Welcome to Provide Your Own - Energy


Energy prices are high and going higher. At the same time your budget is shrinking. Risks are higher than ever of short or long term electric power outages – from storms, crumbling infrastructure and even solar flares. What can you do? Provide your own energy.

Here at Provide Your Own Energy we give you the tools and information you need to not just save energy, but to actually create your own energy. Just think about it – no more worrying about power outages, high power bills, sky-high heating bills. No more. By creating your own energy, you provide an environmentally friendly lifestyle for yourself, save money and best of all – provide your own energy security.

DIY Desklamp – from a Pizza Box!

cardboard-desklamp

Here at Provide Your Own, we love LED lighting. We also believe the best use of LED lighting is by making your own custom fixtures rather than going out to buy a manufactured light bulb.

An Italian company has the same idea. They have a product where you make your own LED desklamp from a pizza box. In the great spirit of open source, they even provide downloadable plans for cutting and folding your own.

Their version of the lamp uses only a 4″ LED strip for illumination. That comes out to about 60 lumens or the output of a 4 watt bulb. We recommend using at least a 12″ strip (cut into two 6″ pieces), which would provide about 180 lumens or 12 watts equivalent.

Here’s what you need to build your own:

For your convenience, we offer a complete kit (no soldering required) for only $24.95 (over 30% saving over buying the parts separately).

You don’t have to be limited to cardboard either. It is simple to repurpose an … Read the rest

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Novel Ideas for LED Lighting

agbar_tower

This article describes some wonderful new applications envisioned for LED lighting. While many of the links don’t work, it still contains some great photos of LEDs being used for decorating buildings, night-time gardens and more.

I can’t help commenting on the article’s main premise – that LEDs will lead to greater energy use than incandescent lights. This is absolutely true, but it is not a bad thing. As pointed out in their excellent book any time energy efficiencies are achieved, greater energy use is the result. The main reason for this effect is because of new applications found for the new technology. LEDs are a perfect example.

Some might be saying, “but we are in an energy crisis, don’t we need to conserve energy?” The answer is that the energy situation might be in a state of flux right now, we are in no way in a shortage. The US is on the verge of developing massive petroleum deposits which will make it a leading producer in a few years, and the price of solar is dropping to the point where powering our lights and appliances is now at the point that almost everyone can afford it – even the … Read the rest

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Solar Insolation – Understanding & Measuring

Solar Insolation Map of the US

If you do anything at all with solar energy, you keep running across this term solar insolation. Note the spelling “insolation”, and not “insulation”, which is the stuff you put into walls to keep your house warmer. So what is solar insolation, how is it measured, how can I find out the solar insolation for my location, and how can I used this information in my solar application?

What is Solar Insolation?

If ever there was a confusing term, this one is it. Of course you can always consult the invariably comprehensive Wikipedia, but you may end up even more confused. According to this site, the strange term comes from the phrase: “INcidnet SOLar radiATION“. It is the amount of energy from the sun over a given time period. In contrast, solar radiance is the instantaneous power coming from the sun. While both are typically measured in kW/m2 , radiance is an instantaneous measure, while insolation is a measurement over time. Therefore, it is only correct to state insolation as kW-hrs/m2 .in order to show the cumulative time measurement.

There is another complication – … Read the rest

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Electric Flight – Its Coming

e-volo_IMGP2420

As we all know, electric cars are all the rage. What about electric flight? Is it even possible?

Electric Planes

It is not only possible, but electric airplanes are here already, albeit with some obstacles remaining. The main obstacle is the FAA. For some strange reason, they think that electric motors aren’t as reliable as infernal combustion engines. Other less backward nations are charging ahead (excuse the pun). Check out this article describing some electric aircraft ready for production.

Electric Multi-copters

You may already be familiar with an amazing type of hobby R/C aircraft resembling a helicopter, but instead of one central drive shaft, they employ 4, 6, or even 8 or more, separated by spokes. The go by various names such as quadri-copter and octo-copter. They are small, electric-powered, and can do amazing things like carry full size digital cameras and still climb straight out of sight in mere seconds. Their stability is 100% due to built-in accelerometers. They can even fly themselves with on-board GPS.

The question begs to be asked – is it possible to scale these things up for human flight? Ponder no more – it can and has been done. This 16-copter aircraft has … Read the rest

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Using Alternative Fuels

Canstove

One of man’s most fundamental needs is for fire – for both cooking and heat. With modern furnaces and electric cook-stoves, we no longer appreciate how important these things are – until we are without. In the true ProvideYourOwn spirit, I am always looking at how to use things at hand to meet these needs.

In that vein, I have been curious how various fuels compare regarding volatility and ignition points.  It is a useful thing to know if you want to understand, or possibly discover, new ways of making cooking or heating stoves or starting fires. We can expand our thinking by asking some of the following questions:

  • What kinds of fuel can I use for a camping/backpacking stove?
  • If I have to cook my food in a pinch, what sort of materials are available?
  • How can I make my own waste motor oil burning stove?
  • How can I use alternative fuels for my needs?
  • What can I use for fire starting besides newspaper?

and make better use of the materials we have on hand, design new types of cooking and heating stoves that better suit our needs, and make better fire-starters.

Temperature Points

To do any of these … Read the rest

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The Hybrid Approach – A Little is Better Than Nothing

Wind Turbines

Whenever we set ourselves a goal to “go off grid”, whether the grid means electricity, water, food, or something else, we face a task that is in all probability high unlikely to be accomplished, and maybe impossible, at least at in the short-term. When we finally face that reality we usually become discouraged and just give up or file it along with our other pipe dreams. I have been there. I have also been learning an important principle – a little is better than nothing.

We must stop thinking in terms of “getting off the grid” and more in terms of gaining some measure of independence, no matter how small and then go from there. At first glance, this idea seems ludicrous. After all, if we are still attached and dependent on an electric grid, food supply grid, etc., we are still dependent on them. That is true, however, we must consider the level of dependence as well. When we account for that factor, we begin to see that any measure of independence, no matter how small, will not only lead to greater independence in the future (progress toward our goal), but also vastly increases our security by decreasing our … Read the rest

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Some Winter Tips

Frozen Tire

I have been coming across various tips on dealing with wintertime issues. Some of them are pretty good. Some are not. I have done some investigation and can pass along some tips that you can trust.

De-Icing Windshields

Sometimes, it is better to use a commercial product than a DIY alternative. De-icing windshields is such a case. Alternative recipes abound on the ‘net, including ones using vinegar or rubbing (Isopropyl) alcohol mixed with water. These products can de-wax or otherwise damage your car’s paint. Commercial products are inexpensive and safe for your car. It is penny-wise and pound foolish to not use a common inexpensive product on a multi-thousand dollar car.

Some other tips include:

  • Raise your wipers when you come home at night. It makes the windshield that much easier to scrape.
  • Pre-warm your car several minutes with the defroster running before going out with the scraper.
  • Cover the windshield when you come home.

Starting Fires the Easy Way

Starting a fire in a wood stove is somewhat of an art. We have found that if you surround the small kindling fire with large blocks of wood (basically making a wall surrounding the fire), it reflects the heat and … Read the rest

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The LED Lighting Revolution – A Primer

White LED

A lighting revolution is coming. LEDs will usher it in, but the road may be rocky along the way. Why? Because LEDs are a radically different type of lighting than what we are used to. For them to be used effectively, we need to change our way of thinking about lighting.

The Problem

LEDs are so different from Edison-style incandescent bulbs, that trying to create a drop-in replacement is problematic. This article in particular points out that current LED offerings have poor color spectrum, poor luminosity, and poor reliability. Ouch – they don’t sound very good at all, at least as screw-in replacements for a hundred year-old technology. While I think that they will eventually achieve a screw-in replacement that is fairly decent (look at this innovative offering from Phillips as an example), this pursuit is really the wrong approach. If you want to learn more about how LEDs work and how we can create some really special lighting that is hard or impossible to do with yesterday’s technology than read on. The best thing about LEDs is that the technology to solve our lighting problems is not in the future. It is available today. You just need to know … Read the rest

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Lower Your Heating Bills – Comparing the Cost of Heat Sources

Outdoor Furnace

With today’s constantly fluctuating costs for energy, it is more difficult than ever to determine the best way to heat your home or shop. Being able to compare the costs of different sources of heat can be very helpful in lowering the high prices of dispelling the discomfort of a frigid Winter. To that end, this tutorial will help you understand how to evaluate energy sources and convert their prices into a standard unit for comparison.

Understanding Heat Energy

As with most measurements, there are two different units used for quantifying the amount of heat: BTU and kilocalories. I prefer to work in BTUs, so that is the unit I will use for this discussion. The term BTUs stands for British Thermal Units. It is a very handy unit to use for heating calculations. It is defined as the amount of heat needed to raise one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit. To use a very simple example, if you want to boil a gallon of 72 degree tap water, you would need: 8 (pounds) \times (212-72) (^{\circ}F) = 1120 BTUs of heat.

Another useful unit for representing energy (not just heat) is the kilowatt-hour. A watt is a unit of power, and watt-hour is a unit … Read the rest

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Refuelable Battery

flow-cell-MIT

Batteries are the weak link in both off-grid energy applications as well as electric vehicles. Until this obstacle is overcome, these much needed uses will remain niche areas. Since I believe almost all of our problems can be overcome if we set our hearts and minds on solving them, I think effective electric storage technologies will be eventually developed.

There are some new developments hold promise. One of these is a refuelable zinc-air battery. This battery uses zinc pellets in an alkaline electrolyte. It has the advantage that zinc is abundant, cheap and safe. It is also easily recycled. You can read a short PDF file describing the technology – here. The other new development is for what is called a “flow cell” being developed by MIT. This battery uses a liquid lithium-based electrolyte. It also is refuelable.

I remember when I was a boy, carbon-zinc cells were the only batteries around for household use. Alkaline cells were new, exotic and expensive. Now we have cheap rechargeables that dwarf those batteries. What the future holds is anyones guess right now, but it looks bright.… Read the rest

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