world around us, We've yet todiscuss wind power.  Mostly because while I've often used solar and hydro powers, I've only recently begun planning my wind turbine expansion to my own power producing systems.
As I've often said, the decision to go GREEN doesn't happen over night, it takes planning, and forethought, and you have to know what your eventual goals are.  then you have to decide the best way, taking in all variables to achieve that goal.  As of right now, I"m well on my way, however My next project undertaking is indeed a series of small scale wind turbines, that according to calculations will bring me within 90% of my final destination.  In football they'd call this "1st and goal."
When it comes to wind Turbines, you generally have 3 types -  Horizontal, Vertical, and Barrel.  What I'd like to do today is discuss some of the differences without getting two technical and making your brain hurt.  Unlike the other systems, wind has a lot of variables and as such, is highly capable of producing a headache if you don't do your research first.

Horizontal Turbines are generally the most common. These traditional styles have been used for centuries, providing power, just not electricity.  The standard windmill design was used to grind wheat, turn grinding mills for wood, mill corn, crush nuts, basically the hardest tasks usually reserved for pack animals... only the wind doesn't need food or rest. These are pretty simple designs involving a propeller spun by the wind, and a tail fin to act as a rudder so it constantly faces the wind. the faster the wind blows, the faster it spins and the more power it produces.  While this is the simplest design, it also is considered to produce a considerable amount of energy, but generally requires wind speeds to be around 15mph to begin a rotation.

Vertical Turbines generally require less wind to spin, and don't waste any energy with having to turn to face the wind.  It utilizes vertical blades that catch the wind regardless of direction, and are known to produce a more constant stream of energy, as it requires as little as 3mph of wind speed to move.  This is the type I've chose to attach to the roof of my home here in Detroit, as the wind directions change considerable from moment to moment, which puts these right in the ideal usage category.

Barrel style wind turbines are a relatively low cost option, that are primarily used on plains style dwellings where the wind generally comes from a single direction  They do not rotate to meet oncoming wind and instead only spin when the wind is favorable.  As such, they can be placed on roofs to catch a broader array of wind, allowing them to spin faster.  these type usually require the same forces as a vertical turbine, but can be geared to produce much higher rotations at the generator then either of the other two.  Think of a 10 speed bike... it doesn't take as many turns on that pedal to get that real weal spinning faster...  

All three designs have their pro's and their cons, the trick is to do your research and decide which is right for your personal application.  Take into consideration things like wind speed, direction, and regularity. Then consider if this will be a primary energy source, or a binary, or even supplementary.  GREEN energy projects are each different depending on the desired outcome, which is generally why I personally put so much emphasis on the planning stage.  In my next post, I'll show you how regardless of your choice, you can build your own turbine generator for less then $100.00, and have it producing power by the end of the month!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The MYTH of Expensive GREEN living

After my last post I received a lot of comments about how it was to expensive for panels or how it was to costly to set up solar cells, so I've come here today to debunk these MYTHS for some people.  While I understand this elaborate rouse of corporate brainwashing has been building for years at the hands of power companies, but it simply isn't true.  Some of you may ask why they DON'T want you to go green and the answer is simple.  If 20% of the United States switches to a self sustained solar living, then these companies will lose 20% of a $100 BILLION dollar plus industry. thats right, 20 BILLION dollars minimum that companies like DTE and ConnectivPower have a stake in, and don't want to lose.  Add to that the knowledge that federal mandates REQUIRE power companies to BUY BACK any non used power from you, and PAY you for it.  This means not only are you not paying them for your power, but they have to pay YOU.  This means their 20% loss, is closer to a 25-30% or a MINIMUM of 25-30 BILLION dollars they lose on a yearly basis.
Now Imagine what happens when 80% of the people in the US switch and become self sustaining.  not only would they lose 80%, but the average buy-back rate is about half, meaning a payout of  an additional 20 - 40 %.  Well if you can do simple math, that means that if just 80% of the US becomes self sustainable using GREEN Energy, then The Power industry stands to lose 100-120% of that $100 BILLION dollar industry, and that means no more power company.
So here are the myths perpetuated:
1) Solar panels are to expensive.
Solar panels are NOT expensive.  As proof, I've provided the following
This unit right here is currently one of over 1,000 just like it being sold brand new on eBay.  It it currently marked at $0.99 with the reserve not met, however I know from experience that the reserve on these is usually between  60 to 80 dollars.
Now, some of you may be saying, thats a little pricey, but bare in mind this one panel is 50 watts.  This one panel, if hooked to a single deep cell battery, could power your refrigerator permanently. Now I know some of you are saying, "why my refrigerator?" and the answer is simple, its always running, and we need it that way.  If the power goes out, your food will stay fresh and not spoil, and if you have a gas stove, your in business still.
That's not the only thing though. If you contact one of these sellers on eBay, they generally are willing to do a  bulk order, cheaper!  I ordered mine at $40 a panel including shipping, because I ordered 10.  So yes, I spent 400 dollars, which did take some bite out of my wallet, but the fact I'm not producing enough electricity to power my refrigerator, my lights, my heater, and my computer, and my entertainment system. means I've cut more then 70% out of my electric bill!  I don't know about where you live, but here in Detroit, they tend to run about $300 a month for electricity.  Saving myself $210+ a month sure takes the sting out of it, especially since in 2 months minimum, I'm up a minimum of $20 and compared to last month, I'm smooth sailing.  If i spend the next two months putting the difference between my new electric bill and my old electric bill in a jar, I can double my panel array, and then the electric company pays me every month instead of me paying them.  How is it expensive to have a power company paying you, while eliminating your own bill?  Consider that the less energy you use, the more they have to buy (because your still creating the same amount monthly) so if you shut your house down, and go on vacation for a month, they practically pay for it!)
2) The Tech costs more in some places then others.
All hail the power of the internet, where if you don't like the prices locally, you can order it cheaper from elsewhere.  Right now, the bulk of solar panels come from China, Japan, and the United States.  When ordering in bulk packages, I have YET to meet a company that wont at least throw in shipping.  The biggest thing you pay for with Solar power is having it installed.  And this is why Myth  number 2 works for them.  They tell you its so hard to do, you need a specialized installer for everything. BULL$&!% You can install the panels yourself, its easy, and generally they come with mounting instructions and brackets!  Because its a niche market currently and not so mainstream, they have the ability to piggyback on the power companies "its expensive" claims by inflating their labor costs.
As an example, I use myself.  When I moved to Detroit in February, I called a few companies to get quotes on installing 10 panels, telling them i already had all the equipment.  They first hemmed and hauled because they prefer to use their own equipment (so they can pad the price there too), but in the end gave me a quote of almost $4000! I'm sure that would make ANYONE feel it was expensive!  Bare in mind, thats 4000 dollars for 6 hours of work that I did myself.  thats would take a crew of 2 people 2 hours to do if they did it on a regular basis (remember this is a solar energy company i called) meaning a price markup of 1,000 per hour per technician! no wonder they have everyone scared!

The point is people, it doesn't cost an arm and a leg, and its not hard to do.  If you own a drill, and a ladder you can put them up yourself, and if you shop around, its not expensive to buy, the tech is out there, you just have to look for it, and if spending an hour looking for solar panels at the best deal is to taxing on you, then have a buddy do it, or just follow the link under the picture of the panel above. There, cost effective.

Friday, September 17, 2010

So you want to make the move and go Solar...

Inevitably if you want to go solar, your going to need to do some research. While there are companies out there that would love to install a solar system for you, we're trying to save money here and they love to charge you over 400% in labor costs for something you can easily do yourself.
The best way to start is with an all inclusive kit, that way you get all the component you need to start out, and once you understand the basic simplicity of it all, you can expand.

If you shop around you can find some amazing deals, but in my ventures, Harbor Freight has the best one I could find for beginners.  This wonderful kit, prices at $199.00 includes a 45 watt solar panel, a charge control module (so you don't blow up your battery), and 2 12v lights if your using it in a garage or shed, you can even install these in various rooms in your house, but that involves running wires, which we will discuss later.

the only thing it doesn't come with is a battery, but any deep cell battery will do, similar to the one in a heavy duty truck, or a boat, you can find these pretty cheap at auto salvage yards. For example, parts galore sells batteries out of salvaged vehicles for $10.00 a piece, so shop around, get a good deal.  You could use a regular car battery, but they tend to wear out if you let them drop below a 50% charge rate on a regular basis.  You'll also want a 300 watt inverter to switch from 12v to 120v, and you can pick one of these up on ebay for around 20 dollars. So, now how to set it up...
you'll want to put it where the panels receive the maximum amount of light during the day, as exposure to a good 8 hours will completely charge your battery, which in turn can provide enough power for a full 18-24 hours on a general load, such as lights, or a small appliance like a computer, tv, etc. later on, as you add panels and increase your battery bay, and pick up a larger inverter, etc you'll be able to power more things in your home, and eventually your entire home, becoming self sustaining.
The trick is to start small and simple, so you can understand what your needs are and how the system works, you can always expand later.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Rain, Rain, Here to stay...

I know I've touched on this subject before but I figured since its raining today, I'd go into a little detail about rain barrels and how they can be utilized for maximum efficiency. A rain Barrel is generally a 30 to 50 gallon container (generally barrel shaped) that catches the water from the downspouts on your gutters and stores it for later use. Generally, you can fine rain barrels for sale in Home Depot or Lowe's, that cost almost $100.00 just because they have a special label, but thats just insane, and yet another way the stereotype of high cost green living is perpetuated. What is it really, its a barrel with a lid, and a hole drilled 3 inches up from the bottom for a faucet to be installed... So heres how to build your own.

Step 1) Get a barrel. Generally a food grade 50 gallon barrel in blue, black, or white, can be had off Craigslist for less then $15.00 but if you don't have any in your area, go to Wal-Mart (they are everywhere) and pick up a trash can without wheels. Make sure it has a lid, and be sure it doesn't have drain holes in the bottom. It doesn't have to be expensive, it just has to hold at least 40 gallons. they generally run about 14-20 dollars depending on what kind you get.

Step 2) Get a faucet. these don't have to be fancy either, you just need a plastic one, that has a locking nut on the inside and are able to attach a standard garden hose on the outside. this little piece of hardware will run you about 4 dollars, and i suggest getting 2 of them.

Step 3) get a piece of dryer duct flex hosing, and a dryer vent flange. you'll also want to pick up 2 clamps if they don't come with the hose, and 4 bolts with nuts, since you'll be mounting this flange to the lid.

Step 4) Figure out where your going to put it, a good location is on the corner of the building, somewhere close to your driveway.

Step 5) Assembly. Measure up from the bottom 3 inches, drill a small hole big enough for the first faucet to fit though, and put faucet 1 in this location. With the lid on, measure down 1 inch on either side, to the left or right of the main faucet. You don't want it on the back because thats where the water will be coming in. once you have your location, install the second faucet, and open it. This will be the runoff for excess water so your barrel doesn't overflow. I suggest adding a hose to this and running it to your garden to act as irrigation, but you could let it go directly into your where your gutter used to empty into.
Remove the lid, cut a hole big enough for the flange pipe to fit through from the inside, and bolt it to the lid. attach the flex pipe to the piece of pipe sticking up from the outside and place it right in front of the downspout of the gutter. Measure up about a foot and a half from the lid, use a hacksaw and cut the down pipe of the gutter clean off. Connect the other end of the flex pipe to the remaining gutter so that the water from the downspout is diverted into the barrel as opposed to straight into the city's drainage system.
Make sure the bottom faucet is closed! VERY IMPORTANT!

Step 6) wait for it to rain and watch how quickly you fill up! You'll be amazed!

This water can later be used to water your lawn, wash your car, irrigate your garden, you name it, the possibilities are endless!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Farmers Markets and Why They Are Better for Green Living...

Yesterday I took a trip to the Westborn Markets in Detroit. For those who don't know I moved to Detroit in February to take advantage of the bottoming housing market, and I haven't looked back sense. Cities like Detroit are perfect for what it is I'm trying to do to help this world out, but I digress.
So while I've been here I've been shopping int he organic sections of some of the larger stores, Meijer's in particular, until I could track down a notable farmers market to meet my needs. I can say that Westborn Markets does that, and then some, so I've decided today to tell you why Farmers markets are better for not only you, but the environment.
Starting with you, if you examine the way you eat, you'll probably notice that if your busy like I am, you tend to eat meals that are convenient. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but what most people give up when shopping for convenience is health, and they don't realize it. Foods filled with preservatives and chemicals not only tax your body, but they sent your immune system into overdrive trying to fight off what your body sees as a harmful invader its not designed to ingest. If you plan ahead, or become what i like to call "food conscious" you can fin a great deal of healthy foods to fill your need for convenience without sacrificing your health or your wallet.
This is where farmers markets come in. A farmers market is very much like a grocery store, only they tend to get their produce locally. I know what your thinking, Detroit's a city, but in fact, the metro area has a good smattering of farms right here! By getting the crops locally, your doing several things. 1) supporting the local economy as opposed to large chains, 2)cutting out the need for preservatives, ans it wont sit stored for any period of time, and 3)cutting down on the transport expense and effectively lowering the price.
Let's examine these closer. If you stimulate the local economy, you effectively giving back to your neighborhood. A lower economy undoubtedly means more desperation, which in turn means a higher crime rate. Not only does stimulating the local economy mean more jobs, it helps lower the crime, thus protecting you in the long run.
Cutting out the need for preservatives means an overall healthier lifestyle. Foods that don't contain preservatives digest better, and boost metabolism, leading to an overall decline in obesity in America. it also means a a decreased chance of getting sick, developing cancer, or contracting some foreign bacterial infection from imported foods.
Decreasing the need for extended transport not only ensures fresher food, but cuts down on pollution created by trucks traveling cross country, and in some cases, even planes burning crap loads of fuel.
So farmers markets are really a win, win, and win all the way around. You win because its cast effective and healthy, your neighborhood wins because its stimulating the economy and promoting community growth, and the planet wins because your cutting down on pollution and illness.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Another Way Recycled Paper Is Used.

J.S.Vig's Project Green Construction is a favorite site of mine. Like me, he uses common sense, and easily viewable information to show and explain why its not only more cost effective, its better for you all the way around to use recycled materials in redoing your home.

Granted, this isnt really for a project on a budget, but if for some reason you need to re-insulate your home (water damage, mold, fire, renovation, etc) Cellulose is the way to go. No only does it outperform, its generally 50-70% of the cost of regular pink fiberglass insulation.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Going Green - "The Dorm Life Edition" PART DEUX

So yesterday I talked about some  of the larger scale things you can do to cut cost and be more environmentally friendly while living on campus, today I'm going to discuss some other gadgets that can help as well, And I'm going to break them all down for you so you can see the overall savings and how it can benefit you.

Every school requires books, naturally, and all books they require come with a code known as the International Standard Book Number (ISBN).  This code allows you to look up books to make sure your getting the correct edition used for the class.  Each printing and each book has its own code, so 4th edition books have a different code then 3rd edition books, etc.
Most of us now have laptops, as they've become a standard use item for college, and if you don't well that's fine too.  The usefulness of this is that with your Books (which generally cost anywhere from $80.00 to a mind blowing $200.00) and their handy dandy ISBN, you can now shrug off the high cost of super-priced textbooks and opt for the e-book version in PDF Format for significantly cheaper.  The highest priced E-Book I've encountered for anything, including school was a mere $20.00!!!  So if you have to buy 4 books per semester, at an average of 100 a book, that's 400 bucks, but if you buy them as e-books at an average of $10.00 a book, that's only $40.00 for all of them, giving you a savings of $360.00 on average.  If you dont have a computer, that's fine, you can pick up an e-book (like the kindle or any other generic reader you find) reader for anywhere from $49.00 to $200.00, so even if you spring for the full bells and whistles reader for 200, your still spending around 50-55% this semester for books, and next semester, you'll spend MAYBE 10%.  Since most campus store purchases come out of your student account, and at the end of the semester you get whatever is left over back, this translates into a pretty good return on your investment.  On top of that, you don't have to waste time haggling over prices trying to sell the books privately to another student, or feeling ripped off when the store buys them back for pennies on the dollar.

Sometimes its a beautiful day and you want to work on your paper in the quad, or the park, or even just at the bus station while waiting for a ride.  Sometimes your paper deadline will be in crush time and you'll realize you've locked yourself out of your room, and your roommate has classes all day, and the RA is nowhere around.  Well that causes an issue if the battery in your laptop is like mine, and only holds a charge for 2.5 hours.All is not lost though! The fine folks E-Pow have released a Portable Solar Laptop Charger that not only gets the job done, but doesn't hurt your wallet doing it! 
 This little baby will provide enough power to not only charge your laptop, but also allow you to run it at the same time, just as if it was plugged into a wall outlet, and pulls in a price tag of only $107.00!  That's a far cry from the 600.00 options of last year!  Still while $107, may still be a little to rich for your blood, factor int he money you just saved on books with the e-book purchase, and your still golden.

If your rocking a netbook, and dont need as much power, there are other systems out there, some of which can even be found on ebay for even less.  The trick is to know how much power you need, and if you don't know,  ask the geeky nerd down the hall who does (every dorm has one, I was one)... Ladies, remember that nerd could someday be the next Bill Gates so don't count him out of the dating pool.
Once you know how much you need, you can hunt for the one that best suits your needs and your budget.  The great thing with these is, even when your in your dorm, you can use these to charge your cell phones, ipods, etc just by setting it in the window!
If your rocking an ipad, and using it as your e-book reader, there are solar chargers out there that cost as little as 25 bucks (this also apply's to some net books).  Good luck, and don't spend all your saved cash on pizza....

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Going Green - "The Dorm Life Edition"

Yesterday I had a request to do a post on how students living in dorms could be more earth consious and possibly save some cash along the way.  The first part is easy, the second not so much, but there are some things you can do.
Since living in a dorm is all inclusive, its not as if you have a fluctuating electric bill based on usage, or a water bill for how many showers you take.  You cant really save money that way, but that's not to say you shouldn't still do your part to help the environment.  Try using reusable water bottles, and fill them in the water fountains.  School water fountains are filtered, so the water your getting is better then out of the tap.  Decent reusable water bottles can be picke dup from everywhere from dollartree (for a dollar!) to walmart (for up to $7.00).  If you do the cheap route, you'll spend a dollar for a bottle you can use over and over and over again.  Think about how often you buy a drink while out on campus?  Now think about how much you spend doing it... that's how much you'll save.
Also, I suggest a window planter.  There are many plants you can grow (LEGAL ONES) right in your dorm with a 3 dollar window planter.  While i understand you don't really have room for a garden, growing some basic vegetables can help offset your food budget, especially if you like herbs and spices like basil, parsley, thyme, sage, oregano. a three dollar planter will allow you to grow all 5 of these, and use fresh in your food, as opposed to paying  four dollars a bottle for the spices at your local grocer.

Try to find “Energy Star”-logo TVs, DVD players, computers and microwaves because they use 10 to 50 percent less energy.  This energy consumption may not benefit you right now, but most of the appliances you get now, you'll take with you to your new apartment when you graduate.  The savings will pay off for you then.  There are few options for energy star micro refridgerators, but look around and be sure to check energy consumption rates.  get the one that meets your needs but doesn't use the most power.

remember that some item use a "phantom load"... computers, gaming systems, stereos, TVs, cell phones, cameras and iPod chargers that draw electricity even when turned off. Unplug them when not in use, or plug them all into a power strip and turn off the strip when not using them. Flipping that switch off is probably the most important energy-saving measure you can take.
If your responsible for light bulbs, just see my post from the other day.  Trust me, you'll thank me, and so will the person in the dorm room after you graduate.
If your like me, you love your car, but a bike comes in handy around campus and for town use. (Some colleges lend bikes out, just like books).  if you scour sites like craigslist, you can pick up a 7 or 10 speed cruiser for around 25 dollars and it will last you all your collegiate days.  And think, when your broke, and don't have the money for gas, your not stranded.  If your traveling on a road trip (as most college persons do) get a group and carpool, splitting the cost for gas, and pack a lunch if you can.

Look for sheets, rugs and curtains produced without toxic chemicals and made of organic materials. Hemp and bamboo fiber are becoming more popular. And many of the companies using organic fibers recycle and use fair labor practices.  Walmart's entire back to school line is made with recycled materials, so while it may not be overly professional, it does have personality and it  is earth friendly.

If your more proactive, I suggest going to the student council about starting a student community garden, even if its just for your dorm building, and campaign to get people involved.  Many colleges and universities are going green, if yours isn't, or your unsure, put together an info packet, and organize a green student committee.  Show the school board in a professional manner the benefits of a green campus, and a plan for implementation that allows for cost effective and gradual changes.   Get teachers involved.  Approach science teachers with proposals to teach green technologies in their lesson plans, and push the agenda for an interactive green learning area (a garden, solar panel array, wind turbine, etc) and have students build it to learn engineering, electrical planning, social science, environmental science, and green systems management.  It's also a good cultural history or anthropology teaching tool.

Monday, August 30, 2010

So what else can you offset by going green?

I've gotten a pretty good response from my last post, so I figured We'd discuss some other areas where going green can benefit you.  Since we're on the subject of budgeting, lets talk about your water bill.  If your like most Americans, you live in a town or city where water is controlled and billed along with your sewer usage.  Lets try to offset that shall we?
Today we're going to talk about gray water, and water reclamation.  Gray water is water used for basic use (non drinking) such as washing dishes, getting a shower, watering the lawn, washing the car, etc.  Water reclamation is reclaiming waste water, either rainwater or gray water, and recycling it for further use.

The easiest method of cutting down on water expenses is to place a  rain barrel under your gutter downspouts.  A rain barrel is a 50 gallon black or blue food grade barrel, usually found relatively cheap (less then $20.00 on craigslist). these barrels will collect the water run off from your roof, and store it for later use.  A simple faucet tap attached to the side of the barrel at the bottom  allows you to use this water later for watering your lawn, washing your car, watering your garden, etc.  while this may not be a huge offset, every penny counts, and considering they charge you by the gallon, (on average $0.19 a gallon is the national average) it can add up.  Let's look at it this way, 5 gallons is almost a dollar, that means a 50 gallon barrel is about 10 bucks in water.  The average household uses almost 1000 gallons of water a month washing their car, watering their lawn, and doing laundry.  With the addition of a $5.00 filter if your laundry is in the basement like mine, this water can offset all of these functions, saving you almost $200.00 a month not only does it save you money, but if you live in drought prone areas, when everyone else had a dieing lawn and a dirty car, yours is still vibrant and fresh.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

So What Is Going Green All About?

The major issues with today's populace is one of mis-information.  So many people believe that it costs a bundle to go green, and it pays itself off over 20 years.  While it is true that it does hold a long term value and payoff, it doesnt have to cost you an arm and a leg up front.  Let's take a look at some lagistics...

The Average home in the United States is about 1500 to 2000 square feet in size, generally with 3 or 4 bedrooms and 1 or 2 bathrooms.  These homes will consume an average of 1200-2000kWh (kilo watt hours) in a months time.  Check your electric bill for your particular houses usage.  Now while these numbers aren't to bad, if your like most people I've talked to, that puts your electric bill at around $200 a month... so that's $200 a month you are putting into someone else's pocket instead of taking the family out to dinner, or saving for that new car, or a vacation.
Green living seeks to do two things; The first is to decrease your dependency on corporations who use factory's that pollute to produce your electricity, therefore decreasing the amount of pollution your responsible for, and the second is to help you save more money, so you can work less, and enjoy life more.

I know what your asking yourself, "Ive already cut corners, how can I save even more?" Well I take it that means your like I used to be... You turned down the thermostat in the house to save on heat, you turn off the A/C and open windows with fans on nice days, you carpool whenever possible, etc. Did you ever stop to consider replacing things?
Let's take a look at the simplest energy expense, "light."  A standard 75w Incandescent bulb will run you about $0.80 and needs to be changed every 2 months.  That's 6 light bulbs over the course of the year for that one socket.  That's $4.80 just to keep a light bulb that works in the socket, not to mention the electricity it uses.  All in all that one little socket will cost you about $14.00 of the course of a year, with standard incandescent bulbs.
If you were to switch to a compact florescent bulb with a 75w comparable output, it may cost you $2.00 at most (I get mine at wal-mart for $0.92).  While this is initially higher in price (only slightly) it will last you for 3-5 years without needing to be changed, and will only use about 20w of actual power.
Heres the recap... Not counting electricity usage, over a 5 year span, a 75w incandescent will cost you $23.00 just to keep a working bulb, and a compact will cost you no more then $2.00...  If you have 10 light sockets in your house, 5 years worth of standard light bulbs will run you $230.00 where compact florescent will run you $20.00.  To me, its a no brainer.
Then you add in that over the span of its 5 year lifetime, you will use just over 1/4 of the power to light your home as you would with standard light bulbs, and the savings really pile up.  The average statistic is that 20% of your electric bill is from lights.  so if you pay $200 a month, that's $40 a month, or $480 a year on lighting your home. Now if you only have to pay one 4th of that amount, its $10 a month or $120 a year.  so in electric bill costs, your saving $360 a year! times that by the 5 year lifespan, and by the time you need to replace those 10 bulbs, you'll have saved $1800.00 on your bill and $210.00 on bulbs... bring your grand total to $2010.00!!!  That's the kind of saving that will let you take those kids on a Disney cruise!

How to Go Green and Save A Penny

So times are tough all over, and you may or may not have a job, but one way or another you have expenses.  That's where "going green" comes in.  In this blog we will share tips on how to cut your expenses significantly with a minimal expense that even the most meager budget can get by with.
For the DIY'ers out there (the kind that will really put this blog to work) Not only will we be discussing these tips, we'll also be showing you how to do some of these things yourself, so that the cost gets even cheaper.  Thanks for tuning in and following this blog, as we all know that without an audience, the reason to post goes away, so if your as interested as I am about cutting your expenses, and adding some green to your wallet while adding some green to the planet, then you've come to the right place.

Live well.