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Suburban Retrofit: Consumption vs. Production

 

We all accept that any home built before 1980 probably consumes energy rather than produces. And we know that most buildings today aren’t much better. Some dabble in industry-tested, user-approved microcosms of water conservation and energy production, and even fewer have thrown away the sound bites of “first cost” and “investment return” and have dove head first into responsible yet expensive net zero homes. Interestingly, The Center for Green Buildings and Cities at Harvard is exploring a strategy that may end up making a huge difference in the average home owner’s ability to achieve energy and water independence. They are currently experimenting with retrofitting a pre-1940’s home to attain net zero. The measures for success will be varied and at this point will still act as a testing grounds for possibilities.

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Throwing Water Down the Drain: Simple Steps for Heat Recovery

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Many of us turn a few knobs and, miraculously, hot water comes out without much thought other than our energy and water bills. However, the water that ends up in the drain retains a certain about of embodied energy that is capable of being recovered. This water is now technically graywater, but you’ve paid valuable money for the energy used to raise its temperature. It makes sense to recapture this energy and there are a few great products that can help with this.

Heat recovery is nothing new, however it is becoming more main stream and affordable than ever before. If you’re looking to cut a few bucks out of your energy bill while looking for a relatively easy way to help make a bigger impact on your regional energy footprint, then a small addition to your water circulation lines may be the answer.

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100% Renewable Energy With The Click Of A Button

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What if everyone could make 1 simple change in their personal habits that would, as a whole, benefit a larger population? First, we instinctively ask ourselves the question (no matter how large our green flag may be): what do I have to give up to make this happen? And if ultimately we can manage the risk, we may accept the proposition. This is the challenge for today’s green energy suppliers. In order to make it convenient for a large group of people, they need to make it competitive with larger corporations. What if you were told it would only end up costing you between $3-5 a month extra to have your electricity provided by 100% renewable energy? Cory, a representative of Green Mountain Energy, offered this option to us this weekend.

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Mobile Device Solar Charging Station

It’s seems that at the moment we are coming closer to achieving 100% 24/7. It’s nothing new and it’s not shocking. However it is certainly convenient. One can argue whether convenience has ever truly been as present as it is today (every generation has always been the most advanced in history). But right now certainly seems pretty slick. And yet there will always be a small part in most of us that wouldn’t mind a quiet, unplugged moment. However, even those who enjoy a fairly analogue lifestyle have been gutted of battery life one or twice. And there is something that just feels wrong about plugging up to a wall socket in an Applebee’s to get a few minutes of precious connection.

Steph and I were taking a stroll through Brooklyn Bridge Park last weekend and stumbled upon one of these.

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nstagram: maegenmichael

An AT&T mobile device solar charging station that boasts the equivalent charging rate of a wall outlet. There where 6 types of adapters that fit most devices. Though I did not need a charge, I couldn’t help but get a little giddy about the thought of soaking up my first ever solar phone juice. The iPhone 5 adapter looked like it had taken a beating in all it’s public glory, alas, it did not work. I have no doubt that in the coming months and years, these devices will be everywhere. So whether you like it or not, get ready for waves of friendly, yet probably very expensive energy to be available right when you need it.

OK Small!

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The most sustainable square foot is the one you don’t build. As long as we have had materials and the need for shelter, we have faced each day with the intent to do things and make stuff, especially when it comes to tending to our nest. Mostly without much thought regarding actual need or actual impact. Which is why the thought of small architecture is so entertaining. For very little money, just $300 for this small off-the-gird cabin in Vermont, and a little ingenuity, it’s possible to put together a small, responsible space of your own. By adding a few passive solar and wind strategies, you most likely can accomplish a great level of comfort most of the year without mechanical cooling or plugging into the city’s electrical grid. For example, the North wall is a translucent corrugated plastic that allows the cool, indirect light to provide plenty of illumination. The South wall is a solid corrugated metal which prevents this small sanctuary from becoming an uncomfortable greenhouse. If you have a friend who is an architect or designer, ask for a few tips. Most of us are eager to help our friends who find this as interesting as we do.

How small is too small? What’s the qualification, square foot? energy use? Can you scale this approach for a 3 family home? Is this sustainable living, or simply something to do in your spare time, a glorified fort for your inner child? Either way, these images are beautiful. The simplified interior and small pops of color are a great touch. Let me know your thoughts by commenting below.

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Harvesting Dew Droplets with Minimal Technology

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A simple and affordable strategy to harvest water (up to 25 potable gallons per day) from naturally condensing dew droplets may finally be upon us. Designer Arturo Vittori is responding to the needs of millions of people in regions where clean, safe water is not readily available. People in some parts of Ethiopia spend a whopping 40 billion hours per year searching for safe, potable water.

The beauty of this design is in it’s simplicity. A woven lattice work of juncus stalks with a polypropylene mesh stretched on the inside aide in the collection of condensed water. Literally bringing potable water to people “out of thin air”. If you’re interested read more in this article from the Smithsonian.

Will technology like this last in the desert? How long until this becomes a commercial application available for the home? Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

Portable Solar-Powered Window Socket

We are entering into one of the most interesting periods in human history. Our generation will be remembered as having created strong survival strategies generated by a growing sense of responsibility.

Inhabitat recently posted an electrical outlet that can attach to your window, check it out here. What do you think? Is this what we can expect for future DIY energy?

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