Friday, August 3, 2012

Solar Water Heating / Simple Solar H2O Heater

In researching and studying I decided it was time I tinkered with some simple solar water heating. I wanted it cheap and easy so gathered up some boxes, other materials, bought some containers of water, and a can of flat black paint for plastics. I kinda used the solar oven concept to help try and capture the sun to hold in the heat. Of course one gallon or 2 ½ gallons isn’t a lot of water but enough for some dishes or a quick wash off shower and a lot better than no hot water.

My testing was done July 28th 2012 in central Texas. I put them out full of about 80 degree tap water at 11 am with the ambient temp at 88. I checked them at 1 pm testing the water temp with a digital thermometer. The 1 gallon and the 2 ½ gallon were at 118 with air at 91. At 3 pm the 1 gallon was 137 and the 2 ½ was 122 air temp 99. At 5 pm the 1 gallon was still 137 and the 2 ½ gallon was 134 with air temp at 99. Throughout this time I rotated them to keep them in the peak sun and adjust the tilt a little.
The paint stuck a lot better to the clear stiffer 1 gallon jug than the 2 ½ gallon which is more like a plastic milk jug plastic. Having the containers black allows for the absorption of the heat.
I'll get back to Ya with the true test which would be in the winter with a lot cooler air temps. This is fairly simple with minimal cost. I also plan on  testing the 1 gallon in a collapsible reflector solar oven. If the hot water is put into a small cooler the water will stay warm for many hours.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Great Off Grid Info Web Site

I know there are a ton of web sites with off grid info and products. I found one that has a ton of useful information and would like to pass it on anyone interested. See
From their site “
Off-Grid reports on the people, technologies, events and influences throughout the global off-grid community.
They have an Off-Grid 101 section, a forum, along with other helpful links.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Cactus Juice in your eye

Here goes another unrelated off grid story but wanted to pass it on.
I have several Euphorbia Grandicornis, Big Horn cactus, that I have grown from buying cuttings years ago. They grow like crazy in the summer, I am talkin about a few inches a week. So yesterday I decided it was time to take a new cutting. I had a hard time with my old pruners but got through it. I have been told several times any cactus that has a white sap make sure and wash it off and never get it in your eyes. Well of course I had the sticky white sap on my hands and the pruners. I went over to the faucet and did a quick rinse on both. I then quickly patted dry the pruners and worked on them a bit to reshape the pulled apart blades. I went on about my morning and all of sudden my left eye was burning. I put in eye drops and it just burned more. The pain got intense so the first thing I did was wash my hands with soap and water like I should have done earlier. I then flushed it with more eye drops and washed around my eye. The pain got worse and worse. I have had jalapeƱo juice, cajun spices, gasoline, hot slag, and all kind of other crap in my eye but nothing that burned like this. Sandy ended up flushing the eye with 2 shot glasses of purified water and it did not help. It was the most excruciating pain ever. I got the shakes and erratic breathing thinking I was going to pass out. I was all but going into shock. After about an hour the pain was down to tolerable and another thirty minutes later I could actually open the eye and use it. It really felt like a mini cutting torch trying to cut through my eye. Today is feels swollen and sore and is really red.

So; If working with cactus and any sap gets on you wash it off thoroughly with soap and water and don't stick you finger in your eye. Lesson Learned!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Solar Cooking Weekend

With tons o Texas sun I decided to do all cooking over the weekend with solar. I got off early Friday and did my first solar meatloaf which was as good as my energy using house heating oven would have done. Saturday I did solar turkey thighs. I decided to try a potatoe dish. So into the black painted jar and late afternoon I drained them, put them in a small loaf pan with bacon, ranch dip, and cheese. I covered it in foil and back into the solar oven. It was served with the turkey thighs and it was Mighty Tasty! Sunday was solar St. Louis style pork ribs. Hmmm.. Ribs..!! With not as much solar heat with it being cloudy I ended up topping them off on my little gas grill for about 10 minutes per side. This added some bark char and after adding some sauce they were good to go.
Of course each morning forecast was for full day of sun but every day some clouds rolled in by mid afternoon. I have added a few more floor tiles painted black which seemed to hold in the heat as clouds rolled by.
Picture is of a previous cooking. The oven know has tiles bottom, sides, back, and front with a lot thicker polycarbonate window. It hasn't melted yet with some temps up to 260.
I am proud of and enjoy my solar endeavors. I know Sandy is pretty happy about it cause she gets to eat all the good food. At least in her eyes I am her Master Chef / BBQ Pit Master!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Wind Turbine Generator

I purchased a cheap wind turbine generator on Ebay that is supposed to produce 250 watts max. The blades are 15” aluminum on an aluminum frame. Specs say the best wind speed is 7.6 to 15 mph for best running conditions. Maximum wind speed approximately 30 to 40 mph survival conditions. This is probably when it gets its max 250 watts is right when it is coming apart! So it sure wouldn’t stand up very long in Terlingua or high gusty wind areas.
I have given it to my friend Mark MacDonald of Home Concentrated Solar Power, Home CSP;, to do some playing around testing with it. Mark has a lot of knowledge and gadgets for getting some test information. One problem is Mark’s house doesn’t have decent wind so he is looking to mounting it higher off his roof. Hopefully he will have some test numbers soon. With so much varied and inaccurate data on wind turbine output out there I am waiting on some test results before I leave buyer feedback. I imagine it will end up being a $149 learning experience but will post testing results as they come in.

On another topic I sold my Cadillac SRX. I didn't get what I wanted to for it but got what I expected to. Finally I am down to the Tahoe, Motorcycle, and side x side 4x4 buggy.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Concentrated Solar Power

I have an old friend, Mark MacDonald, who has started up a business of solar tracking devices; Home Concentrated Solar Power, Home CSP;
He is offering a lot of stuff including single and dual axis tracking controllers as well as temperature-differential controllers, linear actuators, and motor drives.

SolarMEGA1A - Single Axis Tracker
SolarMEGA1A single axis controller

From his site “Recent developments in microprocessors and embedded software technology have allowed the creation low-cost specialized controllers capable of the sophisticated analysis needed to make CSP convenient, practical, and affordable. By combining the latest micro-electronics technology with physics, and astronomy, and applying results to the needs of the home, a truly new paradigm of energy usage is possible.”

There is also info on Solar Boiler Hydronics, Heat Exchangers, Temperature Differential Controllers, and one of his latest endeavor compound parabolic trough project. has information guides on projects plus a blog. He has some new stuff on a bicycle frame tracker. Although most stuff is too technical for me to totally understand Home Concentrated Solar Power is on the right track for affordable embedded software and electronics products for controlling all aspects of home solar systems.

So check out the solar tracking info and available products at

Friday, April 20, 2012

SOLD 99 Jeep Cherokee XJ

I got a good cash offer on the Jeep and took it. Not what I was asking for it but enough for me to get what I had into it back. Actually have enough profit to take Sandy out to eat, Nice! But not enough for drinks, : (

Sorry to see it go but how many vehicle does one guy need? HAPPY but SAD it is gone.

Now to sell the Caddy then I can get back to Davis Mountains property search and reviewing studying off grid living.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Selling the 99 Cherokee XJ

Well I got slammed a little last post about being off topic. Well to me having a good vehicle is part of living off grid. It may not be solar wind energy info but even living off grid most people need a vehicle.
After much thought I am selling the 99 Jeep Cherokee XJ Sport. If it were super cherry with cruise control and no major rust I would probably keep. Being from NY and having 7 owners it is pretty beat for bein in such good shape. What an oxy moron! Note that you shouldn’t look over a vehicle at night in a badly lit parking lot and commit to buy.
I think I can get what I got into it which is a good thing. Sales info and pictures are at

I am also trying to sell my Cadillac SRX which is just gonna cost to much to maintain,
That will leave me with gas suckin Chevy Tahoe. Even with over 200,000 miles I like it, it is comfortable, and can tow my toys whether the 4x4 Buggy or my bike.

To try an please everyone I might start another blog maybe call it Jon’s Bull Shic then it would be hard to get off topic. :)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Jeep Cherokee Gremlins

Went out last week and the key fob remote did not work on the 99 Jeep Cherokee. After investigating when pushing the unlock / lock buttons their was clicking under dash meaning the remote was working. I started the Jeep for a few seconds and tried again, Nothing! A couple of days later I went back out and the keyless entry still wasn’t working. The power lock switch on the driver’s side did the same thing, click but no movement on the lock switches. I went around to the passenger’s side to listen for the clicking and track down the relays and the switch on the passenger’s door worked. I then tested the remote entry and it worked along with the driver’s side switch. Figured I would start it and let a run and test again. Well it started but the fan belt was really screaming not turning at all, Bummer! I spent a while trying to find which pulley was the one to loosen to get the belt off with no luck. Checkin out the web I found some info and a diagram for the serpentine belt. The diagram did not match my engine so I drew my own. I got the belt loose enough to determine the alternator was seized up. I guess that is better than the AC compressor, power steering pump, or the water pump. It took lookin for a lot tools, (who the hell has and uses a 15mm wrench, Jeep owners obviously), a lot of cussin, and one busted knuckle and I had the bad one out.
Shoppin around I found a rebuilt alternator for $125 with core exchange.
With all this goin on my 05 Cadillac SRX’s battery needed replacing. Callin around all batteries for that are $169 plus tax. Damnit Jim! That’s a lot o money for a car battery.
Anywho after a trip to Cedar Park and spending $320 plus I had a new Caddy battery and Cherokee alternator. The alternator is a tight fit to get into place but I got it in, the belt put back on, and it running again. Yeah!!
I also have done a ton o research on the web about the ‘airbag’ light being on. After hours of reading I determined it was probably the clock spring. I purchased a used clock spring on ebay and printed out steps with images from cherokeeforum. I spent about an hour, there again a lot of time lookin for tools, I had the old one out and the new one. Started her up and the airbag light went off, Yeah!!, but then it came back on. SOB!!
Now I have another few hours reading forums and internet info and nothing definite on diagnosis and repair. I sure don’t want to pay the dealer.
Well I’m the one that wanted a Jeep Cherokee!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Terlingua Visit / New Old Tahoe

From my last post and comment I did not buy the gold jeep in Dallas. It has some major front end noise, a constant same pitched hum probably in the front drive.
Work has kept me real busy but pays the bills so a delay in posting.
Since then I bought a 2002 Chevy Tahoe for towing the buggy.
image 0

While lookin at at the Tahoe at a small time car dealer in Waco he said I should have no problem getting my money back on the 99 Jeep we drove up there. While there the sales guy got a phone call and said "You a bettin Man? I bet this is a call from Austin on one of my Tahoes". It was a call asking how much our Jeep Cherokee, parked on the street, was sellin for. Funny!

We took the Tahoe on our Spring Terlingua week long trip and it ran great suckin the gas like a 350 does. Sure a lot of them on the highways suckin down the fuel. J
We enjoyed out trip although a little cool at night and of course the almost never ending wind of west Texas. Just hangin at our place in the evenings was nice.
Sunrise over the Chisos last week.

Moon rise sunset over Big Big National Park.
 We did some buggy riding exploring in the Solitario. Sure a lot of nothin for miles and miles but we sure enjoyed it.

I ended up selling the Terlingua 1992 Jeep Cherokee to Ring Huggins of Many Stones.  He got a good deal for $1,200.
Wow know I only have 5 vehicles counting the buggy and the bike.
Is that to many?!  J

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Possible Dream Late Model Cherokee

I have located a 2000 JEEP Cherokee Sport XJ 4x4 with only 120,000 miles in Dallas. In doing a vehicle report it was recently sold at an auto auction to a dealer that runs a truck rental company. Before that it had only one owner in the DFW area. The new seller said it was a trade in and then sold at auction. With one owner for 11 years you would think they took care of it. I will see. Everything else on the report looked good too.
  image 1

Going to drive up and look at it Thursday with a long list of things to check out. If it checks out I will try and make a deal on it.
Wish Me Luck!
image 3

Friday, February 10, 2012

New Old Jeep Cherokee Update

Well I had already paid a little down on the Jeep before picking it up and before gettin a vehicle report done. It turns out it was originally sold in Seneca Falls, NY and was there until 6/02 when it went to Culpeper, VA. In 12/01 there is a reported ‘COLLISION WITH A FIXED OBJECT (GUARDRAIL)’ and was then sold at auction 5/02. It finally made it to Texas in 5/09.
The previous owner had put on new shocks and nice Goodyear Wrangler tires along with new plugs, plug wires, and cap. Upon future inspection the RR shock was not connected on top. One of the bolts had been sheared off. I assume this was done when installing the new shocks and they figured one bolt would hold it. One hour at my local repair shop and they drilled it out and replaced the bolt. The mechanic said he figured it was from the coast or up north. The chassis looks good but other things show rust and I know most nuts and bolts are rusted shut.
It has a clunk over bumps in the front so I am figuring ball joints and wheel bearings. Estimate on upper and lower ball joints is $1,600. Ouch! Not sure I wanna spend that yet if I might be sellin it.
I am going to still piddle around with fixin it up without trying to spendin to much money, Yeah Right! In the mean time I will continue to look for the dream late model Cherokee; 1 owner with less than a 100K from southern Arizona or NM. A guy can dream right? You never know it might happen. At least I am learnin what to look for in a Jeep Cherokee XJ 4x4.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Jeep Cherokee XJ 4x4 / Solar Turkey

Saturday Sandy and I went and picked up our new 1999 Jeep Cherokee XJ 4x4 with 144k. It has its share of scratches and little dents but I think it is in great shape for 13 years old. Time will tell. I spent Sunday cleaning the inside and just checkin it out. Gonna take my time and go through it and repair replace update as the budget allows.

This spring I will be  selling my 92 Cherokee XJ 4x4 that I have in Terlingua. There are a few things I want to do it first. Any Takers?
Yesterday I also did 2 turkey thighs in the solar oven. With 4 hour until supper I actually turned it away from the sun at 2:30 because it was 255 in the oven and the juices were boiling pretty darn good. Upon serving it fell off the bone, was juice, tender, and very flavorful, plus affordable.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Alternative Building / Terlingua Home Tour Jan. 29

The Terlingua Home Tour is Jan. 29 and features earthbag building, mixed construction of adobe to straw bale to cement block, 2X6 framed home built in stages, and off grid construction.
Thomas and Carmen Drinkard's Earthbag Building
Not cheap at $25 but looks like some good learning and insight. Anybody going take pictures and or videos and send me please.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Jeep XJ Towing Capabilities?

Kinda having second thoughts after researching the XJ's towing capabilities. I have a 12’ single axle trailer and a side by side UTV that we tow from Austin to Terlingua; out in the fall and back in the spring. I am researching forums on how reliable the XJ is at towing. It has the torque of my current vehicle but not the horsepower and it is not the best tow vehicle anyway. Don't want to wear it out before retiring.
Any experienced XJ owners that tow with it let me know your thoughts.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Retirement Jeep!

Even though it is a few years before retirement I keep thinkin bout getting a 2000 or 2001 Jeep Cherokee XJ 4x4, 2001 is the last year of the Cherokee XJ. I called and talked with a couple of Austin Jeep repair places comparing the Cherokee XJ and Grand Cherokee for remote wet Texas and both said absolutely the XJ. If I wait there will be less good Cherokees, and less clean body Cherokees, and probably tuff miles. I take care of my stuff especially vehicles. I owned a Datsun 260Z for over 17 years. If I purchase now I will know how it is taken care of in the future and be able to R&R as I go. I own a 92 Jeep Cherokee but storing it in Terlingua is taking its toll. A field rat moved in and chewed up all kinds of wires it runs but not well. Anybody in the S Brewster Co. area know of a good Jeep Mechanic? If retiring in the Davis Mountains or Terlingua I think a 4x4 XJ is the vehicle for me.  I prefer the XJ over the Wrangler CJ models because it is a little smoother on the highway and more room for the dog and stuff with the longer wheel base. Anybody got any XJ experience or comments let me hear from you!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A New Year, 2012!

Although I have been doin some off grid research nothing really to blog about so just figured I would wish the world a Happy 2012.
I still have Kelly Williams with Davis Mountain Realty looking for a tract of land suitable for my solar passive cabin design.
I tried getting some information on a vertical axis wind generator I saw on ebay but no reply. Not mentioning the company but they advertise 500 watts for $500 but with limited specs. From research it seems the vertical axis with impeller instead of blades are more durable against strong winds.

Looking forward to our March Terlingua trip and hopin we might have to go check out property in the Davis Mountains again soon.

I hope we get through another year with all the political BS, US and world problems.
For 2012 in the words of Spock, 'Live Long and Prosper'
Hopin Anyway!