Solar panel window blinds

This is for my wish list but you can pre-order them now at https://solargaps.com/.  SolarGaps smart blinds automatically track the sun throughout the day, adjusting position to the optimal angles to generate solar electricity to power devices in your home, apartment or office.

At about $1,000 a m², they’re not cheap… but discount the cost of curtains, the ability to control your blinds with your mobile phone, and maybe you can justify them.  But you can be sure, if this catches on, prices will drop!

They generate up to 100W-150W of renewable energy per ±1m² of window, enough to power 30 LED light bulbs or three MacBooks.  So with ±4m² of window on the north-eastern face of the house, I would be able to generate 1.6-2.4kWh over four hours just on one side of the house.

A very bright idea… save 98% of your water consumption!

It’s almost too outrageous to be true.  But you can save 98% of your water consumption simply by adding a nozzle onto your existing taps.  Or you will be able to from the end of this year when production of the Altered:Nozzle starts.

The new company turned to Kickstarter to help fund the project online… and they reached their Swedish KR250,000 target in three days!  Funding received to date totals KR2,660,320.  And that’s mainly because 4,145 people are so eager to lay their hands on this device.

 

Imagine the impact compulsory use of this device would have in South Africa!

You can read more about it at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/621008351/altered-nozzle-same-tap-98-less-water?

The company website is at https://www.alteredcompany.com/ where you can preorder.

Not a Bright Idea!

LED bulb filled with insects

LED bulb filled with insectsA LED lightbulb is supposed to last for 6 — 12 years and, being rather pricey, they probably do. But this one will need to be replaced after about a year when a single candle will achieve more light than it does.

It’s taken less than two months for this bulb to attract the miggies or gnats you see lying at the bottom of the bulb.  The light is already 20% less powerful than when new.  At this rate, the bulb will be almost full by the end of the year and can hardly be called a light any more…

So, if you live in a area with a lot of miggies, choose your lightbulbs carefully!

 

Getting the most from your PV Panels

I wanted to run all lights, a power-hungry laptop (something I only discovered after I started), medium-sized fridge, wireless router, solar production & power consumption monitoring equipment, and battery charging for laptop, cellphone, camera and power drill. Could I do all this off one 150W PV panel (costing about R1700)?  Be patient, this is an unfolding story 🙂

This is an incremental experiment.  Starting off with “What is the most I can achieve for the least cost, and what lifestyle changes are necessary to achieve that?”  And then growing the solar installation to cater for what many regard as normal living.

Since I was starting at the height of summer, commonsense told me that a horizontal panel would be just fine, I “plonked” my panel on the almost flat and not-too-sturdy roof of a small outbuilding, using the rather pricey but rock-solid brackets from ExSolar, who were horrified by my plan.  But this was my temporary solution whereas they always fix panels that will last the lifetime of a sturdy roof.

150 watt panel

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The World IS changing!

While household dependence on power utilities like Eskom is becoming a thing of the past as more and more households turn to solar energy, the end of oil companies as we know them is also on the cards.

Nothing highlighted this more than one news service in the past week:

The last half of 2015 saw the tipping point where electric cars are becoming mainstream, in spite of oil prices being at record lows.  And with China leading the way, it’s a trend no-one can ignore.  Billions is being spent on new battery technologies.  And how long before an Apple iCar becomes the new “must-have”?

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The Smarter WiFi option

One of the early things needed for the house was WiFi — for electricity monitoring equipment and other “smart” elements that might be included.  Asking around, most people in the area use PaarlOnline — not always with great satisfaction.  This seemed to be echoed in some online forums, where BreedeNet was mentioned as an alternative.  Is there a smarter alternative?
[table]
Service Provider[attr style=”width:110px”],Speed,Once-off cost,5 Gig pm,10 Gig pm
PaarlOnline,up to 2Mbps,R2140¹,R350,R600
Breedenet,up to 2Mbps,R1000+¹,R450,R730
,up to 6Mbps,R1000+¹,R521,R828
Telkom,2-6Mbps,0,R199²,R299³
[/table]
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iShacks — Power for the People

iShack Proect at Ekanini, Stellenbosch

The iShack project at Ekanini in Stellenbosch is taking solar energy to the people, and over 1000 homes have been connected.

After being impressed by solar energy installations for poorer homes in the northern Drakensberg, I was delighted to discover that the biggest urban solar energy project for indigent families is nearby at Ekanini (population about 9,000) alongside Kayamandi in Stellenbosch.  The Sustainability Institute’s iShack Project has already provided electricity to over 1,000 homes. Continue reading

Surely the cheapest hot water system there is!

Hot water from the outset was an absolute necessity because I’m not good at cold showers.  And seeing I hadn’t worked out all the options, I certainly didn’t have a long-term plan.  So I wanted the cheapest, fastest solution which I wouldn’t have any hesitation in just throwing away or recycling after a month or two.

So here’s my R130 hot water system!  Can that be beaten price-wise?  It’s 100 metres of the cheapest 16mm irrigation pipe, coiled flat on the ground in a circle as tightly as I could.  It has a diameter of 1.8 metres but could be a little less.

Hot water coil

The hot water coil. It was neater before a storm and strong winds, so the hothouse cover is probably a necessity. 
It needs to be tidied up again so that all the piping is fully exposed to the sun.

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So what is smarter living all about?

In the USA, “Smart Homes” are all about convenience and consumption.  In South Africa (and much of Europe) there is a far greater focus on sustainability and renewable energy… on being greener.

CapeInfo set out to discover the feasibility — and economic realities — of going off the grid.  Is saying goodbye to Eskom (SA’s power utility) an easy and affordable transition?  We’re starting with the basics to see how cheaply one can live off the grid and then expanding capacity to cater for all the normal household items… and winter.  We look forward to your comments and suggestions as the project unfolds over the coming months.

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