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Benefits of Green Metal Roofing

How would you like to have an environmentally friendly roof that provides unbeatable protection for your home, a long service life with virtually no maintenance, and offers the biggest long term return on your investment? A metal roofing system will give you all that and more. As a homeowner, you may not be thinking of metal roofing as a viable option, since conventional roofing systems such as asphalt shingle are still the easy, cheap and most common choice. However, if you are interested in replacing your old roof, or need a roof for a newly constructed house, installing a metal roof will give you the most benefits. Moreover, if you are a forward thinking proponent of green building, energy efficiency, and green living, then Eco-friendly metal roofing should be your material of choice.

Eco-Friendly and Energy Efficient Metal Roof

Consider the following benefits of metal roofing:

1. Superior protection for your home

No matter what climate you live in, there are adverse natural elements such as snow, hail, rain, wind and fire that put your house at risk. A metal roof will keep your house safe in all weather conditions.

-A metal roof sheds snow and ice, preventing the formation of ice dams which are the biggest cause of leaks in conventional roofs. If you live on the east coast are tired of your roof constantly needing repair after winter snow storms, a metal roof will save you the trouble and the money of constant repairs.

-A metal roof is highly resistant to hail damage. In the hail belt regions of the US, insurance commissions grant metal roofing materials the highest rating on impact resistance to hail.

-A metal roof is able to withstand winds of up 110 miles per hour and higher, which means that during hurricane season it will stay in tact, when other roofing systems will be blown off. If you live in hurricane prone states such as Taxes, Florida and Louisiana, investing in a metal roof is the best thing you can do for your house.

– A metal roof will not rot or crack, providing you with excellent corrosion protection.

– A metal roof will not catch of fire. This has the dual benefit of not having to spend money to buy a new roof in case of fire, and also reduced your home insurance premiums. A steel roof is the most fire safe roof. It gets the highest rating and is classified as a noncombustible roofing material.

2. Long service life and low maintenance

-If you have a metal roof that was properly installed, its service life is typically 2-3 times longer than of other conventional roofing systems, such as asphalt shingles.

-A metal roof is very durable and withstands most weather elements, climate change and does not leak. This means that you will have a really easy time maintaining it. A metal roof will save you the hassle and stress associated with roof repair such as disruptions to family life, noise, debris, preparation and clean up.

3. Financial Savings

-The superior durability and longevity of a metal roof directly translates into major financial savings. Once you have a metal roof, you will not need to spend money on routine roof repairs whether you do them yourself or pay even more and hire a professional roofing contractor. Moreover, you will be saving money by not having to replace any of your personal items and doing interior repairs that would result from a leaking roof.

-A metal roof is a wise financial investment that ultimately pays for itself. Unlike a conventional roof, a metal roof upraises the value of your house and increases curb appeal. For example, an asphalt shingles roof that is more than 10 years old actually decreases the value of your house because of the major repair issues associated with it. On the contrary, if you ever sell your house outfitted with a metal roof, you will get most of the cost of the roof back through the resale value, as well as attract many more prospective buyers.

– You can also save money by getting green building tax credits that metal roofs qualify for as a green roofing material.

– A metal roof will literally be the last roof you will ever buy, saving yourself thousands of dollars in roof replacement costs. To compare, a well-maintained asphalt shingles roof still needs to be replaced every 17 years.

4. Energy Savings

-By installing a metal roof you will enjoy considerable energy savings since a metal roof reflects 90% of solar radiant heat, keeping your house cool. This means that a metal roof will reduce your cooling costs will be reduced by about 40%. If you live in areas that are hot year round, having a metal roof can save you a lot of money.

– If you live in a cold climate, a metal roof will make your house warmer in the winter by reflecting inside heat from the underside of the roof back into the house. This will significantly reduce your heating costs in the winter.

5. An environmentally friendly, green choice.

– A metal roof can be outfitted with solar panels, which will allow you to further decrease your reliance on conventional energy sources.

– A metal roof is 100% recyclable. This means that after its long service life it will not be disposed into our landfills, which are already overflowing with millions of tons of none-recyclable roofing materials.

– A metal roof contains at least 25 % recycled content, which means that buying a metal roof is a green choice that supports our environment.

– Since a metal roof is light weight, it can be easily installed over your old roof, eliminating the need to take it the landfill.

– A metal roof helps to reduce the “urban heat island” effect, thereby reducing the demand on utilities for electricity, most of which is generated by the burning of fossil fuels. This in turn contributes to reduced green house gas emissions and cleaner air.


Standing Seam Metal Roof with Solar Panels

A metal roof with built-in solar panels is the most energy efficient and longest lasting solar roofing solution. A metal roof will usually last in excess of 50 years, and solar PV panels usually last 30+ years with minimal loss of efficiency or or electric power production. The combination of the two creates a one-time green roofing investment that will pay for itself over time, and then it will produce free electricity. Such a smart combination eliminates the chance of roof leaks, since there are no roof penetrations, and gives a homeowner piece of mind and confidence in their green metal roof.

Why go with a metal roof, instead of asphalt shingles:

Why would you want to install PV solar panels with a metal roof, instead of installing it on the existing asphalt shingle roof? The answer is very simple; asphalt shingles last an average of 15 years, while your solar panels should last at least 30 years. That means that even if you install your solar panels over a brand new asphalt shingles roof, you will have to remove the whole solar system in 15 years, replace the roof, and then put the solar panels back onto the roof. With the installation costs of a solar PV system being about $2 per watt, and an average solar system size of 3 KW, you will have to pay an extra $6000 (in today’s dollars, before any inflation is calculated) to reinstall your solar panels, and another $1500-2000 to
remove the panels, so that the roof can be replaced. With today’s average solar system price of $9-11 including solar panels, inverter, all wiring, rack-mounting system, permits, installation, etc.), the removal and re-installation price amounts to about 25% of the total solar system cost.

A properly installed standing seam metal roof will easily outlast any asphalt shingles roof by 3 time or more, and it will also outlast a warranty period on any solar panels. When your solar panels get old, and start producing less electricity than what they were designed for, you will have an option to either keep the old solar panels or install the new ones (as a side-note – average efficiency loss of a solar panel is 0.5% per year or 10% over a 20 year warranty period). All your infrastructure will already be in place, and you can simply swap the old solar panels for the new ones. You may also have to swap the charge controller / inverter. In 20 or 30 years, as technology progresses, the efficiency of solar panels and inverters will be much higher, and the cost per watt will be considerably lower. At the same time you will still have your metal roof, performing at 100% efficiency – being leak free and beautiful, that is.

Installing solar panels on a standing seam metal roof

Solar panels can be attached to a standing seam metal roof in two different ways. One is to use a thin film Solar PV panel laminated inside the pan of a standing seam metal roof – a so called solar metal roofing concept, when solar panels are integrated with the roofing material. The limitations of solar metal roofing include lower efficiency (per sq. foot or sq. meter) of the solar PV laminates. Therefore you would need double the roof area to get the same number of kW of a solar system. Also the size limitation of each solar PV laminate (18 feet long panels) make it impossible to install them on roofs with a roof run of less than 18.5 feet.

A better way to install solar panels onto a metal roof is to use S-5 clips or mounting brackets, specially designed to add adequate strength and support of rack-mounting systems installed on standing seam metal roofs. S-5 clops are made of cast aluminum blocks, with stainless steel tightening screws. S-5 clips are attached to the ribs or locks of a standing seam panel, and provide great pullout ratio, meeting and exceeding Miami-Dade county building code requirements for wind uplift.

Image of Solar Metal Roofing s-5 clamp

S-5 Solar Panel mounting clamps allow for a quick and inexpensive installation of the solar rack-mounting system. Solar panels can be attached directly to the clamps, or to horizontal / vertical rails. The overall cost of such solar racking system is reduced from about $1 per watt, to about 50 cents per watt, or less. Also, you do not have to worry about any roof leaks, as there are no roof penetrations, and all mounting hardware is attached to the ribs of the metal roof panels.

You can also get a double tax credit for your solar roofing installation – Your first tax credit would be a 30% tax credit for solar panels, and and another one – up to $1500 cool roof tax credit. An average cost of metal roofing materials will exceed $5000 per roof, so you will be able to get a full 30% cool roof tax credit. With today’s metal roofing prices for steel standing seam ranging from $15000-20000, a $1500 tax credit will save you about 7-10% off your lifetime metal roof.


Green Home Building and Remodeling

When it comes to home building and remodeling, much has changed in the last few years, with a clear shift in technologies, building materials and practices to more green homes. Savvy homeowners are quickly catching on to this new trend, looking to not only be environmentally conscious consumers, but to also take advantage of the numerous benefits that green homes afford, such as exceptional durability, energy savings, and improved quality of life. With a quickly growing number of informational resources, a slew of new products, service and construction companies, etc, you can keep yourself grounded and on track by focusing on the essentials of any green home.

What makes a new or remodeled home eco-friendly are the following components: a tight building envelope/insulation, roofing, siding, windows and heating system, all built utilizing green materials. These earth – friendly building materials are manufactured with a minimal amount of hazardous materials, are proven to last for decades without requiring maintenance and repairs, do not waste energy and can be recycled at the end of their service lives.

Tight Building Envelope/Insulation

A tight building envelope and high quality insulation are necessary to achieve superior durability and energy efficiency. If you already have a house and it does not have insulation, consider adding blown-in cellulose product. Not only is it eco-friendly (derived from 85 percent recycled paper products), but it is also three times more dense than fiberglass, thereby greatly reducing your home’s energy waste. For new construction, consider fiberglass or spray-foam insulation. While more expensive than fiberglass, spray-foam insulation offers tighter, more dense and more energy-efficient insulation for your walls and ceilings. On the other hand, one of the major benefits of fiberglass is that it is removable, and does not require any special equipment to install.

Roofing That Lasts

The roof is one of the most important components of making your home safe, durable and long lasting, and yet it is often the most overlooked. Installing a green roof on your home will prove to be one of the most financially sound home improvements you make. You will not know the pain of roof damage and leaks and will not have to deal with costly, maintenace, repairs and replacements for years to come.

When it comes to green roofing materials, you have a few choices depending on your home type, taste and budget. If you have a sloped roof home, one of the best investments you can make is to install a metal roof. Metal is considered to be the only truly green roofing material, when you factor in the manufacturing process, lifecycle costs, longevity, high energy efficiency and recyclability and the end of the roof’s service life. Metal roofs are considered cool roofs, which means that they reflect solar heat, thereby reducing energy waste produced by the home’s HVAC system throughout the year. A metal roof can save you up to 15% on your annual cooling costs. Additionally, during winter time, metal roofs eliminate ice dams, which can cause thousands of dollars of damage to your house. Keep in mind that metal roofing installation is a highly intricate process that requires specialized knowldege, equipment and training, and therefore should only be left to metal roofing professionals. One such company that operates in the Northeast is New England Metal Roof (

If you have a low slope/flat roof, a green material to go with is PVC single ply roofing membrane. A PVC roofing system is designed as a green roofing material. PVC is a fully recyclable roofing material that does not use any petrolium products in its manufacturing process. It also offers superior energy efficiency by reflecting upto 95% of solar heat. PVC is designed to last over 40 years and can be easily repaired if needed, which elimates costly replacements and landfill waste. Moreover, PVC roofs can withstand ponding water, ice build-ups and can be easily be applied around most complicated roof penetrations.

Green Siding

Amongst the wide range of choices available for siding, fiber-cement siding stands out as the green choice. It is composed of 50% recycled content and wood fiber pulp that is sourced from sustainably managed forests. While fiber cement siding may be a more costly option, it is more durable than wood and vinyl siding. It also requires very little maintenance, does not create hazardous waste when removed, and can be further recycled.

Another green choice to consider is steel or aluminum wall panel systems. With a variety of available integrated insulation, ventilation and heat absorption metal wall panel systems, you can reduce your heating and cooling energy consumption, by as much as 40%. Additionally, these systems are fully recyclable and are manufactured from up to 95% recycled metal.

Energy Efficient Windows

Windows are one of the most vulnerable parts of the home, through which both hot and cold air can escape, wasting tons of energy and driving up your heating and cooling costs throughout the year. To avoid these issues, its crucial to invest in energy efficient windows. Consider installing fiber glass frame windows with triple glazing and argon/krypton gas, which can offer up to 7R insulating value (a typical double pane window is only 3R). There are also specialty window products filled with heat absorbing liquid that absorb solar heat in the winter. These windows can supply up to 75% of your heating for the entire house, even on a very cold night.

Green Heating Systems

If your goal is to have a truly eco-friendly home, then a geothermal heating system is the way to go. Geothermal heating uses thermal energy stored inside the ground and extracts it by using a heat exchange process. This system only requires 25% of the energy to operate, when compared to traditional gas or oil systems of the same size. A geothermal system can also be used for air conditioning in the summer.

Geothermal heating systems are a costly investment, so if you are not ready to make the switch, consider going with gas heating. Gas heating is cleaner, more efficient and currently costs half the price of oil.

In case you have a south-facing roof, you can install solar thermal panels, which will heat your water throughout the year, and will also supplement your radiant heating system.


Environmental Benefits of Cool Roofs

Green buildings incorporate many elements of design that help reduce energy spending, mitigate negative environmental aspects and improve the health and well-being of the people who live and work inside. One element of green design that provides all of these great benefits is a cool roof. Cool roofs have been around for quite some time, and they continue to grow in popularity as the roofing material of choice for home-owners and business who care about the environment. Despite the many benefits and real financial savings that cool roofs offer, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 90% of ALL roofs in the U.S. are still dark colored. This is in part due to aesthetic preferences, but mostly it is due to a lack of consumer education on the benefits of cool roofs, as well as the variety of color and style choice available in the cool roof building materials.

What is a Cool Roof?

It is a misconception that a cool roof needs to be white in order to have its cool properties. A cool roof is one that reflects sunlight and radiates absorbed heat as light energy back to the atmosphere, instead of transferring absorbed heat to the building below (this is what a black roof does). Both properties are measured as a fraction or percent, and the higher the value, the “cooler” the roof. There is no universally accepted definition for a cool roof in terms of reflectance and emittance.

Obtaining a rating for a cool roof material

Minimum requirements of what material can be considered a cool roof are set by organizations that maintain building codes and voluntary green building programs. When you are looking for cool roofing materials for your home or office, you should consider obtaining information from such an organization. For example, the Cool Roofing Council, established in 1998 is an independent, non-profit rating entity that measures roofing product surfaces for radiative properties. Through the Cool Roofing Council, roofing product manufacturers and sellers can measure their products’ radiative properties. Tests of cool roofing material samples are conducted in the Cool Roofing Council’s independent laboratories. Manufactures can also get their cool roofing products listed on the CRRC’s online Rated Products Directory. Moreover, the Cool Roofing Council also provides third-party verification of radiative property data on roofing products, which is a really useful tool for consumers who are looking for the right cool roof technology.

Cool Roofing Choices

Today, cool roof technology is highly advanced, and cool roofs come in a variety of different colors, including dark colors, made possible by the cool color technology, which uses dark-colored pigments that are highly reflective in the near-infrared (non-visible) portion of the solar spectrum. Moreover cool roof technologies now come in a great variety of roofing products such as shingles, tiles, metal roofing, modified bitumen, field-applied coatings, or cool flat single-ply membranes roofs. You can be sure that there is a “cool” version available that will meet your aesthetic and energy saving needs.

Benefits of Cool Roofs

The US department of energy has conducted a careful analysis of the benefits of cool roofs and has found that cool roofs save money while helping the environment. If you have a roof and its black, its absorbing energy from the sun, and its getting hot, and it increases air conditioning bills. If you have a white or a reflective roof that scatters back the visible radiation, of course it reduces your energy consumption. The really incredible thing about a cool roof is that it also reflects that energy back into space. As a result, there is very little green house gas effect for visible light. It is the heat light that is being trapped by carbon dioxide, the water vapor and other gases. As a result, a cool roof helps keep the earth cool as well; it not only your home that is being cooled, the earth is also being cooled. This evidence has lead The US department of energy to launch an initiative where it is installing cool roofs whenever financially possible.

Moreover, research has shown that cool roofs can extend the lifespan of a roof, which in turn helps cut maintenance costs and reduces the creation of unnecessary waste. Regular roofing material wear out as a result of extreme daily cycles of infrared (IR) radiation, ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and moisture penetration. On the contrary, cool roofs reflect the UV and IR radiation, and keep the roof at a more constant temperature. As a result, they are able to slow down the rate of degradation.

Ultimately, as we transition to cleaner sources of energy, the cleaner source of energy is one you do not have to generate in a way that negatively impacts your lifestyle and our earth. Installing a cool roof is one way to make this happen, while also enjoying the immediate personal benefits of lower energy and maintenance bills.




reviewed by Larry D. Barr

I read a book last weekend. Now, this is certainly not out of the ordinary. I read a lot of books. Some of them, like Stephen King’s The Stand, I read about once a year. And I’ve probably read almost everything Martin Caidin ever wrote four or five times. Or more. However, the book I read last weekend is certainly out of the ordinary.

It’s called Homebrew Wind Power – A HANDS-ON GUIDE TO HARNESSING THE WIND. The book is written by Dan Bartmann and Dan Fink, a couple of guys who live (and create wind turbines) in a small off-grid community somewhere up in the north-west part of Colorado. A few years ago, when I was the editor of an online publication called Energy Self Sufficiency Newsletter, Dan Fink was one of our regular columnists, writing under the handle of “The Wind Bag”. DanF, as he’s also known, proved himself very adept at sharing his vast knowledge and his insights into the vagaries of the wind, and the various ways it can be captured and cajoled into sharing some of its energy (but never more than 59.26%) in the form of usable electricity.

The Two Dans have been working on this book for several years, and about two weeks ago I got an email from DanF asking me if I’d like an ‘advance review copy’ to look over and possibly share my reactions with y’all, the readers of Rebel Wolf Online. Of course I said “Yes” and the book arrived in a few days. As I removed the book from the bubblepack envelope, it was immediately apparent that this was a quality tome. It’s 8” X 10”, with a soft 12 point C1S cover (C1S is printer talk for Coated with plastic on 1 Side), and contains 320 pages of 100% post consumer waste recycled paper, a spectacular cover shot of a wind turbine
flying in a Rocky Mountain sunset and more appendices than the Dionne quintuplets.

I don’t necessarily consider myself a wind energy expert, even though I lived off-grid for about 19 months back in the ’70s with a Wincharger 1222H as my main source of power. However, I’m pretty well versed in the overall discipline and so I wasn’t sure just how much I’d learn from this volume. I learned a hell of a lot.

Mick Sagrillo’s foreword, written in Mick’s usual “if you didn’t want the answer, why’d you ask the question?” style, will be a real eye-opener for the renewable energy newbie who thinks that wind power is a simple “plug and play” experience. Mick Sagrillo is one of the ‘gods’ of renewable energy and getting Mick to write the forward for your book is a lot like Enzo Ferrari looking at your home-built car and saying, “You done good, Kid.”

The first four chapters, which cover wind energy theory, basic electricity and elementary magnetics are intended to bring the wind energy neophyte ‘up to speed’, and basically served only as a review for me. I’ve always been comfortable with the theories and math of renewable energy. And ten years as a working electrician gave me a very solid grounding (sorry) in the electrical department.

When I got into Chapter 5, “Furling and Regulation” my wind turbine education truly began. You see, my little Wincharger didn’t furl – it just had a couple of centrifugally activated flaps that came out when the wind speed got too high and slowed the rig down to a hopefully safe speed. Anything faster than that and I was supposed to be home and physically set the brake and secure it. Primitive yes, but it was a 1930s era design and it worked fine in the area I was living in at the time.

However, that’s not the way it’s done anymore and The Two Dans have designed and implemented a virtually fail-safe mechanism for the self-protection of their wind turbine design. In the interest of historical accuracy, I should mention here (as The Two Dans acknowledge repeatedly in the book) that the original axial-flux design didn’t originate in the wilds of Colorado with DanB and DanF.

The credit for the original concept goes to Hugh Piggott, another of the gods of renewable energy. Hugh lives in Scoraig, Scotland, many kilometres beyond the reach of the grid and pioneered a radial-flux wind turbine design built from old truck brake drums., which was the first homebrew design to have a furling tail. Then, as the price of neodymium magnets came down, Hugh invented the axial-flux design. Remember that Hugh’s initial challenge was twofold.

First, to electrify the little settlement of Scoraig. His second challenge was to devise a turbine that wouldn’t self-destruct in the vicious winds coming off the North Sea at N 57° 55′. Now, I’ve never been to Scoraig, Scotland. But my friend Ash lives at N 55° on the northern coast of Ireland, and we’ve clocked winds of better than 80 mph at his house. I don’t imagine that things calm down any almost three degrees of latitude further north. So Hugh had his work cut out for him. And he met the challenge brilliantly. Before long, Hugh was traveling the world, giving hands-on workshops for building turbines and bringing electricity to places where it had never been before.

The Dans attended one of Hugh’s workshops in the US and liked it so well they went back for more. After a couple more sessions under Hugh’s tutelage, they got back to their shop in the wilds of the Rockies and started thinking and tinkering and making a few changes here and there. DanB came up with the idea of using Volvo disc brake rotors one cold, dark night and as the process continued, one change led to a couple more — ad infinitum — and the turbine that’s detailed in the book is something like “iteration n+1” and generations removed from Hugh’s original, primitive radial-flux wind generator.

Chapter 6 of the book, “Shop Safety” is an absolute must-read chapter. I don’t care how long you’ve had a shop, worked in a shop or if you’re a rank newbie at building anything. Read this chapter. Then go back and read it again. It will keep you, and those who help you, from getting hurt. As you build your wind turbine, you’ll be working with all kinds of things that can hurt you badly. The magnets used in the turbine are among the strongest, most powerful magnets this side of the Large Hadron Collider and and if you let your hand get in between the two magnet rotors, the resulting collision will turn your fingers to Alpo. So pay attention. The chapter is broken down into sections regarding the safety procedures for each step of the build and each fabrication process you’ll be using. One of the good points that’s made in the
metalworking section is to treat every piece of metal that’s been cut, welded or ground, as if it’s hot. Mighty fine advice. However, I’d recommend that you also do what we always do in my shop. Once you’re done grinding, welding or cutting on a piece, just take your soapstone marker and write “HOT” on the piece in big letters. It might have cooled off by the time your co-worker goes to pick it up, but it’s much better to treat a cold piece of metal like it’s hot than the other way around.

Chapters 7 through 18 take you step by step and piece by piece through the entire process of building your own axial-flux wind generator. Each chapter, each step, each process is illustrated with photos of the components. As you learn what to do and how to do it, you also learn what not to do. The Two Dans also do a wonderful job of of explaining why you’re doing it that way.

Knowing why you’re doing something is vital in a process of this nature, because it gives you a solid foundation in the subject and prepares you for the sometimes not-so-simple task of living with and maintaining the wind monster you’ve created. Even if you’re consumed with an almost overwhelming haste to get the rig in the air, don’t skip over the ‘why’ parts of the book. You’ll need them later.

Chapter 19 is titled “Failures and Prevention”. It’s a machine. It can fail. There are a lot of things that can go wrong with any complex mechanism. This chapter details what to watch for – those little signals a machine gives to let you know that all is not well. The proper maintenance methods are described and, again, illustrated with myriad photos. There’s a very informative section with pictures of machines that have failed, along with a bit of failure analysis so you know why it happened and how to avoid that failure mode with your machine. The chapter concludes with a section on Troubleshooting. You built it, so nobody knows that machine better than you do. You’re also the one that’s going to be repairing it if something goes wrong. Nobody’s better qualified.

If you’re not satisfied with the 10 foot turbine described in the building process in the book, Chapter 20 “Scaling it Up and Down” may be for you. It describes a 17′ unit and also a downsized 7′ turbine. These two units are not as far along in the development process as the 10 footer that we build in this book. The guys have built and flown a few of them, but they don’t have near the hours in the air that the 10 footer does. I’d recommend building the 10 foot turbine first and getting some first-hand experience before setting off into less-charted waters. However, there is some advanced theory in that chapter that will certainly improve your technical understanding of the subject whether you build a larger or smaller unit or not.

Of the remaining two chapters of the book, one is devoted to sources of information, supplies, components, kits, towers, web resources and just about anything else that’s wind energy related.

Chapter 22 is the Glossary wherein you can find definitions for most every wind related term from “AC” to “Zymurgy”. The latter being one of my favorites.

Six appendices round out the book and contain information on tap drill sizes, wire gage, those sometimes pesky metric to English conversions, tools, wind data and other just generally useful brain fodder. I was gratified to see in the production credits that the book was almost entirely produced using free, open-source software. I believe that open-source software will be the force of the future and the fact that a book of this quality can be produced using OSS is proof that the free software movement is coming of age.

Dan Bartmann and Dan Fink have done a magnificent job in the writing and production of Homebrew Wind Power. They’ve created a book, written with a vast amount of knowledge and experience in the subject, loaded it with photographs that clearly show the processes involved and enabled any wind energy amateur to successfully build his or her first wind turbine and enjoy the rewards of living off-grid. The writing style vividly demonstrates that The Two Dans enjoy what they do and while they take the subject of wind energy very seriously, they never take themselves too seriously. They have fun building wind turbines and it shows in the book.

Do I have any grumbles about the book? Just one. I live on a 70′ X 100′ lot in the city and I don’t have room to fly one of these turbines even if I built one. I’d need a tower bigger than the lot to get above the trees. So, here’s a book that’s got me all fired up to build a wind turbine and I’ve got no place to fly it. What a book! I heartily recommend it.

By the way, you’ll love the “Dog Haiku”.


Can you REALLY live inside a steel shipping container?

By Alex Klein

I write a blog (and even books) about ISBU (Shipping Container) Home construction.

The blog is titled: The Life and Times of a Renaissance Ronin

It takes readers from wishing and dreaming about alternative, affordable, sustainable homes, to actually building them, all by themselves…

(Okay ALMOST by themselves.)

We help them. A LOT. Sometimes it includes financial support, too. We barter, beg, borrow, and scour thru junk piles looking for materials to recycle, re-purpose or reuse.

Why would anyone do this?

Well, the economy is crushing us. A LOT of families are looking for alternatives to big mortgages and trying to provide a hedge against “the evils of the times”… things like unemployment and foreclosures.

For example; we currently have (4) families that began building only to find that midway through the process, their plants were shut down or their jobs were “right-sized”. As in… their jobs vanished into thin air or moved to Malaysia or Mumbai.

No warning, no “Thank you for your years of dedication”… nada.

There’s nothing “right” about that. At least not in my book.

My book; “Introduction to Container Homes and Buildings” was written to help families in need. It’s really where the money goes. The book (and the blog) are about helping families build personal freedom, by freeing themselves of things like mortgages and killer utility bills. My family lives pretty close to the ground, but we work with families daily that are “close to the street”. So those book sales, $9.95 at a time, buy things they need to keep building. There are things that you just can’t borrow or barter for.

And every family we wrap in Corten Steel is that much stronger and sustained. And WE are that much stronger for it.

People ask me daily about ISBUs, so here’s the “Thirty Second ISBU Primer”:

I’m often asked if you can REALLY live inside a steel shipping container.

Any box needs to be insulated if you’re going to live inside it. The house that you live in now is probably just a box made of wood. Your house would heat up if it wasn’t insulated properly. And ISBUs (Steel Boxes) are especially prone to heat build up. After all, your oven at home is just a steel box with a heating element (just like the sun) attached to it, right? So insulation is a must.

Is there an easy way to accomplish that? Did NASA solve the insulation problem, once and for all? NO.

Contrary to “myth and urban legend”, there is NO Miracle Ceramic Paint that “works just like insulation”. If there was, I’d be using it daily.

(And yes, I know all about Supertherm.)

I’ve been building ISBU (Shipping Container Homes) since 1977. I’m on my 141st (actual build) as I type this. In America. We have more, “out there.”

Everyone in the business knows ME. Ask around.

Basic ISBU rules;

* You CANNOT bury a container!

You cannot just pile dirt on top of it, either. If you do, it’s called a coffin. That corrugated steel is just to keep weather and bugs out. It doesn’t have the strength required to take that kind of load.

* The insulation goes on the OUTSIDE of the container, unless you’re nuts.

That’s right, I said it. Think about it. WHY make a small place even smaller? Even if you connect ISBUs together to form larger rooms, why rob yourself of living space?

* Use SPF (Spray Foam Insulation) on the outside of the box.

… and then cover it with siding, hardiplank, veneers, bricks, whatever you can find. You’ll thank me later.

SPF Provides insulation, a vapor barrier and a moisture barrier too.

SPF is an acoustic barrier too. Nothing is worse than having to listen to the neighbor’s loud music, or an endless stream of traffic, trains and aircraft.

PLUS, SPF glues everything together stronger than duct tape. THAT helps with shear forces and lateral loads. Shearing and racking for those of you who know about construction.

* OVERINSULATE. Again… you’ll thank me later.

The energy you save will be your own.

* Don’t cantilever or “twist-stack” containers.

ALL the strength in an ISBU is in the end frames – not the side rails. You’ll create point loading disasters. Disasters cost money to fix. Sometimes they cost a LOT of money to fix.

Oh yeah, I know that some of us grew up in the seventies listening to loud music at concerts, (so we’re probably already deaf) but…

* Cutting on shipping containers with metal circular saws or a sawzall is just madness.

Go get a hammer.

Now, go get your piggybank.

Now smash the piggy till his/her guts fall out, collect the shiniest parts, and then go rent a plasma cutter from your local home improvement store., Not only is it much, much faster, it’s going to do a better job.

(And it’s ‘seriously fun’!)

Trying to build a shipping container home using a metal circular saw or a sawzall is done by people who don’t know any better.

* Can you combine ISBUs with other types of alternative home construction?

YES. In fact, we have several projects in the works right now that combine ISBUs with Earthbag technologies, in several different US geographic regions from the Gulf Coast to the High Country.

* Can this be done “affordably?”

Is $50 a square foot “affordable?” That’s typical of what people are paying to build small ISBU homes in the USA, all by their “onesies”.

On my blog we’re talking about a project proposal for Haitian families that suggests that (1) 40′ ISBU shipping container be placed in the center of a building site and then a family could live in it and “build off of it” as time and materials allowed.

This technique is very close to what we have been teaching families for years, In fact, one of our first ISBU homes in 1978 looked (and was built) in just this manner.

Replace those “materials” with earthbags and plaster and you’ve just built a ‘massive’ home with your own hands for pennies on the dollar. Dirt and poly bags aren’t that expensive. In fact, I bet you have dirt in your yard… right?

Teamed with really talented guys like Steve Spence and Owen Geiger, I intend to help families do just that.

Wanna know more? Stay in touch, read the blog, or even buy the book.

If you buy the book, you’ll help families in need. Karma is a good thing.

If you feel inclined, we also have a donation button on the Renaissance Ronin blog site that allows readers to help families build homes. Every dollar helps tremendously.

And stay tuned because Steve and I are going to turn a 20′ High Cube Shipping Container into a Photovoltaic powered LED Greenhouse. I’m talking a secure, weatherized, protected (from everything but the kitchen sink) “Food Factory” in your backyard.

It’s going to be cool! I’m talking “I have to have one of those” cool!

Alex Klein
aka: The Renaissance Ronin


Finally a High Performance Flashlight that’s Green!

5.11 Tactical’s battery-free, LED, capacitor flashlight lasts a lifetime

Modesto, California–Green living gets a lift from a futuristic flashlight: brilliant portable LED light source, no batteries, recharges in minutes and durable construction. The 5.11 Tactical Light for Life™ is a professional grade flashlight with advanced capacitor technology that eliminates the need for batteries and that’s bright news for the environment.

On a conservative estimate, about three billion batteries are sold annually in the U.S. Batteries contain heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and nickel, which can contaminate the environment when batteries are improperly disposed of. Batteries can also leak and are potentially explosive . 5.11’s breakthrough ultracapacitor technology has eliminated the use of any batteries; so there are no batteries to recharge, recycle or contaminate our landfills, not to mention the cost savings on replacement batteries. Because the ultracapacitors are made of mostly carbon and aluminum and they don’t contain any heavy metals and are RoHs compliant. The result is one of the greenest portable light sources on the planet.

A rechargeable flashlight without batteries
Light for Life™ utilizes a sophisticated energy management system called FlashPoint? Power Technology. This technology utilizes environmentally friendly ultracapacitors that work together with revolutionary computer circuitry to efficiently manage how energy is loaded into the flashlight, and then optimizes how the energy is dispersed to maximize both performance and runtime. 5.11’s Light for Life™ flashlight fully charges in 90 seconds when stored on the base and delivers up to 4 hours of total runtime with no battery fade.

Rugged and Durable
In addition to being green, the 5.11 Tactical light is built to last a lifetime. This durable flashlight was created to meet the demands and reliability of law enforcement and rescue teams. It remains the light of choice for police, fire and rescue units across the US. Constructed of a firearm-grade, high-strength polymer, the water-resistant casing is fully sealed against the elements with solid-state construction. It’s abrasion, crack and bend-resistant with temperature-tolerant ultracapacitors rated at -40° F to 149° F (-40° C to 65° C).

Brilliant Light
The high-performance Light for Life™ UC3.400 produces 270 peak lumens in bright mode, 90 lumens in standard mode, and has a 270-lumen tactical strobe…all recharged in 90 seconds. The three LED bulbs on the flashlight are rated for 50,000 hours and never have to be replaced. Its performance remains virtually un-degraded for a minimum of 10 years without replacing anything.

To learn more about 5.11 Light for Life™ visit

5.11 Tactical® Capacitor Flashlights
The Light for Life flashlights from 5.11® are the next generation of flashlights, the only professional grade lights utilizing advanced capacitor technology. This technology eliminates the need for batteries and eliminates memory fade issues. 5.11® flashlights are lightweight and charge in just seconds with up to 2 hours of run time. The temperature-tolerant ultra capacitors are rated at -40° F to 149° F (-40° C to 65° C). Top-of-the-line Cree LED brilliant-light bulbs in the flashlight are rated for 50,000 hours and never have to be replaced. The casing is ruggedly built of firearm-grade, high-strength polymer that is abrasion, crack and bend-resistant. This solid-state construction is water-resistant and fully sealed against the elements.

About 5.11 Tactical Series®
Located in Modesto, California, 5.11 Tactical Series creates innovative, user-required products that enhance the safety, speed and performance of law enforcement, military and fire/EMS professionals. Built on a foundation of durability, quality and value, 5.11 Tactical’s team of more than 200 employees leads the industry in delivering functionally innovative gear, head to toe. The company was ranked #211 on the 2007 Inc. 500 list. Learn more about 5.11’s best-selling tactical clothing, station wear, uniforms, outerwear, footwear and accessories at


Englert Building Integrated Solar Thermal, PV and Rainwater Harvesting

The folks at Englert have a novel system that integrates a solar thermal system with their standing seam metal roofs (up to 35 year warranty), and offers a PV option. Produce your solar heated water for heating (hydronic) and domestic hot water, produce grid tied power, and harvest rain water for toilet, laundry and irrigation. Check out their system at Englert Environmental.

What we do on the roof is important because what happens below the roof is critical. More than a decade ago, we began imagining the roofing systems architects, builders and homeowners could use to face their most common environmental challenges.

Imagine a roofing system that protects your home or building, keeping it cool in summer, warm in winter and providing all the hot water and electricity you require.

Now envision a roofing system that captures 95 percent of its rainwater runoff, channels it through a debris-proof gutter system and deposits it in a rainwater harvesting tank for immediate use.

Today Englert Environmental is a leading provider of renewable energy solutions where metal roofing and gutters systems play a critical role in collecting solar energy and harvesting rainwater.

Partnering with key technology and service providers, including the foremost photovoltaic, inverter and mounting solution providers and the nation’s principal source of commercial and residential rain water harvesting systems, Englert provides world leading, best-of-breed technology, products and services.


Five Great Reasons to Replace Your Dry Cell Battery Supplies with Rechargeables

By Aaron Fowles, Corporate Communications Specialist
SANYO North America Corporation

Each year, more than two billion household batteries are disposed, and that number only represents those that are sent to landfills. The impact on our environment from discarded dry cell batteries can be catastrophic over time, polluting our world’s ground soil and water supply, resulting in health hazards to humans, plants, and animals.

The amount of chemicals and/or metals in batteries can be staggering. For example, a car battery has almost 20 pounds of lead in it and 16 ounces of sulfuric acid. (Source: “The Effects of Non-Disposable Batteries on the Environment”, by Jason Petrina, Editor and Publisher, Article Click)
As our society continues to heavily depend on battery supplies to power many common electronic devices, such as digital cameras and flashlights, the need for efficient and ecologically responsible battery use has become paramount.

Therefore, replacing traditional dry cell batteries with rechargeable batteries offers a number of important benefits, highlighting meanings of “eco”, economical and ecological, simultaneously.

1.A typical dry cell battery lasts only as long as its life cycle, limiting the use to one time only. Rechargeable batteries can be recharged and reused more than 500 times. In fact, there are some rechargeable batteries out there that can be charged again 1,000 or more times.

2.Buying dry cell batteries that can only be used once is typically less expensive upfront, but that cost increases dramatically over time. Thankfully, budget-minded supply managers know rechargeable batteries allow hundreds of cycles per battery, making the cost per unit go down over times used, resulting in hundreds or thousands of dollars in cost savings each year.

3.Rechargeable batteries last longer, with one rechargeable battery taking the role of multiple batteries each time it is recharged and reused. The reusing of resources minimizes impact on the environment. Batteries, which contain a number of metals including mercury, aluminum, and nickel, pollute groundwater and soil when not disposed of properly. Also, if you look close enough, you will see that most rechargeable batteries are recyclable.

4.Rechargeable batteries are more convenient. This is counterintuitive because the traditional image is that they don’t come pre-charged and that translates to inconvenience. The way rechargeable batteries work has improved remarkably and deserves attention. They can come pre-charged today, are usable right out of the box, and can be recharged and used again tomorrow and the next day. If you don’t use them right away and decide to charge and store them, some batteries, like SANYO’s eneloop batteries, keep 85% of their charge after sitting on a shelf for one year.

5.Today’s rechargeable batteries are extremely powerful, particularly when powering digital cameras, computers and other power-hungry devices. Rechargeables can deliver solid performance and reliability, as evidenced by the recent developments in stable voltage opening up longer use of each charge.

If you have been sitting on the fence or are looking for something that you can do to start down the path of sustainability, rechargeable, re-usable batteries are a great place to start.

SANYO North America Corporation, a subsidiary of SANYO Electric Co., Ltd., markets and sells energy- and environment-related products in North America including a variety of commercial and consumer solutions such as rechargeable batteries, digital imaging devices, biomedical and health-related equipment, HVAC equipment, home appliances, etc. SANYO is also the world’s largest manufacturer of rechargeable batteries. For further information on SANYO, please visit


The “Mr. Fusion” tabletop methane digester and supercooker

Dr. Karve taught us that an animals gut takes fresh food and converts it to methane gas much more efficiently than trying to make methane gas from spent food (manure). We have been developing a 5 gallon tabletop methane digester. This unit runs on kitchen scraps run through a blender to make a slurry, and is a continuous digester. It uses two 5 gallon plastic pails for the digester and gas collector, and the supercooker consists of a 5 gallon metal pail with a methane burner in the bottom and a metal stockpot inserted like a crockpot. It not only cooks from the bottom, but from the sides as well. A lot more heat from less methane. We will be adding this info to our existing methane digester package at, and early documentation will be available to those who help with the development progress. If you donate $5 at (put methane supercooker in the notes), we will send you updates, and the completed plans and video’s.