Peter VanDerWal

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since May 28, 2017
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bee bike fish greening the desert solar woodworking
Working on setting up a sustainable household. Currently have a solar array that produces more than we use, an expanding garden, small (3000 gallon) rainwater collection system, L2L system, kitchen rinse sink grey water system. working on shower grey water, expanding rainwater collection and building an aquaponics greenhouse.
Southern Arizona. Zone 8b
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Recent posts by Peter VanDerWal

While WordPress (as well as the other CMS) is commonly used for blogging, it can do MUCH more, it can be setup as a mailing list, online discussion forums, media gallery, online store, or a news site with articles pulled in from other sources, or local content.  Or you can set it up to be a combination of the above.

You can set it up so that other people have rights to publish articles, or can upload them for your editing/approval, etc.
2 days ago
In the online world, what you are describing is typically called a "Content Management System (CMS)"  Many of the larger sites run a CMS called "Drupal", however Drupal is very complicated and has a steep learning curve.

Among the smaller, simpler, CMS systems, "Wordpress" is very popular.  I think one of the reasons it's so popular is because you can host it on their site (, which means you don't need your own server.

If you want to host your own system here is a list of some of the better, simple, CMS systems:
Top 5 Content Management Systems for the Complete Beginner

Note: Wordpress can also be run on your own server.
3 days ago

Steve Smyth wrote:Thanks Peter.

I am looking for something in the 32"-40" range and hope to find something with power consumption between 50-70 watts.

I have been binge reading reviews looking for a match.

As I browse the reviews, I am shocked at the number of $5k-$10k TV's. I guess I am not a big enough fan of watching TV to understand someone spending that kind of $....

I thought I'd add some more info if anyone is still looking.

We recently purchased a 55" TCL series 6  ("Roku") TV because pretty much all of the websites that compared TVs listed it as having the "Best" picture of any of the TVs that cost less than $1,000.  However, one of the websites called it an "Energy Hog", I suspect they were comparing power consumption at the default settings.   With LED TVs the setting on how bright the backlight is can have a significant effect on energy consumption.  The default setting on the Roku TV was maximum brightness and at that setting it draws about 130 watts (varies depending on the image being displayed)
I went through and adjusted the settings to what one of the websites recommended for getting the best picture (most accurate colors, etc.) and a couple of their recommended settings were to set it for "Movie" mode and set backlight to the "Darkest" setting.  With those two changes the energy consumption dropped to ~50 watts when watching movies.

Point is, whichever TV you choose, set the backlight to the lowest setting that produces an acceptable display.

Also, if you haven't selected a TV yet, you might want to look into the 43" TCL series 5 (model 43S517 ).   The 5 Series doesn't offer quite as good a display as the 6 series (smallest series 6 is 55"), but it is still a very good display and you should be able to get the power consumption down to around 40 watts or perhaps a bit less.  The 43S517 sells for about $350 on Amazon.

Note: the 43S517 is sometimes listed as a 43S515.  Different remotes, same display.  The 515 comes with an IR line-of-site remote, the 517 uses an RF remote that includes voice control.
3 days ago
If anyone is still interested, the main part of one of these is up on ebay currently going for $50:
Beam Boring crank drive

It's missing the frame and rack, but those should be fairly easy to build and all of the ones on ebay that include the frame are currently going for $250 and up.

The auction ends this evening.
4 days ago
I have moved my priority loads over onto a new breaker panel in the garage.  That panel has a manual transfer switch, so I can switch it over to a generator or inverter running off the Chevy Volt, etc.
This is from the power monitoring system on the garage panel:

The mini-split heat-pump has a Wifi interface for controlling it,the Evap Cooler and Solar heater are controlled by an Arduino, the heat-pump water heater is also controlled by an Arduino.  Eventually I'll have individual Arduino's controlling each of the ceiling-fans/lights. I'm also building an EVSE for charging the EVs that can tell them to only use as much current as we can spare at the time

The dryer and oven will be manually controlled, i.e. don't use them when the battery bank is low.

I'm also modifying the dryer to pull air from the attic(above the insulation).  During the daytime that air is almost always hotter than the air in the house and during spring-fall it's often over 120F with very low humidity.  This should reduce the energy consumption on the dryer, I expect that for 3-4 months a year it won't even need to use the heating coils.
6 days ago

John C Daley wrote:
For me lights and water pump are critical.

I dont use a fridge in winter, in summer its never an issue
Solar electric Hot water ?? in winter

Lights are nice, but not essential.  We have battery powered lights for worse case situations.

We have a heat pump water heater, it only uses about 1kwh a day, give or take, and spits out cold air which can be useful during the summer, during the winter I duct the cold air outside and draw in replacement air from the attic(which can reach 90F during the winter).
I have a few friends with solar water heaters.  There are usually a couple weeks during the winter when they don't work at all, and even when they do work, they use 500-700 watts a day running the pumps, etc.  That's not that much less than my heat-pump water heater and mine works year-round.

Winter of course is the worst time in some climates for solar power, but using solar power to heat anything, in Australia, is considered madness, unless its over flow power from
collectors on Grid connected systems with low payback from the utilities supplier.

Propane costs money, sunshine is free.  Solar panels are dirt cheap right now.
Where I live we get as much energy from my solar array in February as we do in July,

As I said, the big loads (dryer/oven/Charging EVs) we can wait until the batteries are nearly full.  Since I've been monitoring energy flow, we've only had one occasion where we would have to wait more than 3-4 days...assuming a 30kwh pack and a 4.8kwh array.
1 week ago

Kyle Neath wrote:I'm hoping myself to do all kinds of clever stuff with rpi's once I get my setup solid. But I also know I have a tendency to dream a more time-filled life than I live..

I'm building a system like that.  But with only one Pi, the master controller.  Individual loads are controlled by Arduino's.  You can run several dozen Arduino's on less power than 1 Raspberry Pi.
The system I'm working on uses Cat-5 cable to distribute power to the Arduino's and provide a 'network' using the built in Uarts on the Arduno's.

FWIW  a raspberry Pi 3 draws between 1.5 and 5 watts.  That can add up to 100 watt hours per day, per Pi.  If you used 10, that could be a killawatt hour per day just to power the Pi's. 
Depending on which Arduino you select, the stock models can use as little as 0.015 watts.  With some hardware mods and the proper code, you can run an Arduino off a coin cell battery for a year.

I currently have one Arduino that is measuring my household water consumption, inside temperature and humidity, attic temperature and humidity, the temp and humidity in in the server room, and it controls my evapaorative cooler based on calculations it runs on inside temp and humidity vs outside temp and humidity, and I'm only using about 1/4 of the available memory.  Some people even run webservers on them.
1 week ago
I think it's better to prioritize loads rather than having multiple systems.  One battery bank works better than splitting it into two banks.

It's better to allow certain loads to run when the battery is charged above a given level.  Possibly add some predictive capabilities to estimate solar input based on weather predictions, etc.

I've been running a data collection system that measures energy use and solar production.  I have different loads classified as essential, useful, desired, and optional.  Essential loads are fridge, freezer, HVAC, home control servers, etc.  Useful loads, water heater, coffee maker, small kitchen appliances,  lights, etc. Desired: entertainment systems, laptops, etc.  Optional loads can be time shifted to when the battery bank is full but solar power is available: charging my EVs, running the dryer, etc.  I already control the water heater  so that it runs during the day and not at night.  Some of my loads are already controlled by the home control system; for example the water heater & climate control; eventually all of the optional and 'desired' loads will be controlled.
This all goes into a calculation that is estimating what size battery bank I'll need to provide essential and useful loads >99% of the time.   I've been running the calculations for a little over a year now, so far it looks like a 30kwh bank is the smallest I can get away with
For those rare occasions when the house battery ends up depleted, I could use the EV's batteries to run essential loads

I'm guessing that a lot of people that run off-gid systems do all of the above manually.
1 week ago
Wind surfing/ sail board

The round bit is the joint where the sail attaches to the board.  The other part is to hook your harness to the sail (when going straight) so you don't wear out your arms.

1 week ago
If you are planning to eventually build a shed/workshop/barn, then I agree with the others that might be a viable option for short term living.  You can build a water proof 10x12 shed in a weekend for not much money, two days is how long it took me to build my first shed. 

Without insulation it won't be warm in the winter, but a 4 season sleeping bag can solve that, or even a pile of blankets.  Add a bucket type composting toilet for extra convenience.
As a bonus, living in a shed will be a lot like living in a tiny home (without insulation) so you can get an idea of what you really want, maybe even change your home design a bit before starting your build.

Don't try to heat an uninsulated shed.  Waste of energy and potentially deadly if you are using a propane heater, etc.

If it get's unbearably cold, well you can always head into town and stay at a longterm hotel for a month or so until it warms up again.

FWIW it's doubtful that any cheap RV will be suitable for cold winters.  The majority of RVs aren't intended for winter use, and four season RVs tend to be expensive, even used.

Hmm, it just occurred to me, depending on what type of insulation you plan on using in the Tiny home, you might be able to use it temporarily in the shed.  For example, fiberglass batts or foam board could be used temporarily in the shed and then later moved to the Tiny home.

Third possibility, probably the best option.  You don't actually have to FINISH the tiny home before you move in.  As long as the outside walls and roof are done, it will work as well as a shed.  You can finish the inside (walls, plumbing, electrical, counters/cabinets etc.) while you're living in it.   I would think that even if you only work on it on the weekends,  you could get a tiny home to a weather tight stage in one or two months.  Probably a week or two if you're not doing anything else.
1 week ago