Living Sustainably

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Take Yourself Off-Grid!

pv_systemYou probably have heard horror stories of $30k + solar power systems that don’t work when the power goes out (grid tie), complicated power company rules, and expensive and complicated equipment.

We lived off grid for 6 years, and designed and installed our own power system. I’m sharing some of the things I learned, and the full journey is found in the pages of this blog.

You can start the off grid journey yourself, with minimal investment, and grow your system at your own pace. No legal complications.

I’m providing a DIY guide to setting up your own off grid power system for free. Great for cabins, boats, and RV’s, it gives you the basics you need to expand to a larger system.

Good starter equipment includes a small wind turbine if you live in a windy location and a good quality solar panel and charge controller:

400 Watt Wind Turbine

100 Watt PV Kit

This is a good start on your journey, and you will learn a lot about the technology before you build a larger, and more expensive system yourself.









Can Thermoelectrics Replace a Vehicle Alternator?

thermoelectric exhaustBorla®, the pioneer and leading manufacturer of stainless-steel performance exhaust systems and Alphabet Energy, the global leader in thermoelectrics for waste heat recovery, announced today a nonexclusive partnership to deliver the industry’s first aftermarket thermoelectric fuel-efficiency product for vehicle internal combustion engines.

Sixty percent of the energy from fuel used in cars and trucks escapes through the exhaust tailpipe as waste heat. Borla’s technologically-advanced exhaust systems coupled with Alphabet Energy’s PowerModule™ thermoelectric generator has the potential to capture 5 to 10 percent of a car or truck’s waste heat and use it to improve fuel efficiency by reducing alternator loads or replacing the alternator entirely. This captured heat can be used to power the multitude of electrical components on a modern car normally powered by the energy-hungry alternator, such as lights, heating, air conditioning, sound, and navigation systems.”

“Our customers count on us to deliver the highest quality exhaust products while also helping them manage their most pressing challenges for the Class 8 truck fleet operator, and that’s fuel efficiency,” said Alex Borla, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer at Borla. “As we expand into new markets, it’s our vision to combine Borla’s state-of-the-art exhaust and filtration technologies with thermoelectrics, and Alphabet Energy is the ideal partner to fulfill this vision.”

According to the US Department of Energy, a Class 8 truck traveling 150,000 – 200,000 miles per year averages $70,000 – $125,000 in fuel costs. For many, the lifetime fuel costs for a Class 8 truck are approximately five times the original purchase price of the vehicle. Heat captured by a Borla Exhaust and delivered to an Alphabet Energy’s PowerModule™ could deliver a fuel savings of 3 to 6 percent or as much as $7,500 per year, per Class 8 truck.

“Alphabet Energy is committed to transforming waste heat into value for our customers and partners,” said Dr. Matthew Scullin, Founder and CEO of Alphabet Energy. “Borla’s passion for innovation and design parallels our own and we’re excited to partner with them on the future of heavy-duty trucking exhausts and fuel efficiency improvements.”

Alphabet Energy’s PowerModules™ will undergo testing on both gasoline and diesel truck exhausts at Borla’s state-of-the-art research and development centers in Oxnard, Calif. and Johnson City, Tenn. Based on positive results from the testing, the two companies intend to co-develop and commercialize the next-generation Borla Exhaust for trucks and other mobile and stationary internal combustion engines with Alphabet Energy PowerModules™.


First City to be 100% powered by renewable Energy?

PBS recently announced that Burlington VT was the first city to be 100% powered by renewable energy. As fun as that sounds, PBS was off by more than 100 years.

A quick search of Wikipedia shows:

The old Schoelkopf Power Station No. 1 near Niagara Falls in the U.S. side began to produce electricity in 1881. The first Edison hydroelectric power station, the Vulcan Street Plant, began operating September 30, 1882, in Appleton, Wisconsin, with an output of about 12.5 kilowatts. By 1886 there were 45 hydroelectric power stations in the U.S. and Canada. By 1889 there were 200 in the U.S. alone.

I personally grew up in communities that were 100% hydroelectric powered, either in their past, or currently. Nice try PBS. We realize your heart was in the right place, but a little fact checking goes a long way.


Make your own fuel from waste plastic?

Turn that waste plastic (2, 4, 5 & 6) into fuel. This machine cooks the plastic at over 300 Celsius, and condenses the gas back into a liquid oil. 1kg of plastic + 1 kWh of electric, = 1 liter of fuel (3 hours). At just over $13k, it would pay for itself in about 6 years (including the electric costs to run it).

Models and Specifications


“Bride of Frankenfood”

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s ties to agribusiness giant Monsanto, and her advocacy for the industry’s genetically modified crops, have environmentalists in Iowa calling her “Bride of Frankenfood” — putting yet another wrinkle in her presidential campaign’s courtship of liberal activists who are crucial to winning the state’s Democratic caucuses.

The backlash against Mrs. Clinton for her support of genetically modified organisms (GMO), which dominate the corn and soybean crops at the heart of Iowa’s economy, manifested itself at a recent meeting of the Tri-County Democrats, where members gauged support for the former secretary of state.

A large faction of women voiced strong support for Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy until the GMO issue came up, prompting them to switch allegiances to Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, a liberal stalwart challenging her for the Democratic nomination.

Read more:


Water Conservation in Las Vegas

Water Conservation in Las Vegas

bellagio fountain

In the middle of the Mojave Desert lies an oasis known as Las Vegas. Although the desert is among one of the driest places on earth, water supply doesn’t seem to be a problem considering the 22 million gallons used at the Bellagio fountain and the amount water used to fill the canals of the Venetian. From 2000 to 2010, Las Vegas was the third fastest growing city in the fast growing state, and rates of water consumption went through the roof. The city only gets about 4 inches of rainfall on average, which makes the public question what exactly are casinos to do to fight the drought.

Other than endangering the environment, the lack of eco-friendly practices can also be a risk for businesses as operators are missing opportunities in accelerating non-gaming revenue and expanding their target consumers. Evidently, online casinos don’t face the same handicaps as the land-based facilities, which give online casino providers the upper hand in target marketing. Without the worry of environmental impacts and the hassle of leaving your home, online consumer profiles can range from conservationists to those residing in a country with strict gambling regulations – an example of this is Japan. Despite Japan’s conservative views on gambling, the world’s first internet-based casino InterCasino was able to expand their market to accommodate Japanese players.

The Japanese aren’t only known for their gambling regulations. Other than revolutionizing the world’s technology, they also happen to have one of the lowest water distribution levels in the world. The nation has universal access to sanitation and a steady water supply. They also maintain strict standards in water treatment, and continue to exceed global standards for conservation. Much of this stems from cultural practices that limit excessive water use, which can be seen in the design of a typical Japanese bathroom. They show that a simple restructure of a bathroom can easily cut down the amount of water wasted, which a few casinos on the Strip have already done.

To address the public’s concern for the environment, land-based casinos started increasing their efforts in conservation and minimize dependency on their only nearby natural water supply, Lake Mead. The snow from the Colorado Rockies continues to replenish this body of water, but expansions in the metro and recurring droughts have prevented it to maintain the proper lake levels.

Last year’s drought that heavily affected California was a wakeup call for Las Vegas casinos. Though water conservation programs were always in place, there is always room for improvement. The Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) has worked time and time again to make sure that they recycle almost 100 percent of indoor water. MGM and Caesars implement a low-flow shower and toilet system across all their hotels, demonstrating that water conservation is not only a necessity in Las Vegas, but in other parts of the world as well.


Earth Day Energy Saver!

PIR sensorEver want your lights to turn on when you walk into the room, and off when you leave? Sure you can buy a gadget to do that, but how about building your own motion sensor?

We wanted to save energy, and create convenience, by adding motion sensors to our lighting circuits. Maybe you want some notification of an intruder. Both can be done with a PIR Motion sensor.

Construction details at:


Wind & Solar Power, Weather Datalogger

P1040314We are rolling out our newest Wind & Solar Power & Weather Datalogger.

A shunt between the battery and the power sources (wind turbines, solar panels, microhydro, your cousin on the exercycle), tell us the current being generated, and a voltage divider reads the voltage of the battery pack. If another shunt is placed between the battery and loads, power consumption also be tracked. From that we can calculate the watts being produced.

With our SD Card and RTC Module, we can calculate amp hours and watt hours, and save them to a sd card.

We also can record weather data, like temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, wind speed & direction, UV index, and much more.

We give you the ability to upload your sd card files for charting and graphing your data. Real time reporting options with ethernet and wifi are available to the internet or optional local Raspberry Pi web & database server.

Read more at:

More pictures and a list of available sensors at




Convert Your Generator to Tri-Fuel

Is your gasoline generator hard to start? Does your fuel seem to go bad? Today’s ethanol fuel can cause all kinds of issues for small engines. Propane burns cleaner than gasoline, and stores pretty much forever, virtually guaranteeing instant starts when an emergency arises. Methane capability means you can produce your own fuel from decomposing manure or vegetable matter. Follow along as we convert our Coleman Generator with a easy to install and use Century Fuel Products conversion kit.

Get the details on producing Methane Fuel at


“Tap” a Bee Hive for Fresh Honey

Update- Crowdfunding goal of $70k has reached $1.7 million, in 24 hours!

No more taking a hive apart and disturbing the bees. Eliminate 95% of the work. Just tap the hive, and fill your jar when the clear hive panels show there is honey to be harvested. No fuss, no muss, even a child can do it!

It’s the beekeepers dream…

Turn a tap and watch as pure fresh clean honey flows right out of the hive and into your jar. No mess, no fuss, no expensive processing equipment and the bees are hardly even disturbed.

“This really is a revolution, you can see into the hive, see when the honey is ready and take it away in such a gentle way.” –