Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Energy Conservation and Tiny Homes

Funds are tight around our house right now. Tighter than usual because not only did Carlie's hours recently get cut, but most of our normal funds were spent on Pixie, our sick dog, who almost died of toxicity from dark chocolate when someone who shall remain nameless left the cupboard open. We put a safety hinge on that pantry now so no one can leave it open by accident, and I moved our dark chocolate to an air tight container in a cupboard the pets can't reach.

Last night Carlie was driving me home from a meeting, and she brought up tiny home living and power conservation. This is something we have been thinking about a lot since this month's electric bill hit us in the gut. She had a great idea for how to charge batteries other than solar or wind if you have a tiny home on wheels and drive it from place to place. She said, "When you're driving your tiny home why not charge the batteries from the wheels like our prius does?" Now granted, this would only work if and when you're driving it around, and it couldn't be exactly like a hybrid car which uses the brakes to charge the batteries. But still, it sounded like genius to me.

 Of course I ran with the idea. The batteries could be stored under the floor of the house in the space between the wheels and above the ground, right? Why not put an alternator on one of the wheels, so that as the wheels turn, they charge the battery bank? That way, when you arrive at your destination and park, your house is ready to go. No plug in required, giving you time to set up your solar bank and/or windmill if allowed wherever you are. I wonder if anyone else has done this yet and if not why not? I'm sure there is something we're missing. My uncle says battery placement would be important for safety reasons.

Tiny homes on wheels + alternator = battery charger? Maybe watching planet green pays off huh? Anyone do this? What are your thoughts on our idea? Here's an instructables.com workshop on alternators: http://www.instructables.com/answers/How-can-I-wire-an-alternator-to-a-battery/

Here are some helpful links about the use of alternators to charge batteries:
How it works in a car: http://www.bcae1.com/charging.htm
This discussion about a similar idea does lead me to think this set up could require more gas to run the vehicle towing the tiny home on wheels: http://www.instructables.com/answers/Can-you-use-an-alternator-on-an-axle-to-recharge-b/ but since we haven't run a test, I do not know.

Another thought to reducing costs which would be great for tiny home living is of course to plan your tiny home to reflect heat, keep heat out, etc. I warn you now, there are quite a few links to come. A great discussion on building green houses that really are sustainable in hot climates can be found here: http://www.off-grid.net/forum/topic.php?id=2461#post-5948 and a nice article is found here: http://www.off-grid.net/2012/02/20/houses-that-put-money-in-your-pocket/ If you are new to considering energy conservation, this article may be a good place to start: http://www.off-grid.net/2012/02/21/a-beginner%E2%80%99s-guide-to-the-big-three-waste-water-and-electricity/ or check this one out: http://www.solarwindworks.com/pdf/RemotePowerIntro.pdf

Random note: although it would certainly not save any electricity it would put less carbon in the air, a fun instructable for when you have time on your hands....build your own electric car: http://www.instructables.com/id/Build-your-own-Electric-Car/

Obviously if you find a permanent location for your tiny home on wheels you'd want solar and wind and if you have access, water power. A combination of power sources is useful when trying to stay off grid. As this article discusses: http://www.small-cabin.com/small-cabin-off-grid-power-source.html So here are some links about each of those:

DIY Solar Panels: http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Your-Own-Electricity
DIY Solar System: http://www.instructables.com/id/Home-built-solar-power-system/
National Geographic on Solar Power: http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/solar-power-profile/
Off Grid Package: http://www.affordable-solar.com/store/solar-off-grid-remote
Off Grid Load Estimator: http://www.affordable-solar.com/residential-solar-home/Off-Grid-Load-Estimator
Sun Map: http://www.affordable-solar.com/store/solar-off-grid-remote

DIY Wind Power: http://www.treehugger.com/renewable-energy/diy-wind-power.html
H.S. DIY Wind Power Project with good links: http://greenterrafirma.com/DIY_Wind_Turbine.html
Comparisons of wind power generators: http://www.wholesalesolar.com/wind.html
DIY: http://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-1000-watt-wind-turbine/
National Geographic on Wind Power: http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/wind-power-profile/
How Stuff Works on Wind Power: http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/10-wind-power-facts.htm

Small scale hydro: http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/Hydro/hydro.htm
Instructable on hydro power: http://www.instructables.com/id/Home-made-Hydro-Power-System/

And the list goes on. But I know that was a day of reading for me, so I should probably end it here. I look forward to hearing how other people are reducing their energy bill, using less electricity, or powering their tiny homes.

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