ecoexist store

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

Idle power control – phase 2 complete

Posted by admin on Nov 18th, 2008
Nov 18

So phase 2 of the idle power consumption testing is complete, and with some surprising results. It seems that the X10 appliance module didn’t consume hardly any electricity going by the Kill-a-watt numbers. Unfortunately the time measurements aren’t exactly the same, but they are close enough to get a fairly conclusive result.

phase 1 test results (XBox plugged into an outlet):
Test hours = 172
kW used = 0.30

phase 2 results (XBox plugged into an X10 module):
Test hours = 168
kW used = 0.30

If I had let the test run another 4.5 hours to mimic the phase 1 test then it *might* have added another 0.01 or 0.02 kW maximum. So the overall consumption of the X10 module is actually, and surprisingly, negligible.

Phase 3 will involve the XBox plugged into the X10 module, and the module will be turned off for several hours a day to see how much electricity is actually conserved. It is starting to look like it will be more than I initially expected, at least going by the phase 2 results.

Idle power control – phase 1 complete

Posted by admin on Nov 11th, 2008
Nov 11

After a week (172.5 hours to be exact, or 7 days 4 hours and 30 minutes) I finally have my results of my phantom power test. The total phantom power used in that time was 0.30 kW total – or 300 watts, almost 1/3rd of a kilowatt. Here’s more math for you:

Hours in a year = 8736.00
Test hours = 172
kW used = 0.30
8736 / 172 = 50.79 time measurement units
50.79 x 0.30 = 15.24 kW of phantom power used in one year by the XBox

As of 1am PST on Nov. 11th, I’ve got the X10 appliance module plugged into the Kill-a-watt, the XBox plugged into the appliance module, and the module is “on”. I’ll need to figure out a good way to power on and off the module. I have two basic options. I can manually use the X10 remote used with the modules and turn off the unit before I go to work (@8:30am), and then turn it on after I get home (@around 8:30pm). The other option is to put my laptop out in the garage (where the test is being conducted), and set up a cron job to automatically turn the module on/off. I’m leaning towards the laptop option, but I’m not certain yet.

The main purpose of this part of the test is to see if using the module to totally cut power to the XBox actually saves any electricity or if the module itself will use as much, or more, power. I’m guessing it will actually use more since the module will always be in a powered state – and the amount of electricity saved by cutting the power to the XBox will be overridden and amplified by the constant draw of the module. We’ll find out in a week.

UPDATE: I’ve changed my mind about using the module to regulate the power flow to the XBox. Instead, I’m going to leave everything just the way it is but leave the module in the “on” mode for the entire week. That way we can see how much additional power the module utilizes in addition to the XBox.

Fabulously Eco

Posted by admin on Nov 6th, 2008
Nov 6

My wife recently went through a major wardrobe overhaul. There were bags and bags of clothes, shoes, and accessories she was going to get rid of and donate. It’s really quite amazing the amount of clothing she had in her closet, considering it’s only slightly larger than a coat closet. The main reason for the transformation was because she met two “Fabulous” women who’s specialty is (if I understand correctly):

  • to de-clutter the closet
  • use the rest of the existing wardrobe to mix and match versatile items to create multiple new ensembles
  • and help educate on what items to purchase going forward to get the most out of your money while putting the least amount in your closet

Pretty cool. There’s an eco-friendly byproduct in there somewhere, but that’s not the purpose of this post.

The ladies website, and business, is called Fabulous On A Budget. Their website is full of energy, whimsy, and some great information. One thing I found particularly interesting was their post on “Keeping your Electricity Bills Fabulous For Fall!”. They even take their energy conservation beyond what we do in our house, and go as far as to unplug their washer and dryer when they aren’t being used!

If you find yourself with some free time then take a look at the site. I think you’ll agree that it might just make your day a little brighter.

Idle power control – phase 1

Posted by admin on Nov 4th, 2008
Nov 4

As I mentioned in my last post, I was going to plug an old Xbox that I had lying around to my Kill-a-watt, leave it powered off for a week, and see how much phantom power it used. I got it all set up last night out in the garage (which suddenly makes me wonder if weather/temperature will skew any of the results in any way….) and this morning, before I left for work, my curiosity got the better of me and I had to check the status.

According to the Kill-a-watt, it had been plugged in for 12 hours and 45 minutes, and had used .02 kW. That doesn’t seem like much, but after 24 hours it should be around .04 kW – again, I know, not much. *But* if you combine that with several other electronic devices plugged in around the house – tv, computer, computer monitor, dvd player, phone charger, clock, rechargeable batteries and/or flashlights, night lights, lamps, video game player, stereo, electric razor, hair dryer….I’m sure you get the picture – then it will turn into something quite substantial quickly. If I had 10 items pulling the same amount of phantom power as my “control” test, then they would be using a half a kW (500 watts) about every 30 hours. Here’s what could happen:

1 device @ 24 hours = .04 kW (40 watts)
10 devices @ 24 hours = .40 kW (400 watts - what a 200+ watt solar panel produces in two hours of full sun!)
.40 / 24 = .0167 kW per hour
.0167 kW * 30 hours = .501 (501 watts, or half a kW)
There are 8736 hours a year (24 hours * 7 days in a week * 52 weeks)
8736 total hours / 30 hours = 291.2 * .501 kW = 145.89 total kW used in a year

Almost 146 kW used in a year from only 10 plugged in and powered off devices. I know I have a lot more than that around my house, how many do you have?

Idle power control

Posted by admin on Nov 3rd, 2008
Nov 3

Due to a recent article on TreeHugger about BestBuy’s naming October 30th as “Vampire Awareness Day” (referring to the idle, or phantom, power consumption of the plugged-in-but-not-in-use electronics in our homes), it brought to mind a few items I had acquired a few years ago that I had completely forgotten about. I have a whole box of unused X10 lamp and appliance controllers just sitting in the garage.

Doing a quick check of the X10 website shows that the prices of the wall modules are still relatively inexpensive. Most of the modules are just plugged into an outlet then the electronic device – be it a tv, stereo, computer, etc – is plugged into the module. Then, using an ifra-red remote, the power to the device can be cut off at the wall, potentially saving a lot of phantom power usage. X10 also has wall outlets as well which allows for whole outlet to be disabled whenever needed. The other benefit to having such a device is for when we are away on a vacation. I can control the modules from my computer so I can turn on/off the lights for security. Pretty nifty.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be installing many of these modules wherever I feel they may be useful. I’ll update on my progress and document the pro’s and con’s of the devices (and have pictures!). I think I’m going to do a trial run with a specific appliance, maybe a spare Xbox I have, and plug it in for a week with my Kill-A-Watt attached to see what kind of energy consumption it uses while powered off (for the entire week). Then the next week I’ll use an X10 module to cut the power for 10-12 hours a day and compare the difference. That should at least give me a basic baseline comparison. It would be difficult to get a consistent comparison with something that is randomly being used for varying periods of time – like the tv or the microwave.

Some of the things I’ve done so far

Posted by admin on Apr 7th, 2008
Apr 7

This post is a very high level view and, admittedly, a bit long. It’s meant to lay out what I’ve done so far, and do it as briefly as possible so it’s not a horribly long read. I will elaborate at a later date on most of the projects listed below, but for now it’s just a listing of things I’ve done.

My main focus up to this point has been on reducing the amount of electricity our house uses. There have been a lot of things I’ve tried to mitigate our usage and it seems to be working so far.

I live in Los Angeles and my bi-monthly electric bill has been as high as $550 in the summer. It’s a little 1250 sqft house with two adults, one kid, two dogs, a cat and a pool. So where is all the electricity going? While I can’t say what exactly uses the most electricity in our house, I target things I know will greatly reduce our usage. I’ve replaced most of our high usage incandescent lights with compact fluorescent lights – like in the office, the living room, and the outdoor lights. I’ve installed a programmable thermostat and have adjusted it probably as far as I can. The heat in the winter is set to come on at 65 and in the summer the AC is set to come on at 81. Those settings have been working out pretty well so far. So far this year, when I know it’s going to be a warm day, I leave the doors open in the morning to capture as much of the cool morning air as possible and then close up all the doors when I think it’s starting to warm up. I’ve installed a gable fan – which has helped considerably, put ceiling fans in almost every room, put up bamboo blinds in our sun room (which is the hottest room in the house), and close the doors to our bedrooms which are on the hottest side of the house. Due to all of these adjustments we haven’t used more than 30 minutes of AC in the last three weeks – and we’ve seen temperatures in the high 80’s. That’s huge. I attribute most of that to the gable fan but all of these changes have contributed of course.

While investigating the attic I found that there are several places where we have no insulation, or at best about 2 inches of insulation. Of course I’m planning on fixing that, but the gable fan will at least keep most of the heat flowing out. We also don’t have any ridge vents so before the gable fan there was no good way for the heat to find a way out on its own so it would be like an oven heating up the living spaces. I have no idea how prior owners survived in this house in the summers! I’m hoping to be able to blow in insulation myself next weekend. Lowe’s rents a hopper/blower and sells the recycled insulation to use with it. The deal is pretty good – the first 24 hours of the rental is free with the purchase 20 bales of insulation and then only $20 a day for the next three (max is 4 day rental). I’ve calculated that we need almost exactly 50 bales so it won’t be a problem meeting the 20 bale criteria. It’s going to cost about $550 total when I’m done but it will save hundreds a year, if not more.

Now I’m starting to focus more on water consumption. I installed gutters on the garage and put a rain barrel in place. I bought three of them off of Craigs List for $15 each almost a year ago and am finally utilizing them. They are old pickle barrels so they are perfectly suited for water retention (i.e. food grade – although the water they collect should not be consumed by anything other than plants!). I’m going to put up the rest of the gutters on the back of the house (gutters are oddly lacking on most houses in SoCal) and use another rain barrel there. I’m siphoning My wife and son’s bath water about once a week into another rain barrel for foliage irrigation. The other thing I’m doing to conserve water is to capture the water in the tub that runs while I’m waiting for the hot water to reach the faucet. I take a 5 gallon bucket, put it under the tap and let it run until I feel the hot water. This averages around 2-2.5 gallons, which is perfect for watering the potted plants.

And finally, recycling. Los Angeles has the best recycling program that I’m aware of. It’s great because there’s no need to distinguish between the different plastic types which takes out the confusion and a lot of the effort. Even the worst plastics – numbers 3 and 5 – can be thrown into the blue recycling bin (**according to Most places only allow 1 and 2 to be put in the bin, so then you need to figure out what to do with the other 5 types. There are places that will take them but you need to search for them. Please do – a little initial effort to locate these recycling facilities on your part will do a lot for the future of the environment. If you just decide the effort isn’t worth it and throw it away, then it ends up in a land fill, leaches into the ground water system and then ends up in the water out of the tap.

I hope these posts will be useful to someone. I’ve found that once I started doing one or two things to improve our electricity consumption or water usage then it became a bit easier to be conscious and even a little addictive. I look at things a bit differently because of all this and I’m seeing noticeable results from my actions.

In the next few weeks I’m going to be adding a links section, an environmental “code” page to describe things like what the different recycling numbers mean on plastic and other such information, and some pictures of my projects.

If you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave them. Comments will need to be approved by me, or you can send me an email to webmaster at this domain.