The Real Know How

How-Tos, Videos, Tutorials — Ramping Up for the 21st Century

Archive for the category “electronics”

Using a Temperature Controller to Save On Kitchen-related Electricity Costs

I was pretty blown away by this project.

Mikey and Wendy live on an off-grid, homestead in New Mexico (see their Holy Scrap Homestead blog). As such, they were looking for more efficiency from their appliances. Mikey has come up with a temperature controller that has allowed them convert a small chest freezer into a refrigerator and so downsize from their full-size fridge that cost them a lot in energy and was underutilized.

The temperature controller can also be used to regulate temperature for stuff like tempeh and yoghurt making, incubation, heat pads, raising bread dough, and controlling the temperature on simple crockpots and on hot plates for tasks like candy-making. There are a lot of possible uses.

The design and instructions on how to build it are “open source” in other words, free, off his website but he also sells kits to build it yourself and already completed units from there, as well.

Here is Mikey talking about the controller and what he was able to do with it. BTW, I don’t know Mikey or Wendy and they haven’t asked me to blog this. Just stumbled across this and thought it should be shared.

Here’s Wendy making yoghurt using the device:

Wendy using the temperature controller to make tempeh:

Mikey raising bread dough.

Besides the temperature controller, Mikey has other useful open source projects.

How to Make Your Own LED Light Fixture

I personally draw the line at fiddling with electricity (I’d have to gain some experience and confidence there first), but if that’s a skill that’s part of your toolkit building your own LED light fixture seems fairly straight forward.

The benefits of LEDs:

1. Long lifespan

2. Use less electricity than even compact fluorescent lights (CFLs)

3. More durable than CFLs

4. Turn on instantly – no delay as sometimes happens with CFLs

5. Aren’t affected by frequent turning on and off, a practice that shortens the life of CFLs

6. Emit much less heat than CFLs or incandents

7. Aren’t affected by temperature or humidity as CFLs and incandescent lights can be

8. Don’t contain mercury as CFLs do

9. Won’t need to be replaced as often

As compact fluorescents (CFLs) have gotten more efficient the cost savings with LEDs have diminished. Still, the LEDs last far, far longer than CFLs. LEDs can offer, for example, 50,000 hours of use before they need to be replaced versus 10,000 hours for a CFL. Both in terms of electricity cost and length of lifespan they completely leave incandescents in the dust. I found these comparisons useful.

Another plus for LED lights — since they don’t contain mercury as the CFLs do, so they don’t require special toxic materials disposal.

Note that a lot has changed regarding LEDs. Just a few years ago when I first looked into them, they were hard to find (I was going to have to mailorder them from a wholesale company) and were insanely expensive. I remember being frustrated that they were readily available in several developing countries but were almost unattainable here. Now there is a choice of three different brands of LED light fixtures at my local hardware store, retailing for about $30-45. I’ve noticed them available outside my area for as low as $25.

But. if you are handy in this way, you can likely make an LED fixture for less than that and increase the cost savings.

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