Living Sustainably

Aquaponics | Rain Harvesting | Composting | Other Green Products

Archive for November, 2008

Save Money through Conservation and Efficiency

It’s getting rough out there economically. Times are getting harder, and a primary way to ease the crunch is to use less, and use what you need more efficiently. We have gone on a hunt to wring out the best efficiency we can out of our appliances and usage habits, and share some of these tips with you. We have put together a free guide to help you in the areas of water, electric, fuel and other areas of consumption we think will be helpful. Get the guide at


The Mother of all Water Filters

British Berkefeld is a well respected name in water filtration. For those with shallow wells, or rain water harvesting, getting safe water to cook with and drink can be a challenge. Our new Berkey Light™ Gravity Water Purifier could be just the ticket.

This powerful system purifies both treated water and untreated raw water from such sources as remote lakes, streams, stagnant ponds and water supplies in foreign countries, where regulations may be substandard at best. Perfect for outdoor activities and a must in hostile environments where electricity, water pressure or treated water may not be available.

* The shatter resistant and virtually unbreakable Berkey Light™ system is made of a high impact strength, non BPA copolyester.

* The Berkey Light™ system does not leach foul tasting plasticizers into your water and will not retain foul tastes and odors from waterborne contaminants. As the system purifies water, it produces the delightful and relaxing sound of falling raindrops.

* The revolutionary Berkey Light™ self-sterilizing and re-cleanable purification elements purify water by removing pathogenic bacteria, cysts and parasites entirely and by extracting harmful chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides, VOCs, organic solvents, radon 222 and trihalomethanes. They also reduce nitrates, nitrites, sediment and unhealthy minerals such as lead and mercury.

For more info, see


The Affordable Composting Toilet

This is the best, most affordable (under $900) commercial composting toilet we have seen. It is completely organic, no chemicals are used. There is no water used or plumbing besides a vent, and the vent can be solar or battery powered, or powered with a small transformer. The liquids are separated from the solids so there is no smell. This gives the solids chamber a long interval between emptying, and gives it plenty of time to breakdown into dirt. With quick, simple installation, this unit is ideal for the boat, rv (cuts down on weight, no blackwater tank necessary), camp, or off grid home. Cuts the home water consumption by close to 50%. We recommend this!


1700 PV Watts Online

The final connections were made yesterday, and on a mixed clouds and sunny day, we generated 2.1 kWh’s in the afternoon. The new Mate came back from Outback, and the Pallet Mounts are working fine. Today is grey and rainy, so we don’t expect much production today. The Mate is getting information from two MX-60 charge controllers, one FX-3524 Inverter, and the FlexNet DC Power Monitor fed from three shunts, one on each charge controller, and one on the battery bank to inverter connection.


Solar Upgrade Progress

All the wiring indoors, consisting of the pv fused disconnect, the MX-60 charge controller, the fused controller disconnect, and the two pv shunts for the FlexNet DC Monitor have all been installed. We are still waiting on the replacement Mate to come back from Outback, and we are waiting for one pole mount pv rack. As a temporary measure, we made pv mounts using two pallets per panel (six 195 watt panels) in a 45 degree angle, with 2×4 struts on the sides as supports. Pictures to follow. The combiner box was wired to the house with 50′ of 4g 2 conductor with ground. The combiner box connects to the panels with 6′ of 12g 2 conductor with ground.


Outback MX-60 PV Charge Controller

Our Outback MX-60 came in today, just in time for the installation of the six Sanyo 195 watt solar panels being installed tomorrow. We already have a MX-60 on the five Mitsubishi 110 watt panel array. Friday our new, updated Mate controller will arrive. This allows us to monitor and control our two MX-60 charge controllers, FX-3524 inverter, and FlexNet DC battery monitor. The weak link now will be the 24v 840 ah battery pack, as we only have about 36 hours of battery storage if there is no sun, requiring us to fire up the generator for a full recharge. Jim Juczak arrives around 7:30 am tomorrow for the install. Pictures will be posted.


King of Scrounge: North Country man finds simple living is easy

Jim Juczak hates mortgages. When he started building his home in rural Jefferson County, he resolved to stay out of debt.

The house he finished five years later is an 18-sided structure with 3,000 square feet of space. It is mortgage-free.

And much of it is made from junk.

The support beams are salvaged from a bowling alley that was being demolished.

A two-story concrete column that supports the center of the house is made from scrapped manholes.

Windows, interior doors, sinks, tubs and other materials were bought cheap or salvaged for free after being removed from renovated buildings.

And the mortar for the outer wall was made from paper sludge, a waste material from a nearby mill. Juczak had to get a special permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to divert the sludge from a landfill.

“Everyone gave it (the permit) with much humor, because this is basically garbage,” Juczak said. “You know — ‘Oh, my gosh! He’s living in a house made of trash!'”

Read more at and


Setting the posts for the solar array

Today we are picking up two 10′ sections of telephone poles for the posts for the new solar array. The phone company removed a pole that was broken at the base, and gave us the rest of the pole, cut in 10′ pieces. We will dig a hole 4′ deep, drop in the post, and fill the hole with concrete. a rock at the bottom with some concrete put in first will keep the post off the dirt at the bottom of the hole.

The top of pole array mounts we received are too small for the new panels (there was a mix up somewhere), so we wll mount our old Mitsubishi 110 watt panels first, and then when the second array mounts come in, we will mount the new Sanyo 195 watt panels. In the meantime, we will put the Sanyo’s on the old wooden fixed array mount that currently holds the Mitsubishi panels. We have a second Outback MX-60 charge controller coming in to handle the second array. This will bring us up to 1720 watts of pv, from 550 watts.