# Self- Sustainability

Discussion in 'Earth Science' started by quinnsong, Feb 21, 2014.

1. ### quinnsongValued Senior Member

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My fellow sciforum members I am looking for ideas, good books or magazines, new inventions on how to live as self sufficiently as I can once my husband and I retire. He is always brainstorming as well as drawing some of his own ideas and has asked me to do some research for him while he is deployed, so here I am doing just that.

Looking forward to your ideas and suggestions!

3. ### Aqueous Idflat Earth skepticValued Senior Member

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It's a very good question. I think the specifics depend a lot on environmental conditions and how much a person is willing to give up in terms of creature comforts.

5. ### quinnsongValued Senior Member

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Ahh specifics would help, huh. We are looking to retire near Asheville N.C. hopefully, so there will be four seasons. I have begged my husband to get his arse on here along with his drawings in the past but as he writes for a living it is the last thing he wants to do when he gets home. Although, he seems to find time for the airplane and rocket websites because he builds them in his spare time as a hobby. He wants to be able to garden indoors as well as out and that part is easy enough but what he has been trying to flesh out is some kind of Victor Espinosa idea. heh heh I wish I could find the damn drawing, but I will try to explain. Hell it looks like some kind of funky generator best I can recall, but here is the kicker he has all these neat ideas but his math skills leave a lot to be desired so I nor he knows how doable any of his ideas are. The main goal is energy self sufficiency without too much out of pocket cost. Does this help?

7. ### billvonValued Senior Member

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Ahh, that's much easier than total self sufficiency!

If there is running water on your property then microhydro will almost always be your best choice. It gives you year round power, day or night, with minimal maintenance (mainly keeping the penstock clear.) A small stream with a lot of vertical drop is ideal. A larger stream with less drop requires much heavier/larger/expensive equipment but is doable.

If not, solar is not too bad an option near North Carolina but it is more costly - and to be completely self sufficient you'll need battery and generators, both with the associated maintenance. Unfortunately wind is not much of an option where you are. Good news is you can order solar almost off the shelf and have the system installed - bad news is that it will cost you about $6 a watt all told. 8. ### leopoldValued Senior Member Messages: 17,455 my opinion about energy self sufficiency would be to make your own alcohol and use it to power a generator. wind energy will work but it requires a relatively large investment. 9. ### wellwisherBannedBanned Messages: 5,160 One way to do this, is to minimize electricity use by using lower energy appliances and substituting other forms of energy for electricity. In North Carolina, I would guess you have a heat pump that cools in the hot summer and heats in the winter. This is energy efficient, but will run on electricity and will have a supplemental electric resistance heater when temperature falls below 30 F. Other electric energy hogs are the clothes dryer and hot water heater which are more than likely electric. I would keep the heat pump, which is very efficient, but supplement winter heat with a wood or pellet stove. I would also use a fan in the summer that can pull air through the house and out the roof. If you live near the woods, wood is often free. Hang your clothes outside/inside to lower dryer costs. One can also use passive solar heating for hot water for at least part of the year. One could add some solar lights near windows to supplement internal night lighting. These are cheap. Invest in new light bulbs such as LED, since these last for years and take very little power. The new TV's are very energy efficient. Use induction and microwave cooking. One source of free energy, which was developed decades ago, was inertial or flywheel energy. All this technology was, was a large rotating mass that weighed several tons. This runs off electricity, which drives gears, that make the mass rotate at moderate speeds. One trick is you buy electricity at night, when it is cheaper to rotate the mass. You then use the inertial mass to generate electricity during the day, cutting your costs. Or one can use a solar panel and store its energy within the flywheel mass. It is very flexible. With proper gearing even a small solar collector can drive it, with night electricity used to top it off. 10. ### leopoldValued Senior Member Messages: 17,455 11. ### Aqueous Idflat Earth skepticValued Senior Member Messages: 6,152 Sounds like you guys would like to generate electricity from solar and wind energy. Also I liked billvon's idea, in case you happen to have a stream passing though your property. I'd suggest Mother Earth News as resource. I stopped following them a long time ago . . . and just now it looks like their site is down ... hopefully that's not a bum steer. Some food for thought: the maximum available solar power when the sun is directly overhead is around 1 kilowatt per square meter. That is, if you capture all of that light and convert it into electricity, you get about 1 kW of electric power. However actual solar cells are about 10%-25% efficient. That means you can collect about 100W-250W per sq meter of cells. That's peak power, not average. You would need to divide that in half (50W-125W) to account for nightfall. From there you would need to reduce the amount further to account for clouds, storms and shallow angles of the Sun. You might decide that 75% of the time Asheville has strong daylight, and that brings the available power down to an average amount of about 38W-88W per cubic meter. Once you choose the type of solar cell you prefer you can covert this into$/kW as far as your outlay for the collector. From there you'd want to select batteries/inverter and the related stuff (breaker panels, disconnects, cabling, conduit) needed to tie the system together.

In the case of windmills, start with the average annual wind velocity. In Asheville let's say it's 7.3 mph(3.3 m/s). The wind power crossing a diameter of 1 meter is about ½v[sup]3[/sup] where v is wind velocity in m/s. ½(3.3)[sup]3[/sup] is about 18W. That's how much power is in the wind. Once you select a windmill, find out its efficiency, and multiply. For an efficiency of 33%, you can expect, on average, 6W of electric power for each 1 meter swept by the blades.

12. ### cosmictravelerBe kind to yourself always.Valued Senior Member

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Buy land by a well moving river or stream to make a hydro electric generator from that resource.

Try to buy towards the top of a mountain.

Use wood that you cut from trees there.

Can and jar stuff for the winter which gets pretty cold there and snows.

You could build a greenhouse to put your garden in. Just attach it to your home with a pass way to it.

13. ### quinnsongValued Senior Member

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Thanks everyone for your input, this is a great start! The microhydro idea is what I believe my husband is after if I recall correctly and will get more specifics from him next time we skype. Regarding the canning I just bought the equipment last month and made some jalapeno jelly which turned out great. The jelly is really good on ritz crackers with cream cheese and kiwis. Yum!

14. ### milkweedValued Senior Member

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1,654
Sorry to be a downer but some things to consider...

My father-in-law kept his private well when the city put in water. His well was out of the right of way and while they insisted he have a hook up, iirc, only his kitchen sink was watered via the city. I am positive his washer and outside facets were off his well because when the water restrictions of '88 came along people were turning him in for watering his lawn/garden and he would show them the private well. In response the city ordinance was changed and private wells are not allowed where city water reaches for new homes. They did not force him to abandon his well but now who knows what they would do.

Hydro power gets tricky. A quick check on NC looks like they are more lenient than my state regarding such measures, but you will have to check into whether or not there are laws (and its very possible) regarding such activities. Any time (in this state) where you alter the flow of water, you have to get a bunch of permits and enviro impact studies. However, it is more lenient if you are agriculture. Much leeway is given to farmers so if you can afford enough land to qualify as a farm you may be able to slide past some of the regs.

There is also the ACoE which holds federal dominion over navigable waters in the USA. A couple of years back they re-defined this definition and I remember some outrage in Neb or Dakotas with some farmers suddenly having their small creeks fall under the jurisdiction and Corps trying to get earthen dams taken down (watering holes for livestock). Could be every damn trickle of water in NC falls under Corps jurisdiction.

More issues are arising regarding solar with power companies trying to establish monthly fees for solar people. Arizona utilities asked for $50 per month (but only got$5 so far). MN has changed its net metering from 40KW to 1000KW (monthly) before a solar producer gets bill credit:

"The battles are heating up in sun-soaked states like California, Arizona and Hawaii where solar projects are surging, but also in less expected places, such as Kansas and North Carolina."

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/02/19/stateline-utilities-solar-power-fight/5608689/

And Finally - Woman evicted for living off the grid:

And so it goes...

15. ### KitemanSARegistered Senior Member

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Learn how to knapp flint and butcher animals with a flint knife and rummage the land for food. Learn to live in caves and below fallen trees. Learn to make a fire with sticks and leather. Anything much beyond that and you won't be self sufficient. Being "self sufficient" with anything electric or metal is basically a fantasy.

16. ### quinnsongValued Senior Member

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The only thing I am going to kill and butcher myself is fish and we like fish a lot, sooo...I really could do without meat anyway, no way I am going to kill and butcher a mammal unless it is absolutely necessary. To many other ways to get protein! Damn dude I did not say we wanted to be cave people!

17. ### quinnsongValued Senior Member

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We certainly need to investigate this aspect further before we get to gung ho, for sure. Thanks for the info.

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19. ### Fraggle RockerStaff Member

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You're sarcastically recommending a full return to the Paleolithic Era, the "early stone age," before agriculture was developed. There are two problems with this:
• 1. A paleolithic economy only works for a tribe of several dozen people. It requires a rather large hunting/gathering region, because wild-roaming animals and uncultivated edible plants don't have dense populations.
• 2. The game animals would quickly learn to avoid their home ground after noticing that all the ones who venture over the property line are killed and eaten.
There's a reason that the total worldwide human population in the Paleolithic Era was so small, about 15,000: The land won't support any more than that!

They'd have to adopt at least the lifestyle of the Neolithic Era, the "late stone age," with cultivated plants and domesticated animals. And again, it would be very difficult to establish a farm on a small plot of land. Also, it's unreasonable for two people to become masters of all the skills required for top-efficiency agriculture. This is why the Neolithic Revolution saw a rapid increase in the size of human settlements. Division of labor and economies of scale simply make larger populations more efficient and productive. One person becomes an expert at building really good roofs, while another learns how to make fabulous shoes and a third one invents the lute.

The Neolithic Era, which began around 12KYA (in Mesopotamia, a bit later elsewhere), saw the world population mushroom to one million.

The Quinn family will simply not be able to secede from civilization and live like their distant ancestors. And in any case, who would want to live without antibiotics, electricity, cats (dogs had already been domesticated) and recorded music??? As recently as 200 years ago, our ancestors lived wretched lives by our standards, except for the aristocrats--and there were a lot fewer aristocrats than there are today. (And even aristocratic families could not escape the 80% infant mortality rate until science began to take over the world around 1900, giving us vaccines, antibiotics and clean water.)

They'll have to decide how much they're willing to hybridize their "self-sufficient" lifestyle with the reality of living on a planet that has already advanced beyond the Industrial Era into the Information Age.

I don't even like camping, so I cannot possibly understand the motivation of these people. Hopefully somebody else can. I am so happy to have been born in the 20th century!

Homo sapiens is a social species; we naturally build communities. Those who don't want to do this are fighting against their own instincts.

20. ### KitemanSARegistered Senior Member

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But tht is the only way to be self sufficient. Anything more implys a reliance on others to know and do something you cannot. Make up your mind!

21. ### KitemanSARegistered Senior Member

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"Sarcastically..." Yup, you caught it. And I figure there are more than just two.

22. ### quinnsongValued Senior Member

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Our main goal is to cut our costs as much as possible, by generating as much of our own power as possible, growing and then canning our own vegetables, fishing in the local streams, ya know stuff within reason. I nor my husband are hunters, we haven't as much as a slingshot to kill a squirrel.

What I really was hoping for by starting this thread was to get some ideas from some of the scientists and engineers on this site about generating one's own power. Maybe some of their own whacky ideas if any, that they would be willing to share.
'

23. ### billvonValued Senior Member

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Good on you, but that's a different goal from energy independence. You will almost always end up with more money if you spend your money on efficiency first rather than generation. Put another way, every $1 you spend on efficiency (better insulation, light pipes, LED lights, better refrigerators, reduction in phantom loads etc) saves$5 on an independent energy system.

If you do everything you can and still want to do more, THEN it's a good time to consider off-grid power.