Learning to Live a Self-Sufficient Life

The young, self-reliant Schulz family built their own straw/clay home and got off the grid in southwest Wisconsin. Now they’re growing their own food and living their dream of homesteading and self-sufficiency. Read the firsthand account of how they learned homesteading skills, got started and are now thriving on a beautiful homestead of their own.

Mother Earth News Latest 10 Articles

Every Gallon Counts: Save Gas With Hypermiling

Did you know that you can get better gas mileage, simply by learning how to “hypermile”? With a little practice, hypermilers can increase the number of miles their car will travel on a tank of gas (up to 40 percent more), and save money! Check out these smart tips for saving gas.

Mother Earth News Latest 10 Articles

Alternatives to Battery Storage

One of the most costly aspects of a renewable energy system is the method of storing excess energy for use at a later time. One option is to take the excess and dump it directly into the grid and hopefully be in a location that buys back that energy. That is an excellent option if you have a good buy back rate and the means to tie into the grid. The other current option is battery storage.

Batteries are great but have to be maintained in a somewhat controlled environment and will have to be replaced at the end of their life cycle. Not to mention the hazardous materials that go into batteries and the disposal problems associated with those materials. And everyone seems to be aware of their price.

Storing compressed air for energy production.

What if you could store that energy in a form that would require very little to no maintenance, store indefinitely and have very little to any environmental impact. And possibly have a positive environmental impact.

How could we take any excess energy we produce and store it for later use in a cheaper and more environmentally friendly way. Store it as potential kinetic energy. Store it as water in a reservoir on a hill top or as compressed air. Some have suggested taking the excess energy produce and using it to produce Hydrogen. There would appear to be many options for long term storage with a minimal environmental impact at an equivalent price compared battery storage prices. Maybe even free or at least cheep.

Here are two potential methods for using air or water as a battery.

Water as a battery method

First the basic idea. Use an old fashion windmill to pump water up to an elevated storage tank or reservoir on a hill. When the energy demand is high allow the water to flow down through a water turbine to produce energy on demand. The water that exits the turbine can then be pumped back up to the reservoir or storage tank. Also A rain water collection system could augment the collection of water on the high side not to mention its free water falling from the sky. The old style water pumping windmill can be used or the excess electricity from a wind turbine or a solar array can power an electric pump to transfer the water from the low side to the high side.

Air as a battery method

Essentially the same technique used above but instead of pumping water it is compressing air into storage tanks. Then releasing the air through an air turbine to produce energy when needed.


Another method is referred to as wind storage.


I think these industrial scale methods could be done on a smaller scale as well. Compressed air could be stored in propane gas tanks. A good reuse of propane tanks that are just sitting around.  As for the water, of course having access to a flowing body of water would be the best but not everyone has access or the rights to that option. Neither of these methods are ideal for continuous energy production but could be good for peak consumption times or long term back power.

Solar oven design video

Solar oven design.

You can really cook with a solar oven and they can be made from scrap material for free!

Solar ovens can be used for many other things besides baking food. One possible use I’ve been thinking of lately is hot water heating. Circulate water through the oven and then into an insulated storage tank or cistern. The stored heated water can then be tapped into to supplement your hot water heater. It could also be circulated through a radiant heating system for heating the home.

This stored excess heat could also be used for cooling a home during the warmer months. A space could be made that would build up a pocket of warm air.  Warm air rises, so allow it to exhaust to the outside. A one way vent built into the heated space will cause a draft pulling cooler air on the shaded side of the house through the living space.


Services Help Drivers Find Cheapest Gas

by Ana Campoy
Thursday, May 1, 2008
provided by

Before Akshay Dodeja stopped to fill up the gas tank of his Acura Integra, the 22-year-old Portland, Ore., computer-engineering student checked his cellphone. There, he found the cheapest gas from a list of 10 stations in the area. So in the end, he paid $3.63 a gallon—compared with the $3.80 that the most expensive station was charging.

Getting the best deal on gasoline used to be a matter of comparing prices posted at stations on opposite street corners. But with fuel taking a bigger bite out of budgets, some drivers are obsessed with finding the best possible price in a wider geographic area. And fueling that obsession is technology.

More from WSJ.com:

The Car of the Future Today

Start-Ups Race to Produce ‘Green’ Cars

Car Cast: What Will We Drive Future and Slumping Used-Car Prices

Web sites that compare gas prices at different stations have been around for years, but the offerings are becoming more sophisticated. In addition to gas prices delivered to cellphones, some Web sites now offer fuel consumption calculators, scout out sources of alternative fuels and even explore mass-transit options.

For some, technology helps them get more mileage out of their money. Gasoline prices are up 16% so far this year, to $3.61 last week, or about 18% higher than this time last year. Analysts are suggesting the price could hit $4 before the summer driving season is over.

It was in a Facebook discussion group that Mr. Dodeja first learned about a free gas-price search program made by Mobio Networks Inc., a Cupertino, Calif., company that creates mobile-phone applications. He downloaded the application onto his phone, punched in his postal code and got prices at nearby gas stations compiled by GasPriceWatch.com. It even provides a map to make finding the station easier.

Mr. Dodeja says he likes to know prices at five to 10 stations before he fills up. He says the current level of gas prices is “definitely not great for the economy and for consumers, and it seems like it keeps going higher and higher.”

Other applications are called widgets—a continually updated tool on a user’s computer that monitors local gas prices without requiring a visit to a separate Web page. One such widget, available free from Automotive.com, a Web site operated by Source Interlink Media Automotive Digital, has been downloaded thousands of times in the past year, says the company’s chief executive, Josh Speyer.

Independent designers Jason Barry and Eben Eliason created a free gas price widget exclusively for Apple Inc. computers. Available at interdimensionmedia.com, the application allows users to plug in their car mileage, gas-tank size and current fuel level information. The widget then analyzes how much farther a driver can travel on the remaining fuel and how much it will cost to fill up. It also compares the price at a particular gas station with the average price in the area, to help drivers decide whether it’s worth driving a few extra miles for the savings.

On the Web, fuel calculators are available for both Mac and PC users—one of them through MapQuest‘s gas-price site at gasprices.mapquest.com. Christian Dwyer, MapQuest Inc. senior vice president and general manager, said he recently used it to figure out that at about $600, he’d rather fly his family to San Diego from Denver this summer than pay $400 to drive there in his Honda Pilot.

Mr. Dwyer is thinking of adding an online tool that will help travelers build a gasoline-station itinerary for their road trips based on price levels.

Tank TacticsSome technology that help drivers save on fuel costs:

• Web sites, cellphone programs and other applications that list gas prices at area stations

• Calculators to determine overall consumption costs

• Web sites that let users compare the fuel economy of various models of cars

• A Web site that gives mass-transit options

Other new online tools make it easier for consumers to dump their gas guzzlers. For people who are in the market for a more fuel-efficient car, Fueleconomy.gov, a Web site run by the government, allows users to compare fuel efficiencies of different cars.

Gas price Web sites also are beginning to offer information for those looking for stations to fill up their car with alternative fuels, such as E85, a fuel that contains 85% ethanol, or compressed natural gas.

When he bought his Honda Civic GX, which runs on compressed natural gas, Todd Clements of Orange County, Calif., had trouble finding out where to fuel up, so he decided to create a Web site himself: AltFuelPrices.com. Like many of the gas-price Web sites, his relies on volunteers to update the prices. A quick search on the site reveals that compressed natural gas sells for less than $3 a gasoline-equivalent gallon in most of California, where he lives. Now, says Mr. Clements, “every time I fill up, I actually smile.

Will Carpenter is using the Web to cut out fuel consumption altogether. Google has teamed up with public transit authorities all over the country to provide directions for using public transit to get from point A to point B. Mr. Carpenter has been using the bus to get around on weekends since he discovered Google Transit was available for Milwaukee, his hometown. “Prior to that, I’d never used the bus. I didn’t want to take the time to figure it out,” he says.

He calculates he saves around $15 every weekend by taking the bus instead of driving or taking a cab.

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