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Friday, September 30, 2011

$ave $ome Money $$$$

I think fear of change is one reason that solar energy is not more commonplace. Many don't want to make an extra effort if they can just keep things the same. But do all of these people realize that solar energy can save you quite a bit of money? I just calculated how much money my household would save and it would be $138 a month; that's $1,656 a year! Before you completely disregard the possibility of solar energy, see how much money it could save you. Here's the website I used...http://acroenergy.com/residential/acro_quick_calculator?street=&city=Sevierville&state=TN&zip=37876&b=150

Monday, September 26, 2011

Futuristic City

I've written several blogs about the Dome Home, and I've mentioned how structurally innovative it was for its time. Although the idea may have seemed crazy to some people, the home was a success. This article reminded me of that... http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/thailand/110819/thailand-global-warming-water-bangkok-flooding-architecture

The reading is about Bangkok and the difficulties they face as a result of flooding and sea level rise. Politicians, scientists, and anyone who cares are all trying to think of solutions to these looming problems. One architect firm in particular has an interesting solution: rebuild the city above the water. There is much disagreement and skepticism, but the architects of the firm S+PBA insist that their idea is plausible. It, like the Dome Home, would utilize solar energy as a source of power. It also would have tunnels with roads, homes, shops, etc. Whether or not they will be given the opportunity to prove that their idea is valid remains to be seen, but if it is indeed possible it could save a lot of money and more importantly, a lot of lives.

Here is a picture that can be found on the website, courtesy of S+PBA:
That is a digital image that predicts what the structure might look like.

Friday, September 23, 2011

It's the Little Things

     I hope that I haven’t sounded too negative in my posts because that wasn’t my intention. Although I believe that more could be done to help our environment, I am also noticing that more and more people are trying to make a difference. In fact, just last night I attended the Make Orange Green Kickoff. It was an event designed to ignite an interest in environmental sustainability. They had several tables set up, guest speakers, energy-efficient cars, and... free ice cream! The ice cream was great, but that wasn't the best part about the kickoff; it was so exciting to see that people actually do care. 
     One table had some facts displayed, and this one caught my eye: "Knoxville was the 19th worst city for ozone pollution in 2009"- American Lung Association. That's terrible! I hate to read that, but it's so important that people hear about that sort of thing so that they are inspired to make a change. Kim Green, the CFO of TVA, spoke last night of the importance of the little things you can do. Turning off the lights, unplugging electronics, etc, are easy adjustments that we could make... we just have to do it! 
     Another important point that Ms. Green made was this: spread the word. Each person can certainly have an impact, but the more people that are involved, the greater the impact. Tell your friends how easy it is to conserve energy (and if you don't care about the environment, maybe you care that it can lessen your electricity bill?). UT Make Orange Green has a facebook account: http://www.facebook.com/MakeOrangeGreen?sk=info 

Check it out, and if you think it's a good idea, "like" it... I just did!
      

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Water in the Dome Home

     I've explained how the energy worked in the Dome Home, but I would like to write a little bit about its water supply as well. My grandfather built troughs around the domes to capture the water. The water then ran through a filter and into a completely enclosed 55,000 gallon tank under one of the domes. You might think: what happens if it doesn't rain for a while? That was never an issue. Because the tank held so much water, even if rain was scarce, there was never a shortage of water. Another issue might be the cleanliness, but that, too, was not a problem. Their water supply actually tested cleaner than the Naples (Florida) city water supply. So here we have another necessity (clean water) that was made available just by utilizing natural resources. This picture shows the trough on the side of the dome: 
     



Another interesting fact about this home is how strong it is. It has been hit by Hurricanes Andrew, Wilma, and Tropical Storm Fay and is still standing. My grandfather sold it after it survived Hurricane Andrew, and sadly it has been through a lot since then. Although it is no longer livable, its condition is impressive. Here is a link to a recent article about it: http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2009/nov/06/owner-looks-resurrect-dome-home-cape-romano/.

This is a photo of the inside of the home after Hurricane Andrew:



Some pictures of the home before the hurricane:




And here is a picture (from the website I attached a link to above) of the Dome Home now... apparently it is quite the party hot spot:


Thursday, September 15, 2011

A little bit MORE about the Dome Home

As I said before, I would like to go into a little more detail about the home that my grandfather built. While he was building the domes, he used batteries (that were powered by a generator) as a source of electricity. As the building process was nearing completion, he bought solar panels in California. To understand how to use his purchase, my grandfather had an electrician who was familiar with solar panels come out to the island and teach him what to do with them. They installed the panels and then connected them to large batteries in the "control room" that was under one of the domes; the batteries were connected to a converter that was 12V power (now, you could buy a converter for regular power). They shopped all over the country for the appliances; the light bulbs actually came from a yacht supply company.

I find this all incredibly interesting. Obviously I'm biased because he was my grandfather, but I don't think many would argue that this was a pretty significant project for its time. Keep in mind that the Dome Home was completed in the early 1980's. So why does it sound so innovative? Why aren't these types of structures more commonplace? Granted, more and more places are beginning to use solar energy; I am not at all suggesting that my grandfather was the only one to do this. But, I know that I rarely see solar energy being utilized in restaurants, hotels, etc. I think this should change. If the technology was available in the eighties, it is definitely available now, in addition to many new things. So, let's make use of it!

Here are some more pictures of the Dome Home if you're interested:


Sunday, September 11, 2011

A little bit about the Dome Home

     I can't remember a time that I was unaware of solar energy. As I mentioned before, my grandfather was always working on ways to conserve our planet's resources. He constantly made improvements to his own inventions, which were already impressive considering the time period. As early as the sixties, he built a house and strategically installed pvc pipes and ran water (that was heated by the fireplace) through them to provide heat for the floors. In the same house, he placed skylights to lighten and heat the rooms. The house was positioned to make the most use of the sun. He was very aware of the sun's potential for energy and began researching ways that he could utilize it.
     His biggest solar energy accomplishment was the completion of a self-sustaining Dome Home. The 3-bedroom, 3-bath island house was powered totally by solar energy; it had a hot tub, two refrigerators, ceiling fans, air conditioning, satellite TV... everything (and more) that you would expect in a home.
    For my next post, I will describe in more detail how the solar energy was used and what he used as a water supply.

Here is a picture of my grandfather and my uncle installing the solar panels:


Thursday, September 8, 2011

One more slightly unrelated (but interesting!) thing

So I know that I have yet to really focus on solar energy, the topic of my blog. But I keep coming across interesting things that deserve to be passed on (even if they're not directly related to my subject matter).

I attended a lecture last week by Lauren Buckley, a biologist from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She spoke about an ongoing experiment in which she, and others, have tested the response to climate change by organisms and how their various traits help (or hurt) their ability to adapt. Her main focus has been on reptiles and amphibians, and she talked a lot about her work with lizards. She paid special attention to operative environmental temperature and organisms' activity time (laying eggs, etc). Buckley also looked at body size and insect abundance. One result that she found was that a South Carolina lizard could survive at a broad range of temperatures (as opposed to lizards of other locations that had more difficulty adapting); at this time, she is unsure of the reason for this observation. Something else she noticed when analyzing her mechanistic models was the northern movement of lizards in response to climate change. Another organism that Buckley mentioned is the butterfly. Her models predicted that butterflies would have less flight in lower elevations because of the increased heat, while flight in higher elevations would occur more frequently because of cooler temperatures.

Of course, her lecture included much more data and sophisticated discussion of this topic than I am able to convey, but I wanted to share a little bit and maybe spark someone's interest.  For more information, I recommend checking out her website: http://www.unc.edu/~lbuckley/lab/pmwiki.php/Main/Research

And in case you were wondering, I plan to start writing about solar energy in my next post!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Before I Dive in..

      Before I really begin to discuss ways to make homes more energy efficient, I want to write about (and share with you) an interesting video I came across. I know that many people believe that alternative energy is important and something that is worth our time and attention; but not everyone agrees. It is not those who disagree that most upset me, however; it is those who don't care. People are content with the way things are, so they don't want to see any changes. They don't realize that not doing anything will cause much more harm in the long run. But my point is this: alternative energy is a GOOD thing, and more people need to realize that.
      This video evidences some benefits of solar energy. It stated that fifty-thousand Bangladeshi are without electricity. Although Bangladesh's power plants are unable to support its large population, there is certainly plenty of sunlight. One million homes (in only two years!) received solar panels. Although we take such things for granted, this technology is so precious to these people.
      If I don't have you convinced yet, please keep checking for new posts!