Archive for August, 2008

Recycle List For My Solar Shower

The reason I was able to build my solar shower for under $25 is that I used a lot of recycled materials from around the house. I used old boards that I salvaged off an old deck that needed replacing, boards from previous projects, a discarded handle from a trouble light for a towel rack. I even used part of an old tackle box as a plastic soap and shampoo rack. Watch the video below to see all the places where I used recycled materials.

GM Adds 6 or 7 Miles To Range Of GM Volt Electric Car

According to autonews.com , GM has made some changes to the GM Volt electric car to reduce air drag. One change consisted of rounding the front end and another consisted of sealing up the grill area sending air down the sides.

The goal of GM is that the Volt be able to drive 40 miles before needing a recharge and expected costs at about 10 cents per KWhr are projected t be only about 80 cents for a full charge! The Volt, scheduled to be released to the public in 2010, can be recharged via an ordinary household outlet, making recharging even possible at places of employment where outlets are available in parking areas.

The Volt also has a gas backup engine in case your battery runs out. The Volt gets around 50 MPG on this engine. More information on the GM Volt is found at this GM Volt FAQs Page .

Garden Hose Solar Shower

Shower Head Garden Hose Shower Frame Garden Shower Full ViewIf you have hundreds of feet of garden hose like we do, you know that the water gets very warm in the hose, and can run warm or even hot for 5-10 minutes. So why not take advantage of this free hot water?

I did just that by constructing a frame from four 34" scrap 2×2′s, screwed together at the corners. Then, I drilled 3/8" vertical holes in each corner and run cord or clothes line through, tying at the top and knotting at the bottom to the correct lengths. The cord is then attached at the top to a hose clamp secured on a hose. The hose is then connected to valve and then a shower head I picked up for about $2. You then drape the hose over a tree branch. For privacy you can attach a tarp on the inside of the shower as shown.

For a more functional DIY solar shower that I built for about $25, check out my 20 Gallon Solar Shower Plans for a shower that works even in cooler (sunny) weather and retains its heat after the sun goes down.

Converting 4″ Walls to 6″ Walls and Adding Insulation

In the summers of 2005 and 2006, we converted our exterior bedroom walls from 4" (3.5" actual thickness) into 6" (5.5" actual thickness). This is a 57% increase in thickness, but since we also replaced some old compressed rock-wool insulation and added a vapor barrier, the R-value was perhaps doubled. And boy, do we feel a difference when the temps dip below zero! But, we still had our living room, kitchen, and bathroom remaining with 4" walls. So, with the high price of heating oil, I decided to tackle the South wall of our living room. To see a nice overview of the steps involved, go to This Article At NaturalHandyman that I wrote for them. Within the article are details of the projects and step-by-step photos. To see a video overview of this latest project, go to South Wall Insulation Project Video or play the video embedded below.

This is a messy project, but if you clean as you go, it is not bad. Once the painting is done, you are left with the "finishing touches" which consist of shortening trim and replacing other trim and extending window and door frames. This can drag on a bit since it is slow work, but at least it is not messy. I am still plugging away at my trim from our South wall project of late July. But it will get done. Still, this project is well worth the time if you live in a northern climate and you will appreciate the comfort of a well insulated house.

The cost of this South Wall Project was about $200. About $35 in new insulation, $40 in drywall, $80 in 2×4′s, and some more for window and door extenders, Great Stuff insulating foam, plastic, and other odds and ends. Not a lot to pay in my opinion, and money recovered in a few winters.