Posts tagged tutorial

Link: “How I built my Solar Panel”

How I built my solar panel

The link above demonstrates a nice DIY version of a solar array, using damaged solar modules that can be bought at low price on eBay. This resourceful astronomer also built himself a DIY wind turbine, so if you’re considering doing either, this is worth a look.

This panel was designed to work in sunny Arizona (a beautiful state!), which is a perfect place for setting up an array, especially given the large number of off-grid properties there which would be prohibitively expensive to wire up to the utility power company.

He includes lots of good tips about what to look for when buying your solar panel modules to string together into the final product, so you can learn from his mistakes, and also know a bit more about what is actually important to the functioning of the modules. Above is a picture of the finished box containing the panel. Good luck with construction!

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Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Making Cheese

“Hi, my name is Solarious, and I am addicted to cheese.”

Why does cheese have to taste so good? And why is it in every processed food on the planet? Even the “healthy” foods are dusted with sharp, yummy cheeses to bring out their gourmet flavors. Of all the things I’m attempting to give up after reading that book, cheese manages to creep back in with scary regularity. Sometimes, it’s a slice here or a sprinkle there, but as often as not, I’m not even particularly aware of it until I’ve already eaten. Ever try to find an economic frozen dinner without meat? Even brands like Healthy Choices and Lean Cuisine basically only offer meat dishes. Add cheese to the list, and you’ve just blackballed yourself from the freezer section. And though I’m sure that awesome cheese alternatives exist (someone keeps telling me great things about some walnut “cheese”), I haven’t yet discovered them.

Homemade Cheese

So it’s time to rethink the paradigm. Sure, processed cheeses are bad, but like any other food, the homemade variety should be more healthy and fulfilling, right? While I attempt to figure out what yummy types of “cheeze” alternatives exist out there (please, share!), I found this great tutorial on making hard cheeses to try out. He’s got a PhD in chemistry – so I figure he’s got the cheese making thing down, too. Of course, he recommends starting with the beginning cheese making tutorial, and indeed, there’s a lot of great information and recipe/tutorials to get you started. There’s even a link to a DIY cheese press for all you super handy types.  Here’s another great site, sorted by type of cheese, with lots of recipes.

Cheese and yogurt making are great projects to try with kids, too. There are a lot of projects that can be completed in a day. It teaches them about long-term care and food making all at once, while teaching proper food handling safety. And of course, getting to eat the spoils of your devotion is always a great motivator!

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Wind Extravaganza: Another Easy DIY Turbine

DIY Turbine Plans with no laser cut parts from TheBackShed.com

theBackShed.com's DIY windmill

When I check out the stats on this blog, DIY wind plans consistently top the most-viewed posts list. Obviously, there are a lot of people out there wanting to get in on wind power without shelling out thousands for a commercial kit. It certainly fits with the “I built it in my basement” ethos so popular here in America, and, I’m sure, abroad as well.

So, for all you backyard alternative energy warriors, here’s another plan for you to tackle, designed to be easy to construct with found and easy-to-obtain parts. Of course, you’ll have to find the motor listed (or know how to mod the design for your particular supplies) and it will still take a bit of metal cutting, but at least you won’t be struggling to find a laser cutter to build your own parts. Nice pictures of each stage should make construction easier, too.  Happy building!

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DIY Wind: kid in a candy store

OtherPower.com wind experiments

This site, brought to you from the folks at OtherPower.com, is a great source of inspiration (and humorous things to try!) when deciding to build your own wind power system. Been looking at your hamster wondering if (s)he could be working for the cause? Well, they’ve got your answer. And there are a lot of projects her for you to try, with complete ingredient lists and a discussion of how each model performed after being built. Add in discussions on choosing proper equipment for the job, and you’ve got a DIY wind power mecca, right at your fingertips.

building a windmill

The biggest gift of this site is getting to see everything in the process of being made. I always have trouble figuring out where to start when people simply show ingredients and the finished product. But here, you see the steps as you complete them, and not only that, they discuss the evolution and performance of their machines over time, so you can choose one that suits your needs without all the trail and error.

When grid crash arrives, most of us won’t have the luxury of buying a pre-fab system to generate power. So the emphasis on using materials you can find in your local environment is important. Of course, you probably don’t want to wait until you NEED wind power to try building a system. So why not visit the site today and pick a design to try? They even have a web store to help you find all those parts for your project. With several “built in a day” options to try, you could be harnessing wind power tomorrow!

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Forget the $10 Solar Cooker!

How about $3.50 instead? As often as I tweaked my previously profiled windshield solar cooker, there remained a real wind problem (as it was constantly falling over in the unpredictable gusts that are SoCal’s weather), and it never seemed to get QUITE hot enough for me to trust cooking something like meat or eggs within. So rather than tinker into oblivion, when I fortuitously found a nice sized box on the side of the road, I decided to make myself a little box cooker. After locating another box to house the inner cooker, and reading the many variations on recommended construction in a few books, I promptly threw out the plans and just went at it myself.

First up, finding tin foil. I had a roll at home, but it would have costs me $1 otherwise, so that’s the running total so far. I also had a few rolls of aluminum foil tape from when they had some at the 99 cents only store, of which I used one roll (10 yards) in construction, bringing the total to $2. The cement factory down the street threw out a buch of AirPaks (the plastic air filled bubbles you use as packing material for large items), which became the insulation for my oven. Price? A trip to their dumpster. Holding it all together was a roll of duct tape, also bought for a dollar, and a nice oven “window” made of cardboard and a Reynold’s Oven Bag ($0.50). Grand total – $3.50 and about an hour’s work. Not exactly a bank-breaker.

First, I lined the smaller box with foil on the inside, taping edges down with the aluminum foil tape. When I was happy with that, I closed up the other box completely with duct tape, making sure to cover ALL cracks well with the tape to minimize heat loss. I placed the smaller box on top of the large and traced around it to create a cut line for inserting the one box in the other. There were about 3 inches on each long end of the box around the smaller one and about an inch on the two shorter sides. So I dropped in two pieces of folded up cardboard on the bottom and secured them (to support the weight of the inner box and pots, etc), and then surrounded them with the AirPaks. After dropping the inner box down into the larger one, I secured the flaps to the large box with duct or aluminum tape, depending on where, and then stood back to see what I’d created.

Not bad. It looked relatively like the ones I’d seen in the books, even though I’d been reading warnings about how these cardboard versions would “never hold up like one of wood”, it looked pretty sturdy. Now on to the lid. Given that my top surface wasn’t exactly level the whole way across (it dipped in the corners where I taped things into place), I was wondering how to trap in the heat while still providing easy access. In a moment of inspiration (or was it desperation? I can’t remember now!) I thought to build a square frame of cardboard, and then place it inside a plastic oven bag, creating my own version of double glazing which was VERY easy to construct. Then I taped this down to the cooker along one edge and found two fist sized rocks to hold down the open corners, creating, with the excess plastic I’d left a little loose around the edges from the bag, a pretty decent seal.

Next up? You guessed it, time to test her out! I went to store and got some hot dogs. Now, I never liked hot dogs much even as a kid, but hey, this is an experiment, right? (and they’re already cooked, so I don’t have to worry much about food poisoning) So I cut four of them in half, and then added a few slits along the body of each so that I could tell if it actually cooked (did you ever make “hot dog men” in your microwave before? Same idea.) and placed them in the two back pans I’ve used previously. Put in the sun at about 2:30, the hot dogs were visibly cooked by 3:05 on a pretty hot sunny day. And the plate was HOT, requiring a leather work glove to remove from the oven, which was also quite warm (didn’t use a thermometer this time). They smelled great, sort of like a sweet sausage rather than your standard picnic fare, and there was a bunch of liquid in the bottom of the pan that had cooked out. As far as I could tell, it was mostly fat, but perhaps water as well.

In the name of science, I ate a bit, and found that the sweet smell translated to taste, making them pretty good. The biggest test was when I left the room a moment and came back to find my two best taste testers (my cats) happily smacking their lips around an almost empty plate. Two cats made it through three hot dogs in a minute? It must be good! Happy, I put the cooker away and called it a day.

Today, I pulled out the oven for another test. Having fulfilled my meat-eaters’ test, I returned to something I’d actually cook for myself. I bought two zucchini and cut them up in 1/4 rounds about 1/2 inch thick. It filled the bottom of the pan completely, about two layers deep. Next, I added about three tablespoons of cheddar cheese and roasted red pepper spreadable cheese and mixed well. On the top, I added a dash of “Chef’s Essence” spice, which seems to be a mix of garlic, salt and a little chili powder. The mix went out in the sun at 12:20 on another hot sunny day as I sat down to watch Fast Food Nation (see my previous post).

At first check, they were good, but still a little firm. So I gave the mixture another twenty minutes (40 total) and brought the oven inside. Again, the plate was too hot to handle (but the oven wasn’t, which I’d worried about). This little cooker doesn’t mess around! Properly gloved, I removed the meal and opened up the pot. Wow! Perfectly cooked to a nice steamed tender with the cheese melted into everything, giving it a little kick and a lot of creaminess. It was seriously good, and very filling. My hurried picture doesn’t do it much justice. RESULT? Total success. I like this cooker already, and though I won’t scrap the windshield shade cooker, I trust this one more with foods that require a hot temperature to cook through. They are about the same size, and as you’ve read, neither costs much to make. So, since the long days of summer are approaching, what are you waiting for? You can be a gourmet slow foods cook by tomorrow!

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Techie Dream: A Solar Powered PC

Read the article on building a solar-powered PC here

A solar powered PC?  It sounds too good to be true!  Well, I had to know more, so I went to Tom’s Hardware and checked out the article above.  It’s very professionally written and researched, and the grand experiment seems to be a huge success.  Of course, at $5,000 for the solar panels needed to power this PC and specially selected hardware that reduced average wattage, it’s hardly your average box, or the everyperson’s pricetag.  But every great idea gets its start somewhere, and I’m rooting for this one to go all the way. 

Solar Powered PC

Based in Germany, the experimenters started by deciding what the capabilities of their dream system would be, and then clearly defined a goal as to its power availability.  They wanted a full-featured PC that could run 24/7 off-grid, in case you want to do a little midnight computing.  Any techies out there know this is a must, not a luxury, when chasing the elusive vapors of creativity.  This first step underscores an important point in any undertaking: defining the goal in concrete terms and deciding what you can and cannot live without will go a LONG way to determining the eventual likelihood of successful completion.  May you plan your exercises with the same careful attention to detail. 

The article then outlines the steps taken to achieve the stated goals.  First, they acquire the necessary equipment and consider the practicalities of their chosen configuration.  Then they set about building the PC so it will require a minimum of operating wattage, and then move on to the solar array that will power it.  Last, but certainly most important, comes the testing phase, when they see whether they have been able to construct a suitable prototype to fit the brief. 

It’s certainly not a beginner’s or even intermediate project, but it’s an excellent read, and I recommend you visit the site to read the whole (pretty long) article.  Happy Earth Day, everyone~ take a moment today to do something special for yourself and the world around you.

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DIY Wind Turbine for your home

Here are full instructions for building your turbine

DIY Wind Rotor

This guy builds a nice wind rotor for home power generation. He claims to get 1000 Watts Average in 20MPH Wind. Either way, the design is attractive, scalable, and doesn’t look like it will scare the neighbors too much. Check it out!

NOTE: since this was posted, the listed page has been removed.  Here are two more links to low-cost vertically constructed turbines:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Build-your-own-Savonius-VAWT-Vertical-Axis-Wind-T/

http://www.instructables.com/id/Faroun-Savonius-Wind-Turbine/

and a smaller scale project to whet your appetite:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Pringles-Wind-Turbine-Pleech—Version-One/

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DIY Success Story – Solar Garage Heater

Diy Solar Air Heater from Soda Cans

DIY Solar Garage Heater

Here’s another project done right.  Again, this one comes from the resourceful mind of a car enthusiast who spent too much time in a cold garage.  I guess when you’re already in the garage, it’s easier to put construction projects into action!   Using only materials had around the house, he built something that warmed the air, and learned a lot in the process, too, from the people who commented on his experiment.  Read the full story above.

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Building a solar cooker for under $10

When evaluating the options out there for solar cooking, the equipment lists for building an oven can sometimes be a little daunting. At least enough so as to be a good excuse never to get started! Well, no more. Here’s an easy solar cooker that you can build without even owning a pair of scissors. It’s made from the humble windshield shade, and has been tested successfully around the world. Full construction details here at SolarCooking.org.

Yesterday, I purchased two silver windshield shades with highly reflective surfaces, exactly like the one pictured below at the 99 cents only store. (Boy, I should really buy some of their stock, as often as I end up plugging them!)

The equipment list:

A reflective folding car sunshade
A Cake rack (or wire frame or grill)
12 cm. (4 ½ in.) of Velcro
Black pot, bucket or plastic wastebasket
A plastic baking bag

While there, I also purchased a small metal colander to act as a support for the pot, some velcro dots, and a metal oven thermometer. Nearly everyone has a black pot with a top somewhere in their house, so you aren’t likely to need to spend for that. Even I was able to pull out an old pot with no top, and then a rice bowl (from a rice cooker), which fits onto the top and creates a complete vessel. Pictures of my whole setup coming ASAP.

Bill, so far: $5.35 with tax

The only thing I’m missing right now is a big oven bag, which seems to be the only thing that will cost more than a dollar in the whole getup.

Notes on cooking with your new $10 solar oven. It WILL get hot (try 350 degrees!), so long as you point it toward the sun. Also, solar ovens are built around the concept of the closed pot. If you try to bake things with an open-topped pot, you may be disappointed to find that the bag deflates around your (unfinished) cake. Always cook with a top on the pot for best results. This, however, will not stop you from making great “can” breads and other baked goods.

I’ll update you when everything is complete and I’ve cooked my first meal. If you build one of your own, and test it out, share your experiences here!

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