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A Passive Solar Addition to my Home

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Fortunately our house was built with a good north-facing aspect for good winter solar energy gain (I'm in the southern hemisphere; south-facing for you northerners). There is a storm-water easement running diagonally across the block, which restricted the orientation of the house, otherwise I suspect the original owners would have had it turned 90 degrees to face the street. As our kids grew we found the small house (about 10 squares, or 100 square metres) getting smaller, and in 1988 I started on designing an addition. I had done a lot of reading about passive solar design, and had done a fair bit of airconditioning design work in my job, so was very familiar with thermal flow concepts. I determined that the addition to the house would be a passive solar design, to get the maximum benefit from the winter sun and still moderate the fierce heat of summer. Where I live in Australia we can hit 40 degrees Celsius in summer, and high thirties are common. In winter it can get down near freezing. MORE...

Boffin - is that some sort of hobbit?

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According to Wikipedia the word's origin is unknown. It appeared during World War II, where it was applied with some affection to the people who invented radar, early digital computers, the atomic bomb, and other technologies that gave the Allies an advantage over the Axis during the war. And yes, the Boffins were also one of the families of hobbits in the Lord of the rings, mentioned in book 1, p50, at Bilbo's birthday party. MORE...

Heat-pump Hot Water - another green step

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A number of things have changed the equation in the last 20 years:-

Our Domestic Rainwater Tanks

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We installed our rain water tanks in 2008, during a time of drought here in Australia, with sever water restrictions. Sydney Water were offering $500 to home owners who installed tanks, and another $500 if you then connected them to either your washing machine or your toilet cistern. $1500 all up if you connect to both. I discovered that plastic (polyethylene) tanks are about the same price as Colorbond steel tanks, so went with them. I also discovered that circular tanks are much cheaper than oval and other compact shaped tanks for the same capacity, and that one big tanks is a lot cheaper than several small ones. MORE...

Our Domestic Rainwater Tanks - Lifting the Bigger Tanks

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Getting the two larger tanks in place was a minor challenge, as the corner of the deck at the rear of the house comes very close to the drop into the gully of the creek we overlook. There was just no way to roll or carry the tanks around the corner, and only a 900mm access down the other side of the house. With the aid of my son and a neighbour we rigged up a rough "crane" and lifted them around easily and safely. MORE...

Our Domestic Rainwater Tanks - Modified Float Valve

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which was designed for keeping an animal drinking trough full. Water under pressure is admitted in the bottom port of the valve, and leaves the outlet into the trough. The valve is intended to be mounted through the wall of the trough. When the water level is sufficiently high, the float pulls the cord attached to the bell-crank and stops the flow. MORE...

Solar Voltaic Power for my House

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I've long been fascinated by the idea of having photo-voltaic panels on our roof so that we can generate our own power. The economics were not very attractive for along time. MORE...

The Good Oil

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Before I retired I worked for over 30 years in the oil refining industry. A friend asked me to give a talk about oil at a men's shed night in a farming community, so here is "The Good Oil" (his title suggestion, not mine, though I think it a very good one. In Australian slang "the good oil" is something that is reliable, or true, something that delivers on its promise). As the aim is for a quick yet interesting overview, with a time suggestion of about 15 minutes, this is of course not in any way comprehensive, but I hope it is useful. I will of necessity break two cardinal principles:-

Zero-Energy Rainy Weather Clothes Drier

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Years ago I created this drier for my wife, as a wet weather alternative to the clothes-line and the electric tumble drier. It works very well, even in wet weather, as long as the air is not too close to saturation, and has reduced our need for the tumble drier greatly. All it is is a light frame slung beneath the carport roof. A cheap boat trailer winch, cord and pulleys allow it to be hoisted up out of the wind-blown rain, and lowered to add or remove the clothes. MORE...


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