Intro to Solar Workshop with Rex Rohrer of Silver Seed Farms, LLC

First solar array for InterCounty Electric Coop, St. James,MO

First solar array for Inter County Electric Coop, St. James, MO

Saturday, September 12, 2015

8 am to 4 pm at Waynesville Senior Center

1401 Ousley Rd, Waynesville, Missouri 65583

Fee: $25.00 ($15.00 for Each Additional Household Member) ~ Lunch included

Pre-registration Required By 9/4/15**
HOSTED BY: Wild Side Farm, LLC & Responsible Growth, US
Grid intertie w/ micro inverters

Grid intertie w/ micro inverters


Are you ready to go solar but don’t know how to get there? Does it seem expensive and a bit daunting? Did you know that you can start with a very small, relatively inexpensive system and work your way up?

Geared to the homeowner, we will start with the basics and go beyond. The information you receive in this class will help you make informed decisions about your solar requirements and will help you ask the right questions of a solar installer and know what to expect from your electric coop. You will be a much more knowledgeable consumer embarking on the path of solar ownership, be it a small or larger system. 


Become comfortable in your understanding of solar energy:

  • Learn the Language of Electricity
  • Receive informative handout and resource list
  • Hands-on access to solar equipment

Learn all about PV solar power systems:

  • How solar power works
  • Solar site evaluation, use of passive solar
  • Each type of system ~ grid intertie, grid-tie with battery backup, off-grid ~ and associated costs
  • How each system type is configured and constructed
  • How these systems can be incorporated into daily use

Be An Energy Guru:

  • Learn about recommended manufacturers and time-tested products
  • Learn about the laws pertaining solar energy, rebates and credits, and how to work with your electric provider.
  • Assess your household’s electrical load using simple mathematical equations.
  • Get rid of phantoms!
  • Develop and implement your own efficiency and conservation plan, cornerstone to efficient use of solar energy.
  • Get started providing your own electricity from the sun.

What to Bring to the Workshop: 

  • one year of month-by-month kwh totals, obtained from your electric provider
  • calculator
  • pen and paper

Registration:

Pre-registration Required By 9/4/15

Call 573-855-0128 or email carrieb806@gmail.com

**Homemade Lunch will be served to those in attendance

** Net proceeds will be used to help establish a community sustainability education foundation for Pulaski County, MO

 

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A Big Winter Hug

Lantern

In Missouri on February 5, 2014, we have a few inches of snow, and the afternoon temperature is 14 degrees with a -18 wind chill factor.  But, inside our straw bale house we have 72 degrees, a toasty fire and a piping hot cup of java heated from our wood stove.

Brrrr…This is the coldest winter we have had in Missouri in a good while!  We feel so thankful to have a cozy, warm home! Ari Warm and Cozy Our Casa’s highly insulated and thick r 30 straw bale walls make us feel like we live in a big hug. Of course, our Casa’s hat (attic) is insulated, and its boots (foundation) has some insulation in it and around it. Wood heat centrally located in the house keeps us very warm, and we use approximately 1 ½ to 2 cords of wood per winter to keep us warm.  This wood stove works double-duty heating our water for the hot water tank, which will be covered in an upcoming article.  

Weatherization is a *hot* topic close to everyone’s heart…well…pocketbook, anyway. If it isn’t, maybe it should be. One look at a Plant Hardiness Zone Map, and you will know exactly where you stand with cold temperatures.  So really, don’t underestimate the importance of insulation here in Missouri!  Concrete, cob, earth, rock, sand, and brick are not insulators, and cold finds its way through these very easily.  

We feel badly for people who are having trouble staying warm, especially if they are paying for the privilege. The quality of the available housing stock is questionable.  Some houses, especially older homes, have minimal insulation.  Leaky doors and windows, recessed ceiling lights, and other unsealed penetrations in the house exchange far too much warm, conditioned air for cold, dry, winter air. It seems that some of the poorest housing stock has been turned into rental property. Renters will move in, unaware of previous utility costs, and find themselves unable to pay the high heating bills, so there is a huge turnover in these rentals.  One great option is to take advantage of the low-income and other weatherization programs where available.

Folks who heat with propane must have been in for quite a shock when the price of propane doubled this last month!  For rentals or older home purchases, propane companies do not have to tell you how much propane that house was using, unlike with electric.  Also, it can be hard to tell exactly when propane was used and how much was left in the tank.  Be sure to check before you purchase!  Having a walk-through and a peek into the attic or crawlspace done by an energy auditor is also advisable before you purchase your new home. At least, you would have a much better idea about what you are getting into!

Many older homes and some newer homes have HVAC duct work with gaps and poor fitting connections in unconditioned spaces, which are areas of the house that are not insulated as part of the thermal envelope, such as crawlspaces under the floor, uninsulated basements or in the attic. This duct work needs to be sealed with mastic (recommended) and then insulated, because much of the heating capacity is being diminished by the unheated space, adding significantly to the cost of heating. Also, hot water pipes should be insulated at any place accessible, along with the first 5 feet of the cold water pipe above the water heater.

Passive Solar should not be overlooked or underestimated.  Passive solar uses sunlight without active mechanical systems, which would include technologies such as heat collection, thermal mass, thermal insulation, proper window glazing, proper window placement and shading.  These same design principles would also apply to reducing your summer cooling requirements.  Active solar includes mechanical systems such solar thermal heating systems. Employing passive solar techniques in your house design can save from 20% to 50% and even more in your day-to-day energy costs!  If you can save annually upwards of 50% using passive solar, then why not?

Building Green really is the smart, fiscally sound option. Let us know if you would like to talk energy conservation in your home!  If you want to build with straw bales, we can help you stay warm and dry.

cup o joe 2Cheers!

Workshops 2013 with Silver Seed Farms

I like to play in the dirt

There is a lot of excitement building for more sustainable housing and living, as we become aware of the hazards of acquiring, manufacturing, and using modern building materials. Also, when we develop an awareness of the beauty of what Eckhart Tolle refers to as “chopping wood, carrying water” – that is, appreciating the beauty of life in the simple things in the moment – we feel closer to life itself, which gives us a feeling of wholeness. We started on our path of sustainability (it really is a path to be enjoyed, not so much just a goal to attain) over 20 years ago, when sustainability was more of a “fringe” idea, left to idealists and survivalists.  Now that many in the mainstream are beginning to see the pitfalls of “The American Dream”, more and more people are moving towards a strong environmental ethic and humanitarian concern – The New American Dream.

With all of this in mind, we are excited to announce our current slate of workshops for the 2013 year!

In addition, if you have a workshop you would like to host and for us to teach, please contact us at silverseedfarms@gmail.com, and we will work with you.

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Belmont oven finished!

Cob (Earthen) Oven Workshop ~ May 3, 4, & 5, 2013 ~ Class will be held at EEC Teaching Center, Bourbon, Missouri.  On-site camping, showers, meals and book included.  

For More Detailed Information

See the Flyer

To Sign Up

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Cob Elements:  Sculpting With Earth ~ June 2013 ~ At Silver Seed Farms, Leasburg, Missouri.

For More Detailed Information

To Sign Up

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natural plasters and finishes

Natural Paints and Finishes ~ July 13 ~ Class will be held at EEC Teaching Center, Bourbon, Missouri.

For More Detailed Information

To Sign Up

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257459-r1-05-9a-2.jpg

Solar Photovoltaic Energy Introduction ~ July 27 ~ Workshop to take place at EEC Teaching Center, Bourbon, Missouri.  This class is prerequisite to the Advanced Solar Installation July 28-31.

For More Detailed Information

To Sign Up

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Charge Controller and Inverter 2 (480x640)

Advanced Solar PV Installation Workshop – July 28, 29, 30, 31 –  Follow along and help install a 3,000 watt grid-intertie, battery back-up system.  Free Photovoltaics book, camping, outdoor showers, all meals included.  Workshop will be held at EEC Teaching Center, Bourbon, Missouri.  Prerequisite: Solar PV Energy Introduction.

To Sign Up

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DSC05133

Straw Bale Building Workshop ~ October 4, 5 & 6 ~ at EEC Teaching Center, Bourbon, Missouri

For More Detailed Information

See the Flyer

To Sign Up

DSC05065

Gravel Bag Foundation Workshop – October 3 – Workshop will be held at EEC Teaching Center, Bourbon, Missouri.  Come learn the skills to get your foundation right!  Free with Straw Bale Building Workshop.

Living Roof Workshop – October 19, 20 ~ Free with Straw Bale Building Workshop.  Workshop held at EEC Teaching Center, Bourbon, Missouri.  

See the Flyer

To Sign Up

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For info on straw bale building or natural building in general, go to our website.   

To see the full natural building offerings (including Building a Cordwood Sauna) at EEC, go to their website at environmentalenergyconsultants.com.

Check out our website, and let us hear from you.

🙂  Happy Adventures into Sustainability!

4 Favorite Easy Tips for Winterizing Your Home (Saving Money and the Planet)

If you are serious about changing your carbon footprint or about saving money, then this article is for you.  Rex and I are big believers in energy audits, because you would be surprised to know how much a “regular” house leaks.  However, I like knowing that there are ways that I can personally accomplish something that will save us money and time and is ultimately good for the planet.  I especially like knowing there are easy ways.  I can imagine that I have options, and they seem attainable.

Within this informational slide show by The Daily Green, there are ways to clean out or tweak your current large, energy-consuming appliances and ways to get the most out of what you already have, and many of them for the DIY’er.  There are many important weatherizing improvements listed, such as caulking, sealing, and insulating around windows, and cleaning out or replacing appliance filters.  You should always determine if your improvements are covered by state or federal rebates, tax deductions, or if you qualify for low-income weatherization programs in your area.  You can Google that for your state.  Here in Missouri, we have several.  So in addition, I have a few favorites on this list of weatherization tips.

Okay, now the fun part.  My favorite Top 4 Weatherization Tips:

images Possibly the first thing we do in the fall in Missouri, is to get out our sweaters and jackets.  We really look forward to the autumn change in weather, in part because it generally follows a pretty hot summer, and also because of the beautiful autumn colors.  However, sweaters are not just for the outdoors; a light-weight sweater-type layer (over a sleeveless shirt or t-shirt) works beautifully inside the house to help maintain a comfortable body temperature without having to pay $ for it daily, as you would by turning UP your thermostat.  And it just feels right, like you could be snuggled up with a kitty in your lap, drinking a piping hot cup of tea.  For you die-hard t-shirts-and-flip-flops-in-winter folks – remember, it’s also better for your health to keep your room temperatures lower, and it’s better for the planet.

Another one of my favorite suggestions for winterizing your home is using an energy monitor.  ted-winterize-lgAbsolutely a favorite!  Especially, if you like to read gauges and thermometers, you will get a thrill from monitoring your energy usage.  We have a voltmeter in the house, which tells us how much solar energy we have stored in the batteries.  Also, our inverter tells us how much AC it is creating, which translates into how many watts we are currently using.  It helps you keep your usage in check.  Our batteries get more of a challenge during winter, so a monitor really helps us stay on top of things and adjust our usage.

**A sidebar: .  AC is Alternating Current, that which is grid electricity and DC is Direct Current, which is produced by solar power.  The inverter allows DC to switch into AC to be used in the house with regular electrical appliances.  We use both AC and DC in our off-grid application.  DC appliances tend to be more expensive and less available, but they are more efficient than AC appliances.  It’s a trade-off.  Our inverter is fairly efficient, inverting 93% of incoming DC current to AC, but inverters are different, some more efficient than others. **

This is a super-cool idea!  Get creative with your refrigeration to save energy and money.

air-fridge-winterize-lg (1)  Take advantage of the cold winter air outside to cool a hand-built insulated cabinet attached to your house, through a door or even through a window (which we used to do!).  This blog article says all you need is some wood, insulation and a couple of computer fans (or socks!).  Get detailed with the super-frig. 

And last but not least – my #1 favorite, because it requires some creativity and sewing on my part.  😉  A Draft Snake ~  You can find many different styles to purchase too.

drafts-winterize-lg

Dodging Drafts:  According to the U. S. Department of Energy, doors and windows can waste 5% to 30% of your energy.  That’s a lot.  As a tribute to what may have started back in the Great Depression, we can see some very artistic modern versions of this tried-and-true method, some with a lot of personality.

colin-draft-snake-lg green-draft-snake-lg

These draft snakes can be as subtle as the fabric they are made with,  such as this beauty on the windowsill, buttons-draft-snake-lg or they can be bright and lovely like this patchwork snake.

bright-draft-snake-lg

It’s especially fun when children can get in on the action, maybe even helping to make one.  Or, you may have to make a special snake just for your little one, since it may be moved all about the house, doing a different job – that of companion snake. 🙂

kid-draft-snake-lg

One blog post states:  “In the fight against cold drafts (not to mention pollution and global warming), draft snakes can be real superheroes.”

spidey-draft-snake-lg

Enjoy your process of weatherizing your home!  By all means, get an energy audit and save yourself some dough; many states offer rebates for weatherization if it involves an energy audit.  Inspire others, and share your photos and ideas here.  I will be sharing photos of my draft snake soon.

Cheers!

Lorian


The Power of Phantoms

This article concerns anyone who is into being more sustainable, solar powered, or just generally more energy efficient…

We remember those awesome appliances that didn’t hide anything.  They did what you expected them to do  Toaster Lady (once you got over the excitement of the fact that they actually *did* those things).  And they didn’t have any “sensing” abilities or black boxes. Ever wonder about those little black boxes that are attached to our power cords and what our appliances are “sensing” about us?

Phantom Dr_CaligariStandby power, also called phantom load, vampire power, vampire draw, or leaking electricity, refers to the electric power consumed by electronic appliances while they are switched off or in a standby mode.  

Any device that includes a remote or a little black transformer box is always on.  Home theater systems and other remote control “sensing” equipment draws on electricity 24 hours/day, 7 days/week.  These sensing devices are always on, watching…waiting…literally searching…for a signal, a sign of life from the couch.  Phantom load, as this is referred to, is approaching 15% of the electrical usage in the U.S.  Imagine all of the fossil fuels needed to run stuff we don’t even think about or know is turned on!  In Missouri, coal supplies most of the energy, then nuclear and hydro.  Many new products have phantom loads, products which may be inventive but are unnecessary, such as light-up picture frames.

The wasted standby power of individual household electronic devices is typically very small, but the sum of all such devices within the household becomes significant. Standby power makes up a portion of homes’ miscellaneous electric load, which also includes small appliances, security systems, and other small power draws.

Fix Those Phantoms!

One way to get around the phantom load issue is to plug equipment into $3 power strips, U.S. power stripand you can turn off the switch for the 2/3 of the day the equipment is not in use.  Also, cell phone chargers, camera chargers – anything with the little black transformer box on it – uses power when left plugged into the outlet.  These chargers also work well on a power strip.  We like to use the kind of strip that has a little red light.  It is much easier to see if it’s been left on.  Another option is to have an electrician wire your miscellaneous electronic devices to wall switches.

A Small Change in Habits…

Standby power can be as high as 10 to 15 watts per device, and occasionally more. A 2005 study estimates the number of standby appliances in the EU at 3.7 billion.  Although the power needed for functions like displays, indicators, and remote control functions is relatively small, the fact that the devices are continuously plugged in, and the number of such devices in the average household means that the energy usage can reach up to 22 percent of all appliance consumption, and around 10 percent of total residential consumption.  It’s up to each of us to make a difference, so turn off those phantoms!

 For something a little more technical…

Research on Phantoms

Alan Meier, a staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) in Berkeley, noted that many household appliances are never fully switched off, but spend most of the time in a standby mode. His 1998 study estimated that standby power consumption accounted for approximately 5% of total residential electricity consumption in America, “adding up to more than $3 billion in annual energy costs” (this is calculated at current 2010 cheap electricity rate per kW/hr).  According to America’s Department of Energy, national residential electricity consumption in 2004 was 1.29 billion megawatt hours (MWh)—5% of which is 64 million MWh. The wasted energy, in other words, is equivalent to the output of 18 typical power stations!  Meier’s 2000 study (2 years later) showed that standby power accounted for around 10% of household power-consumption, twice as much as he estimated 2 years prior.

On a personal note, we are fairly frugal with our energy usage and have absolutely no phantom load, except for the occasional “I forgot to turn off the power strip last night!”.  Being aware of what appliances are running or being used and when really gets you involved with your energy usage.  It’s a good feeling, this Awareness.  🙂