Friday, May 16, 2014

Reusable grocery bags

I thought I should maybe make mention of food safety with the reusable grocery bags. Make sure the ones used for food are only used for food if at all possible. There is a distinct possibility you could get ill because hamburger leaked on to the bag. Yes, you do need to inspect them periodically and clean them when you see food leakage. I would also recommend grabbing a store bag for meat separately. Of course, if the city has made it illegal, like Chicago that won't be possible and you'll need to bring your own but make sure they are clean.

Go ahead and use them but be careful. They do save the environment in so many ways. Now for boxed and canned goods there probably won't be any issues and I've never had any in the last six or seven years.

Each of those bags does cost about 2 cents each. That gets into what the store charges you for the items you buy. They are not without a cost to you. So, if you want lower prices at the store bring your own bags and make it a habit.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

National Bike Month

Now is national bike month here in the US. Bikes are really great for transportation. 

I of course do save quite a bit by not driving and I know it every time I pass by a gas station. It's almost $3.50 per gallon and I'm not expecting it to ever get below $2.50 per gallon again. 

One of the bigger surprises though was getting a discount on my life insurance because I didn't expect that. Probably the biggest detraction is that it takes you longer to get from place to place but I never have to take any days off for sickness. I'm going on 50 and I'm just about the only one that works where I do who doesn't have to. It's probably because of all of the bike riding, a bike is my only transportation.

Here are some of the numbers that have been put together by a couple of other sites.

Here's my ride these days. I really like the Takara, it's been a really good bike. So far I haven't even had a flat tire which has been a shocker.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Solar collector systems

I’ve been taking a break from writing novels for a bit. My wrist had been bothering me a lot because of typing every day for over two and a half years. During that time I’ve produced a lot of different books and short stories. Some of them you might have even read. The present project that I’m working on is Inquiso and in the story the main character lives for at least part of the story line in a house with solar and wind power. One question has led to another and I’ve begun to research renewable energy as a result. Right now I’m also working on the energy efficiency of my house. This post is the result of some of the research I’ve been doing and will be doing.

Maybe this last winter your utility bills scared you just like they did me. Propane can be really expensive to cook and heat your house. There are some things you can do about it. So far I can definitely recommend LED light bulbs and additional insulation is also a good thing along with water heater wraps. None of them are really all that expensive to accomplish either.

Now let’s just say you’ve decided you would like to get at least part of your power from the sun. Even if you're going to be connected to the grid you can be assured electric won't cost less in the future in most places. That's just one good reason. Of course it’s beneficial to know you’ll be making the environment cleaner. The cleaner environment doesn’t necessary directly affect your wallet though which is what most people are interested in.

In my research a 270 watt solar panel will pay for itself in about one year and that's without rebates or subsidies. They cost about $280 each and each should last for about 25-30 years.

It took me a bit but I finally found the formula you need to figure out what size system is necessary.

Array size=annual kWh usage÷days per year÷solar hours÷day .75 derate

The derate amount figures in for the loss when putting your current through an inverter which takes the DC and turns it into AC. In our case I've already figured out the daily average so here is the formula with numbers.

10.5 kWh ÷ 5.5 ÷ .75 = 2.55 kW

I'll probably go for 50-75% of our total usage next year. I think that's what I'll be able to afford. Getting the individual components is cheaper than buying a whole package I’ll note. When I took twenty of the years into consideration each 270 watt panel produces power at about 3.5 cents per kilowatt over the life of the panel. That's a wow!

There are a few things you need to make note of. Some utilities are not a fan of paying their customers for the power being generated. They will fight you on it. Others require you to get a special permit.

I've also read articles more recently where the utilities were pushing a tax to be placed on renewable energy sources. That’s kind of understandable as they are trying to protect their own interests. Just a word of warning but before you cover you entire roof with solar panels dreaming of the money you'll make you need to check. However it shouldn't be too much of an issue if it's only part of your power. Of course your other option would be to completely disconnect from the grid. I’ll warn you that can be expensive though with all of the batteries, etc.

One thing that found quite interesting recently. I guess all new buildings in China have solar water heaters. The heater is a large black box with tubes in it that water flows through and heats up. It gets collected in some kind of tank for the use of those living in the building. I know part of it is to save money. Just to heat water for showers it can be a quarter of your energy costs easily.

Those solar water heater systems in China I'm going to research a bit more. They do interest me. Many years ago when I lived in Las Vegas, Nevada I used a solar water system I built. It was pretty simple. I made a black box that I would fill up in the morning and I think it held about fifteen gallons. During the day the water would heat up naturally on the top of the home built camper I was living in. That night I would take a nice hot shower. I don't know how well it would work where I am now though it would probably work well during the summer.