Saturday, July 5, 2008

Energy Independence Day!

Friday, the 4th of July, day 1 of Energy Independence Week

Back on Wednesday morning I got the outside water tank plumbed into the inside via a garden hose through the window.  It isn't high enough to feed the shower head, but there is low pressure water to the sinks and the commode, which is a fine thing.

I spent most of Wednesday and Thursday making the cooler pictured below.  As with the small personal water tower, the cooler is supposed to be useful both for Energy Independence Week and longer term.  For now its an outside icebox replacing the fridge which I don't have enough solar power to run.  Later I hope to use it as a root cellar.

You can see I'm making it out of scrap Structural Insulated Panels (styrofoam faced with oriented strand board.)  They're a foot thick and allegedly R50.  There were three odd-size pieces in the attic of the shop - I spent like an hour figuring out what was the biggest size box I could make out of them.   I ended up with 22 cubic feet on the inside.  On the outside it's basically five feet big.  I made the lid out of three layers of 2-inch pink foam insulation board (polystyrene).  That should be nominally R30.  The whole business is stuck together with Pur Stick professional gun foam.

I could've spent three weeks making this like a grandfather clock but I was desperate to just get it basically functional in time for 4th of July.  The air sealing of the lid needs improvement, and the ergonomics aren't that great.  

It doesn't have a drain, so the ice needs to be contained.  I had previously frozen 13 two-liter bottles of water.  I moved these into the cooler along with the wireless thermometer and tried to freeze some more bottles overnight on the 3rd.  The cooler chilled right down to 35 F by morning, but the new bottles didn't freeze.  In my haste I had bought the cheapest regular soda and hadn't dumped it all out and replaced it with water.   Either there wasn't enough time or maybe the sugar depresses the freezing point?

Anyway, come the morning of the 4th and it was time for power down.  I transferred most of the contents of the fridge in bags and buckets, along with another 30 pounds of block ice.  I ate the ice cream for brunch.  I don't think the temp went over 45 all day.  The meat was still frozen and there was still a lot of ice at the end of the day.  It might go the distance?

As I was washing out buckets at the end of my 250 foot garden hose, I noticed the water was pretty warm even at 9 am sunshine levels.

Some of the food in the fridge was produce that wasn't going to keep much longer, so I broke out the solar oven and made up a recipe.  Potatoes, tomato, celery, baby carrots, red chard, onion, garlic, salt, basil, and a little oil.  

I let it cook from about 11:45 to 3:45.  It was a bit cloudy so I put the reflectors on.  I had some of it for a midafternoon snack, turned out pretty okay.  I put some corn on the cob back in the solar oven and let it cook the rest of the day.  That was really good and went great with the steak I grilled for dinner.  I reheated the vegetables by putting a skillet on top of the charcoal grill.

In the afternoon I worked on hooking up the solar panels.  I'm reluctant to put much drain on the batteries until I have a way to recharge them.  By the time I got it set up it was too late to tell if it was going to work.  I have a current booster for running a 12v motor from my 72v panels, but I don't have a real solar battery charger.  The compost toilet bin really wants its fan to run 24 hours a day.  At this time of year the day is so long here that there isn't that much need for lighting.  

It was a hot day and by night I really wanted a shower.  For that I filled two five gallon buckets from the hose, hauled them into the shower, lifted them up and dumped them on my head, cold turkey (one for wash, one for rinse.)  This was not that bad, but it wasn't that great either.  A little cooler than I'd've liked, but as I say it was a warm day.  Mainly it was just awkward.

Why am I doing this?  Because I read the News of the Future.

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