Must have products for an off the grid lifestyle

Must have products for an off the grid lifestyle

Energy

Must have products for an off the grid lifestyle

Living off the grid is more than having renewable sources of energy. It is more than harvesting rainwater. It is, above all, an eco-friendly lifestyle.

As we explored in our article on energy efficiency, living off-grid takes certain products. You should not just buy new appliances or gadgets without considering how much energy they use. Some products such as the solar refrigerator listed below are made to run exclusively on solar power.

You may be looking to ease into solar or wind power. We have you covered with a great solar kit that is easy to install and has a great value.

Off the Grid Cooking

Cooking always takes some forethought when living off the grid. Electric stoves take too much power and are not easily supported by a wind turbine or solar panels.

One product we love is the solar oven. You may think a solar oven is just for camping or a cool kids science fair experiment. And they are – however, they are so much more.

Solar ovens are very popular all over the world. In underdeveloped countries, they are lifesavers because they lessen the exposure to dangerous kerosene fumes often used for cooking. A solar oven can be used anywhere on a nice sunny day. They heat up extremely fast. Solar ovens are appropriate for all types of cooking including roasting meats, baking bread and making soups or stews.

A quality solar oven such as the All American Sun Oven- The Ultimate Solar Appliance will be up to any baking task. This sturdy solar oven will reach temperatures of 360 to 400 Fahrenheit (approximately 180 to 205 Celsius) and can even be used to roast meats.

This model is great because its larger size can accommodate standard size pans. You want to avoid models that can only take a small pan as they will limit what you can cook.

Off the Grid Refrigeration

Refrigeration may be the most necessary appliance you need when moving off grid. After all, you can always cook on a grill or open fire. But keeping foods cold is essential to our safety and health. That’s why we recommend investing in a quality refrigerator.

Along with baking, refrigeration takes up a lot of energy. For most off griders that leaves two options: using propane or solar refrigerators.

There are pros and cons to each system as you can see below.

Propane RefrigerationP600

A propane refrigerator is very energy efficient and can easily keep food frozen. This Smad Gas Refrigerator Freezer Propane Fridge with Freezer is 9.3 Cu.Ft is very energy efficient and requires no electricity to run. However, it can run on 110 electric, but that would not be as efficient.

At a cost of $1569, it averages $169 per cubic foot. Propane or natural gas refrigerators have a lower upfront cost then do straight solar ones.

This model uses approximately 20 pounds of propane every two weeks. Propane refrigerators are quiet, self-contained and do not cause indoor air pollution. They also use no freon which is an environmental pollutant. Most propane fridges are duo usage and can also run on electric which gives you some flexibility.

Propane refrigerators have few moving parts and last for a long time. It is common to see older models that are thirty plus years old.

The biggest con of a propane refrigerator is that you are still using fossil fuel making it a not so eco-friendly solution. Although the initial cost of a propane refrigerator is lower than the solar ones, you still have to deal with the fuel cost over time. 

Last but not least, they do weigh a great deal which can make shipping and transportation more difficult.

Solar Refrigeration

For comparison, we can look at a Solar Refrigerator. The Smad DC/AC Solar Refrigerator Double Doors with Freezer is 6.2 Cu ft (so slightly smaller than the propane model). At a cost of $1299, it averages @ $210 per cubic foot.

Solar fridges are highly efficient. They are typically well insulated with quiet compressors. This model can be powered via solar or wind power directly (DC) or off battery power (AC).

The catch with the solar refrigerator is that you must have solar panels already installed to run it. This model uses 65 watts so would need a comparable solar panel rising the initial cost. Now, the big advantage of the solar model is no monthly bill or fossil fuel usage. They also have good warranties and are very long lasting.

Off the Grid Solar Lights

No matter if you are starting out small or adding a few solar products to your home in case there is a power outage. These hanging solar lights are perfect for such use.

These are great for providing light where and when you need a little extra: nature Power 21030 Hanging Solar Powered LED Shed Light with Remote Control, and a Black Finish. They are made for use in a shed or garage but are adequate to use in the home as well.

The High-Quality Amorphous solar panel recharges using an included battery. These lights are easy to install by mounting the solar panel in a sunny location and drilling a hole to run the wiring through.

These lights are not very bright but give enough quality light to cook a meal or see around the house. They can be comforting if you have a child who is afraid of the dark. Not recommended for reading unless you sit directly below the light.

Off the Grid Small Solar Kits

If you are looking for a system to get you started in solar energy but is easy to install. A solar kit can help you get started with solar energy and can power a tremendous amount of things.

The KISAE Technology HS400-00 Is a complete Home Solar 400 Watt kit. It is self-contained, so the inverter and the battery are all in a box together. This plug and play system makes it easy to install and easy to use.

You could easily power lights and the weather radio during a storm or power outage. It would also charge your cell phone and laptop. This kit also makes an accessible introduction to solar power.

Do you want to switch over one area of your house? Depending on your equipment you could power your home office with this product. Laptop, printer and desk lamp can all run on under 40 watts as long as you have energy efficient models.

Products mentioned in this post

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Energy

How to make your home more energy efficient

Energy efficiency is very important and applies to everyone, whether you live on or off the grid. It is important to use our natural resources wisely. And by using your resources wisely you also save money 

What Does it Mean to be Energy Efficient?

Energy efficiency means to reduce your consumption of power. Your first step is to reduce your electricity consumption. This will save you money on utility bills and lower your dependence on fossil fuels.

Energy efficiency can have a positive impact on the environment. In the United States 40% of the energy used comes from producing electricity, much of that generated from coal plants.

If you are looking at going off the grid (or even grid-tied) you need to plan on using as little electricity as possible. In that way, you can develop a system that is energy efficient and is easy to power off a smaller system.

The size of the solar or wind system you buy is directly related to the amount of energy you will use and the amount of sun and/or wind your home requires.

Becoming energy efficient may mean that you

  • Don’t use some things because they use too much electricity to run

  • Use those heavy electric loads less

  • Purchase appliances that use less power

  • If you have solar energy then use more electric on sunny days to save on your battery usage

How do I Become More Energy Efficient?

Take a good look at your home.

Where are you using power?

What appliances use the most electricity?

You can buy a watt meter to help you answer those questions.

How does my behavior affect my energy use?

Remember your mother always telling you to turn off the lights when you left a room? Well, she was right. Your behavior plays a big part in how much energy you use.

When using renewable energy you need to be conscious of your energy use.

Watts, Volts and Amps??

These are important terms to know when you are evaluating your energy usage.

A good example is to think of electricity as water flowing through a pipe. Just like water flows through a pipe, electricity is the flow of electrons through a wire.

An amp is the volume or the amount of current flowing through a wire (or water through the pipe). So how fast does the energy flow is the amp?

The pressure of the water is the voltage. Volts measure the force of the flow.

Watts is the power supplied by the flow of electricity – or water flow in our analogy. You get watts by multiplying amps times volts. A watt tells us how much energy is generated or consumed. For example, if you turn on a light that has a 60-watt bulb in it, then that lamp is consuming 60 watts of energy for every second that light is on.

In solar terminology, you may see the expression kW or kW-h. This stands for kilowatts and kilowatts per hour. This represents how many watts are used per hour.

Knowing What You Can and Cannot Run on Solar and Wind

The first acknowledgment that most people when using a stand-alone system or off the grid is that you can not run everything. Well, you could but it would be counterproductive and very expensive. Who wants to spend $5000 on solar panels just to run an electric stove when $5000 can completely power a small home or cabin.

In off-grid terminology, a load is how much electricity something uses. Heavy loads are not practical to use. Things that need to produce a lot of heat, for instance, electric stoves and electric heaters use an amazing amount of energy. Surprisingly many small appliances such as toasters and convection ovens also use a lot. Air conditioning is also a big user of energy.

Now if you are on a grid-tied system you can have your electric stove and central air conditioning because the grid-tied electric will kick in when you use them. But remember even with a grid-tied system the more of “their” energy you use the less of “your” money you will save.

Every electric product sold has a chart that will tell you how many watts or amps it uses. Energy Star products are very good at this and often give you comparison information as well.

If you are not ready to leave the grid yet, it is still a good idea to track how much electricity you are using. Several products such as smart plugs and monitoring systems help you to control and monitor your electric use.

Typical Electric Loads for Conventional Appliances

Space Heater 1500 watts

Stove 2100 watts

Coffee Maker 1200 watts

16 cubic foot refrigerator and freezer unit 475 watts

How Electric Products Use Energy

Knowing how your electric product uses energy is important. Some electric appliances use electric through cycling. That means that the product is not “on” 24/7 but cycles on and off to do its job. A refrigerator is a good example of this. The unit will come on when it needs to maintain the desired temperature. And will turn off when the desired temperature is attained.

Some appliances such as a washing machine are on the whole time they are in use but are off when they are not in use.

Watch Out For Phantoms!

Many electrical loads are using electricity even when they are off. Electronics such as TV’s and computers do this. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL), states that the average American home has up to 40 products that are constantly drawing power.

Also, anything with a digital clock such as a microwave has a phantom load. These amounts may seem very small but they do add up. For example, your TV can have a phantom load of 5 watts a day. That’s 1,825 watts a year which can be doing good elsewhere.

To help alleviate phantom loads you can plug small appliances into a surge protector and then turn the surge protector off when you are done using the appliance.

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Wind power systems for home

Wind power systems for home

Energy

All you need to know to get your home wind energy project started

Wind is a great source of renewable energy power. Wind is the fastest growing source of alternative energy worldwide because it has a proven and reliable technology.

What Is Wind Energy?

Wind power is an environmentally friendly, green energy source. Wind occurs naturally on earth as a result of the Earth’s tilt, spin, the heating from the sun and varying temperatures on the earth’s surface. This all causes air to move around the planet.

Wind energy does not contribute to air or water pollution, nor does it leak fossil fuel oils. Care must be taken when planning large wind utility plants to be sensitive to migrating birds and mammals. For home use, this is not an issue.

History of Wind Energy

Harnessing the wind for power is a very old technique that was first used in ancient civilizations and became popular in Europe during the Middle Ages. These early windmills had sails instead of blades.

Modern wind turbines are structured similarly to the traditional windmill but that’s as far as the resemblance goes. Turbines are the part of the wind machine that turns. They are sleek and aerodynamic in order to better catch the wind and convert it into electricity.

Today’s Wind Energy – Better and More Powerful

Wind Power depends on the amount of air (volume), speed the air travels (velocity) and the mass of air (density). These things must work together to provide the amount of push the turbine needs to turn. Wind turbines average 35% – 45 % efficiency.

Wind turbines are most often measured in kilowatts or kW. For example, a standard 100-watt light bulb uses one kWh after ten hours of use. Wind industry experts say that 10 kW system will generate about 10,000 kWh per year, which is what the average American home uses.

Determining your electrical needs and usage is important. If you are going to live “off-grid” and not be attached to conventional electricity then you need to work on reducing your level of energy consumption. You can do this by purchasing energy star appliances. Just switching to Energy Star LED lightbulbs will save you considerable amounts of electricity.

What Parts Make Up Wind Turbines

Today’s turbines are equipped with typically three blades and a nacelle which houses the motor and gearbox. They are typically on a horizontal axis in relationship to the single steel pole which holds them up.

The height of the pole is important in how much wind energy the unit can process. Larger kilowatt (kW) systems require heavy steel poles of around 250 feet. Smaller systems can use a shorter pole and microsystems are meant to be mounted on cabins or RV’s.

The blades on the turbine are an important consideration. Many are fiber-reinforced plastics but metal ones are also available. How they are mounted and fixed is important to their efficiency. They come fixed pitch, either twisted/tapered, or straight.

All wind energy units contain a generator to change the kinetic energy from the wind to mechanical energy which can be used for electricity. The generators are designed to be simple and reliable with few moving parts so that little regular maintenance required.

Where Does Wind Energy Work Best

Wind turbines are becoming more efficient and working at lower speeds. Smaller units designed for single applications are very cost effective. Larger systems that are meant to power a home need more wind speed.

Not everywhere is suitable for wind power. Wind turbines need a consistent wind speed of 6 – 9 miles per hour. To evaluate your area in the United States check out the Wind Exchange website.

The best states for utilizing wind energy according to the American Wind Energy Association are:

  1. North Dakota
  2. Texas
  3. Kansas
  4. South Dakota
  5. Montana
  6. Nebraska
  7. Wyoming
  8. Oklahoma
  9. Minnesota
  10. Iowa
  11. Areas along the northeast coast

You can measure your wind speed with the use of an anemometer. The HOLDPEAK 866B Digital Anemometer measures wind speed, temperature and wind chill. It has a range: 0.3-30m/s and accuracy: 0.1dgts. Take measurements on a daily schedule for several weeks to determine your average wind speed.

 

Types of Wind Power Systems

There are numerous types of wind power systems which vary depending on the amount of blades and the tilt of the axis. Axis can be vertical or horizontal. Horizontal blades are more popular and the type you typically see. Advantages are that the rotors are upwind.

Upwind turbines have the wind facing the turbine. Are more efficient but harder to maintain. Needs to have a rigid hub which is away from the tower.

Small vertical axes turbines are attractive and made to fit on RV’s or boats. This one made by Wonderful Online has a 400Watt DC12V generator and four with optimized aerodynamic blades. The blades are made for low wind start up to be more energy efficient.

Small turbines can have a downwind turbine which means the wind hits them from the back. These are most often seen on smaller turbines. They can be more flexible in the rotor and the generator but still need a rigid tower.

Small systems are great for home and farm applications. A small wind energy system can provide you with a practical and economical source of electricity. When considering a wind power system think about the amount of space you have and where you will put your turbine. If you are in a subdivision or more urban area you need to make sure that your local zoning codes or covenants allow wind turbines.

Mini turbines are designed for charging batteries or running lights in an RV or cabin. They run between 20 – 50 kW.

If you are handy and want to DIY and make the blades you can just buy the generator to power your system. The MarsRock 600r/m 100W 12V or 24V Permanent Magnet Generator AC Alternator for Vertical or Horizontal Wind Turbine 100W Wind Generator (12V). This small generator has impressive power and is gearless, uses direct -drive, and has a low rev rare earth Permanent Magnet Generator which is easy and safe for operating and maintenance.

Costs, Installation, and Return on Investment

Wind energy is growing in popularity worldwide. And no doubt because the costs of running a wind power system have come down considerably. The average cost of industrial wind power is 8.2 cents per kilowatt, compared to coal-burning plants at 11 cents per kilowatt. Residential costs and system have also come down making it a desirable option for new construction.

Grid-Tied Or Off Grid

One of your first considerations will be to decide if you want to be grid tied or off the grid.

Grid-Tied means that you are still connected to your local electric power company. Your wind energy system would supplement your power needs. So your home would use available electricity from your wind turbine first. If your turbine was not producing electric at the moment, say it was a balmy day or you had all your appliances running, then your conventional electric would kick in and give you power.

Depending on your location and your power company, you can sometimes earn money from your grid-tied system. This would happen if your wind turbine produced more electricity then what your house used. Then your electric company would buy back the excess electric and give you a credit or a check. It is worthwhile to contact your electric company and find out their policies on grid-tied systems.

Off-grid means that you are totally independent of your conventional electric company. This means you produce all of your own electricity needs. People chose this option for many reasons. They may desire to be independent and not rely on the electric company or government. Or their home may be in a remote area that is not served by power lines or too expensive to have them run. One advantage of being off grid is no monthly bill!

Average Costs of Residential Wind Systems

Wind systems can reduce your electric bill by 50 – 90 %, especially if your average electricity bills are $150 per month or more.

If your property is in a remote location without easy access to utility lines wind may be a viable option. Wind energy is an investment so you do need to be comfortable with long-term investments. Remember that if you are off grid and you invest in wind energy you will have no monthly bill. Once your system is paid for you get your electric for free.

Check out the Wind Exchange website for information on your area.

Modern turbines are increasing in efficiency but are still less than 60%. 59% is the best that a larger conventional wind power unit can accomplish and the smaller turbines run 30 – 40%. While this may seem low the overall cost savings often make wind worthwhile.

Figuring Out The Costs

If you know a unit’s capacity and efficiency factors, you can figure out the estimated annual output. Use this formula by multiplying year x day x capacity x-factors to get kW per year.

So if the manufacturer states that the turbine has a rated capacity of 1500 kilowatts with an efficiency factor of 25% then you would set that up like

365 x 24 x 1500 x .25 = 3,285, 000 kilowatt hours per year

Remember this is the ideal. In real life, you have less or more wind on any given day.

You can use the NREL wind maps to adjust your time figures for a more accurate location-specific figure.

What Size Wind System Do I Need

The size of your wind system depends on what you want to do with it. Do you want to supplement your power needs and reduce your electric bill or do you want to have the wind provide all your electrical needs?

Small turbines range in size from 20 watts to 100 kilowatts (kW). The smaller or “micro” (20- to 500-watt) turbines are used in a variety of applications such as charging batteries for recreational vehicles and sailboats.

Small turbines that produce 3 – 10 kw are great for single application jobs such as pumping water from a well or running lights in a remote cabin.

Return On Investment

Your return on investment (ROI) basically is the wind turbine cost-effective value. Will you get your monies worth out of it. Keep in mind that the federal government and many states offer tax rebates for installing renewable energy in your home.

Small Turbines are those up to 10 kW are often installed in “rural residential” on-grid and off-grid applications. The average investment is $2,500-$8,000/kW for purchase and installation. Small systems are designed for reliability and low maintenance so that you do not have to have a lot of mechanical experience.

Small systems normally require an average wind speed of nine miles per hour and have an ROI value of approximately $0.06 – $0.26 per kWh.

Installation

Installation of a wind energy system is the most detailed and expensive aspect. Picking a location for the tower and deciding how to run the electrical cables to your home is critical to the success of your project.

The first thing to consider when installing a wind system is where to locate the tower. The taller towers need to be “planted” quite deep and cemented into the ground. Guy wires are then attached to provided stability to the steel pole.

This can be a DIY project or you can hire an installer.

In most areas, you will be required to state or city zoning laws to hire a licensed electrician to connect the power lines to your home.

Wind Energy System Kits

Purchasing a kit can be a very economical and easy way to get into wind energy. The nice thing about kits is that you have all the components of the turbine and generator for easy to put together installation. Pole mounted kits often require you to have a mounted pole.

The ECO LLC 400W DC 12V/24V Wind Turbine Generator does not include the pole or battery. This is a great starter kit for people wanting to get going with wind power. It has a low wind speed startup so is great if you have lower then average wind capacity. In addition, the tower height requirement is only 15 – 30 feet high.

Not everyone has access to the perfect conditions. If your wind and or solar requirements don’t match the output guidelines you might consider a hybrid system. The ECO LLC 850W Hybrid Solar-Wind Kit gives you 400W Wind Generator. Plus you get three solar panels that are 150W and a 1KW Inverter.

This system gives you a maximum daily output at 2520W. The big advantage is that it works when there is only wind power or only solar power available or will work as a hybrid. This combines the best of both worlds.

 

Need Help Making a Decision? Let us help you. No commitments!

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Energy

Solar power system off-grid vs on-grid

Solar power systems, or PhotoVoltaic (PV) Systems, can be broadly classified into two main, extensive categories. One of them is known as an On-Grid (Solar) System, more commonly referred to as Grid-Tied Solar systems, while the other is known as Off-Grid (Solar) Systems.

What are the benefits of off-grid and grid-tied systems? Which option suits you best? Understanding the key differences between these solar system types is a must before having a solar system installed at your home, business or remote location.

Depending on your budget, your goals for energy and the environment, you will be able to determine which type is the best for you. However, it is advisable to talk your goals through with your solar contractor to accurately weigh down all possible options and understand the estimated costs of each option.

Grid-tied Solar Systems

These are solar systems that are connected to the utility power grid and require the grid to be running to function. These systems are also known as on-grid, grid-direct, grid-intertie, utility-interactive, and grid back-feeding.

Grid-tied solar systems have several benefits:

  • It is ideal if you lack adequate spacing or the required budget to install a solar system that covers 100% of your electricity usage hence you can use electricity from the grid whenever you need.
  • It requires a lower initial investment as you won’t need to batteries or other stand-alone equipment for a fully functional off-grid, as well as the associated costs of maintenance.
  • Net metering/ feed-in tariff schemes:
    Energy produced by the solar grid is often more than the energy that you are capable of consuming. Net metering allows you to sell any excedent electricity generated on the grid rather than storing it in batteries in the form of Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs). These schemes, thereby, play a significant role in incentivizing solar energy. Many organizations commit to buying electricity from homeowners with the excedent electricity being sold to them at the same rate as they sell it. Net meters, hence, make solar systems at your residence more feasible from a financial standpoint. The electricity generated from these solar systems can also be used to offset utility electricity during off-weather days such as cloudy, rainy/stormy days, owing to the concept of net metering.
  • The utility grid in many ways acts as virtual battery storage, by offering relatively more efficient rates (compared to batteries) and the fact that they require no maintenance or replacements. According to Us Energy Information Administration, electrical energy stored in the form of chemical, typically lead batteries are only 80% efficient, with degrading performance over time. Hence, the use of grid brings in a valuable incentive compared to conventional battery systems.
  • This system offers access to backup electricity in case there is the hindrance in the generation of electricity for any particular reason.

The key components needed for Grid-tied solar system are significantly different from the off-grid solar system. Some of the critical elements for Grid-tied systems are:

  • Micro-inverters OR Grid-tie Inverter (GTI)
    Inverters are implemented to regulate the voltage and current received from your solar panels.
    Micro-inverters happen to be an ideal option for homeowners who reckon of the possibility of shading issues. These are placed on the back side of the solar panels as opposed to inverters that centrally over the entire solar array.
  • Grid-tie Inverter (GTI) also known as grid-interactive or synchronous inverters, convert Direct Current form your solar panels to Alternating Current, which is more applicable to a wide variety of electrical appliances. Additionally, they concur the phase and frequency of the current to adhere to the utility grid frequency which about 60 Hz. To ensure that any excess electricity flows to the grid, the output voltage of the GTI Is usually adjusted higher than the utility grid.

  • Power Meter
    This device, also known as a net meter or a two-way meter, is capable of measuring power going in both directions, from the grid to your house and your house to the grid. Homeowners using this solar system need to make use of a power meter that caters to net-metering.

Off-Grid Solar Systems

Off-Grid Solar Systems are a better option for you if you wish to install a solar system that is independent of the electrical grid. This solar system needs its solar panels to cater to 100% energy demand of the platform it is installed in and hence need to be large enough to suffice energy needs. Most residential platforms demand higher electricity in the later part of the day; therefore excess energy produced during the daytime needs to be stored to meet the demands of the electrical usage in the evening. Off-Grid solar systems usually incorporate a backup source of energy such as a generator or battery to store excess energy or both. These solar systems are more complex and less flexible than on-grid systems.

Off-grid systems are more applicable and common in remote locations without utility service. As there are no source grids to provide excess power, the electrical energy usage must be monitored religiously and adjusted below maximum power output, in all off-grid frameworks. These systems demand stand-alone equipment and battery banks that must be replaced within 10 years of use. The net amount for maintenance and replacement makes this system relatively costly and inefficient.

Off-Grid Solar systems have their own set of advantages which makes them popular and beneficial.

  • Independence from the utility grid
    Off-grid solar systems are often substantially cheaper than utility grid in remote areas.
  • Energy self-sufficiency
    Having your source of electrical power sets you free you and relieves you of any inconveniences from utility grid power failures. It also serves as a form of security. However, it is advised to maintain battery backups for cloudy/dark days.

Key components required for Off-Grid Solar Systems are:

  • Battery Bank
    Group of batteries wired together to keep the system running beyond daily sunset. It forms the most complex and costly part of the solar system, but it is also the most important. An appropriate size of the battery bank is critical since too many batteries can lead the system to never charging to its full capacity.
  • Charge Controller
    This is to protect the battery from overcharging. These are crucial as battery regulation extends battery life and ultimately increases system efficiency via reduced overall costs.
  • Off-Grid inverter
    Conversion of direct current to analog current is necessary to make electricity eligible for most electrical appliances.
     

Hybrid Solar Systems

A third, trending option resides with combining the best from grid-tied and off-grid solar systems. Grid-tied solar systems are upgraded with deep battery backup that will be charged via solar panels as well as from the grid. The battery can be set to take over in case of an outage automatically.

In case your decision to take one further step to live an off the grid life is taken and your new solar system is soon to become a reality, ecofriendly.solutions will be pleased to recommend you to the best and most suitable service providers for your needs.

Fill up the form below and let one of our trusted service providers contact you. No commitments!

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Solar energy for a better world

Solar energy for a better world

Energy

Sun as a mean of energy

 

There are several different types of means of energy, but one of the most relevant and emerging sources of energy is solar energy. The amount of energy that our sun produces is overwhelming. It continually gives us about 35 thousand times the total amount of energy required by us. There is more energy coming from the sun that we can use on our planet, and its clean, green energy!

What solar energy means is the way of obtaining or producing electricity from the radiations coming from the sun. To use this source of energy, we need to make use of solar panels that will convert this energy into electricity.

The energy coming from the Sun to the Earth for one hour could, hypothetically, meet the global energy needs for one entire year, but nowadays our current best possible abilities only allow us to harness about 0.001 percent of that potential.

Why has the usage of solar energy become a trending topic when talking about renewable energy? While the criticizers raise the point that its installation can be costly and solar energy may not be very efficient, it is now proving that is can be extremely beneficial not only for the environment but also from a financial standpoint.

Due to a rapidly increasing demand, the technology has improved considerably, turning solar energy into a much more efficient source of clean energy.

Some of the most essential and beneficial advantages of Solar Energy include the fact that it can significantly reduce the electricity bills, it is a renewable source, it requires low maintenance costs and has diverse applications.

 

BASICS OF SOLAR ENERGY BASICS

Simply put, it is the transformation of solar power into thermal/electrical energy.

An example of an early solar energy collection device is the solar oven. A solar oven is a box that collects and absorbs the sunlight. It was first used in the 1800s when a British astronomer used a solar oven to cook food during an expedition to Africa.

Currently, there are many different technologies in use all around the world for collecting and converting solar radiation into useful heat energy for a variety of purposes.

The most popular technologies derived from solar power and its usage are:

  • Photovoltaic Systems: the production of electricity directly from sunlight with the use of photovoltaic systems.
  • Solar Hot Water: another way of production of energy is by heating water directly by sunlight.
  • Solar Electricity: using the sun’s heat to produce electricity is called solar electricity.
  • Solar Process Space Heating and Cooling: the industrial and commercial use of the heat of the sun.

SOLAR POWERED HOUSE

A solar-powered house has been and is still one of the most emerging trends in housing electricity production these days. It refers to the homes that have solar panels installed on it, mostly on the rooftop.

There are some advantages and disadvantages of this mean of energy for residential use. If you are considering transforming your house into a solar-powered home, you need to be able to distinguish between the real pros and cons of solar energy and some “solar myths” as well. 

Take a look at some of the most basic and essential benefits and disadvantages below:

Improved home value

The market value of a house that has solar panels installed at its rooftop is considerably higher than the market value of a house without it (if you own the system, of course!). Millions of homeowners are interested in having solar panels at home but haven’t taken the time to figure out what it takes to install them.

Even though the installation of solar panels requires a relatively complex and costly process, the undeniable benefits of having solar panels on a home, as shown by the recent studies are that the value of property significantly increases after the installation of solar panels.

According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBL), each watt of solar adds about $4 to a home’s value in California. A house with solar panels should sell, on average, for about ($4 x 5,000W) $20,000 more in California.

Reduction in electricity bills

One of the most important benefits of having solar panels on your rooftop is pretty straightforward. When you install solar panels at your home, you generate your electricity, and the result is that you become less reliant on your electric utility and can even become completely independent of it which can result in a significant reduction in your monthly electric bill.

A solar panel system typically has a 25-30 year lifespan, which means that you can cut your electricity costs for decades to come by going solar for as long as the house stays in your life.

Control over rising costs

Like stated above, you can have control over the rising costs of the electricity by having your solar panels installed at your home that make you independent of the external electricity utilities.

According to recent studies, the cost of solar has decreased by more than 70% in the past decade, the cost of electricity has risen by about five percent, and this trend is expected to continue.

A more sustainable and eco-friendly home

Another advantage of a solar-powered home that is considered the most admirable and patriotic is the eco-friendly nature of a house that is solar powered. The fact that it benefits our environment has made this technology a relevant field of energy production.

Not ideal for moving people

As it is a common fact that solar requires a significant financial investment upfront, it is crucial to keep in mind that the average solar panel payback takes around seven and a half years. 

For the homeowners who may be moving in the coming years, installing new solar panels on the rooftop might feel like an investment that is not worth it from a financial standpoint.

Roof requirements should be met

The solar panels that are installed at a rooftop have their unique needs as they may not fit all types of rooftops. Its installation requires connecting a mounting system to the roof. 

Certain roofing materials used in older houses, such as slate or cedar tiles, can be difficult for solar installers to work with, throwing up a roadblock for solar power. 

There are also minimum size requirements for the installation of solar panels to be viable.

Good installers may be hard to find

There’s a common association that many homeowners have with solar. For the solar-powered house, the homeowners have to deal a lot like the pushy solar sales reps that pressurize the consumers to sign a 20-year solar contract before they explain the full scope of the offer or the credibility of the solar company. As solar energy is one of the fastest growing markets in the world, and there are plenty of companies that are deploying aggressive sales tactics to get their fair share of the market. So it has been proved through surveys and studies that the decision of installation of solar panels is a very stressful and confusing job.

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Rooftop Rainwater Harvesting

Rooftop Rainwater Harvesting

Environment

Rooftop Rainwater Harvesting

Collecting, storing and using rainwater at home

Rain harvesting, also known as rainwater collection or rainwater catchment, is an ancient practice that we have been using since roughly 10,000 years ago during the Neolithic age and fortunately, it is becoming increasingly popular again. According to the World Health Organization, besides being widely practiced in low-income and mid-income countries, “it is becoming a focus of increased interest in developed countries” as well.

Water is one of the biggest environmental challenges that we have on our planet. Our planet’s population is expected to reach 10 billion people by 2050, adding even more pressure on such an essential resource, making the increasing interest in rainwater harvesting great news!

Despite being a great eco-friendly solution for our planet, the rainwater, when properly collected and stored, can become a valuable resource to any household, especially in times when water shortage is becoming an increasing source of concern to more and more people in several cities around the globe.

Using rainwater in our homes is an easy and efficient way to effectively conserve water supply and cooperate for reduced use of water, saving it for the future generations. Its use is viable in urban buildings

Where can we use the stored rainwater?

Stored rainwater when adequately treated, can be used to supply all the residential needs including drinking and cooking.

Even if not filtered, the collected rainwater can be widely used in our daily lives for activities such as garden watering, car washing, toilet flushing, household cleaning, laundry among others.

According to a report from the Water Research Foundation published in April 2016, the main responsible for water usage in the average household is the toilet flushing (24%), shower (20%), faucet (19%), clothes washer (17%) and leak (12%). If collected rainwater could replace just the water used for flushing, it would already make a huge difference!

 

What is a rainwater collection system

Collecting and storing rainwater can be easily achieved and managed at a domestic level. The required investment can vary a lot according to the project. There are three important types of rainwater system:

Direct

It is the most popular among the more sophisticated residential rainwater harvesting systems, partially due to its relatively easy installation process. It requires a pump within an underground tank. Once the tank receives the collected rainwater, it will pump directly to the locations where it will be used. This method can have a variation with the use of a suction pump within the house instead of a pump in the underground tank.

Indirect

This system consists of having a high-level water tank that will receive the pumped rainwater. Then, the rainwater can reach its destination either by gravity or by using a booster pump suited to serve the desired pressure and flow.

Pros and cons of rain harvesting

The pros:

  • Easy to maintain and store
  • A noticeable reduction in water bills
  • More suitable for irrigation of crops and watering of plants in lawns
  • A reduction in demand on groundwater
  • Prevents floods and soil erosion
  • Meets several non-drinking needs

The cons:

  • Rainfall is quite unpredictable, so you still may need to rely on alternative sources
  • Initial cost can be high depending on the chosen system
  • Requires regular maintenance
  • A limited storage capacity

How to get started

Before you decide to take your initial steps towards building a rainwater harvesting system on your rooftop, you must keep in mind how much rain your home will be exposed to. The map below, from National Centers for Environmental Information, shows what regions are exposed to above of average levels of rainfall.

Considering that your decision to take one further step to live an off the grid life is taken and your new rooftop rainwater harvesting system is soon to become a reality, ecofriendly.solutions will be pleased to recommend you to the best and most suitable service providers.

Fill up the form below and let one of our trusted service providers contact you. No commitments!

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Indoor composting: best compost bins 2018

Environment

ecofriendly.solutions top picks

 

Before you choose the best bin for indoor composting

You should know that there are different ways to make your compost. Different types of bins that will use different composting processes. If you intend to go for indoor composting, inside the average home or apartment, there are a few things you may want to consider such as odor and appearance.

The majority of small-scale composting will use a low-odor aerobic composting method and, for this, it is essential to choose an adequate composting system.

A successful indoor compost can be achieved in a few different ways. Using earthworms (also known as vermicomposting or worm composting)  is a great way, but not the only one. You can also use electric compost bins or even an anaerobic method with the use of Bokashi (it is a Japanese term meaning ‘fermented organic matter’), where compost will be achieved through a fermentation process.

We will not cover other composting alternatives such as tumbler bins as we consider them to be more appropriate for outdoor use.

Whether you choose a multi-bin system, bokashi bins or electrical bins, you will be able to get the job done while adopting a lovely eco-friendly solution that will reduce the production of methane from organic waste (organic waste that ends up in landfills will produce methane that,  will release carbon dioxide during its combustion).

If you want to learn a little bit more about it please take a look at another article that we wrote about composting at home.

Best compost bins for worm composting with multi-bin system

What we love about the multi-bin system is the fact that you can modularly grow your production as you gain experience. It is also a great way to have a steady compost production since the different bins will always be at various stages in the composting process.

The use of worms will make the process faster and low-odor and makes you not need to worry much about the brown and green layers, as long as the first bedding is “brown” and you keep feeding the worms by adding the organic scraps over time.

This method is our favorite. It is as natural as it can be and it can really turn the waste into a rich, dark organic soil that smells like earth. it will provide you with the best compost in our opinion.

 Worm Factory 360

The Worm Factory 360 is a tall and modular system (you can add new trays if you need) that doesn’t require much room.  It is made from sturdy recycled plastic making it environmentally friendly. The overall construction is solid.

This system is easy to maintain. As long as you feed the worms with appropriate organic scraps, you barely need to worry about cleaning it at all! (even though you will need to empty the worm tea periodically to prevent  overflow).

Hot Frog Living Composter

We think that the Hot Frog Living Composter has the most appealing look out of the available multi-system worm composters. The wooden legs give it a unique touch!

It comes with three different layers and it is also modular, as new trays can add up together. Each of the top two layers has 40 holes in the bottom so worms can move between the sections.

We like the Hot Frog system because, if used properly, it will be odorless but users need to manually remove any worm tea produced during the process. 

Best Electric Composter

What makes using electric compost bins appealing is the user experience. It is clean, fast, odorless. It does require electric energy, making it not as eco-friendly as other options that do not require a machine doing what nature can perfectly do on its own. Nevertheless, it is still a good step towards a greener life in a way that you will avoid sending your food scraps to a landfill as a final destination.

This kind of composting, however, has a great advantage over others as it allows you to compost dairy, meat and other food scraps that wouldn’t be suitable for vermicomposting.

Food Cycler Platinum

We like this product. It can reduce your kitchen waste up to 90%, breaking it down into a viable soil amendment in less than 3 hours! It is convenient and efficient.

It features a monitoring system that will let you know when to replace the filter and has a capacity of 3 gallons per week.

This product makes composting into an odorless activity as there are no draining, venting or additives required. 

Compostio C30 

The Compostio C30 is made of an energy-efficient recycled (and recyclable) material that helps to keep the heat inside the unit, optimizing the speed of the composting process.

This product can handle 3 to 4 pounds of food waste per day and it features a double chamber system, meaning that you can add up food at any time while the lower chamber will be handling the composting process.

The Compostio C30 allows you to recycle meat and dairy in an odorless activity, but it will require the addition of baking soda.

Bokashi Composter bins

Bokashi composting is an anaerobic process that uses inoculated bran to ferment the organic scraps. This method allows you to turn compost meat, bones and dairy as well. Composting with bokashi will allow you to transform your food scrap into a soil builder and nutrient-rich tea for your garden.

To compost with bokashi, once the bin is full and bokashi adequately mixed in, it will be sealed and kept it aside somewhere shady. The whole process can take between ten to twenty days, depending on the type of organic scrap that will need to be broken down.

Every other day during the process, the leachate, a byproduct of anaerobic composting, will need to be drained out. This liquid can be used as a fertilizer when appropriately diluted. The remains inside the bucket can be either buried or go to another compost bin using an aerobic method.

SCD Probiotics K100 All Seasons Indoor Composter Kit

The SCD Probiotics K100 has a volume capacity of 5 gallons, and its airtight lid allows for faster fermentation and decomposing.

The moisture released by the organic scraps will be drained out preventing spoilage, and a spigot allows for easy removal of liquid compost tea for plant fertilizer. 

Sunwood Life Bokashi Compost Kit

This 5 gallons bucket is made from recycled plastic with ceramic powder, making it very sturdy.

Its air-tight lid makes is a good environment for the fermentation process and it comes with a kit containing the essential that you will need to get started.

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Composting at Home

Composting at Home

Environment

Composting at Home

Indoor worm composting is a great Eco-friendly solution!

 

 

Composting: what is it?

Composting is an activity that will increase your contribution to a more sustainable planet and benefit the future generations. Our organic waste, when compiled and appropriately maintained can create fertile soil for reuse on lawns and gardens. 

Composting can be very beneficial for soil enrichment and moisturizing, healthier plants, stimulation of beneficial bacteria and fungi production and landfill’s methane emission reduction, lowering your carbon footprint.

Worm composting is when we use worms to speed up the process of transforming food scraps and other organic materials into humus called vermicompost, also known as worm compost. Worms will eat those organic materials, which will later become compost as they pass through the worm’s body.

Instead of using the waste disposal system on your sink, or even doing nothing about your organic residuals, you should consider making compost from your scrap foods, making it a better alternative in comparison to sink disposals, which are not so eco-friendly as they use a lot of water.

There are few different ways to compost such as, automatic composters (that require electric power), bins that use the bokashi method (which consists in mixing the food scraps with bokashi (which is an inoculant of beneficial microorganisms) that will promote fermentation. In this article, we will focus on worm composting.

 

How to get started?

The first step is to buy a compost bin that can be used indoors. Please take a look at our article on our favorite compost bins, and find the one that will suit you the best!

The compost bin should be in a handy place where, of course, will not block the passage. Next to the kitchen usually is more suitable. It is a good idea to place it under the sink or in a closet. Keep in mind that it should be kept in a cool place with temperature ideally in the range of 57 to 77 Fahrenheit.

 

Once the compost bin is at the right place

The first level of compost will allow the air to pass through as well as facilitates the drainage. A layer of smooth rock loosely placed on the bottom of the bin will help.

When you start to add to your compost it is easier to think in layers: start with the bottom layer of coarse materials to further enable the air and drainage passage, and then layer between “brown” waste and “green” waste. 

“Brown” waste may consist of, autumn leaves, wood chips, sawdust, pine needles, paper towels, newspaper and coffee filters, and “green” waste consists of, food wastes, fruits and vegetables, egg shells, tea bags, coffee grounds, grass clippings, and weeds. 

Another tip is to add a layer of soil on top of each layer of waste because that will help speed up the process.

Hint: Combine shredded paper, soil and just enough water to dampen everything. Put the mixture into the tall bin and fill it about 3 to 4 inches deep. Add your worms to the mix and let them get used to it for a day before you start feeding them. It should be moist, but not forming puddles.

 

 

Worm composting

 

The worms

You can buy earthworms online. A pound of red wrigglers are a good choice since they will consume waste quickly, but earthworms work too 

Click here to order your red wriggler worms from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm!

Be aware that worm compost bins will produce more worms as well as higher quality compost!

 

Feeding the worms

Worms like to eat many things that we eat. Collect food scraps, such as left-over fruits and vegetables, grains, bread, tea bags, coffee grounds and cereal in your food scrap container as you prepare and clean up after meals.

Do not include any animal by-products (fat, bone, dairy, meat, waste). Also, keep in mind that it may take the worms longer to process woody or dry items like stems or the outer layer of onions. Worms will eat paper as long as it is thin or cut into small pieces, but they will not eat plastic or fabric tea bags, coffee filters or the labels.

Avoid overfeeding in general, especially tomato and citrus (it should not make up for more than 1/5 of the total food offered to the worms).

Never feed Meats, fish, Greasy foods, Dairy products, Twigs and branches, Dog/cat feces or cat litter.

Keep in mind that the best thing to do is to feed the worms once a week in small amounts. It is an excellent way to avoid “smelling issues” since if you feed them more than they can process, the scraps will accumulate and make the compost bin quite stinky.

If the worms are processing the scraps too slowly, the best thing to do is to chop up the scraps into smaller pieces or even reduce the amount of organic matter you feed regularly and stock them in a kitchen compost pail.

Starting your worm compost bin with fewer worms is a good way to go until you better understand their behavior and figure out what the ideal worm population should be.

 

 

Maintaining your compost bin

 

Once a week, you should:

  • Take your organic residues to the bin.
  • Add in a handful of shredded paper.
  • Place the food scraps on top of the paper.
  • Cover the food scraps with the brown scraps and wet paper to avoid attracting flies. Keep adding dirt and moisturized paper to the bin until the compost produced by the worms can cover the food scraps.
  • Always pay attention to what the worms are eating and what they are not. Keep in mind that they may eat some of those after cutting into smaller pieces.

 

Once every few months you should:

  • Use the liquid at the lower container as fertilizer on soil near plants (outdoor), or water it down to use indoor.
  • If your worm bin becomes overpopulated by worms, you can share some with friends, release some in your yard or start a new worm bin!

 

When is it time to harvest your compost?

The right time to collect the compost is when the contents of your bin have turned to brown earth like worm castings. It will be the right moment to harvest your compost and to make new bedding to your worms.

To harvest your compost, push the partially composted food scrap to the middle of the bin and add more food scraps so that the worms will end up heading to the new food. Once they move to the newly added food pile, you will be able to remove the castings without taking the worms out. 

Making your fertilizer is eco-friendly and can become a fun hobby and a remarkable educational activity for your kids. Get started and do your part to make this world a better place.

Did you like this article? Please leave us a comment!

 

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Energy

Let’s live a green life!

Why we should aim to live a green life and influence others to do the same

 

First, let’s look at things from a much higher perspective

How many times per day do you remind yourself that you are alive? And that you are a life, living on a tiny planet that orbits a small star in a galaxy with approx 200 billion stars in an observable universe that contains at least 2 trillion galaxies?

We are so fortunate to be here! We should remind ourselves of this more often. It helps us to put everything into the right perspective and tells us that life has to be treasured.

Life on Earth is the consequence of the combination of several factors such as having liquid water, minerals, atmosphere, magnetic field, the ozone layer, among many others.

The steep populational growth that we have seen, which drives an ever-increasing hunger for consumption of natural resources, is directly impacting our little blue planet’s fragile balance.

Our environment allowed life to be here, and we must take good care of it so that our environment can continue to take good care of us. We must do all we can to leave, for the future generations, a better planet than the one we found.  It is our responsibility to live a green life!

 

What is going on with our reserves of natural resources

According to recent reports from the United Nations, the way we are using our natural resources is unsustainable and is increasing at a fast pace that may cause irreversible damages to our planet. The extraction of primary materials has more than tripled in 40 years, fueled by a rapidly growing middle class.

Reports from the World Trade Organization show what we all know, but many refuse to understand: the way we consume our “economically viable” natural resources is unsustainable, and many of those resources are at risk of being entirely consumed sooner or later.

Critical resources like water, petroleum, gas, charcoal, foods, metals among several others are at risk and we may be moving sooner or later towards a mass extinction of up to 75% of all the species, a phenomenon that has happened 5 times in the past 540 million years, which for the first time will be caused by us, humans.

Let’s clarify what is going on with some of those resources:

Food

The UN estimates that by 2050 (when human population shall surpass the mark of 9 billion people), the amount of food produced on our planet will need to increase by 70%. To accomplish this, we will need to deal with relevant obstacles like global warming that impacts agricultural production in many countries. Recent data shows that currently, one out of every six inhabitants of our planet suffers from hunger. What will this look like 50, 100, 500 years down the road?

Water

The UN alerts that 2.1 billion people don’t have access to potable water at home. If we keep the current pace with regards to the consumption and devastation of nature as a whole, by 2050, 75% of the global population may have difficulties to access potable water.

Petroleum

What we know for sure is that one day we will finish consuming all our reserve of oil. There are many different estimations and opinions about when it will happen, but they all agree that it will happen. The way we produce energy is still highly dependent on the petroleum chain, but inevitably we will need to learn how to live without it, which may not be that bad of an idea after all.

Copper

Copper is one of the most utilized metals by humans. We use it in electric wires, all sort of electronic equipment, jewelry, to mention a few only. We may entirely consume our reserves by 2100. Fortunately, copper, as well as several other metals, can be recycled.

Those are just a few examples and should be enough to make us reflect on what each one of us can do to help. The short answer is live green!

 

What can we do about it? Decide to embrace a green life!

We can’t change everyone, but we can improve ourselves toward living an eco-friendly and sustainable green life and influence others to do the same by becoming a role model to be followed.

Our attitudes are a lot more persuasive than our words. So, live your life as green as you can because this is the best way to promote the real changes that our planet needs.

What can we do to live green? What can we do to live a more sustainable and eco-friendly life? We have some suggestions to start with:

Reduce

Try to reduce the consumption of non-renewable resources. Ride a bicycle to work, use public transportation, share a car drive to work, stop buying things that you don’t need.

Reuse

Replace that “disposable” plastic bag by reusable ones, reuse as many bottles and cans as you can, donate things that you don’t use.

Recycle

Recycle as much as possible. Try to understand where the final destination of everything you throw away will be. Learn how to recycle things at home by yourself.

Make your home more sustainable

Have you considered generating solar energy at your own home? Wind energy? Rain harvesting? Composting? There are so many things that are under our reach that will make your home and your life more sustainable. We have written several articles on these subjects. You can find the links at the end of this article.

Buy eco-friendly products

Buy products that will not harm the environment and even prioritize products whose manufacturing processes were environmentally responsible.

You can check our “eco-friendly products section” where we review and suggest products that we like and that somehow will help us on the mission of preserving our planet for the future generations. We continually search eco-friendly products and fair prices to recommend to our visitors.

Are you living a green life yet? Do you care about the conservation of our planet and our future generations? What are you doing about it? Please leave a comment below! 

The beautiful illustration on this post was created by Karina Busquets, who gently conceded ecofriendly.solutions the right of use on our website. Please click here to visit her website and get to see some of her beautiful illustrations and her unique style. 

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