Author Archives: admin

What’s a Yurt?

Two posts from my sister on Whatsapp from Ulaanbataar in Mongolia really got me thinking.

She had shown me a photo of the yurt belonging to the building manager for her apartment block before.  He and his family live in their ger or yurt alongside the apartment building.  But he had been away for his summer holidays and was re-erecting his ger on the same spot as last year.

The photo at 12:17pm shows the floor down and the frame erected.  By 1:58pm, the entire structure had been completed. Continue reading

Saying Goodbye to Eskom is cheaper than you think

CapeInfo’s Smarter Living Project started off to determine what one really needs to go off the electrical grid — is it  as expensive as  people say or, if one adapts one’s lifestyle, is it affordable or… even cheaper.  Off-the-grid in this case meant no external electric sources at all — no Eskom, no municipal connection. Continue reading

Municipal water costs R50/kilolitre; but just R9.20/kl from GrandWest’s treatment facility

While the cost of potable water currently is R50 per kilolitre (on the Level 6 commercial tariff),  it’s costing GrandWest Casino and Entertainment World in Cape Town just R9.20 per kilolitre from the treatment facility. It will take approximately 28 months for GrandWest to realise a return on its investment. Continue reading

Solar panel window blinds

This is for my wish list but you can pre-order them now at  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

The company website is at 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

Continue reading