Living Sustainably

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Archive for February, 2013

Solar Tools for UK Buyers

solar-pv-calculatorDo you live in the UK? Are you trying to decide if your site is appropriate for solar panels? What government incentives are there? What panel technology works best for you?

There’s a great site for prospective UK buyers of solar hot water & photo-voltaic power systems. has online tools that help answer these questions, from siting a system properly, to selecting the correct equipment, to taking advantage of tax breaks and rebates. They will even help find you an installer if you need one. Check them out!

Our mission is to bring renewable energy to more homes within the UK and to help educate consumers on exactly how affordable renewable energy can be.

With our range of free tools, our users can explore the benefits and rewards that renewable energy can bring. To get started, click one of the buttons above to discover how much you can save or even earn from solar power.

If you are visiting us from overseas, why not check out our free iPhone and iPad app that works worldwide.

For further details click here to visit the Solar Panels UK website.


The Electric Taylor-Dunn Truck

Taylor-Dunn Electric TruckHere’s a flexible electric vehicle. In Panel Van and Stake Body versions (other formats available), it can suit a wide variety of applications. With a 25 mph top speed, and a 40 mile range (terrain dependent), it’s ideal for around town or around the farm use. It would even be useful as a local delivery vehicle, with many short range hops, like the old milk or ice delivery. Load capacity is 1000+ lbs., and can tow 2000+ lbs. (model dependent), although range will be affected.

By adding one of our power panels, consisting of a Inverter / Charger and a Solar Charge Controller, you have an ideal base for a solar charged vehicle with onboard 120vac. The Van version even makes a nice camping vehicle, just customize interior as wished. Combine with a Solar Tarp with integrated rain water harvesting capability.


DIY Solar Fridge

The refrigerator is one of the trickiest off grid appliances to maintain. You have a number of solutions, but there are 4 main practical ones.

The first is a “normal” 120vac electric fridge, running off an inverter, and typically is responsible for a large chunk of your power consumption.

The second is a propane fridge, which is friendly to your electrical system (no power, or minimal power for the controls), but requires a regular replacement of the propane, and requires periodic cleaning of the combustion system.

The third solution is a low voltage, energy efficient model, but these tend to be very expensive. These are usually based on the DC Danfoss Compressor.

The fourth solution is also based on the low voltage dc compressor, but comes as a kit (you could also roll your own with a bit of study). A prepackaged and charged compressor and evaporator is installed by you, into a box of your choosing. I suggest a fridge only, as a separate chest freezer (or no freezer) is more efficient, and has more capacity.

Other solutions could include the no moving parts but power hungry peltier cooler, and the converted chest freezer project.

Further reading:

Adler/Barbour Cold machine

Refrigeration for Pleasureboats: Installation, Maintenance and Repair


Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond

lancasterv1The award-winning Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 1, 2nd Edition: Guiding Principles to Welcome Rain into Your Life and Landscape, is the first book in a three-volume guide that teaches you how to conceptualize, design, and implement sustainable water-harvesting systems for your home, landscape, and community. The lessons in this volume will enable you to assess your on-site resources, give you a diverse array of strategies to maximize their potential, and empower you with guiding principles to create an integrated, multi-functional water-harvesting plan specific to your site and needs.

This revised and expanded second edition increases potential for on-site harvests with more integrated tools and strategies for solar design, a primer on your water/energy/carbon connections, descriptions of water/erosion flow patterns and their water-harvesting response, and updated illustrations to show you how to do it all.
Volume 1 helps bring your site to life, reduce your cost of living, endow you with skills of self-reliance, and create living air conditioners of vegetation, growing beauty, food, and wildlife habitat. Stories of people who are successfully welcoming rain into their life and landscape will encourage you to do the same!

Order this book from Amazon, email us the order confirmation, and we will email you the link to our DIY Rainwater Harvesting, Filtration & Solar Water Heating Guides for free.



The 12 Volt Doctor’s Practical Handbook

12vdoctorOne of our favorite recommends for learning, building, and troubleshooting low voltage dc power systems is “The 12 Volt Doctor’s Practical Handbook“. This 200+ page booklet, though focused on the marine industry, explains everything you need to know about low voltage dc, switches, wiring, batteries, alternators, and more. Clear diagrams, schematics, and an easy to read dialogue completes the package.

Order this book from Amazon, email us the order confirmation, and we will email you the link to our DIY Solar and DIY Generator package for free.

Read more on this subject ….


Green Mortgages: An Overview

There are cost effective mortgages for (a) homes that are energy efficient and (b) property owners who want to make their current property energy efficient. Energy Efficient Mortgages or Green Mortgages provide homeowners the opportunity to borrow money for upgrades to energy efficient levels in their properties. Renovations can include:

  • Repairing or replacing the current chimney

  • Installing passive or active solar technology

  • Installation of a tankless water heaters

  • Installing double paned windows

  • Installing a modern HVAC systems

  • Installing insulation

The idea is to encourage eco-friendly living spaces that use fewer resources for cooling and heating. Fannie Mae, the Federal Housing Administration and the Department of Veteran Affairs have green mortgage programs. Freddie Mac offers projected utility savings by taking upgrades into the equation when establishing loan amounts.


While details may vary depending on mortgage lenders and companies, there are three distinctive types of green mortgages.

  • Conventional EEM
    Offered by lenders selling properties to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Borrow up to 15% of the property’s appraised value to upgrade green levels

  • Federal Housing Administration EEM
    Borrow up to 5% of property value or $4,000, whichever’s greater. The maximum on the loan is $8,000

  • Veteran Administration EEM
    For past and present military personnel. If purchasing an existing property, allowed green upgrades of up to $6,000, regardless of property value


If your home is currently energy efficient, financing could be approved. Approval will also depend on the inspection rating. If the property needs some upgrades, improvement cost must be determined before contacting a lender. After an initial consultation, they’ll suggest a licensed energy rater to inspect the property. The rater will present a report in the form of a Home Energy Rating System, or HERS, which is provided to both homeowners and lenders. HERS costs between $300 and $800 and usually includes:

  • Rating of property as is

  • Recommendations for upgrades

  • Estimated pricing, savings and life of upgrades

  • Estimate of property’s rating after upgrades

  • Before and after estimations of property’s annual energy costs


Green mortgages are not second mortgages since it is rolled into a current mortgage and the owner continues making one payment. There are green mortgage with discounts on fees and/or interest rates for energy efficient certified properties.


A green mortgage is an excellent way for homeowners to save money in the long term and an incomparable way to change one’s footprint. You can get credit for existing eligible utilities. They also provide peace of mind to you, your family and your guests as you all benefit from a healthier environment.

Brentt Taylor is a staff writer of For 18 years of existence, the website has been providing news, articles and finance-related tools that aim to help consumers create smart financial decisions.