Eco-Thrifty Renovation, a.k.a. "The Little House That Could"


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    I posted several articles on TOD when they had the campfire series going, and also was involved in discussions. Since they abandoned Campfire, I rarely visit the site. I know how bad the world is, I don’t need to hear more — without solutions….
    My log in there was renofreepress, and I did some stuff on solar which is my favorite.
    So, today I finally joined TAE after reading for some years now, and now that you’all are working on solutions (per today’s article), I would like to add my 50 cents adjusted for inflation.
    My current projects include solar distillation of ethanol, which BTW 18 inches squared will produce nearly 6 ounces of distillate a day, and I have other solar projects to share.
    Thanks, kids, this is filling a void that TOD left messily and sadly….


    I’m very interested in this topic, especially in terms of the use of water. At my suburban home I have a rain barrel that is filled from roof gutters. I then use the collected water to water a vegetable garden.

    Here are some of the energy savings from this process:
    1. less water pumped to my house by the utility.
    2. no energy used to purify my irrigation water, since I use straight rain water.
    3. the system at my house is entirely gravity feed-no energy use.
    4. upon harvesting (and eating) food from my garden, I’m saving trips to the store.
    5. I’m buying less food that would otherwise have to be transported an average of a couple of thousand miles.


    I’m sure from reading there are going to be some good ideas that I can attempt to do on my own. It’s unfortunate that I am unable to motivate anyone else because ‘many hands make light work’. They have other priorities and just don’t see the need to plan for the future.


    Two articles I wrote for TOD are available here:

    You can read on how to build this very simple square foot solar cooker (Ft2), which will cost you under $20, and is a very durable device.
    It is perfectly matched for distilling ethanol, and i can get up to 6 ounces a day of distillate, which ain’t bad for a footprint of about 18 inches squared.
    It will also pressure cook, safely melt wax, sterilise bottles and water, and many as-yet-discovered functions.

    I would like to ressurect discussions on solar here at TAE if there is interest.


    Incidentally, I don’t know the EROEI of using conventional fuels to distill alcohol, but by using simple solar we can completely do away with that expense. Of course we can not continue our BAU driving our SUV’s to the store 8 times a day, but I can attest that ethanol works very well in my 100mpg Honda Metropolitan scooter. Which is my major transportation next to my feets.


    I would like to point you all to where there are some brilliant innovative concepts for us to use.
    His TRANS system can displace the auto and oil.
    He shows how to build a piano sized thermophylic composter which uses lawn clippings to heat your house AND supply constant hot water.
    (as well as providing copious CO2 for greenhouses.)
    Free air conditioning and heating from the ground.
    And how to build a device which collects water from the air for places like Haiti where clean water is still a concern.
    I’ve corresponded with him several times and he is pleasant and helpful.
    Some truly brilliant stuff there if you take the time to look through it.
    One of my heros.
    Well worth the look-see.


    Thanks, Donner for starting a good thread.

    I have a friend that has been experimenting with various shapes for the aluminium foil covered back of the oven. I can’t begin to explain the shape of it, probably a parabola.

    For lazy people like me, I found a trick where you get a cheap sun shade for the windshield that is made of a foil type of thing – already made and ready to go. The only ingredient left is for me to actually use it.

    In reading the comments to your aritcle you linked to, I found some good discussion about making wine etc. Remined me of when I had several plum trees and made wine way back in the 70s. I’d like to try plum wine again and maybe mead.

    I once worked on an ethanol project at a biotech co in the 80s that was funded by Brazil. We determined that it wasn’t economically feasible back then with the energy in being greater than energy out. Since it was a private co. I expect that had to be researched over and over before people published and figured it out.

    One tack we tried was testing all kinds of yeasts from the UC Davis collection to try to find those with the largest yeild. Problem is that the yeast seemed to have been bred to max tolerance of ethanol and production, probably millenia ago.


    Thanks Glennda for keeping the thread moving.
    Please point your friend to:
    There are directions on how to build the square foot solar cooker.
    I like it because it costs under $20, and unlike foil and mylar, the mirrors are permanent and very weatherable. I leave my units out over winter, and nothing seems to hurt the mirrors.
    I did build an inverted icosahedron cooker from cardboard a couple of decades ago, and it worked fine (but not waterproof), however the build time was far greater than that of the Ft2 solar cooker.

    For info on its distilling capabilities see here:
    I like the idea of ethanol for fuel, because after we make our mash, the dregs from the corn/grains comes out as a very healthy feedstock for livestock, and some suggest it is even healthier than plain grains. So why not capture the alcohol along the way since it’s essentially free.
    And then, if we can distill the ethanol with solar, the EROEI should be incredible.

    I am currently making alcohols with distillers yeast that claims a 20% yield. Have only gotten 15% so far, and am interested in learning more about your experiences with yeasts.
    Of course any plan for sustainability must involve a radical reduction in our energy use, and a plan for more sane use of irreplaceable resources.
    BTW, it is legal in the US to brew several hundred gallons of wine or beer for personal consumption, however it is NOT legal to distill it for anything other than fuel, nor without a federal permit to do so. It is not too hard to get that permit. We have one. Sure would be nice to change that law.
    Incidentally, regardless of any prior writings about distilling for spirits, I no longer do so, and do not plan on doing so in the future…. The repercussions may be swift and severe, I fear.

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