Living Sustainably

Aquaponics | Rain Harvesting | Composting | Other Green Products

Archive for June, 2007

Cleaning oil with a centrifuge

Melvin Martin discusses the process and results of cleaning vegetable oil for fuel using a cream separator as a centrifuge. He’s busy on a multi stage custom unit to be able to clean the oil in one pass after boiling to dewater.

I am very pleased with how clean it makes the oil. The finest dirt it takes out is so fine it’s like grease. I probably could fool you into thinking it was dirty wheel bearing grease. I ran 750 gallons of centrifuged oil through a 0.5 micron Greasel (Golden Fuels) filter bag. It didn’t so much as discolor the filter.

Cleaning Vegetable Oil with a Centrifuge


Clean, Green, Water Fun

A new twist on the old pedal bikes from old, Check out the itBike!

A fast, nimble, and very stable platform, “it” weighs less than 75 lbs, and disassembles easily for storage or transport. Pricey, at $2500, but not out of line for this application.


Gardening and Energy Improvements

This weekend, Dan and I planted cucumbers, corn, a lettuce medley, carrots, and squash. The potatoes and tomatoes are doing very well in the manure filled Square Foot raised garden beds.

We also poured more concrete for the Listeroid Veggie CoGen project, and mounted the solar hot water panel on the house. We had pressure tested the panel, and while we were mounting it, steam started jetting out the fittings as the sun hit the panel.

For those who have not been following our adventures, The Listeroid is a 6hp, 650 rpm diesel that runs on used fryer oil. We will be heating our hot water for our house from the engine coolant, as well as keeping the battery bank charged that runs our house power, though our Xantrex Prosine 3kw SW Inverter.

We watched a video on MIT’s 2006 Alternative Fueled Vehicles Design Summit, and have been reading an excellent book called “Slice of Organic Life“, which is a great idea starter for small things you can do to be more ecologically and self sufficiency minded. Many of the mini-articles do not give a lot of detail, but it’s a starting point for doing your own research.

We spent a few hours on the trampoline, both exercising, and pontificating on projects, resources, and justification.


Needing little, we have much.

A good way to prepare for lean times, is to make sure you do not need much to survive. Our new downsized, efficient, off-grid log faced home should be ready to move into this fall. It’s 1000′ sq. ft., and heated with local wood, so it won’t take any fossil fuels or electric to stay warm in our -40 winters. Our source of water is a seasonal spring feeding a cistern, with rain water harvesting. Indoors, there is a 12vdc pump, pressure tank, and a backup hand pump. Outgoing waste, isn’t really waste. The compost toilet takes care of the humanure, and the grey water filter will prepare sink and bath water for irrigation purposes.

The solar panels, and our homebuilt wind turbine will provide the electric for our greatly reduced electrical needs. Where a typical on-grid home needs 30kWh daily, we are currently at 5kWh, and looking to slim to 3kWh daily. With the gardens in place, we are focusing on canning and food dehydration to get us through the winter. Our policy of no debt, no mortgage will get us through times of no employment, or under employment.

The big concern for us is healthcare, something we have not found a satisfactory solution for as of yet.

Another concern for us is community, building a network of likeminded friends and neighbors, where everyone can lend a hand in an emergency, or even share the labor, and the fruits of that labor in everyday tasks. There is a development in this area, which we will share soon.


No TV, No Fun?

We recently traded in the kids TV (with their blessing) for a 15′ trampoline. with side netting and spring covers, it prevents the usual injuries. They are getting more exercise, more friends are hanging out at our house (where we can supervise their activities), and using less electricity. Wins all around!


Converting "Waste" into Nutrients – Treating Household Organic Waste

We are making plans for moving into our new digs this fall, a 1000 sq. ft. highly insulated log faced home. We have decided to forgo a “sewage” system by not producing sewage. Instead, we will produce Humanure and Graywater. We read a wonderful review of various composting toilets that are on the market:

This report looks at how to best handle human biological waste, graywater, and food waste. The premise is that the current systems in predominant usage are both causing pollution and squandering potential nutrients. The focus is on composting toilets as a solution which is applicable at scales ranging from single family residential to cohousing developments to medium size commercial/institutional buildings. Sources for information presented include: Sherwood Reed, PE, a designer of constructed wetlands, and an expert on on-site disposal systems; vendors Tad Montgomery, David Del Porto, Bill Wall, Don Mills, Glenn Nelson, Allen White, Fraser Sneddon; Environmental Building News; writer Carol Steinfeld; Gap Mountain Permaculture Mouldering Privy Technical Bulletin; The Humanure Handbook, by J. C. Jenkins; various references and users. The report was commissioned by South Mountain Co., Inc. and Island Cohousing.. Its purpose is to assess the various manufacturers of composting toilets and decide which would be appropriate as potential suppliers for the 16 homes and Common House at Island Cohousing.

Given our experiences with a variety of composting toilets, we have decided to use the Joe Jenkins Humanure system for our new home.


Small diesel Battery Charging

A number of folks have asked me recently, what’s available in a small diesel for charging batteries. We have come up with a solution we think will work very well. In an off-grid home, camp, rv, boat, or whatever, a good quality inverter will run appliances much better than a engine generator, due to superior frequency and voltage regulation, and the ability to handle startup surges on equipment without browning out. What we recommend is you let your battery / inverter system handle the loads, and you use the gen to specifically charge the batteries. John Ferguson at has a 3hp (1.5kw) Lister Petter diesel that is perfect for this job. Combined with a special purpose alternator and charge controller, this will keep your batteries charged with minimal fuel usage, a long life engine, and minimal fuss. Add some solar or wind to the mix, and you may not have to run the gen that often either.