Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Review: Black and Decker EM100B Energy Saver Series Power Monitor

I just installed a Black and Decker EM100B Energy Saver Power Monitor devices on my electric meter.  I found them on sale on Amazon and got it for next to nothing (under $30).  All I can say is... "Wow... This is what the electric companies should be giving us instead of the crappy meters they give us."

The unit installs easily.  I think it took me about 5 minutes to get it up and running.  It requires 4 AA batteries (not included).  I was actually surprised at how easy the installation was.

The data that the unit displays is very useful for people like me who are trying to cut their expenses.  The EM100B shows current usage and also estimates how much you are spending on electricity.  You can use the device to identify potential energy hogs.  For instance, I found that while my heat pumps were running it was costing .45 cents per minute.

I would highly recommend the Black and Decker EM100B Energy Saver Series Power Monitor to anyone who wants to spend less on electricity.  This device can pay for itself in no time!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Great Set of Videos about Making Your Own Wind Turbines

Here is a great series of videos showing how to make some rugged wind turbine blades from ordinary 2 x 4s!  Pretty cool!  Dan Rojas is a genius.

GreenPowerScience's Playlist of Wind Turbine Blade Creation Videos.


The Answer is Blowin' in the Wind

LOL...  I know what you are thinking...  Now he's going low tech on us.  Yep.  I am.  But why not??  Expecially when you consider that it takes thousands of watts for extended time periods to process laundry.  The electric clothes dryer has cost us all a LOT of money in our lifetimes. Why not just hang those wet clothes up and let the sun and air do the work??

This clothesline setup costed me under $20 and will pay for itself in one month.  Sold!  I'll take it.  Sunshine and air are free so this is a no brainer for me.

Efficient LED Lighting for CHEAP

This is a really easy hack. You can convert your house lighting over to LED and save a ton of money on electricity.
  1. Purchase a string of Super Bright White LED Christmas Lights. Leave lights in rolled bundle. After christmas sales are a great time to save money on these.
  2. Purchase a lamp socket to AC two prong adapter. (Looks like below. At most hardware stores for around $2.50.)
  3. Remove old light bulb from light fixture.
  4. Screw in Lamp Socket to AC two prong adapter.
  5. Plug in Christmas lights into the Lamp Socket to AC two prong adapter.
  6. Use electrical tape to secure light string to fixture.
  7. Replace lamp shade or fixture dome.
And there you have it! Your light fixture is now super efficient! If you time your purchases right you can implement this solution for under $10 bucks per fixture. The low energy drain from these lights would make a great fit for Solar Photovoltaic applications.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Off-Grid Mindset

When the going gets tough the tough disconnect from the "grids" in their life. There are many grids we connect to aside from electricity. I view a "grid" as anything that you are dependent on that gives you a rewarding feeling but costs you somehow. These things that find their way into our lives become a dependency and we end up paying for them every day, month, and year.

The typical consumer is "hooked up" without even realizing it. Everyone has their vices. I readily admit that I was once connected to the "coffee grid". I would stop on the way to work each day and buy a cup. In time it became an almost default morning action. It became mundane. One day I did the math and realized that I was paying a lot of money for something that wasn't really rewarding. I then realized that there were many things that I was connected to that were draining me in more ways than one... and I realized that I wasn't alone.

It turns out I was connected to the electric, cable TV, telephone, cell phone, internet, gasoline, ipod, coffee, donut, lunch, dinner, employment, gym membership, car payment, mortgage, and insurance grids too! Oh the horror! All of these things were draining me of not only money, but also my time and life force!! To make matters worse I was also connected to the "my job sucks grid". LOL! So there you have it... A corporate slave was born. (*insert whip crack here* OUCH!!!*) The things I owned and subscribed to were owning me while I spent my time working for them.

Consider all of the things you do each day. Do they make you happy? Do they cost you money or time? Do you loathe paying the price associated with these things but fear the change of disconnecting from them?

Well I have good news!! You were born with everything you need to survive. You can do without. In fact, you might just enjoy your life more without these things. If you disconnect from your desire to be comfortable... If you learn to entertain yourself... If you learn to believe in yourself... If you open yourself to change and envision you being untangled and free you can be much happier. The tie that binds is never meant to free you. Cut it!

Don't look at it as "doing without". Think about it as being more efficient. Think about it as doing much more with what is truly yours. You can do it your way. You can take baby steps and disconnect only a few things -OR- you can turn it all off at once. The choice is yours! The key is to do what you like and do it your way! Trust me, you will be happier when you take back some of your time and freedom. Don't let them fool you... FREEDOM IS FREE! ITS THE SLAVERY THAT COSTS.

Put some money in your pocket for a change. Spend some time in your back yard. You don't need movie theaters and restaurants. Call friends over for hot dogs. Burn a camp fire. Grow a garden. Have fun while you reduce your dependency on the corporate world. Who knows... You might even decide to take it to the next level and build a wind turbine or install something that can reduce or eliminate your dependency on utilities. You don't have to go completely off-grid to be an off grid thinker.

I have done much to change my life around. Its paying off. In time I might elaborate... but that is another story! ; )

Monday, May 16, 2011

Conservation Works! Your wallet will thank you!

This post is testimony to the fact that conservation works. What is conservation you ask? Simply put, it is doing what you can to reduce how much you use devices that use electricity, gas, water, etc. My focus has been on conserving electricity.

The picture above is from my most recent electricity bill. One year ago I used 1650 KWH on my electric bill. This year... 770 KWH. YES!!! I reduced my usage by more than half!!!

I've told a lot of my friends about this, and they each had a resounding question... "How did you do it?" The answer is... I did a lot. Read on...

For starters, I became mindful of what was being used in my home. There's a lot more you can do to reduce your electric demand. Here are some of the things I did:
  • Purchased a Kill-A-Watt and audited all devices in my house. This helped me identify which devices carry "phantom loads". (Devices that constantly consume electricity even if they are turned OFF.)
  • I compiled a spreadsheet that calclulated the monthly \ yearly cost to run each device.
  • I used a couple of methods to deal with "phantom loads". I put devices on power strips that I could turn OFF when not in use. For some devices I used a timer to drastically reduce the amount time the device could be powered on. (For instance, I saved myself approx $6 dollars a month by simply putting the pump for my Koi pond on a timer... It now runs for 4 hours throughout the day instead of 24.)
  • Switched all light bulbs over to CFL or LED. You can drastically reduce your wattage by doing this.
  • We turn the lights off when not in use.
  • I turned my heat pumps OFF! My philosophy professor once said that dependency on climate controls is a weakness. You do not need heat \ air conditioning to survive. I am doing quite well running two box fans in my windows.
  • I installed a Propane Gas Tankless Water Heater. The gas lasts a long time, and no more electric demand.
  • I put my swimming pool pump and salt system on a timer. After I read the specs on these devices I determined that they were energy hogs. I now run these for 4 hours each day.
  • I turned my hot tub OFF. This thing was an energy sucking demon.
  • I installed a clothesline. We run the clothes dryer only when necessary. A clothes dryer is by far the worst offender. Sunshine is free.
  • I also rigged up an off-grid solar circuit for my downstair lighting. So far its a huge success. Each night I light my house with solar power.
So, my electric bill has been cut in half. My wallet is loving it. 770 KWH for a household of five is something to be proud of.

You can do it too. The trick is to get everyone in your household on board. If you can work as a team you can all share in the joy of saving money and having fun together. A hundred bucks per month in savings would afford you a nice vacation somewhere. :) I'm lucky in that my household works together as a team and believes in living frugally. Frugal isn't cheap... Frugal is wise.

Simple Solar Setup - Harbor Freight Solar Kit

This is my solar setup. I bought two Harbor Freight 45 Watt Solar Kits. These panels generate enough electricity to run the lamps in my home all night. I also run the pump for my Koi pond on it. I hooked my panels up to two 12 Volt DC Deep Cycle Marine Batteries and a 400 Watt Inverter. I also have a Grid Tie Inverter that I hook up when the batteries are fully charged.

I am doing everything I can now to reduce my dependency on the grid. So far I am doing so without noticing much difference in lifestyle. You can actually live very well off grid... Its actually kind of fun! :)

I would recommend the Harbor Freight kits to anyone who wants to give solar a try. They are easy to get up and running, and help to give a basic understanding of how solar works.

DIY 55 Gallon Drum Incinerator

I got tired of paying for trash pickup. In these times hard times in which we live one has to come up with ways to reduce expenses in order to survive. I had an old 55 gallon drum that was just collecting dust. I decided to make an incinerator that I could burn my paper & cardboard in. I know... I know... Its probably not the greenest solution in the world, but hey... its saving me 30 bucks a month in trash removal. :)

We actually recycle our plastics. The nasty food stuff goes into a compost pile. The rest gets burned. Saves $360 a year. Works for me. So far everything that I have fed into this burner has burned completely and has been reduced to ashes. For my next trick I might try to harness the heat from something like this for home heating in the winter months. Imagine heating your house with trash. :)

Parts used:
1 55 Gallon Drum
1 Toggle bolt (for door handle)
2 Galvanized Hinges
1 4" x 5' Galvanized duct pipe
1 4" Duct Rain Cap

Tools used:
Dewalt Hand Grinder
120 VAC Arc Welder (This thing is worth its weight in gold!)
Drill with 1-1/2" Hole Saw attachment (For holes in bottom of barrel for air.)