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A Trombe wall is gaining popularity as a simple passive solution to heating your home with the sun. Being passive, your expense for pumps, tubes and fancy solar collectors is avoided. Using any material for the wall that absorbs the sun's heat during the day and, using a series of well-placed vents, will circulate the heat back through the house at night. When you start investigating the benefits of building a Trombe wall, you will find lots of references to a thermal mass and insulated glazing material. Don't let the terminology baffle you. A thermal mass can be adobe, stone, concrete, or even water tanks, like old water heaters. Insulated glazing material refers to two or more glass panes, spaced apart and hermetically sealed to resist the heat flow, like storm windows. Other materials, like polyester panels, can also be used as glazing materials, but glass works the most efficiently. Simply put, the sun heats the south-facing wall behind the two panes of insulated glass. The wall, usually 8" to 16" thick, holds the heat and prevents it from entering the house until it is needed with a series of adjustable vents. Using natural air flow, the heated air flows into the house from the top vents and pushes the cold air, collected along the floor, back onto the heated wall. That circular exchange, convection, continues as long as the Trombe wall is warmer than the household air. A backup system for those days when the sun doesn't shine would be a good idea. At night, the warm air will travel through the walls and heat the room on the other side of the collector, so it would not be a good idea to place bookcases on that wall. Some of the heated air will travel up the wall and flow into the living space through the upper vents, as described above. The warm air held by the wall will also leak back out of the insulated glass panel during the night. Dropping an insulating panel or shades between the glass panel and the thermal wall during the night will stop or slow down some of that heat escape. The air and heat flow can be increased with simple electric blowers controlled by thermostats. If blocking the severe summer sun is a something you want to do, trellises with climbing annuals would be both attractive and effective. Some have used the Trombe wall to heat water in pipes, sending it through the walls or under the floor when heat is needed in the home. Others have constructed a greenhouse between the insulated glass panels and the Trombe wall, creating multiple uses for the same heating source. When you begin to live a greener, gentler lifestyle, you will find many options and offers for purchasing kits and plans. Do your homework and decide what you need before you jump into any project that's for your home.
Solar ovens are slowly gaining popularity as more than a hard-core survival practice taught to military personnel. They are easy to make and do not require fancy tools or hardware. Even though the solar oven can be constructed out of stuff you've been stepping over in your garage for years, it is not a toy. If built large enough, one can cook an entire meal for a family. In campgrounds where campfires are not allowed, you can combine a useful project for your children during the morning and use it to cook dinner later that afternoon. Just remember that it is not like the oven in your kitchen and requires more time under the sun to do the same job. But, you can bake most items with sunshine that you can bake in your kitchen. What you have to do in order to cook with sunshine is transform that sunshine into heat. That is accomplished by shining sunlight onto dark surfaces. The best color to use to absorb heat is black. It absorbs almost all of the visible light that hits it and reflects very little, if any, but usually needs some enhancement to make enough heat to cook with. You can increase the temperature of your solar oven by using mirrors or any highly reflective surface to shine more sunlight on your black surface. A very simple solar oven can be constructed from a short list of items, most of which you probably already have. You can find step-by-step plans all over the Internet to build any size solar oven. Quite a few will be free for the download. Google "How to build a solar oven" and you will have many choices, some simple and some complicated. For this one, you will need two cardboard boxes, one several inches smaller than the other. They need to nest with several inches of space between them on all sides for the insulation. When you actually build the solar oven, you will crumple up newspaper and use it to insulate the two boxes. Aluminum foil will be used for reflectors. You will need non-toxic glue and invisible tape, plastic wrap or a sturdy plastic bag, a small aluminum cooking pan found in most supermarkets and an oven thermometer. Black construction paper is sufficient to cover the parts of your solar oven you want to hold the heat. Other items you need to keep handy are scissors, pencils, and stapler. Might be a good idea to have a roll of "Duck" Tape handy just for emergencies. The truth is that you can actually build a functional solar oven out of a pizza box. Google that and you'll find the instructions for doing it. While solar this and that and "Going Green" might seem like today's buzz words, our world needs some tending right now and any way you can reduce your dependency on fossil fuels will help your children to live better lives. Think about it!
With the threat of global warming constantly in front of us with devastating storms and odd weather patterns, many are thinking about doing something to help our environment. One solution is reducing our normal usage of purchased electricity from power companies by accessing the power of the wind. Using the wind to generate power for your usage is easily available and modern technology has made it very efficient for homeowners wanting to "go green." After building the wind turbine, the energy you create will not add to the pollution we are living with today. One powerful benefit of corralling the wind is that remote areas not provided access from the usual power grid can make their own electricity and sell any excess back to the power company they were prevented from using. Small towns can relieve their residents of hefty power bills by building their own wind turbines. Technology is under constant change, but currently the largest turbine available can provide electricity to around 500 homes. That's a pretty good-sized village. With the constant influx of new technology and improvements on the old, newer wind turbines are not as noisy as they used to be. Some might object to the turbine in your backyard and consider it a blight on the rural scenery. When they find out that you are saving big chunks out of your electricity bill every month, they might want a wind turbine of their own. The major disadvantage, though, is that electricity is only produced when the wind blows. No wind; no electricity. Most of us have seen those wind farms that dot many hillsides here and there in remote areas near heavily populated locations. Those huge turbines are capable of providing electricity for a large number of homes, ranging from several hundred to thousands. The largest turbine in use has rotors of 390 feet in diameter. Thanks to technology, there are several options for smaller wind turbines suitable for a single household. You won't need one of those huge turbines for your use. Home turbines use rotors between 8 and 25 feet in diameter. Depending on the amount of wind in your area, you might generate a few hundred watts and 6 kilowatts of electricity. That will prevent 9 pounds of carbon from invading our decaying atmosphere if your electricity comes from coal-based power plants. One consideration you need to investigate is the average wind speed at your location. Your turbine will need wind speeds near 10 miles an hour to start generating electricity. There are some new models of wind turbines being produced that can start generating electricity with winds as low as 5 mph. This is perfect for households where winds are light or variable. If this interests you, a Google search will find current options for you. Most turbines last 20 years or more, but will need some maintenance during that lifespan. Some moving components will have to be replaced from time to time as they wear down from the constant rotation of the blades. If you want to build your own wind turbine, there are hundreds of options for free plans to follow and inexpensive kits with all the parts you will need, including directions. Again, search for what you want with Google or any other good search engine. Can you "Go Green" with wind power? Definitely!
Heating your water with the sun might be the easiest step you can take in your journey to becoming completely "Green." As in any new process or technology, you will have to make a few adjustments to your appliances. In this case, those adjustments include purchasing a solar powered water heater and possibly a storage tank. In some cases you might be able to adjust your current water heater. Before you do anything, research the options available to you carefully. There's no reason to spend money on a new purchase if you don't need to. It is possible to make your own solar power source if you are handy with tools and have the patience to do a good job. There are kits and plans for sale all over the Internet. A Google search will turn up many options that will help you build your own solar water heater if you like adventure. Before you get too involved, it might be a good idea to find a solar power or "Going Green" forum or blog to get your questions answered and get advice from those who have experience they'll freely share with you. Water heating is a major expense on your utility bill and it shows no sign of getting cheaper as power-generating companies steadily increase their prices to cover rising costs of resources. If you invest in a pre-built solar water heating system or build one yourself out of materials piled in your garage, you can reduce your monthly household power bill by as much as $100. The most important part you need is the solar panel, which transforms the sun's solar energy into the element that heats your water before it gets to your house. Some systems recommend a separate storage tank between your solar panel and your house's hot water heater. Your normal gas or electric-heated water heater might need some adjustments or replacement altogether to exist in your new solar system. Be sure to get all the details before you invest in any system. Good solar panels can be purchased in stores or online, some included in kits. You can also get plans for constructing your own panel and entire system. Generally, the prices online will be cheaper than the prices in retail stores. You will also need some pipes, insulating tape, wires and tubes if you are building your own. Ask questions until you are satisfied with the answers and the requirements of any system you are considering adding to your household.