Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Making Savings in the Home Budget


On Being Thrifty

As a first post in this series, I simply want to outline some of the areas where saving can be made. I will not go into any detail in this post. These ideas were aired today on Radio Kerry and received quite a large response. Hope you find the pointers useful.

So where can the savings to be made in the average home?

1. Economical home cooking. Avoid using the oven it costs a fortune to run, get a wok, a George Foreman Grill and a slow-cooker. Cook from scratch using cheap local ingredients. Get your meat in a butchers, much cheaper than the supermarkets. Let your menus be dictated by what is on offer in the shops. Stop spending a fortune on drinks, soft drinks, and bottled water, use filtered water, tea etc. Savings €1000 to €3000 pa
2. The shopping bill. Buying the right stuff in the right places. Avoiding brand names, buy own brands or generic packaged in both food and household goods – with brand names you are just paying 30 to 60% more for the name and their massive advertising outlay.
3. Internet & Phone savings. Mobile costs are very high make calls lasting seconds on a mobile and have a chat on a land-line. Get package deals for phone and Internet and save money. Saving €200 to €500pa
4. Heating. Insulation, fuel economy etc. Easily save €200 to €400pa
5. Electricity. Saving by fitting CFL bulbs, by using Airtricity or the Gas Board saving 13% on Electricity Board prices. Take showers not baths. Try to avoid using your oven for cooking, get a wok!! Maybe consider using a Monitor to check electricity usage. Saving up to €300pa
6. Car. Careful price watching on petrol and diesel can save 7 to 8% on fuel. Using small local mechanics for service usually saves 30 to 50% but get recommendations to avoid the cowboys.
7. TV. Sky TV charges a whacking great amount for their channel deals. Go Freesat and save money.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Sustainable Home Economics in the Recession


Sustainable Home Economics

I am preparing a post specifically dealing with making savings in the home budget. What sparked this idea was a letter to a radio programme I am associated with on Radio Kerry. The letter expressed worry about making ends meet ofter the prime earner in a household was made redundant.

I will be looking at easy to implement ways of making immediate savings of up to €5000 per year in an average home. I will look at energy of course, such as how to save on electrical power, on heating and insulation, but I will also look at home cooking as a way of saving energy and saving a lot of money.

These will be my own views and suggestions, as always I am not claiming any authority or specialist knowledge.

I grew up in the post WW2 recession and was imbued with thrift from an early age. I will pass on some of my ideas for what they are worth.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sex XXX and Sustainable Energy!!


The hit counter on this blog turned 200,000 today. Any self respecting porn site would register that many hits in a day!! But, I guess, for a boring old specialist blog ranting on about sustainable energy stuff, I guess it is a little milestone worth noting.

So just a little celebration:

hip hip hooray


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Stirling Old Stirling New


Stirling Old
Stirling New

Stirling Powered

Stirling True

To wrap up my series of Stirling posts, I have gathered together a bit of a mishmash of interesting bits and pieces that I hope you will enjoy reading about.

Stirling Old

As a link to the past I have included this picture of a lovely old Stirling Rider engine made in the USA. These old heavy iron engines have become real collectors items these days and are lovingly restored to pristine levels by some very dedicated enthusiasts.

A Stirling Ireland Connection

Tom Bruton recently wrote and told me that Teagasc, the agriculture and food development authority in Ireland, are putting a Stirling based bio-mass generator in their Oakpark research headquarters in Carlow, Ireland. He also suggested going to www.stirling.dk for more info about the machine they have bought.

I contacted StirlingDK, who have kindly have given me permission to use their materials and sent some interesting photos.

Stirling DK what they say about themselves

Based on more than 15 years of solid research led by the leading authority within applied Stirling engine technology, professor Henrik Carlsen, Stirling DK has today materialized as the worlds' leading provider of biomass fuelled Stirling engine systems.

Our technology enables us to convert biomass of low value, such as wood chips and straw, into high value, clean, CO2-neutral electricity and heat. And we can do this in small-scale applications with an electrical output between 10 and 500 kWe. The heat is typically used for district heating but can also be used for other purposes such as freshwater generation, cooling, or process heating.

November 15th 2008 First Irish Contract

The 35 Kilo Watt electrical output Stirling Engine by Stirling DK

A contract has been signed for the delivery of a 35 kWe /1480 kWth updraft gasifier plant to be delivered to National Research Institute (NRI) of Ireland.

A Handy sized Engine don't you think?

The plant will be fuelled by wood chips and the heat will be used for heating of buildings of the NRI . The power, which will be generated by one (1) 35 kWe SD3-E engine, will be sold to the electrical grid.

The updraft gasifier will have a capacity of 800 kW and the installation is therefore prepared for the possible later expansion by addition three 35 kWe engines. The total electrical output of the plant can thus reach 140 kWe.

This will become Stirling DK's first installation in Ireland. This market is considered to be very attractive due to Ireland's large biomass resources and strong focus on CO2-neutral energy productions.

The plant will go into operation in May 2009.

Meccano and The Fab Lab

I am not sure where this picture originates,
I just love the practical hands-on test rig!!

Don't you just love this bit of experimental engineering!! When I was a kid 50 years ago!!! I had a great love of Meccano sets and hoped I would get one each birthday and Christmas. The guys at this lab have evidently held on to their Meccano sets, along with their mother's cake mixing bowl, and used them to rig the above test rig. Just the way I love science.

Stirling on the Moon and Mars

Moon photo by Biorn McGinley

NASA has marked Stirling power conversion using the heat from fissionable material as a viable option for generation of power on the moon. They have been playing around with using a Stirling converter coupled to a relatively low-temperature < 900K, uranium dioxide fuelled, liquid-metal-cooled reactor. A similar configuration is being worked on for application on Mars.

Stirling and the Nuke

The project is being developed at the Foster Miller and Auburn University; the aim is to design and fabricate a 5kW Free-Piston Stirling converter.

Long live Stirling!

I hope you have enjoyed reading the series of Stirling posts half as much as I have enjoyed researching and writing them.

With much thanks to the Rev. Robert Stirling, who's memory will live long into the future!

Tapadh leibh Robert Stirling agus Alba!!


Friday, September 04, 2009

On the subject of LED bulbs


On the Subject
LED Bulbs

As I am back briefly on the subject of LEDs, I am copying, with thanks to the correspondents, a couple of connected and cogent comments that came in on earlier posts. The first is from Miguel Sánchez who is an associate professor in Valencia. He keeps several blogs one of them is liked here: http://fightpc.blogspot.com/

Miguel Sánchez has left a comment on your post "The Good the LED and the Ugly part 2":

Exactly the same experience here with the same multi-led MR16 from the same eBay seller.

We both have been fooled. But I'm still trying other alternatives (Cree-based) and DIY.

The second comment comes from Colm Garvey who is in the LED business himself in Ireland:

Colm has left a new comment on your post "Led Light Comparison":

Well done Sir, we've done a couple of trade show now with our hi-power LEDs (similar technology to the Vario) and the amount of stick we took for Ecopal bulbs was unbelievable. Keep up the good work and feel free to contact us to review our lights.

Colm Garvey


Thursday, September 03, 2009

LED astray by CFLs


LED astray by CFLs

Just a very short post on energy saving bulbs. If you have been reading this blog, you will know that I have taken a great interest in the development of LED (light emitting diode) lamps. I have however reached a point where I have, for the time being, tired of LEDs as a viable alternative.

The reasons are:

1. LED bulbs are way too expensive, with prices between 2 and 6 times that of equivalent output CFL (compact florescent lamps) energy saving bulbs.

2. Only the top of the line LED bulbs, costing $20 to $50 a piece, can hope to match the colour and output of a similarly rated CFL bulb.

3. The cheaper LED bulbs are just plain rubbish. The multi-led types (those with lots of little LED lamps stuffed into the front) are the worst offenders. The light output is miserable, the colour is generally poor, and they last no time at all. I have 4 such bulbs that the light has turned almost purple in and faded to a quarter of the original poor light. I have several more that have LEDs that died in the middle of the bunch.

4. I have just bought a bunch of GU10 CFL bulbs some rated at 7 watts and some at 9 watts. The colour is spot on, the light output is VERY good, they cost me under $5 a piece, they fit perfectly into every fitting I have tried them in. The size 58mm means they don't stick out like bean tins the way some of the earlier GU10 CFL bulbs did. The only negative thing I can say is that they take 20 to 30 seconds to brighten fully.

Regular GU10 bulb on the left - The CFL on the right almost exactly the same size!

For me, for the time being, it is CFL bulbs all the way in my house. When LED bulbs get to half or one third of their current high price, and when they can outlast a CFL for consistency of colour and output, I will consider the game is on again.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Stirling and Sun

. .

Stirling and Sun

In this post I am outlining what, IMHO, is one of the most exciting developments of the Stirling engine; a solar concentrator and Stirling converter which can directly generate grid quality usable electricity.

The technology involved, with perhaps the exception of the control and automation systems, is very old indeed, how old is the mirror?, then the Reverend Robert Stirling's 1818 heat engine, and Ányos Jedlik's 1861 generator idea (yes he was the first to conceive the idea but like too many missed out on the kudos).

It has however taken quite a long time for to integrate and perfect all the systems into a practical and workable unit. Hopefully this is what has recently been achieved by Stirling Energy Systems.

Stirling Energy Systems have kindly given me permission to copy materials and have sent me some really interesting photographs of their "SunCatcher".

Try and Catch the Sun

The idea of using a mirror and Stirling to catch and convert sunlight into electricity is not a new one. There have been quite a few prototypes and development efforts. The Advanco and McDonald-Douglas Stirling units are pictured below.

Stirling based unit by McDonald Douglas

Stirling based Advanco Vanguard 63Kw

Stirling Energy Systems

SunCatcher is a 25Kw solar dish which uses a Stirling engine based converter. The convert utilises a closed-cycle, high-efficiency four-cylinder, reciprocating Stirling Engine. The engine uses a sealed cooling fluid that is recycled through the engine.

The suns heat is focused by mirrors onto the converter units receiver tubes which contain hydrogen gas. The heat pressurizes the gas in the heat exchanger tubing, the expanding gas powers the engine.

Waste heat from the Stirling engine is dissipated to the air by a radiator similar to one used in cars. The gas is cooled by a radiator system and is continually recycled within the engine during the power cycle. The conversion process does not consume water as it is a closed system.

The SunCatcher™ mirror system is an innovative radial design. The girasol (sun tracking device) is controlled by sophisticated software.

The SunCatcher's Stirling Engine based Power Conversion Unit has a peak efficiency of 31.25% one of the highest in the business.

Stirling Energy Systems should be shipping by next year so get your orders in soon. Ireland, because of our location and the greenness of the landscape (made so by all the rain and cloudy weather) need not rush out to invest in this technology. I think we will have to wait until someone comes up with "Rain Powered Technology"

Thanks to Stirling Energy Systems for permission to use photos etc.