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BBQ: charcoal, gas, or electric?

Posted by admin on Jun 27th, 2008
Jun 27

I was reading an article on TreeHugger about the carbon emission differences between several bar-b-que fuels. It turns out that gas has the lowest emissions, for now, but chunk charcoal (not the processed stuff you buy in a bag at the store) is actually better. The reason it’s not the best though is because it has to be shipped across the country, or even across continents, which makes it have a higher footprint.

Here’s the article on TreeHugger. Enjoy!

Okay, so we weren’t quite ready enough

Posted by admin on Jun 21st, 2008
Jun 21

It is now the third day straight of power outages in my neighborhood. We have probably averaged 12 hours on, 12 hours off per day. The main reason given by the DWP (Department of Water and Power) is due to the extreme heat and the number of people who have been using their AC. At least three of the last four days have found us in the Valley enduring record matching, or record breaking heat. Three days ago it was 107 (matched the record), two days ago it was 107 (broke the record by 2 degrees), yesterday was 109 (broke the record again by 2 degrees). I don’t know what the high was today but I’m guessing it will be very close to yesterday. The outside thermometer went over 110 degrees, but then again I don’t have a lot of faith in our $5 gadget.

Today, to keep as cool as possible, we went swimming quite a bit. It was really the only way to keep any form of sanity – crazy from the heat, I’m finding, isn’t just a metaphor 🙂

In preparation of the seeming trend of power outages, I went out and bought a 2000 watt power inverter today. That way we’ll be able to run our portable AC in the event of an outage along with a few other creature comforts as well. Tomorrow I’m planning to head to Costco to buy six, maybe eight, deep cycle batteries to hook the inverter too. I think any less than six wouldn’t give us much time but eight would be optimal. It all comes down to cost for us.

The biggest problem I’m facing at this point is charging these batteries in at least a somewhat environmental way. I don’t have any solar panels (you can donate to the cause though! Click on the “Donate” button on the left!!!), I would *love* a wind turbine but I don’t have any place to put it, and I don’t really want to use utility power to charge them. If I do use utility power though, at least it would be “green” since I signed up for 100% green power from the utility company. I will probably opt to initially charge them that way, especially since I want them charged as soon as possible. I might also mount a battery tray in the trunk and charge them individually, or two at a time, as I commute to work (yes, I haven’t addressed transportation yet in my quest to be more environmental). We’ll see what options make the most sense. Charging them with the car isn’t exactly the best option obviously, but if I’m driving the car anyway….

It is still possible that I might break down and get a solar panel, but that depends on how much longer we have to endure these outages. At almost a thousand dollars each for a 200-208 watt panel, it’s the cost that really hinders that idea.

When the lights go out in the city

Posted by admin on Jun 19th, 2008
Jun 19

The last two days in the San Fernando valley have been…excruciatingly hot. Yesterday matched a record high of 106 degrees, and I’m not sure what today’s high was yet but it was probably in the same triple digit range. On top of the extreme heat today we lost power in our neighborhood twice. The first time was around 4:00pm – pretty much the hottest time of the day inside our house – until around 6pm, and then again around 9pm. I’m actually sitting in the dark, on my laptop with my Verizon broadband usb modem typing this. I’m a geek at heart, so I think it’s kinda cool 🙂

The power outage, besides being a HUGE pain in the tukas (sp?), has shown me just how prepared we really are for power outages. We could be better prepared, but for the most part, for short outages up to around 12 hours, I think we’re not doing too bad.

I used to have a boat. I loved that boat. I miss that boat. The only thing I have left from the boat after I sold it are the two marine batteries (I believe they are 850ah) that I’ve kept for the last few years. They have been *tremendously* handy – I use them for all sorts of projects around the house…including power outages. I currently have them wired in parallel (i.e. positive to positive, and negative to negative), and have a cheapo 750 watt inverter hooked up to them. Off the inverter I have an extension cord that feeds into the house which connects to a power strip. Off of that power strip I’m running three fans (one for my son’s room and two for the living room) and my laptop (which is also currently charging my cell phone). I could also power my 37″ lcd tv and my dvd player (since the cable is out) if I wanted too, but with a laptop I don’t need to use up all that valuable electricity and can just watch a movie on my computer. We also are using the outside solar yard lights in the house which actually work pretty well when turned upside down on a table. Kinda romantic too 😉 Three of those light up the living room well enough and they last for about 8 hours! For cooking we have a propane bar-b-que, which is great on any hot day – not just for power outages. As my wife has found out, by turning on one burner in our house to boil water on a hot afternoon can raise the overall temperature of the house by four degrees!!

So how prepared are you for a power outage? That’s a question a person might want to ask themselves before they find themselves in the middle of such a situation. We are nowhere near where I’d like to be as far as preparedness for power outages, but I think for not really giving it much effort we’re doing pretty well. I’d like to get about six more marine batteries, a 200+ watt solar panel, a 2000 watt inverter, and to build a small wind turbine to really make things comfortable, but that will take a little bit of time to save up for. I’m guessing that the cost of my current setup, if I was to go out and buy it new, would be around $275 – $85 for the batteries from Costco (x2), $30 for 6 solar yard lights, and about $75 for the inverter. That’s assuming I wouldn’t need to get a battery charger or an extension cord. If I could build my system up so I could hook up my 850 watt portable AC in addition to what I have now then I’d be good, although my wife might say differently 😉

What are your minimum requirements for power outage survival? What do you already have to meet that goal? Let me know!! I’d like to hear your ideas about what is essential during a power outage.

It’s been a little while, but I have a good excuse

Posted by admin on Jun 14th, 2008
Jun 14

It’s been just over two weeks since my last post, but the reason is actually somewhat green. I’ve taken on a consulting job that has taken up a fair amount of my free time lately. The reason it’s somewhat green is because it’s almost 100% remote, which is great for reducing any additional gas consumption. Now if I could only convince my daytime employer to do the same thing….

I’m a linux and unix systems administrator by trade and I’ve recently delved into the consulting aspect of my line of work. I have quickly come to a realization – why don’t more businesses give the option to work remotely? I’ve read that the trend of the future is to cut office costs and hire remote workers – and I’m not talking about outsourcing, although that has its energy savings benefits as well. In my particular line of work there seems to be an exception to the rule, and I wonder why? Where I work for my day job, all of the production servers are in two different remote countries – so essentially I’m already working remotely from my desk. With the rising costs of energy wouldn’t it just make sense, for all parties involved, to allow workers to work from home? Lower utilities bills for the business, and lower commuting costs for the worker. Win-win, right?

Feel free to post a comment, or you can send me an email with your thoughts. I would love to hear what people who read this blog have to say about any of my topics, and I would love to hear about ideas on things they have tried to make their lives greener. If you don’t want to post a comment, then just send me your thoughts to webmaster at this domain. I will give you credit – or anonyminity – if you like.