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GOING SOLAR:
An Introduction

We are beginners, learning daily about how to give up the gas, & get off the grid

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Greetings! We're just getting into solar projects, but already our gas bill has been cut in half, after just two months of rudimentary solar-powered changes.

As we explore and find solutions, we want to put them up online, as a way to organize the knowledge and make it available to everyone who's as excited about this as we are.

Our goals are to use the plentiful sunlight to good advantage. We have always intended to do this, but until the recent movie on the subject of global warming, The Great Warming, we didn't fully realize that it is crucial to begin plugging up our polluting activities immediately.

Carbon dioxide is building up in the atmosphere, due to what we humans put out, among other reasons. My husband and I took one of those online CO2-emissions surveys, where you fill in your car miles driven per year, the gasoline consumption of your car, and several home energy uses.

We thought we were already pretty conservation-oriented, but it turns out the two of us together have been putting out a total of 18,000 pounds (six tons) of CO2 per year !!!

By contrast, the urban family of four at Path to Freedom put out a total of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per year. Following our heroes, we determined to do better.

Our preliminary efforts include the following:

Turning off the pilot lights on our stove; replacing standard lightbulbs with EnergySTAR 15-watt bulbs; eliminating as many nightlights and constantly-running electrical devices as feasibly possible (including switching off the power strip to the computer and its friends); using a big fan instead of the air conditioner; and putting up a clothesline around our patio (instantly removable).

The most enjoyable change so far was converting an old, ball-shaped Weber barbecue into a solar oven using just aluminum foil and a sheet of clear plastic. It got 160 degrees F. constant temperature, enough to cook meats (milk is pasteurized at 160 degrees F). It made chicken (well-browned), corn on the cob (yuMMM), and several other dishes. But, we feared the plastic.

Since then, we've had a circle of tempered glass made to use for the SolarQ's lid, made an insulating sack to fit around the outside of the BBQ, and best of all, discovered that a standard automobile windshield sun-blocker, the accordion kind that sell for $10, fits neatly around the BBQ, serving as an omnidirectional solar reflector. It now gets a constant 225 degrees F, often higher, hot enough to cook everything except French fries.

We're getting lots of good help from people in solar cooking groups online, especially the Solar Cooking group at YahooGroups. We're reading, shopping and talking with people about solar electric panels for storing some of the free sun power, for using now, and knowing it will be there in emergencies.

Other ideas we are interested to build and implement:
  • Solar-heated shower
  • Solar-heated sauna
  • Solar-heated outdoor tub
  • Glassed-in (removable) porch for winter heating of house
  • Green house (how novel! Should've done it years ago)
  • Solar water heater
  • Locate energy-efficient light fixtures to replace our flourescent tubes
  • Replace the rest of the regular bulbs in our house with EnergyStar bulbs
  • Locate energy-efficient night-lights
  • Locate solar charger for small batteries (AA, etc.)


~~~ Kim Salisbury, La Mirada, California, USA




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News
Experience The Great Warming. Exclusive engagements in several US cities, opening Nov. 3, 2006.




Definitions

SO: Solar Oven, a contraption that, darn it!, cooks using only sunlight
SQ: Solar Barbecue, a solar oven made by converting a standard barbecue