The Real Know How

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

Archive for the tag “energy”

Compost Heater How-To

Chris Towerton, in Australia, shows us an experimental compost heater he build to provide heat for at least two hours per day for up to 9 weeks. He’s using his system to heat one room in his house with a hot water radiator.

Happily, he talks in detail about what he did – so if you’re interested in doing something similar, this is a good starting point.

Helpful here too are Chris’ comments about how long the process took to ramp up, how long the effects lasted, etc.

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More on the Pot-in-Pot Refrigerator

The Rojases at Green Power Science, in Florida, give us more info on the pot-in-pot refrigerator. They highlight the need to be aware of your surrounding humidity levels. If the humidity is above 75%, they note, the zeer pots won’t work because they require evaporation to work and that’s a no-go when it is very humid out.

How to convert a washing machine into a water powered generator

buddhanz1, in New Zealand, shows us how to convert a washing machine into a water powered generator. It looks as if he may be using the municipal water supply to power his generator. At any rate, he gets enough power to live off-grid (powers his fridge, PC, lights, appliances — all the modern conveniences) and as he used mostly recycled parts the costs were minimal.

Rocket Stove

“The Rocket Stove is a variety of wood-burning cooking stove. It is easy to construct, with low-cost materials. These are low-mass stoves designed to burn small pieces of wood very efficiently. Cooking is done on top of a short insulated chimney. The stoves are typically constructed out of trash: tin cans, old stovepipes, etc. A skirt around the pot will help hold heat in, increasing the efficiency.

Rocket Stoves use branches, twigs, small wood scraps, or just about any small combustible material. The pieces of wood or other material burn at their tips, increasing combustion efficiency, creating a very hot fire, and eliminating smoke. The low-mass stove body and insulated chimney ensure that the heat goes into the cooking pot, not into the stove. Rocket stoves used in conjunction with hayboxes can save enormous amounts of fuel, cooking complete meals while using very few resources.” You can read the rest of the descriptive article here.

In the following videos, Chris Towerton, shows us how to construct a rocket stove cob oven. He uses clay, a steel pipe and straw.:

Chris’ inspiration video was by Jon and Flip who have built these ovens for firing pottery and for baking/cooking food as part of their relief work in Haiti.

How (Commercial) Biodiesel is Made

A step-by-step explanation of how the folks at Tristate Biodiesel take used cooking oil from around NYC and transform it into biodiesel heating oil that heats New Yorkers’ homes

Biogas System

This is the best small farm biogas system video I’ve seen so far.

As with many other useful technologies, we don’t hear much about biogas in this part of the world while it’s being rolled out extensively in the developing world and is a technology that could be universally useful.

Here a small farmer, Edward, in Uganda shows us his underground biogas system. It’s actually pretty elaborate and if maintained properly, he says should last about 70 years.

Edward keeps cows and sheep but seems to just use the cow’s dung and urine for the biogas system. He says that he mixes one part dung and one part water or urine and lets this mixture drop into a digester.

From the digester the digested solids and gas are separated in an underground dome (7 feet deep and 14 feet across).

From there the gas is piped into the farm house to the stove (which looked pretty much like a normal propane stove to me) and to fuel one gas lamp (which I found produced very dim light, but before they probably had no light at night or used kerosene lamps, so for them it’s a huge improvement).

The digested solids, now good for use as fertilizer/compost, drain out into a kind of pond area.

Edward notes that the covers to all of the biogas system access points are very heavy concrete to prevent children or vandals from fiddling around with them and either falling into the dome to their deaths or letting the precious biogas escape.

As he shows us his biogas system, Edward also points out his 10,000 liter rain water collection cistern.

Note that this system only uses waste from livestock but that other systems would also use humanure.

John Njendahayo, a Ugandan engineer, explains more about this kind of domed biogas system. Cue the following video to 4:25 where he starts to talk about the system itself. He covers the sizing of the systems, the relationship of input to output and what you can run on the biogas (including a modified paraffin fridge).

The system uses dome shapes so that none of the gas gets trapped in corners as it would in a rectangular digester. He notes that the reason for burying the digesters is to keep the temperature constant for the bacteria.

Here he talks about being able to sell the compost the digester produces as fertilizer and about needing to clear the pipes of condensation and how the gas is piped into the house.

How to Produce Biodiesel from Vegetable Oil

Lance Hall shows us how to make biodiesel (he uses it for his car and tractor) from vegetable oil. Lance recommends biodiesel.org for more info on biodiesel.

Lance covers making biodiesel manually and making it with a reactor. He has quite the set up.

This is a dangerous process, in which he uses methanol (“wood alcohol” -a poison that can be absorbed through your skin) and potassium hydroxide (an extremely caustic chemical). It seemed to me that Lance probably should have been wearing longer, thicker gloves and protective eyewear, but…

How to Make an Inexpensive Vertical Axis Wind Turbine Using Plastic Barrels

Jeff Berezin of Berezin Technologies shows us how to make a vertical axis, Savonius wind turbine using plastic barrels.

Make Your Own Zoetrope Wind Turbine

“The Zoetrope is a vertical-axis wind turbine made from common materials such as stove pipe, metal brackets, plastic sheet and a trailer hub. Many of the materials can be found at local hardware or home improvement stores, the rest can either be made at home or purchased online. The Zoetrope was commissioned by Washington (USA) resident and renewable energy supporter Mike Marohn to provide supplemental water heating.

Applied Sciences made the decision to open source the wind turbine and provide a freely available introduction to wind power, thereby allowing others to improve the design and functionality.”

View the construction guide, templates, videos and CAD drawings for the Zoetrope here.

Since it is a vertical axis wind turbine, the Zoetrope avoids many of the problems of the horizontal axis wind turbines we are more used to seeing such as noise, creating hazards for birds and so on.

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.

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