Monthly Archives: September 2011

Solar Decathalon Thoughts

It’s Solar Decathalon time!

Here are some quick comments/thoughts after following the MASS team for a little while via their blog and FB page. And perusing the website a bit.

1. Some nice designs!
2. To me the scoring is funny. I guess it’s a decathalon so there has to be 10 categories. But equally weighted? That seems wrong. I am open to being convinced otherwise! OK, reading the descriptions a bit more, it doesn’t seem too bad actually.
3. The houses seem mostly designed for 2 people from what I’ve seen looking at floorplans and walkthrus. Or maybe 3-4 very neat/non-packrat people. Quite small. Designed with no basements (which I understand) but also usually no attic, so then where does the extra stuff go? Maybe in the upper level of a garage? At least in MA, and living with kids, one realistically needs a “mudroom” sort of area with room for winter clothes and such. How do you compare a house designed for MA to a house designed for AZ?
4. I very much like that many of the houses are designed with the Passivhaus PHPP software. The Massachusetts house for instance, qualifies as a Passivhaus in Boston’s climate. That’s great and as it should be! Insulation first THEN solar. The trick is finding the right balance.
5. I don’t know what the prices are, but I bet too high. I will be interested to see if any are truly affordable.
Like a Green Mountain (VT) Habitat for Humanity Passive House LINK2
6. Where are the inexpensive solar air heaters and drainback systems!

Well done teams and organizers!

See also:
I’m beginning to really hate eco-bling

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Filed under erik-green, solar

Stick it to the man with solar

In the Stow Independent today it was reported that a slew of street signs in a local neighborhood have been snatched this summer.

If kids want to really “stick it to the man” how about building a cheap as all heck soda-can or down-spout solar air heater instead of stealing street signs — the green ones with ordinary names. Then add some in/out temp sensors (using the cheap/easy Lacrosse TX60U-SET) to the sucker and report on the results at and the NESEA Building Energy Conference. Take that fossil fuels!

And not just fossil fuels. There is an interesting history even within the solar community itself of rebelling against the multi-million dollar research going into solar systems. Harold Hay and Steve Baer are two that I am aware of, and perhaps there are many more.

Or whatever. Maybe solar isn’t your thing. Just an example. But it’s clear that creation is The Way rather than destruction. Even “eco-terrorist” groups like the ELF came to realize that any intended message they were trying to get across was being lost by everyone’s focus on the actual property destruction.

Also… what articles on the topic (like the above at wikipedia) seem to ignore is that such theft/vandalism is linked to kids having no power in their lives. They are FORCED to sit in classes that may be of no interest (or use) to them for 36 weeks (180 days) a year. And for the other 16 weeks a year — summer and week-long vacations, there is often nothing REAL to be doing. If only more people realized there are alternatives.

In other words, it seems to be the same social symptoms that lead to the much bigger riots in the UK this year (2011).

We all know this is true do we not? So perhaps this is a boring post.
It’s just upsetting.
It’s all our own faults.

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Filed under erik-green, kids -- freedom and responsibility, solar, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

Cost of the heat pumps sitting unused for a year

Our Mitsubishi mini-split air source heat pump seems to have a coil heater thingy in the outside compressor unit (I’ve commented on it before here) which runs year-round, even if it’s not cold outside. Seems to hover around 55 to 61 W when it’s on and goes on and off every 1/2 hour roughly. So that’s 28W on average let’s say. On 24h * 365days so…

(28 * 365 * 24) / 1 000 = 245.28 KWh

((28 * 365 * 24) / 1 000) * .15 = $36.79 assuming 15cents/KWh

To put this in perspective, recently I wrote that our actual yearly output from our PVs is currently 8230 KWh (which btw is close to the new england rule-of-thumb of 1.2*6.9KW rating), and since we have 30 panels, that is

8230 / 30 = 274.3 KWh / panel.

In other words… we are using almost a whole panel on our roof to do nothing but keep the heat pumps sitting idling when they are unused. (“net” of course. since we are grid-tied with no batteries for night and clouds)

Don’t get me wrong, I think air-source heat pumps are great and definitely an interesting choice vs a boiler or furnace and AC. I am sure they are continuing to make them better and better each year. The “hyperheat” h2i models from mitsubishi work well way down to something like -5F, whereas ours I think start limping at more like 5F I believe. -5F. That’s sweet. I wonder if there is a catch. I assume they operate more efficiently at more reasonable temps too. I will have to peruse the curves in the service manual PDFs online to see.

See also:
Marc Rosenbaum — Out with the old, in with the new

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Cloudiest day of the summer: Aug 15, 2011

Cloudiest day of the summer: Aug 15, 2011

I am not sure if I am right, but that’s what the website for our solar electric panels (PVs) is telling me. (Not including the day Irene knocked out the power for 7 hours… that was probably a pretty cloudy day too!)

That day (Aug 15) we produced only 3440Wh of electricity. Still more than enough to power one 13W CFL lightbulb per person for 24 hours.

8 people * 13W * 24h = 2.496KWh

Whereas our running 365 day average is currently more like ~8.23MWh/365 = 22.5KWh/day

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How Young Children Promote Kindness at the Sudbury Valley School

An excerpt from the article:
Fight Bullying with Babies
Empathy can’t be taught, but can be caught–from babies.

by Peter Gray

“As regular readers of this blog know, my former student Jay Feldman and I have conducted research on age-mixed interactions at the Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, Massachusetts. At this school, students from age four on through high-school age are free to explore and play as they wish, with whom they wish, all day long. In our research, we documented many ways by which children and adolescents at the school regularly practice their nurturing skills through their self-chosen interactions with younger children. They read to them, comfort them, correct them when they violate rules, teach them games, help them do things that they cannot do alone, help them find lost objects, and take pride in their accomplishments. They are, I think, on their own initiatives practicing to be parents; and, more generally, they are practicing the kinds of abilities that will make them caring and valuable helpers and leaders to everyone around them.”

See also:
Freedom from Bullying: How a School Can Be a Moral Community
Every school should be, first and foremost, a moral community.

by Peter Gray
If It Feels Right … — An opinion piece in the NY Times by David Brooks about research showing that there is a failure of schools, families, etc. to install moral values in our kids (especially check out the “recommended” posts in the comments section…)

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Filed under bullying, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

OK, this will be a running list of the things I would do if I were a SVS student or if I someday find myself independently wealthy or at least caught up on todos around the house!

1. Examine the 50/200 Simple Moving Average buy-sell indicator strategy. I am convinced it is better than buy and hold just by looking at it. But what am I missing? Maybe the returns aren’t that much better, but risk-adjusted they must be!

2. Windsurf and/or sail (or surf?) more

3. Ski (downhill) more

4.1 Solar: Build a “deployable doubt dispeller”

4.2. Solar: Add solar siding to the house and battery backup to our PV and lots of temp sensors

4.3. Solar: Visit the forgotten solar houses in MA that still around and working from the 80s and write a paper about them for Solar Today magazine.
And likewise talk to some people who have abandoned solar in their homes.

5. I am determined to get a marble pusher made out of legos to work! (see youtube) Argh!!!

6. Discuss

7. Vegetable garden

8. learn more vegan/Fuhrman style recipes

I notice that I don’t have exercise (like running and such) on this list. I think I’d usually rather do things like windsurf or play water polo or something I guess rather than “just” run or swim.

OK who am I kidding… I have time to do all of the above already!

Last updated: 9/12/2011

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Filed under erik-green, homesteading, solar, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School, unschooling

VS: Erik’s Ipad vs Xoom Review

You’re trying to decide between a Apple iPad 2 and a Motorola Xoom running Android 3.0 (“Gingerbread”)

My summary is that if there are specific apps or games that you know you want or if you are an app-aholic, get an iPad. Otherwise get a Xoom since all the basics — web brower, google apps, dropbox, netflix, etc work just great on a Xoom. And flash works!

Buy an iPad 2 at Amazon
Buy a Xoom at Amazon

Here are the issues:

  1. Price. Advantage Xoom. At Amazon at least!
  2. Battery life. equal. But Xoom is probably replaceable. Advantage Xoom.
  3. Weight: iPad is lighter
  4. Screen Format: Xoom is 16:9 (nearly. 16:10 actually), iPad is 4:3
  5. Screen Resolution: About the same but Xoom is higher res and some say easier to read.
  6. Flash support. Advantage Xoom. Lots of wesbites still use Flash, not HTML5.
  7. 3g/4g: Xoom is 4G upgradeable in Sept 2011 via Verizon
  8. Generally, if you care about “special” apps: Advantage iPad. A number of apps are iPad only at the moment — like the NewYorker, Flipboard, etc. And the Apple App Store is a better environment for evaluating and finding apps. Though word on the street is that the Amazon Android App Store is the up-and-coming solution to this on the Android side.
  9. Google Docs. Either is fine. Works great either way.
  10. If you care about Web: Advantage Xoom (see #5 flash support)
  11. Need Minecraft? Advantage Xoom. Android can run Minedroid nicely
  12. Cheap Keyboard? Advantage Xoom. A USB keyboard will usually “just work”. The iPad can use the Apple Wireless Keyboard (Xoom too), but that costs more than nothing. Well, you’ll need a $3 micro adapter from Amazon. Search on “Micro USB Male to USB A Female Adapter”

  13. Video Out. Both have HDMI. The Xoom just needs a $6 micro-HDMI cable from Amazon. No dock needed. That’s misinformation.

OK, that’s my list as of 9/9/2011. I’ll check back in a few months and see if I still agree!

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Filed under android, erik-VS, ipad, xoom