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Generator exerbike 2000

Posted by admin on Jan 14th, 2009
Jan 14

It seems that the projects I have planned always take a lot longer than I expect them to. It’s not that I’m not motivated to build these things, it’s more a matter of time and resources usually. For example, two weeks ago I heard water leaking in the wall of our guest bathroom. After opening the wall and finding/fixing the issue we needed to then replace the tiles that I had to take out in order to get to the leak. This turned into a demo of the shower area, which turned into a demo of the rest of the bathroom, which turned into rerouting some plumbing and vent tubes. Now, a little over two weeks later, we are finally starting to put everything back together again. Whew.

On a somewhat positive note, I accidentally broke the toilet when a huge chunk of concrete and tile fell from the ceiling (the ENTIRE bathroom was covered in tile and about 1.5 inches of this concrete type stuff). The positive part is that we replaced it with a new dual flush toilet from Toto. Once it’s installed and has been taken for a few “test drives” I’ll give my review. I’ve read installation is extremely difficult on tile – like what we are doing – and that the flush is powerful enough on the low setting for most of what needs to get flushed. So good and bad, we’ll see.

That is just one example of unexpected things coming up which prevent me from working on my eco projects, there have been quite a few lately. Fortunately I have been able to find some time to finally put together my generator bike that I mentioned here and here, currently dubbed the GB2000. I used an old bike I had laying around. I pulled off the back tire, had to do some magical alteration and rerouting of the the rear tension gear, got a lawn tractor v-belt, and attached it all to a 12v 4.5amp water pump motor. I still have to figure out what to use for a regulator (I can get over 24v of output pretty easily without a regulator) and also some kind of diode setup so the power flow is only out to the batteries and not in to the motor. I’m leaning towards using a controller for an electric scooter, which also has a battery charger hookup. Most of them are 24v or higher, which is fine since it would allow me to charge two batteries at a time in series.

Here are pictures of the bike. I used some scrap 2×4’s I had and bought some deck joist ties from the local hardware store to hold the back of the bike up. It’s because of the joist ties that I had to reroute the tension gear.

View of the deck joist and the chain tensioner

View of the deck joist and the chain tensioner

Insulation project

Posted by admin on Dec 24th, 2008
Dec 24

We live in a home built in 1952, which apparently is before the concept of insulation. Last spring we tackled insulating our attic. It was probably, at best, insulated to an r-value of 5 in a couple of areas and completely devoid of insulation in most places. Now it’s probably somewhere between an r-value of 30-35 with 8-10 inches of blown in cellulose insulation. It cost us about $350 for the materials ($325) and blower rental ($20) and about 3 hours of our time one afternoon. It was a step in the right direction, but it didn’t have much of an effect in the heat this summer since the walls aren’t insulated.
One of the big projects I have slated for this winter is to finally insulate our walls. I’ve been looking into all of the different insulation methods and narrowed it down to two in particular – denim cellulose and spray foam. Both of which are (or at least can be) green, and I can do them myself. Without going into too much detail, the decision was ultimately made based on ease of installation and overall r-value. Cost was also somewhat of a factor initially, but comfort won out over cost in the end and I decided on soy foam insulation. Here are the basic comparisons base on 1200 sq ft of wall space (@ 1 inch deep):




    • installation requires at least 2 people and a hopper that can be turned off/on by the person applying the insulation


    • total cost for 1000 sq linear ft = $1050 (sorry, can’t find the link at the moment)


Spray foam (soy) Thanks for the correction Jamie!



    • single person insulation is feasible


    • total cost for 1000 sq linear ft = $1370


So for about $300 more than cellulose insulation we’ll be getting twice the rvalue per square inch. The decision was pretty easy in the end. There is one other “honorable mention” that I should point out. It is still green in the long run and a little closer in price to the cellulose insulation at about $1050 as well, although you will need to keep in mind that the foam I listed above includes shipping and 17 installation tools, while this kit does not (at least not at the time of this writing). I’m hoping to complete this project by mid-January.

Minor solar oven setback

Posted by admin on Nov 21st, 2008
Nov 21

A little over a week ago we had a few days of high winds, high temperatures, and lots of devastating fires. It seems that the people who live in the north and eastern hills of the valley are always being ravaged by wild fires. Being in the valley it is always a concern that we might be affected by the fires and have something happen to our home as well, but since our house has been standing since 1952 without (fire) incident then I feel relatively assured that we are safe. If we could only find a way to immune ourselves from earthquakes….

Unfortunately my solar oven suffered a bit of a set back due to the winds, but it should be fixable with some spare Plexi-Glass I have from a previous experiment. I should be able to use it as a replacement if I so choose to use the same window frame.

High winds and an unstable bike next to glass = not a good thing

High winds and an unstable bike next to glass = not a good thing

Fun use of an old incandescent

Posted by admin on Nov 13th, 2008
Nov 13

I came across this video today of what someone did with an old incandescent light bulb and was intrigued. I just had to share it. It may not always be much more enviro-friendly, depending on the fuel used, than using the bulb to light your home, but it is a pretty neat trick – and it looks like a fun way to recycle them.

Incandescent Lamp Hack!Click here for another funny movie.

Green kid cuisine

Posted by admin on Nov 11th, 2008
Nov 11

Looking for some good food alternatives to feed your offspring? Here’s a site that has some quick, easy, and healthy vegetarian alternatives to hamburgers or canned soup.

I suppose I should divulge it was written by my wife back when she went vegetarian for a while. She still keeps her pledge to keep “pork off your fork”, but she just couldn’t give up chicken.

Solar oven project update

Posted by admin on Sep 29th, 2008
Sep 29

I started cutting out the frame of the new solar oven from scrap plywood laying around in the garage this past weekend. I have all of the sides cut out and ready for assembly, I just need to find my wood dowel pins to put the pieces together and I need to find a scrap piece of wood big enough for the bottom. I had to make the sides in two pieces because I didn’t have anything left that was big enough to make it solid. Here’s what I have so far:

The top of the sides are set at a 30 degree angle – I had read that is the optimal angle for solar panels somewhere. Once I locate my dowel pins and find a piece for the bottom then it should go together fairly quickly.

Here’s a picture of the one I built last summer. It’s got an old window I found in our garage from some previous owner, and it works pretty well. It’s lined with foil and the bricks in the bottom are to help keep the temperature a little more even. The test I did with it yesterday got it up to over 170 degrees. If it was built a little better and all the gaps and holes sealed up then I might be able to get it hot enough to boil water. I’ll be adding reflector flaps to the new one to ensure it will get more than hot enough for that. It currently sits on an old skateboard for portability, because with the bricks it’s quite heavy:

Does window efficiency film work?

Posted by admin on Sep 29th, 2008
Sep 29

About two weeks ago I wrote that I was going to try to make our single paned windows in our home more energy efficient by using a window film that claims to block around 70% of the suns radiant heat. This weekend I finally completed enough of the project to get an idea on if I’m heading in the right direction. It seems that I might just have wasted my time and money on this.

Of the 12 “panes” on the window, I put the film on 11 of them. I left the top middle pane untouched so I could test the difference in temperature between the filmed and non-filmed sections. I went to Harbor Freight to pick up a cheap infra-red thermometer ($10 – and I plan to use it around the house to find hot and cold spots). Since it was doing the testing on glass, I wanted to make sure it wasn’t skewing the test results when I checked the window temperature so I first put a large washer on the two test panes (the top left pane and the top middle pane) and checked the temp. Hmm – 106 degrees for the non-filmed pane, and 104 degrees for the filmed pane. Whoa.

Okay, maybe the metal washer is making a difference. I decided to put a paper mailing label on each window – that way I would have a surface to test that wouldn’t potentially accumulate heat due to the material it is made from. It did make a difference, the temperatures dropped about 5 degrees for each pane, but they were still 2 degrees apart. The filmed pane was 99.3 degrees and the non-filmed was 101.3.

That’s very disappointing. I’m going to double check the directions, and look for some tips online from others who may have tried the film and see if they have any suggestions on what the problem might be. If I can’t find that I’ve done something wrong then I’ll start looking for alternate ideas to make the windows more efficient.

Sep 25

My wife, of course, likes to take baths. My son is afraid of the shower so he takes baths. I try to conserve water wherever I can and even take a 5 Gallon Bucket into the shower with me to collect the water when it’s heating up, and while I’m lathering up (5th paragraph down in the post). In a way I am a bit hypocritical in the sense that I have a pool, and pools aren’t eco-friendly or promote water conservation. I’ve been trying to think of ways to offset the extra consumption of water due to the pool – which leads me back to the bath water.

Our entire yard was cemented over a long time ago. It’s both a blessing and a curse in that it’s nice to not have to mow a lawn or do extra yard work and we save a lot of water by not having grass or other plant life, but it retains heat in a horrible way and on extremely hot days it may not cool down until 2am. It’s essentially a “hose down” yard but if it gets hosed down a few times a week then we aren’t saving any water over a grassed yard. We have two large dogs, so it needs to be hosed down often. I have been looking for a way to clean the bath water well enough to be able to use it to hose down the yard – thus re-purposing a large amount of used water.

I bought a 5.5GPM pump a while back from a used electronics store and I have lots of marine batteries to hook it up to. I also have three 55 gallon barrels which I can pump the water into. I wanted to build something to filter the water before it made it into the barrel, because it’s easier at that point that to filter it while it’s being siphoned out for use. Here’s what I came up with – which was inspired by an episode of Renovation Nation where a homeowner built something similar to filter rainwater:

  • 5 gallon bucket – can be bought at a hardware store for under $5, but most people already have one laying around

  • a 1 1/2″ pipe connector – male and female – for the drain hole. About $4 from the hardware store

  • two 2″ rubber gaskets for the pipe connectors, to seal around the hole. About $2.50 for a two pack (check in the faucet repair area in the plumbing section)

  • bag of sand – it was harder to find than I thought. About $4.50. This will do the core of the filtration

  • bag of pea gravel – about $3.50. This is used to keep the outlet from getting clogged up and to level out the bottom of the inside of the filter

  • Koi pond filter – also found at the hardware store in the outdoor garden center by the pond equipment. It was the most expensive piece @ $10. This is used to keep the sand in the filter, and also does some large particle filtering – hair and whatnot

  • Optional – a pack of terry cloths, about $2.50. I used them mainly for additional protection from the sand coming out and also to prevent the Koi pond filters from getting clogged up with sand.

Here are the step-by-step pictures of the project as I constructed the filter. You’ll notice that I had already cut the hole and put the pipe fitting in the bucket at this point. Also, before the pipe fitting is installed you’ll need to drill a few holes in the top pipe fitting (the piece that is in the bucket when assembled, not sticking out of the bottom) for complete drainage.

The parts list

Wash the pea gravel to get all the dirt off and fill the bottom of the bucket with enough pea gravel to make it level with the top of the pipe connector (the one that you drilled holes into before assembling)

I put a terry cloth rag on top of the gravel, in an attempt to make cleanup easier later

The Koi pond filter comes in two pieces, the denser one goes in at this point (it’s like a scrubber pad). These should have been cut to fit the bucket, but I was impatient and wanted to try it out

I put another terry cloth on top of that – this is important to help keep the sand out of the filter as much as possible

Put about 4″ of sand on top and level it out

Then another terry cloth, if you want to

Then the other half of the Koi pond filter

Then I threw on another terry cloth on top of all that. Now it’s time for the test. It’s best if you let clean water run through it for a few minutes to clean out all the dirt that needs to be washed out of the filter initially. It’s like a carbon filter for your refrigerator that also needs to have water run through it before it can be used. In hindsight I should have washed the pebbles before putting them in the filter, but it’s a lesson learned. Here’s my initial test run. The pipe fitting fits perfectly into the opening on the barrel it’s sitting on in the picture:

I suppose a disclaimer is in order. This filter is for NON-potable water only! Do not drink it.

Motorcycle hypermiling, and solar oven part II

Posted by admin on Sep 19th, 2008
Sep 19

Since becoming a new motorcycle rider over the last two months I’ve had to put my hypermiling “research” on hold. I needed to fully focus my attention on what I was doing while riding because looking at the pavement pass by and thinking that if I make one little mistake…and the pavement up ahead could be permanently embedded in various parts of my body. Now that I’ve got over 800 miles under my belt on the bike I’m feeling much more comfortable and have actually started incorporating a few of the techniques I learned while hypermiling in the car. The hard part though, is that since it’s a manual transmission and I don’t always know what gear I’m in, it’s a bit dangerous to put it back into gear in certain situations (like turns, for example) so I don’t coast as much as I could otherwise.

This weekend I’m planning to find as much scrap wood around the house and rebuild my solar oven. My initial attempt turned out alright, and we cooked some beans in it one day (I think it took 6 hours tho), but it’s not sealed very well and should be made deeper and more efficient. So, as promissed in one of my early on posts, I’m going to rebuild it and document it for those who might want to attempt the same project.

Making our windows more efficient, part 2

Posted by admin on Sep 15th, 2008
Sep 15

As promissed, here is the update to the window insulation film project. I decided to go with the Artscape’s Energy Film Window Film because there was no adhesive required. I thought it was going to be a simple “stick it on the window and forget it” type of a deal, but I was mistaken. It turned out to be more involved than I thought.

The biggest problem was that the package didn’t have any installation instructions, I had to go to the Artscape website and click on the “Installation” tab at the top of the screen. That’s where I found out that I needed a soapy water solution sprayed on the window and the film for it to adhere to the window.

Our windows have a faux window pane effect – i.e. they have these vinyl strips glued to the window to look like individual panes. I would love to take those pieces off but it would probably damage the window or leave a residue from the glue. Unfortunately, this means I have to cut out 12 12″x9″ pieces of the film per window. I’ve never really liked that style of window, but as much as I dislike them we’re going to have to live with them for a while, otherwise I wouldn’t have to be going through this effort.

Because of all of the individual pieces I needed to cut out and the extra time involved I was only able put up a test piece on one section. According to the instructions, the window can’t be hot when it is applied so I had to wait until the evening. The next day I did a hand test and found that the part of the window with the film on it was at least 20 degrees cooler than the unprotected “pane”. I’m going to finish the installation this week and then do some temperature checks to get a more accurate figure of the temperature difference between the filmed and unfilmed windows.

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