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We’re here to help you… by killing your chances of success!

4 Nov

Ready… aim… fire!

Are DOE loan standard requirements actually shooting down good projects?

We’re a country in search of affordable, sustainable, and “environmentally friendly” fuel. Right?

Well, good luck getting it!

You see… once again, Big Government is there to jump in and lend a hand.

How? Well… apparently by making it nearly impossible to get it.

I’ve told you about “government analysts” that are basically “hired guns,” whose job it is… to shoot down viable energy projects. Seriously.

“We have money and you can’t get it… Na-na-na-na-na-nahhhhhh!”

But wait! There’s more…

In Washington, the US Department of Energy is requiring that renewable energy projects meet a debt rating standard higher than 63 percent of all US corporate first-time debt issuers since 2007, in order to qualify for DOE loan guarantees. The loan guarantees were originally designed “to encourage early commercial use in the United States of new or significantly improved technologies in energy projects.”

A ‘BB or higher’ rating requirement chokes bioenergy development, say bankers, attorneys, and project developers.

Okay… here’s the meat of the issue;

Congressional legislation for DOE loan guarantees typically require “a reasonable prospect of repayment of the principal and interest on the obligation by the borrower.”

The Department of Energy is generally left with the responsibility of interpreting “reasonable”.

In this case, the DOE, as advised by investment banks, has developed minimum threshold for loan guarantees of a “BB” or higher rating (prior to the guarantee).

According to Standard & Poor’s, 333 of all US corporate first-time debt issues since 2007 – out of a total of 528, failed to meet that standard.

In many cases, these issuers would not have been attempting to bring transformative technologies to market in support of  national policy – based on what EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said was designed to produce “green jobs, innovation and technology, and action on global climate change.”

Once again, it’s apparent that money has been placed into a non-existent pipe by Congress, so that they can make claims that they’re actually doing their jobs.

Is it any wonder that all the jobs are going to Malaysia?

According to David Jacob, Executive Managing Director and Head of Structures Finance Ratings for Standard & Poor, ratings for renewable energy projects range from BBB- to CCC, with a preponderance of ratings weighted towards CCC, or two ratings below the threshold set by the DOE. Jacob was speaking at a recent meeting on energy finance in New Jersey.

My personal thanks to the fine folks at  BioFuels Digest for bringing this to my attention, and for ruining my day…

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance Ronin

Are we successful? You bet!

26 Oct

Welcome to my life… and the wonderful world of Shipping Container (ISBU) Housing.

This week, we’ll definitely break 100,000 visitors.

Quick note: On Thursday, October 29th, at around midday, we did just that. We exceeded 100,000… that’s a lot of people! Talk about one massive village! You guys and gals rock!

This is what the powers that be in the blogging world consider a “niche” blog. It’s targeted at a small group of people who maintain a common view. It’s not “popular,” and I don’t get the kind of readership that other blogs get. Perhaps it’s “the topic,” but more likely than not… it’s because the author is incompetent!

We don’t talk about what “Britney did last week,” or even Paris Hilton. We have more important things to discuss, like how to keep our families safe, and how to protect our personal finances, while things around us change. We accomplish this  by becoming more efficient, more competent,  and more “dependable.”

In the 18 months (man, where did the time go?) that I’ve been writing this blog, it’s gone from visits by a few hundred people a month, to several hundred people per day.

Here in America… we’ve seen an administration change… we’ve seen the economy take a horrible nosedive… and we’ve seen the “pulse of the people” take on something that almost looks like an epileptic  seizure.

I’ve fought “tooth and nail” to assist “the powers that be in Mississippi” in understanding that what I’m doing just makes “common sense.”

You’ve seen where it’s getting MY family.We fight this fight… EVERY DAY. Do I have scars? Oy Vey! Do I have scars…

But, will that deter me? No. Their “naysaying” doesn’t negate the fact that my family still desperately needs a safe home, where we can ride out whatever storm comes, be it Mother Nature, or “man-made.”

Because as things get harder, as economic conditions change, as unemployment looms in the life of thousands of people… people get really nervous. And in order to be able to do that safely, they have to have homes.

That is my “Mitzvah,” my mission…

When times get hard, the prepared and diligent maintain a higher level of safety and comfort. The planning and preparation you do now… will soften the blow if things get severe. And trust me, your family will thank you for all your hard work.

Sure, I talk about my family… and my neighbors, and even “my struggles.”

It is offtimes extremely humiliating to have to admit the things that are occurring in our lives. However, it’s not because I want (or even need) your pity. It’s because by doing that, you are able to see how things actually work. And, understanding how things work makes the process easier.

I want you to be successful. I want you to achieve that level of happiness you seek for your family, in spite of those “uncaring bastards” who would rather watch you fail.

(Sorry, I was raised by Marines… Sometimes my “lesser man” slips out, and I let off a burst of profanity. It’s a curse.)

My goal is to help you build a home that you can afford, that will return it’s value to you over and over again, as your family prospers in it.

And several of you actually have built ISBU homes. Since this blog started in May of last year,  almost a dozen of you have either completed homes, or are well on your way to achieving your dream.

I am SO PROUD of you, each and every one of you!

It takes determination and boldness to go where no one has gone before… and in your own neighborhoods, no less! You’re setting an example that will just make this “housing alternative” even stronger! And… your success will fuel the success of others! This achievement isn’t about “out-greening each other” or making a cultural statement. It’s about being sustainable, energy efficient, and self-reliant… even (gasp!) responsible. It’s really that simple.

For those of you who think I’m just a “Corten Crackpot with nothing better to do…”

History has this nasty habit of recording who was right, and who was wrong.

And I’d rather be reading those books in my own home, without a huge mortgage, and without being a slave to huge and ever growing cash-flow problems, just to keep the utility guys out of the yard my young son is playing in.

Enough said.


The Renaissance RoninAnd BTW: For the record… I’m not sorry I was “raised by Marines.” They taught us how to plan, how to fight, and how to succeed. They taught us to “stand up and be counted,” even when it meant getting a scar. They taught us to do what was right, just because it was right. They taught us to BELIEVE, most of all, in ourselves.
Okay, so they also taught us some four-letter words that would make your mom wash your mouth out with soap. Hey, nothing is without it’s price! 🙂
G_d Bless ’em, every one… Hoo-Yah!

Pass the hammer… and the oxygen, please.

24 Oct

Take 4 ISBU’s (shipping containers) and stack them up to the sky, one on top of the other…

What do you get?


NO! Not a nosebleed and bigger quads…

Well… um… you MIGHT get bigger quads… but stairs are good, right? Better than that “apple a day” nonsense… Have you priced produce lately? I’d rather pay a doctor… 🙂

Recently, I showed you a plan that we’re working on, to build a split level home out of a pile of ISBU’s. And my email was filled almost immediately with comments and taunts about how nobody would even build a house like that!

“Only an idiot would stack ISBUs up in one tall pile, Ronin! You’ve lost your mind!”

Oh yeah? Are you sure about that? Well, I must not be the only “idiot” on the block… Take a look at this project that I saw, located (evidently in “the land of idiots”) in Belgium. You remember Belgium, right? That place where some of the best shotguns in the world (Belgian Brownings!) come from?  The land where Belgian Malinois dogs (some of the coolest dogs on the planet!) come from? That place that is the home of NATO, the European Union, most importantly, the world’s largest brewery…  AB InBev?

Guess I told YOU! 🙂

Anyway… before I was so “rudely” interrupted (by myself, no less!)… I was telling you about the home built by doing exactly what I’ve described previously. 🙂

It was built by 2 visionaries… Pieter Peelings and Silvia Mertens of Sculp(IT). IN Belgium!

No… I didn’t GO to Belgium. (sigh!) I wish… I saw it on the ‘Net…

I bet you wished I’d move to Belgium right about now, huh? 🙂

Anyway… this remarkable house has almost NO footprint. It’s “sandwiched” between two existing structures.

Okay… it’s what I’d deem a “fitness home.” It’s not intended for seniors, or even people with small children. But, it would make a cool “work condo,” for people who were living in the city during the work week.

In fact, if you converted that first floor into an office, you could do business out of your home, quite easily, right at street level.

Like I said, it has virtually zero footprint, compared to the traditional building that we’re used to seeing.

(Unless of course, you live in places like Japan.)

“The compact footprint of this vertical house does indeed makes for an interesting exercise in small living .”

…to blatantly steal the words of the reviewer at

A site, by the way, that I heartily endorse.

Why did I “steal” the reviewer’s description? Well, why try to improve on a masterpiece? I couldn’t have said it better myself. I tried. Several times in fact. I couldn’t get their words out of my head… 🙂

It just sucks for you that my head was filled with the “rest” of this review crap! 🙂

Where was I? Oh yeah… The rooms are minimalistic, and the design is straightforward, and as a result, it’s pretty “clean.”

Each floor (remember that you’re talking about a 40′ x 7’8″ space approximately) is a deep and narrow “cave-like” space assigned to a singular function.


But if you use your gray matter for something besides fertilizing your hair… you’ll realize that you get the ability to do exactly that (NO! Not fertilizing your hair… designating space for a “primary” function! Try to stay with me, huh?)  That action actually serves to accentuate each function; Eating, Sleeping, Working, Playing, etc…


The first floor is at street level.

It’s the perfect place to conduct business, and watch the world go by. A enormous glass door serves to open the entire front of the room to the sidewalk.

A HUGE glass front wall sucks in light. It would have to. Remember, the “home” is housed between buildings. No chance for glazing on the sides of the residence.

But… If it was me, I’d rethink that giant front window. If for no other reason, than to avoid having to replace the entire glass wall, if anything ever happened to it. I love the window, don’t get me wrong… but it’s replacement would probably cost me my kid’s college fund.

I can just see the paperboy slinging my Sunday paper at it, and having  that “safety glass” explode into a million pieces.

I think I’d make it a three or even four piece panel system. I’d still get that “translucence” that the architect craved, and I’d save thousands of dollars, maybe even a few times.

Frankly, I’m surprised that they didn’t do some kind of Solatube “Light Suck…” down from the roof, to draw light down into the house. I mean, you have 40 some-odd feet of wall, on BOTH sides. I wonder if they use them in Belgium? Perhaps not.


It would have been a snap. Okay, so maybe it’s a LITTLE bit complicated. Oh well…

Consider putting a powder room down here, in the back. If you keep reading, you’ll see where the plumbing would come from.

If you do those things, you literally have a working “lifespace.” If you’re an analyst, a journalist, a consultant, or whatever, you have a really nice opportunity to have everything you need, at your fingertips.

(And yes, I realize that if you intend to work in the space, you need a “handicap” bathroom…)

Note that it appears they actually removed the sides of the container. If that’s what they did, I’m speculating that (beyond saving valuable space) this allowed the home to be bonded to the exterior (and insulated) walls of the building on either side. NO insulation costs, except possibly in the foundation, and definitely the roof. Pretty smart thinking… REAL Smart.


Walk up one floor on the spiral stair and you’re in the kitchen/dining room.

I’d have done it different, but that’s just me. Well… it’s just because we “live” differently in America, I suppose.

(BTW: Don’t you hate people that criticize somebody else’s excellent work?)  😉

Here’s the deal. This is ONE COOL HOUSE. Don’t think that it’s design is lost on me. And, it shouldn’t be lost on you. I want you to look at this idea, and use it as inspiration for your own use. I want you to see the versatility in the design, and appreciate the house for what it is, and then, make it into something that works for YOU. If that translates into making me sound petty and envious…

Well, “sticks and stone’s…” bucko! I have really thick skin, so bring it on! 🙂

Would I love to have a house like this in MY portfolio? There aren’t enough words for YES!

Okay, now that we’ve got the public service announcement out of the way…

What if you had the spiral staircase run almost dead center? You’d essentially dissect each floor into two spaces, that measured 16′ x 7’6ish”.

NOW… Run “light tubes” down right next to the spiral staircase on either side, from the roof. Voila, you’ve lit the interior, and concentrated most of the light directly on the staircase, where it’s needed most.

Okay, back to what was REALLY there…


It looks like this. Not bad, but it needs some improvement, for me.

In the back, install a powder room across the back wall. There goes about 5′. You still have 10+ feet for a kitchen. Think “Galley” style. Run cabinets down both sides, with an aisle right in the middle. This means that your powder room door opens in the middle too. That’s not so bad, toilet on one side, and the sink on the other. It’d be quite cool.

Now, you have over 20′ of counter space (10′ x 2) . Go nuts! If you can’t build enough kitchen in this space, you’re either that fat guy ‘Robert’ from “Hell’s Kitchen” (who claimed that all kitchens should be as big as a living room) or a really lousy space planner.

Oh stop it! He’s FAT. I’m FAT. It’s just a fact of life. I don’t discriminate against fat people. I discriminate against STUPID people! 🙂

I could get a kitchen into that space that would make a chef have… um… er… well, just trust me, they’d be delighted.

In the front of that level?

Forget about that HUGE glass window, and that narrow dining arrangement.

Who are these guys? Glass Factory Owners? 🙂

Think a HUGE banquette seating arrangement, across that front wall. Go crazy… Say, about 7′ x 7.6′. Build it in, and put storage under the seat cushions.  Because the benches would be so “deep” you could even do some really cool wine storage on roller cabinets, under them. Pull ’em out, and grab your bottle to match the meal!

NOW, you can seat about a dozen people there, easy.

Plus, that huge table can also be used for other things if required, like food prep or a little bit of buffet space.

You still get a huge (opening) window… it just starts 3 feet up, and runs almost to the ceiling.

And, there’s a ton of room to move around in, so you don’t feel all cramped together, even if you’re having a small party.

Remember, if you started with High Cube containers, you have a ceiling way over 8′ high. Lot’s of room for ceiling fans, and cool lighting opportunities.

The only gripe I really have… is that they could have put a powder room in here, quite easily.


One more floor up is the living room.

Why didn’t I reverse the order of the levels?  Why didn’t they? Well, I’m betting that they saw it like I do. If I’m doing business out of that first floor, I might just want access to the kitchen to fetch drinks and snacks for a client that I’m trying to “arm-twist.” No use interrupting everyone else in the house…

A projection screen lowers in the small space for viewing videos. Okay. That’s it?


The projection screen is a real good idea.

It retracts to cover the light source that would interfere with your enjoyment of “Die Harder…” Good idea. Instant Home Theater. And, when I’m not watching TV, it opens the room up to the world. But, what about the rest of that space? I mean, you’ve got 40′.

Okay, opposed seating, and a cool table. Art Gallery wall stuff…

Put in a library wall across the back, and then add a gaming table and chairs. Maybe a wet-bar.  An electronic dart board, perhaps.

Maybe even… (gasp!) yet another powder room?

Why create a bottleneck on the stairs, after one of Ronin’s world famous “Guaranteed to clean you out – Chili Fests?”

Man, the more I write this “hatchet job of a review” I start seeing a picture of a frat party in my head, with people crammed into every nook and cranny of this house, testing it’s ability to hold all the weight, before it bursts! 🙂

Because so far (with the changes we’ve “made”) I already have about 30 people in this 8′ wide house, moving around comfortably. That’s why.

ISBU-4room6Ah, young love… Hey, I was young, once. Whaaa? I WAS TOO!  🙂

Okay, time for the top…

The highest floor of this “Corten Condo” is a bedroom suite. Their version has a great view from the bed right out through the glass front wall.

Okay. One word. Drapes. This isn’t Amsterdam. And, if I’m living in this house, trust me, you don’t want to see me climbing out of that bed. It’ll give you nightmares, and a huge therapy bill.

Would I put a full bath up here? Yep. Even if it’s just 7’8″ by say about… 10′ I get a really nice bathroom, plenty of space for a nice shower or tub, and I still get enough room left over for a good closet run and a nice place for a cool bed on a storage pedestal.

Here’s a clue; Glass Block Walls… Use it to help catch light for your bathroom. Plus, supposedly, it’s “romantic.” Now, I wouldn’t know, because my wife says “Ronin, you don’t have a single romantic bone in your body… blah, blah, blah…” but for those who do…

You could even put a treadmill next to that window, so you’d have something to give you vertigo  while you pretend to exercise!

Clue number two; Save those ‘barf bags’ from your next airline trip. On that treadmill, you might just need them… 🙂


And on the roof…

Oy Vey… A bathtub? What are you, nuts? Well, if I looked like those guys, I guess I’d do it… But…

… although it’s beautiful, it’s another “perfect” place for the darned birds to drop a bomb. No thanks! I have no real desire to have to spend twenty minutes prior to bathing, to “bathe the tub” first with chemicals… so the neighbors can see me trying to scrub my big old butt, after I’ve waved my butt around in the air trying to sterilize that tub. … No thank you!

If you must, install a spa or hot tub (reinforce the roof first, or you’re gonna get a really cool surprise!) and cover it up with a framed and padded canvas or Naugahyde lid. That way, I can lay on it… and then I can horrify the neighbors, by sunbathing in a speedo. THAT will fix ’em, for peeking at my deck! Instant blindness!   🙂

And, that way I can pretend that I’m on some expensive yacht out in the middle of the Bahamas… being waited on, hand and foot… leisurely SOAKING  (sun OR spa) away my cares, while my son tries to figure out how to burn a metal house down!

If that speedo don’t force them to grope their way down to the car for an emergency trip to the ophthalmologist, well…

… I got a thong as a gag gift a few years ago… and I ain’t afraid to use it! 🙂

(Now there’s a mental picture you didn’t need, huh? Well, you don’t have to thank me… Mom taught me to share…)   🙂

And, I still have a ton of room for a rack or two of photovoltaic panels or solar panels, or even a handy starting place for a wind turbine. Remember, that roof is up in the air “38′ and change” plus your foundation height. 45′ is about the starting point for any “realistic” wind powered electricity production plan… Getting some blades up into a good breeze would be quite possible.

Couple all of that with well designed  geothermal HVAC, and you’re all set.

Need more bedrooms? Just add a level or two to the middle of the stack. You can stack these ISBUs (9) boxes high, folks… Without changing a thing. It’s part of their charm.

And, we haven’t even talked about staggering the container stacks by 8′ or so… to create exterior decks on each level…

And to those of you who shrieked in horror when they saw the photos of this seemingly “Sir Hillary-esque” home…

Having each floor dedicated to task isn’t such a bad idea. It’ provides great separation, and actually contributes to making the home more livable, by more than one person.

Our forefathers did it, and look how we turned out…

Wait… um… never mind.

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance RoninNow… think mid or even high-density housing. Put one parking place in front of each unit. And, stack them side by side, for about… um… ten units or so…

Commerce on the first floor, residential above.

Instant housing complex. And, you could build it fast, fast, fast…

And you could build them cheap, cheap, cheap… Just a thought.

And the higher you go, the more the water balloons hurt… Yikes!

“Net Zero” ain’t always about your Internet Connection…

19 Oct

You know me…

Coming to you… live from my little tiny workspace here in “OMG, Mississippi“…

I usually go on a “Corten Container” filled rant… And, today’s not gonna be any different! No Siree! Except…

This time, I’m gonna talk about how you actually get that Shipping Container home from “across the street”, to “off-grid, across the county and into the countryside…”

That way, you’ll be the ONLY nut in the neighborhood! 🙂

And, I’m not gonna go on a “You have to save the environment all by yourself!” sermon…

We’ve all had just about enough of this “green nonsense”, right?

I mean, if you watch cable TV, you see that it’s possible to go “green”, but it costs you a ton of money! In fact, most of the things you see on TV are just “glitz and glamor”. The “Average Joe” couldn’t possibly afford them, because the “pay-back” happens three years after you’re dead!

And, I’m getting pretty sick and tired of Al Gore…


Don’t get me started…. 😉

You too? Right?


I mean, come on… he used “bad science” to bamboozle his way into a Nobel Peace Prize. Then Obama evidently took lessons, and received a Nobel Peace Prize… for surviving 14 days of the US Presidency. Whaaaa? I used to aspire to winning a Nobel Prize… and now it’s just another sham. 😦

Okay, as most of you know… I’m still not fond of “Al buddy…” Ronin doesn’t like hypocrites. Nuh-uh!

But, you CAN “go green” without having to sell your soul to the devil.

It takes some planning, and a little bit of ingenuity, but it’s possible. In fact, people are doing it all around you! They are too!

Here’s the deal…

You just need to try and manage your assets, and your resources. Then, you design an environment where they work to your benefit. Sounds easy, right?

Well, it’s not easy. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. Right?

First, you start where every good idea starts…

NO! Not the bathroom. Well, okay, in my house, most good ideas start there, because it’s the only door that my little boy hasn’t figured out how to open yet. So, instead, he just sticks his fingers under the door, and yells at me;

“Daaaaaaaaa-dy! Daaaad? I bumped! Daaaaad? DAAAAAAADDDDY!”

Ever try to relax enough to come up with a… um… er… never mind.

Anyway, like I was saying, you start thinking about living off-grid, by thinking about what you use.

Sure, you can stock up on Toilet Paper at Walmart, but as far as I know, they don’t sell bottles full of electricity, yet…

So, you start at home. Let’s face it, most of the things that you do in your life, are to make sure that you have a home.  So, it makes sense that you try and make your home work with you, instead of against you.

Enter the “Zero Energy Home”.

Note: Some people refer to this as “Net Zero Living…

Imagine a home that is not only energy efficient, imagine a house that actually makes it’s own power.

Just like a typical home, a Zero Energy Home can be connected to, and use energy from, the local electric utility services. But unlike typical homes, at times that home can make enough power to send some back to the utility company.

“Oh sure…” you say.

Well, it might surprise you to find out that a Zero Energy Home produces enough energy annually to offset the amount purchased from the utility pimps, and that can result in “net-zero” annual energy bills.

But, how does it do it? Is it “Slight of hand?” Sheer Intimidation? Big ole’ “bite yer butt off” dogs out in the yard so that the meter reader can’t get in and do his/her job? Nope!

But… that could be fun… Hmmm…

A Zero Energy Home works FOR you (instead of against you) by combining state-of-the-art, energy-efficient construction techniques and equipment with renewable energy systems to return as much energy as it takes on an annual basis.

Okay, so you might have to redesign your house, or even build yourself a new one, but…

Hey, I didn’t say this was going to be easy! In fact, I already told you that it wasn’t.

Weren’t you paying attention? Hmmm? 🙂

Okay, so when renewable resources (like the sun) cannot provide the entire home’s power (at night or on a cloudy winter day) the homeowner purchases energy from the utility provider.

Otherwise your wife, or your daughter will moan and groan about the end of the world, because their damned “hot curlers” won’t work right…” Oy! 🙂

Now, I don’t have that particular problem, although it’s from a pretty strange reason. My wife is going through Chemotherapy and Radiation treatments. So, no hair!

In fact, my two year old possesses the only head fulla hair in the whole house! Oy…

When renewable resources produce more than the house is using (during sunny days when no one is home) power is sent back into the utility grid.

Now, this can only happen if you don’t have a couch potato that has taken up residence in your living room, parked in front of the TV, playing on the Playstation. Now, there’s a fix for this too, but it involves a well-placed kick, and a butt…

Okay, where were we? Oh yeah… In some cases, the power source will actually spin  the home’s electric meter backwards (it spins in reverse when you’re making power you don’t use) essentially providing you, the  proud homeowner with something resembling full retail value for their energy.

But how is this accomplished?

Man, haven’t you been reading my posts? I’ve talked about Photovoltaics until I was blue in the face… In fact, truth be told, I’m starting to look like Papa Smurf! I’m telling you, I gotta get a better class of readers. I suspect that some of you are just looking at the pretty pictures! 🙂

In the very near future… we’re gonna talk about Photovoltaic Cells, Modules, Panels, and Arrays.

Why? Because the knee-bone is connected to the shin-bone… eventually… 🙂

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin

Water, water, everywhere…

28 Sep


Look who’s back! I’ve been sitting here, waiting patiently for you to show up. You know how I hate to lecture… with empty seats.

Don’t bother looking around… Yep, that’s right… You’re the only one here!

But, this is a pretty good “shipping container sermon”, if I do say so myself, so you’re just gonna have to suffer thru it all by your “onesies”!!

Sorry about the $25 soda’s and the $32 popcorn being sold in the lobby… diapers are expensive! 🙂

And don’t try no sneakin out… You’re the only one here. I’ll notice. 🙂

Now, we’re off to today’s topic…


We’ve been talking about Geothermal Energy, and how you slap a harness on it.

Now, I ain’t taking about any of that “freaky bondage” stuff, so if that’s what you’re looking for, you’re on the wrong blog. No, I don’t have a link! Man… what a perv! 🙂

I’m talking about getting the temperature out from under your feet, and into your house, where it belongs. After all, what’s the sense in owning land, if you can’t take full advantage of it? Hmmm?

I know it’s hard to think of heating and cooling and then throw a swimming pool sized blast of water into the conversation, but that’s exactly what we’re gonna do.


Man, my mother asked me that for years! I’d just roll my eyes, and then utter those magic words…

“I Duh Know…”

And then, I’d run like the devil himself was chasing me… 🙂

And SHE was…

And no! I’m not talking about water because I’ve been overdosing on “Dangerous Crabbing” or “Deadliest Catch” or whatever it’s called… on Cable TV, either!

Anyone stupid enough to head out into the Bering Sea to catch anything but a severe case of pneumonia, is a complete nutjob! ‘Sides that, crab ain’t even Kosher! 🙂

Crab aint kosherSee? Told Ya!

I’m talking about water, because water is the ideal thermal transport media. That’s WHY!

“WAIT! You were talking about Geothermal HVAC, you Bald-headed Bastard! Stick to the subject!”

I know… I know… Okay, let’s talk about heating and cooling.

Since winter is coming (unless you’re reading this in Australia…) we’ll talk about heating, first.

Everybody and their brother has an opinion about how you heat and cool a house.

Me? Like  I said… You already know that I use Mother Nature… and a lot of chili. I can heat up a room, clear it out, and then… have it all to myself, with just one bowl. And, I get to watch whatever I want on TV… at least until the room airs out…

Were you not paying attention? HELLO? Am I talking to the thin air? Huh? 🙂

Wait… that’s not it… 🙂

Seriously, we all know that there are many ways to heat a house.  In fact, if you’ve been paying attention (you have, right?) I’ve talked until I’m blue in the face (I look like “Papa Damned Smurf” sometimes!) about solar energy and passive solar, so for now, this is what you get (like it or lump it, bucko!)… 🙂

OK, let’s make a list… because I’m really anal that way (according to my wife):

  • You can make heat by burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, or gas, etc.
  • You can make heat by burning renewable fuels like wood, methane, chili… etc.

(But never roast your marshmallows over a methane flame… Blaaahhh! They’ll taste like poop…) 🙂

  • You can even make heat from electric elements.

(Of course, you realize that the heat you generate will be generated in a variety of not-so-greenish ways unless you have a garage fulla bio-fuel powered generator, or a photovoltaic panel array… right?)

  • Or, you can just pay attention to what I’m telling you… and use a $%&$#@!! Heat Pump!

You don’t need to be a nuclear physicist, a rocket scientist, or even possess the alleged brains of your “Know-it-all” Mother-In-Law to see that all of these except the last one seem pretty crude.

And the last one… is extremely crude.  Hey, put the rocks down… I have it on good authority (and a semi-secret poll) that most of you have one of these, too… 😉

The first three are all less than 100% efficient.

In fact, my Mother-In-Law is (gasp!) less than 100% efficient (unless it’s about sucking up all the food on the dinner table), but that’s another post… that could go on for days… weeks maybe! 🙂

No matter how you cut it, energy costs money, so the less efficient your heating system is, the more it will cost you.

Heat pumps can be more than 100% efficient.

“Whaaaa? No way! Impossible! You can’t get more than 100%! It’s a trick!”

You can too! And, it’s really simple.  Heat Pumps don’t generate heat, they pump it. When a heat pump operates in a suitable environment, it can be up to 400% efficient.


So how come heat pumps get such a bad rap, especially in cold winters?  That’s easy too.

When it’s 70 Degrees inside the house, and 25 Degrees outside the house, heat pumps have a really hard time pushing heat from the outside to the inside (kinda like a sump pump trying to pump water up a steep incline).  It’s all a matter of differential.

And I’m not talking about the one on the back of your pick-up, so don’t rush out into the yard thinking you got a one-up on the deal, huh? 🙂

Did you know that when the difference between the outside temperate and the inside temperature is only about 20 Degrees, heat pumps are extremely efficient?

Well, you do NOW!

And that’s exactly what Geo-Thermal Exchange systems are all about. Underneath your yard is an unlimited supply of stable, constant, “love to let me love you…”  temperature, perfect for a heat pump.  Hammered by the desert sun, or buried under the snow… it’s stable, constant temperature. Wait, I already said that…

Well, it bears repeating! And, I just did! See? I’m efficient, too! 🙂

FYI: Told ya I’d get around to Geothermal… You just have to live through all the mindless meandering! 🙂

So… you have a “hunka hunka” slab of stable temperature right under your feet. Big deal. How do you get it out? Easy.

Pay attention, cuz’ I’m gonna learn ya somethin…

All you need to do is sink a long length of tubing beneath the ground, and circulate water through it. For those of you who keep track of facts, it’s called a “ground loop“.  Then, instead of trying to pull heat from the sub-zero air outside your house, you now pull heat from the earth beneath your yard.


The newfangled machinery that does this for you is called “Ground Source Heat Pumps” (or GSHP for short).

There are many different tubing configurations, and the best one to use depends on your personal situation.  If you behave, we’ll talk about those, too!

But for now… let’s talk about Cooling;

Ask anybody and they’ll tell you that the most popular way to actively cool a home in the USA is with a heat pump.  Some desert locations may use evaporative cooling, or even ICE, but these don’t really work in humid climates.

I know that you saw that library on the Science channel that uses Ice to cool the whole building, but that only works in places with “dry heat.” Anywhere else, and it isn’t so effective.


Instead of using peak daytime (and often more expensive) electricity to cool your home or office during the day, in some places you can use your air conditioner to make ice at night (it is cheaper and cooler) and use the ice during the day to stay cool.

But, not around here! “Momma Humidity” will kick your …um… er… butt.

So, it’s back to heat pumps. The high efficiency of a heat pump is a direct result of the temperature differential that the pump must overcome.  In raging summers, this difference may be as high as 30 Degrees, which is luckily still within the operational range of a modern heat pump. Simply put, it pulls air from outside, processes it, and then it pumps it inside…

If it’s over a hundred degrees outside, you have a fight on your hands, and one tired Geothermal Heat Pump. Say it with me…


But what if you use the earth as a constant temperate source.  Now the heat pump is pushing heat from an inside temp of 75 Degrees, down to a nominal 55 Deg Earth temperature through those same in-ground coils.  Since the heat already wants to go from hotter to colder, the heat pump is operating in an ideal environment.  The highest possible efficiency is absolutely “guaran-damned-teed” here. 🙂

Here are some other benefits of the “mysterious Geo-Thermal” exchange.

Geothermal systems rely on loops of pipe placed in the ground. And… burying the earth loop is a hassle, but so is burying power lines, but we do that!  Why? Well, from then onwards, the system is invisible, silent and low maintenance (no noisy fans outside, and no motors exposed to the elements etc.).


Wait! There’s more! I’m a big fan of “multi-tasking.” Since the Geo-Thermal heat pump is already dealing with one water loop, why not go all the way and replace the interior forced air system with an in-floor radiant heat system fed directly from the heat pump.

Radiant In-Floor Heat and cooling is the way, man!

If you do this, the interior noise of your house will also be reduced, and space isn’t taken up with heating ducts. (Great for locations that don’t have a cooling requirement).

Unless, of course, your Mother-In-Law is in town… that insures a “loud house with less space…” argh!

Geo-Thermal heat pumps are also capable of supplying your household hot water service with heat.

So, you won’t get home from work, to find out that dear old “Mom and a half” has used up all your hot water!

Since the cost of heating water for cleaning and bathing is a significant component of any home’s heating bill, the efficiencies of the Geo-Thermal heat pump can have a considerable cost saving.

In fact, Geothermal HVAC systems can pay for themselves.

Next time, we’re gonna talk about houses, Geothermal Heat Pumps, and how the different types of “loop scenario’s” work…

Stay tuned…

The Renaissance RoninAnd for the last time… I don’t “hate” my Mother-In-Law…
We just have “issues.” My therapist says “it’s good to talk about your feelings…”
So stop sending me “hatemail”, huh? 🙂

It’s not getting “better.” You’re just “getting used to it.”

11 Sep

Hey, are we fixed yet?

I’m building a house out of steel… cuz’ the “Big Bad Wolf” swiped all the straw, sticks, and bricks, when I wasn’t looking…

He says he needs them for his next go-round of stimulus give-aways…

I’m the guy trying to build a Shipping Container house, in South Mississippi. Now, it’s not as ridiculous as it sounds, unless you ask the neighbors. In fact, most of them think I’m as crazy as a loon… So, as the “powers that be” try to deter me, I have some time on my hands…

And, that means… you guessed it…

I’m in the mood to whack “political pinata’s ” today, so here goes:

Imagine a President taking time out from his hectic “play” schedule, to address the needs of the populace!

If I was on vacation, well… you’d play hell finding out where  I was relaxing at! After all, I don’t pull a truck full of frosty cold beverages around behind me, when I head for the hills. At least not one to share with “strangers…” 🙂

If I’d been Obama, I’d have been pulling Martha’s Vineyard in around me like a security blanket, but ole’ Obamanation… he’s always ready to put a big happy face on whatever seems to be bludgeoning the economy (or lack thereof) of us lowly citizens here in the States.

Case in point;

In a recent press “meet and greet,” he actually said:

“We’re losing jobs at a much slower pace.”

That’s like telling an accident victim that;

“Relax… you’re not hemmoraging near as badly as you were a minute ago! You might survive after all! Maybe…”

So, the trainwreck is slowing down…. says Him. Well, not around here, it ain’t. We just had another round of layoffs, as the industrial sector (pitiful as it is here in Mississippi) tightens it’s belt further, so that the CEO’s can afford those upcoming ski vacations…

I took a poll recently, and 1 out of 7 people I know has either become unemployed, had their hours cut back, or tried to find a second job, so that they can keep their kids in Skittles and oatmeal…

But every time I turn on the damned cable TV,  I see some idiotic politician or jug-headed economist saying that things are getting better! What’s up with that crap?

I’m starting to think that those politicians living way up there on “Planet Stupidity” (where the air is apparently REALLLLLLY thin…) couldn’t find their asses with both hands and a GPS.

As the seasons begin their slow descent from “ungawdly hot and humid” to “Brrrrrr… it’s the tropics for cryin out loud! Why’s it so freakin cold?”  I’m wondering when things are going to start getting better.

HEY! This whole thing could be “seasonal.”

Since Bubba can’t afford to go Bass fishin’ every weekend cuz “the price isn’t right,” maybe he bought more beer and BBQ, and stayed home! Maybe summer sales of charcoal briquettes and lighter fluid are gonna heal what ails us!

Hey, maybe it’s that “back to school” madness, where parents ran like lemmings to a cliff, trying to get their kid just the right ensemble, so that they won’t become a social outcast, and be forced to “Columbine” the whole class!

Possibly it’s due to grandparents rushing to Kmart (the only department store that does Xmas layaways, evidently), trying to get the jump on other grandparents trying to lure their grandchildren back into their geranium smelling houses for the holidays! After all, they’ll be forced into “the home” someday, and they want visitors! You betcha!

Maybe it was “Cash for Clunkers!” You know, that program where some people gave up perfectly good cars (that were almost paid for), only to sell their souls to the “credit devils” again… for the promise of a few flashed Benjamins that won’t last over twenty seconds in this failing economy.


Did I forget to mention that it was taxpayer funded? That means that we were picking our own pockets… Duh! Am I the only one to see these things? Oy!

Now, they’re talking about another “Cash for Junkers” program, where you can trade your old appliances in, for newer, more efficient ones. I suspect that Uncle thinks we stashed some cash away that he couldn’t get to…

What we need are programs that actually speak to the common man… stuff like “Cash for Bunkers…” a program to help homeowners reinforce their houses, in case the crowds riot, looking for bread and gatorade…

Or “Cash for Dunkers!” a program aimed at insuring that we can afford Starbucks coffee and those outrageously priced pastries, as we schlep to work, only to quiver in our cubicles, waiting for that pink slip…

Hey… how about “Cash for Lunkers!” A program that subsidizes weekend bass fishing, so that the “Average Joe” can put some affordable protein back on his dinner table… Now, that’s a program I could cast a hook into…

And finally, how about “Cash for Punkers?” A program that helps beautify your city, by giving some kids (you know the ones…) hair cuts, and appropriate clothing… that doesn’t expose their underwear, the crack of their asses, or other naughty bits that we aren’t supposed to see until we’re married?

Call me a ^*&$%#!! liberal, but I think if you’re gonna give away money, it should be for something the “tired, poor, unwashed masses” actually need… like deodorant.

Cash for Funkers…” Brother, can you spare a lime… smelling antiperspirant stick?

And don’t even get me started on this stupid notion that the US Government actually cares about you enough to try and fix your health care. I can see it all now, like a horrible nightmare…

You know, the one where your In-Law shows up on your porch, wearing a Moo-moo, 12 pounds of make-up, and curlers… crying about how her house just burned down (because she was too stupid to turn off the stove), and now she has no place else to go…

Holy Housemates, Batman! Where did that come from? Man, I gotta get my blood-pressure checked again… Oy Freakin’ Vey!

The healthcare proposal is JUST like that! Shut up! It is TOO!

“Now serving number 1894! 1894! Hurry up, we ain’t got all day!

Okay, you’re Mr. Who again? Please stop bleeding on my desk, huh? I don’t want to have to call the Hazmet crew! What test are you talking about? What? Let me check…

Sir, You don’t even HAVE Heart Disease! You have breast cancer! You do too! I don’t care what those doctors told you! It’s right here on my computer screen. And, beside’s… you can’t have that test! You’re way too old!

Look… The waiting room is jammed full, and you’re the oldest fossil in the room! You should consider yourself lucky! Why… You’ve already had a long, full, “squander your childrens birthright”  life and we have to think about THEIR children! Why yes, as a matter of fact… There ISN’T enough to go around! NO! We don’t use a “quota” to schedule health care! We use complicated formulas to selectively prioritize who gets what and well… according to my computer… you don’t get ‘what.’ It’s all about shareholder values, profit margins, and CEO bonuses! You think those grow on trees?

I’m sorry you think you’re sick, but hey, you should have thought of that before we repaired your healthcare system! I think you’re being selfish, SIR!

After all, it’s not like we can just crap money, sir! The government doesn’t work like that! So, have a nice day and remember —  we’re the US Government and we’re here to help you! If you need anything else… you can call this toll-free number;


And you can bet that if you’re stupid enough to call it… you’re’ gonna get put on hold… forever.

And, since we’re asking… why does that woman on the other end of the telephone sound like she’s in Bombay?

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance Ronin

A Corten Treehouse in the Woods!

5 Sep

Greetings, Campers!

Happy Freakin’ Labor Day, AMERICA!!


Yeah, it’s me again! That “metal craving miscreant” who dreams of living in a steel cocoon, while all those “naysaying bastards” drift slowly out to sea, after the next hurricane races in and kicks their butts!

Yikes! Where did THAT come from? Geez, I gotta check my med’s again! 🙂

Seriously, while I pound my head against the wall, trying to get these poltroons (um… okay… “authorities”) in Mississippi to understand that building a house out of a steel box makes good sense, I’m working on a few other projects, helping friends achieve a level of success I can only dream about, for now!


Recently, we came across a windfall. A guy we know has several containers stockpiled that have received damage while being offloaded, moved, or even dropped! And, he gave us the keys to the yard where they’ve “dumped them,” and told us that we could have whatever we could haul off.

So, like “good little recyclers,” we sent out our steel contractor pal, to inspect the boxes for damage, so that we could figure out how they could be used.

And, although most of them so far are unusable as “complete units,” most of them could be salvaged, if you kissed their little butts with a plasma cutter, and sectioned them off! And thus, a dream was born…

What do you do, when you have several 8′ x 16′ – 20′ x 9.5′ metal boxes, with one end cut off?

You build “treehouses!” Yeah buddy, Now we’re talkin! You build a “little house” that would make some of those “Little Houser’s” CRAZY! After all, you never know when society as we know it is gonna cave in, and you need a bulletproof place to run to! 🙂

I have a guy in our ranks, who has a big hunk of property that looks out at the Gulf Of Hepatitis… um… er… Mexico. And,  since it’s in an “unincorporated area,” building codes are easier to deal with and P&Z Nazi’s are less “active.” Thus, he’s all for experimenting, so he’s given us “carte blanche” to build a few experimental units, to see what can be done, if you stay up way too late, drink way too much coffee, and just generally run amok with power tools. Obviously, he’ll eventually own whatever we build (unless I can work something out, or find some way to blackmail him… 🙂 ),  but in the meantime, we’ll get to use it as shelter.

So here’s the deal…

There are several huge oaks on the property, and one of them got some pretty severe damage when Hurricane’s Katrina and then Gustav smacked them around. As a result, we can use one of them, as a platform, to build off of.

We’re gonna stick one 8′ x 16′ box up into that tree,  and do a “Swiss Family Are you outta your freakin mind?” cabin. We’ll build a staircase up to it, using a metal staircase that we salvaged from a hotel rebuild, after Hurricane Katrina tried to eat half of Biloxi.

Remembering that you have 9.5 feet of height in a High Cube, we’re gonna have to be “crafty” to disguise the box… but it should be a cool platform for the ultimate “Little House in da Woods…”

And I have another idea up my sleeve.


No! Not this… but ain’t it cool?

I have several pieces of culvert pipe, that got left over from a DOT highway project. We’re talking huge pipe, sections approximately 10′ long, by 10′ in diameter. (Okay, the inside diameter is about 8′.)

I’m thinking that we pour a footed slab, that will carry the weight of a section of that pipe, and then drop that sucker down onto it. Now, I’ve essentially got a 10′ high platform to set a section of those ISBU’s on, and  I can build up from there.

(Plus, I can use the created “cavity” of that pipe section for storage, or anything else I can figure out, as we move along.)

Now, 8′ x 16′ isn’t much, but if  I stack two container segments one on top of the other, I have a 128 square foot main, and the opportunity for a 64+ square foot loft above it, plus maybe even some nifty sleeping lofts above that, if I use something like a clerestory or even a shed roof to cap the whole shooting match off.

FYI: I figure a loft plan is best, so that the “cabin” doesn’t start feeling like a coffin.

I don’t want to lose any of the square footage to an entry, so here’s what I’ll do;

I’ll build an exterior deck, that hangs off the front of the house. It’s only gonna be big enough to sit out there and look at the mosquitoes buzz by so it won’t take any great engineering feat to make it happen.  We’re talkin’ 8′ wide by 6′ deep, here. Off that, we’ll hang an 8′  “catwalk”  (4′ wide) that will lead to another deck structure, that will double as a carport.  This way, we have another 8′ x 16′ “out door room” to use as an extended living space, when weather permits.

We’re gonna cover it and then screen it in, to prevent the mosquitoes from making a meal out of us.  As it is, I have to tie Joshua to the ground, as the mosquitoes around here are known to have carried small children off… 🙂

So, we just added 128 more square feet, as “mild weather space.” Plus, it’s gonna serve as a cover for a car parked under it.

Like I’ll ever be fortunate enough to actually own a car, again… 😦

A big ceiling fan should keep the room cool enough to allow us to sit out and enjoy the view. A staircase from that deck, will lead down to grade.

Over the next few days, I’m gonna do some sketches, to give you an idea what we’re thinking about.

46871652This’d make a dandy starting point, huh?

I’m thinking about something along these lines, but 2 story, with a sloped “south-facing” roof constructed out of  SSMR (Standing Seam Metal Roofing). It’d be nice to use some roof surface for water retention. And in our case, the connecting deck will be a screen room, with solar panels on the roof of it, to help make power and  maybe even some hot water for an outdoor shower.

Figure that much of the south facing walls will be glazed, either with  commercial glass panes, or “fixed” sliding glass doors,”or maybe even some glass block (that we traded/bartered for) thrown in, as “illuminating accents.”

As I think this through, I’ll post the progress.

And then, you can tear them apart to your heart’s content.  If we can figure out how to do this “fast, fast, fast…” I may move into it myself… until we either move out of Mississippi to someplace that uses logic for making rules, or the powers that be decide to leave us alone long enough to build the house we really want… 🙂

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance Ronin

I’ve got an 800 pound Gorilla in a can!

18 Aug

Do too! Wanna see?

First, I beg your forgiveness over my absence for the last several days…

My days of late have been rather hectic. Chemo and Radiation are cruel mistresses, and my wife Char isn’t bearing up too well. In fact, we spent the last few days in the ICU at our local hospital, working our way through an “Oh My Gawd” moment that seemed to last forever.

But, on the positive side, she’s been far less grumpy, and really quiet since the sedatives finally kicked in… Man, they should bottle that stuff for home use… Maybe even in an aerosol can!

“What’s that? Gawd, woman… why are you griping at me, again? Pssssssssssst! There, that’ll fix ya… Now stop drooling all over yourself, you look like a demented primate…” 🙂

(I know, I know… direct your “hate mail” to “”)

I spent countless hours, trying to keep Joshua occupied (Man, do I wish this kid had a Grandma…) and thinking about decisions that I’ve made, trying to get us into a real home, one where we’ll be safe from whatever tries to come thru the door, or the roof.

You see, I’m that nut trying to build his family a home out of shipping containers, aircraft hangar parts  I recycled, and a few photovoltaic panels, to keep the utility guy outta my yard.

After Joshua finally fell asleep (no thanks to those geriatric candy-stripers who kept trying to feed him sugar loaded cookies and orange juice!) , I was reading an architectural magazine, and a guy in the patients lounge saw it.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know those nice ladies are just there to try and make your bad time a bit better, but the last thing I needed was my kid running at full bore, hopped up on sugar and chocolate chips. Talk about an Energizer Bunny on Acid! Oy freakin Vey!) 🙂

(Have you ever noticed that when you’re sitting, minding your own business, trying to relax with a magazine or a book, everybody in G_d’s Creation will try to engage you in a conversation? Hmmm?)

Anyway, while I sat there trying to read my magazine, I ended up having a conversation with a guy who was telling me all about “affordable housing.” He went on and on about the houses that his company is building, and then whipped out a brochure (that he “just  happened  to have) to show me his “prizes to houseless humanity.”

Now, I didn’t mention that I was “something of an expert” in the field. In fact, I mentioned very little. He wouldn’t let me get a word in edgewise…

I may be a pig, but I’m a smart pig. I read the covers of magazines (especially if they have girls, or Hot Rods, or better yet… girls on hot rods…  on the cover), I can read the jacket liner notes on good books, and I can even crayon with the best of them. Hell, I can even carry on a conversation, as long as you don’t try to slip in any polysyllabic words.

But this guy… every third phrase was “affordable housing.” And, he kept using them like he actually understood them. But after I listened to him go what seemed like the entire hurricane season, I realized that he had absolutely no clue. It was one of those conversations that should have gone like this;

“Man, the hamburgers in the hospital cafeteria are really affordable. Why don’t I go grab a few, and we can keep talking about housing.”

But, the reality of the conversation was more like;

“Let’s grab a burger and talk about affordable housing.”

And then it went south faster than Yankees carrying carpetbags to Memphis at the end of the “War Between the States.” 😦

Affordable Housing is a topic that’s being beat to death in every building rag on the planet.  Everywhere you look on th Internet, there are loads of “hip modern housing designs” that just beg to be built.

(It’s funny that the renderings never include “normal average everyday, drive my butt to work and then crawl home” kinda people. They always depict “elegant people” who look like they belong in an expensive liquor ad.)

Now, I LOVE looking at these renderings, because they usually make me laugh. Like many other people, I’m drawn to these images, because I’m trying to claw my way thru the mystery, to arrive at that magical land, where everybody gets to grow up in a home of their
own. I’m interested as hell, because one of these days, I want to abandon the crappy rental walls that my family has been forced to live in (after a hurricane ate our house), and live in a modern, safe, durable home that I can afford.

You see… I can’t afford what some people call “affordable housing.”

Why am I hacked off, and even jaded? Well, it’s because the guys building these “affordable houses” are as shifty as the San Andreas fault line.  The photos are cool, and the renderings do make you wonder;

“What if?”

“What if?” is the wrong question to be asking yourself. The real question is : “HOW?”

One you stop looking at the snazzy renderings, you have to read the fine print. And most of time you’ll find out that it’s filled with misinformation, and inconsistent conclusions.

Usually, these ads and blog posts are written by marketing ilk. You know the type. Slicked back hair, big snazzy car, lot’s of bling. They’ll dazzle you with BS, while they try to determine the best way to “close you,” and get their commission.  Because so many of us are desperately seeking out that Holiest of Grails—a really cool house that their family can actually afford to buy—we want to believe (Gawd, we want to believe!), and we find ourselves overlooking anything that might get in the way… like facts. And if you look for them, you’ll see them. You know the ones… facts that usually disprove the claims of housing affordability.

Before you buy into any of these “Merry skips down La-la lane…” you have to put on your Sherlock Holmes  hat, and look for the REAL truth. That really hot house you just read about was probably built with donated products, so that the manufacturers can get “free publicity.” The builder may have  used students and retirees as volunteer labor to build it, too!

Ever gone to one of those trade shows that tout “Housing Opportunities?”

You pay your ten bucks, and you expect to see the home of your dreams. You know the one…

It’s that one that you’ve got taped to the fridge, after you saw it on the Internet. And when you fight thru the crowd (because they’re all there for the same reason, and seemingly, the same house) to inspect the property, you’re gonna find out that the camera is NOT your friend. Camera angles can make a small house look much larger than it actually is.

And what’s this? The foundation isn’t included in the deal. And, it’s a tricky foundation, that will cost you your kids college fund. Hey! Nobody mentioned that in the blog post…

Those @$#%&!!

Nothing is free, folks. I’ve been saying it for a while, if you’ve been reading the blog posts. In order to build, you have to spend.

“But  I saw it on the Internet!” isn’t an argument that will fly, when you get right down to the dollars and cents of your new home, especially if you’re trying to build affordable housing.

You’ve gotta stick to the facts;  a clear understanding of all of the variables involved (the size in square footage, the quality of the components that you’ll use, the erection method (do not insert “Viagra” joke here), the operational expenses, blah, blah, blah…

Now, that’s a discussion that you don’t wanna have with the In-Laws, brought on because your “significant other” suspects that you’re crazy. THAT   discussion has the potential to not only mislead anybody interested in the concept of affordable housing, it’ll also fill their tiny little brains with rebuttals to the marketing hype. You know… the inaccurate” non-facts.” You need to have a meaningful discussion of affordable housing that will steer the naysayers away from their uptight, “Why don’t you just go buy a regular house like everyone else, you worthless bastard…”  glory.

It’s a grueling conversation best served up with a full goblet of your best wine, or if it’s with your In-Laws… a cheap bottle of swill, like Ripple, or maybe even “Boone’s Farm.”

And, if you stick to the facts, at the end, they’ll get a good headache from all the phosphates in the crap you served them to drink, you’ll have avoided the minefield that is the “affordable housing stories in the mags,” and it will be far less disappointing, than that horrible “standing in the parking lot, disillusioned” feeling you got, when you finally saw thru the hype, at the “Home and Garden Show.”

I’m gonna spend the next several days, (Char’s illness permitting) finishing off my post series on Geothermal Heating and Cooling.

And then… I’m gonna help you figure out what’s real, and what’s not.

Affordable housing ain’t “a million dollar modular” dropped on your lot, without any landscaping.

But if you stay tuned, I’ll show you what Affordable Housing “IS.”

I promise…

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance Ronin

Geothermal Energy: The Journey to the Center of the Girth… :)

4 Aug

Man, this building a home out of 40′ ISBUs (shipping containers) is getting harder and harder!

I crawled out of my cave today, and looked at the sky. For several days in a row, we’ve been plagued by lighting, thunder, and downpours that last just long enough to turn the place into a sauna, and make you want to crawl into your bed and pull the covers up over your head.

The power’s gone out several times, the cable is looking like those scrambled images you looked at, as a kid, fighting eyestrain while you stared into the tube trying to see anything that looked like “nakedness” (remember scrambled porn channels? Admit it! I’m not the only one who did that! Am I? Um… er…  oh, never mind!), and the big oak tree in the church parking lot lot next door got a kiss from Gawd’s fireworks, and it’s now looking like some kind of demented twisted twin Oak mutation.

Incredible. Speaking of stuff that ends with “credible”…

In order to host a “credible blog,” I’ve become aware that you have to actually possess credibility.


So, in keeping with the theme of the day (Credibility… aren’t you paying attention? Sheesh!) 🙂 I thought I’d list my title so that you can see how credible I is…

I’m currently deployed, um…er… employed, in a job that pays exactly what I’m worth.

I got me a title, I do…

I’m the “Involuntary Second Assistant to the Assistant Manager, in charge of the department of certain things that nobody else gives a great big “Gawd Dang It!” about…”

Remember that Paypal donation button way over there to the right? PULLLLELASE! We’re starving! 🙂

And, I’ll have you know that I didn’t “volunteer” for the job! Only suckers volunteer for anything! The last time I did that, I got married to a crazy Indian bent on scalping Jews… 🙂

Oy Freakin Vey! I miss my hair… 😉

So, obviously… one of the things I’m in charge of… is spouting off about hot air. After all, I got me a title, so that makes me an expert, right? 🙂

Last time we talked (um…er… chatted… um… okay, you CAN read, right?)… 🙂

We were talking about living in a steel box, and ways to control the temperature. And, I was going on and on about how I’m using Geothermal HVAC to heat and cool the “hot box” we’re building.

Geothermal Energy is simply heat or coolant (thermal) derived from the earth (geo). It is the thermal energy contained in the rock and fluid (that fills the fractures and pores within the rock) in the earth’s crust.

Guys like Burkland (a noted scientist from the 70’s) have been doing calculations that demonstrate that the earth, originating from a completely molten state, would have cooled and become completely solid many thousands of years ago without an energy input in addition to that of the sun. It is believed that the ultimate source of geothermal energy is radioactive decay occurring deep within the earth.

Wait a sec’, and let me grab my “professor hat…”

Time for the Science lesson; Run for your lives! 🙂

Some wise guy, paid to know better, with a bunch of alphabet soup after his name, said: “In most areas of the earth, this geothermal heat reaches the surface in a very diffused state. However, due to a variety of geological processes, some areas, including substantial portions of many western states in the United States are underlain by relatively shallow geothermal resources.”

Who said it? Hell, I don’t know,  I fell asleep after “In most areas of…”!! Your guess is as good as mine! 🙂

But, it’s true. For example, I used to live in the Pacific Northwest, on 15 glorious acres by a serene little river that sat in the middle of nowhere. All around us, there were Geothermal Hot Springs, and we exploited them to bathe in, provide heat and hot water for our houses, and we even built a cooker/poacher using them.

Why did I ever leave? Um… not many girls… When you’re a dork like moi, you need a much larger pond to fish in… 🙂

Anyway, most of these resources can be classified as low temperature (less than 90°C or 194°F), moderate temperature (90°C – 150°C or 194 – 302°F), and high temperature (greater than 150°C or 302°F). Why classify them at all? Well, the uses to which these resources are applied are also influenced by temperature.

The highest temperature resources are generally used only for electric power generation. Current U.S. geothermal electric power generation totals approximately 2200 MW or about the same as four large nuclear power plants.

Uses for low and moderate temperature resources can be divided into two categories: direct use and ground-source heat pumps.

Direct use, as the name implies, involves using the heat in the water directly (without a heat pump or power plant) for such things as heating of buildings, industrial processes, greenhouses, aquaculture (growing of fish) and resorts.

That’s what WE did. And, there were no moving parts! No maintenance, and lots of time to fish and garden… Yippee… But, not many girls… Argh!  Noticing a trend yet? 🙂

Direct use projects generally use resource temperatures between 38°C (100°F) to 149°C (300°F). According to statistics, current U.S. installed capacity of direct use systems totals 470 MW or enough to heat 40,000 average-sized houses.

Ground-source heat pumps use the earth or groundwater as a heat source in winter and a heat sink in summer. Using resource temperatures of 4°C (40°F) to 38°C (100°F), the heat pump, a device which moves heat from one place to another, transfers heat from the soil to the house in winter and from the house to the soil in summer. Accurate data isn’t readily available on the current number of these systems; however, the rate of installation is thought to be between 10,000 and 40,000 per year. And that number is growing fast.

End of Science Lesson.

See, it didn’t hurt, much.

(Now… I took a couple of Advil’s while I typed it, but for you… just some minor eyestrain, so stop your complaining! Man, what a bunch of whiners!) 🙂

When you mention Geothermal anything, the very first thing that people ask, is:

“How in the heck can you afford it?”

I suspect that they envision something that resembles “A Journey to the Center of the Earth,” with Brendan Fraser solving all your problems heroically, using “Hollywood tricks.”

(Frankly, I preferred the original version, but I’m not exactly a Spring Chicken. Actually, to be truthful, the heroine was much more attractive.)

Here’s some facts to dispel the myths, and help you convince your significant other that you haven’t lost your mind…. again!

How much can you save in energy costs with a geothermal system?

New York
Standard Geoexchange System $583 $797 $1,179 $1,062
Standard Air Source Heat Pump $826 $1,109 $2,059 $1,541
Standard Gas Furnace / Electric Air Conditioning $686 $860 $1,377 $1,138
Electric Resistance / Std Air Conditioning $1,196 $1,317 $2,945 $2,352

Who (besides ME) Says Geothermal Energy is the Best Choice?

Geothermal energy has already been recognized as the single most efficient and greenest heating/cooling method by people who are paid to know, in places like government and private sectors.

Now, I know that you’re suspicious of anything that comes from “Obamanation,” that tells you it’s the best way… but… Get used to it. It’s the same as when the intel came from Bushland, or the Clinton Conspiracy, or even the Nixon Nightmare… Just do your homework, and then decide for yourself.:)

Here’s what the U.S. Department of Energy says about Geothermal

Click here!

And here’s what the guys and gals at Energy Star are saying;

Click here!

EnergyStar has even compiled a listing of approved geothermal products, and you can get that PDF here:

Click Here!

The Department of Energy Consumer’s Energy Guide even has data on geothermal systems and ROI (return on investment);

Click here!

And if you want more stuff to talk about over the dinner table, instead of a heated discussion about your Mother-In-Law coming to visit for a “weekend” that actually lasts a week… again…;

You can talk about the EPA’s State and Local Climate Change program (PDF):

You know the drill… Click Here!

This handy-dandy info source is focused on helping you to take advantage of the high energy efficiency and low environmental impact of geothermal systems.

And there are many, many Consumer, industry, and scientific organizations jumping on the bandwagon;

The California-based Consumer Energy Center praises versatile geothermal energy.

I’d think any information based body from California would be falling on it’s own swords right about now, as Arnold tries to “Terminate” the naysayers to his “bailout budget” but try this link (if California can still afford bandwidth!)…

Click Here! You’ll be baaaaaack! 🙂

The copy writers and braggarts at the GeoThermal Energy Association discuss the benefits of renewable geothermal energy.

Why? Can you say “Buy My Products.” Oh wait, that’s the guy from those learn it on CD things… Anyway, try here:

Click Here!

And if all this information hasn’t got your head spinning, then you can find out what the Union of Concerned Scientists has to say. Even major energy producers (power plants) recognize geothermal energy advantages  as a renewable source of power.

Click here, but I warn you, it’s a big file.

Okay, so you’ll spend the next several hours reading up on Geothermal Science.

You will right? After all, remember, I trap your IP addresses. If you don’t… well, let’s just say that there’s a smoking pile of dog poop on your front porch, in your near future… 🙂

After doing your homework, and waving a fistful of data sheets in the air as you debate Geothermal with your “spouse…” You know what’s gonna happen, right?

They’ll just look at you, with a blank stare, and say; “So what? What do other people who actually USE Geothermal say?”

And you can scream; “AH- HA! Here’s the answer right here!” as you fling printouts up in the air gleefully!

(Hey, works for ME!) 🙂

It appears that over 90% of people and corporations using geothermal systems would recommend installing one in your home. That’s reflected in a number of online users’ and owners’ forums, including GeoExchange, which you can find…

Yeah, yeah… just shaddup and click here! Sheesh… you’re a bunch of sissies! 🙂

It’s a great place to find no-nonsense answers and information about Geothermal, from people actually using it.

But I’m guessing that you think installing a Geothermal system is like building a Nuclear Powerplant, right? Nope. Here’s a look at how one of them did it;

Next time, (now that you’re armed with enough facts to completely cloud the issue) we’ll tackle the specifics of Geothermal, and start laying out a “real” system. 🙂

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin

9.5% and climbing…

9 Jul

Most of you know that I’m stuck in Mississippi…

…trying to build a house out of reclaimed and recycled materials, to shelter my family. And, I’d like to do it, before “hurricane season” crashes down on us, once again. But… the politicians are standing between me, and my dream. It’s not like it’s impossible to do… It’s just impossible to “legislate.” OY.

And, while I’m doing this “running around in circles so I don’t just stop, take a deep breath, and go absolutely freakin postal in Jackson” thing… I’m helping some pals build THEIR Shipping Container homes.

Recently, while we were “toiling and planning and conspiring and consulting….” one of my pals got hammered by the evil fist of fate… lay-offs.

Now, this guy… We’ll call him “Pat…” now he’s the stuff America got built of. I’m talking about the REAL America, not that phony “Hollywood America” you see on TV. As a manager, when the lay-offs were announced, he actually went into his bosses office, and offered up his own job, if they’d just use his salary and benefits to keep the other workers employed. After all, they were “youngster’s with families.”

Needless to say, his bosses declined his offer. But, when is the last time you heard of somebody doing that, especially when they were going through the same tough times as everyone else? Hmmm?

So, more good workers hit the streets, looking for something that resembles hope, something that will feed their families, instead of the ridiculous crap that keeps filtering down on us like smog from Washington DC…

And “Pat?” He’s on the phone, on his own time, trying to find his crew new jobs with other companies, so they don’t end up on skid-row.

Meanwhile… all eyes look east, towards DC…

What’s it going to take for Americans to realize that they’ve been duped?

President Obama got himself elected on a pedestal of promises, and frankly, folks… it’s just not happening…

America has more debt now than ever before. Our great grandchildren will be paying the interest on the trillions of dollars that have been haphazardly thrown onto the bonfire.

I still suspect that all that cash got tossed on to make enough smoke to hide the real issues. After all, it’s hard to see clearly, when your eyes are burning.

Whatever happened to all those thousands of jobs that Obama was going to create? Well… they got created in Malaysia and the Far East. The billions and billions of dollars that got spent for “jobs” went to companies who manufacture “offshore,” because hiring Americans costs too much. Whaaaa?

For example;

The ‘stimulus’ promised a jobless peak of 8%; it’s now 9.5%.

And yesterday, we got the bad news… again…

In fact, the best thing that we can say about June jobs report is that “employment is usually a lagging economic indicator.” Yeah? Okay, if that’s true then shouldn’t that accentuate just how bad things are getting? The loss of 467,000 jobs for the month is one more sign that the economy still hasn’t hit the bottom despite months of lies, political aggrandizing, camera-whoring, and epic fiscal and monetary reflation.

Can you say “whirlpool of despair?”

The report was a pig, to be sure. And there’s no way to sweeten it up by adding a prom dress, either. Average hours worked per week dropped to 33, the lowest level in at least 40 years, maybe more.

I’m not exactly sure how much further back than that… Hey, I had pimples and Pink Floyd records, and I was playing with Hot Wheels at the time. Shut up! 🙂

Hey… shortened work weeks! Yippee! More time to play with the kids right? Nope. More time to listen to your significant other moan in despair, as the budget gets turned upside down, just like the mortgage. It’s not like it’s just YOU, right?

This means that millions of full-time workers are being “downgraded” to part-time, as businesses slash labor costs to maintain profit margins.

And, because people are working less, wages have fallen again this year. Factories are operating at only 65% capacity, while the overall jobless rate hit 9.5%, and it’s still climbing…

Throw in disgruntled workers who want their full-time jobs back, and the labor underutilization rate climbs faster than an F-18 hunting bogies! We’re talking double-digits, folks!

So, instead of just firing people, companies downgraded them to part-time, and stripped them of their benefits. It was either that, or; “Hit the bricks, bucko…  and go look for another job.”

Man, what a tough choice… Can you imagine what those numbers would have looked like, if those people had just hit the street? It’d be a tidal wave of unemployment, that would make our grandparents remember the breadlines.

The tragic thing is that existing hourly wages have dropped too. So, the companies are still making profit, but they’re spending less to get it, in some places. Greed has become pretty evident, as CEOs take huge salaries and compensation, as their employees start to hemorrage blood, trying to pay bills as their wages get “adjusted.”

The news is even worse for young people, with nearly one in four teenagers finding themselves unemployed. That’s just what we need, huh? More teenagers standing around idle, trying to figure out how to entertain themselves without any cash… Oy.

And, it get’s better! Remember that minimum wage hike that Congress scheduled? It bumps minimum wage up, from $6.55 to $7.25 on July 24th. You’d think this is GOOD news, right? Nope. It means that labor is going to cost small business more, so they’ll have to CUT BACK the number of employees they keep, to make it through the tough times that the economy is dealing out. Oy again!

Manufacturers aren’t exempt, either! Americans who make things and actually produce those goods we consume lost 223,000 more jobs last month. Almost a quarter of a million jobs LAST MONTH.

Asked about these job losses by the Associated Press, President Obama said Congress should pass his cap-and-tax on carbon energy because “If we’re weatherizing every building and home in America, if we are creating windmills and solar panels and biofuel facilities, that is a huge promising area not only for jobs here in the United States, but also for export growth.”

Bullsh@t! What a bunch of crap.

First, the President has no way on earth to monitor how many jobs “he created.” Only by audit have we discovered that most of the jobs now funded are in offshore factories. How’d they do that? Well, by noting that factories here laid off workers, or even shut down completely, but product still kept hitting the shelves. It had to come from SOMEWHERE, right?

Millions of Americans are unemployed. But, not all of those unemployed workers are capable of building windmill blades and solar panels (especially since most solar panels are built in the Far East, anyway). There aren’t enough plants producing windmill blades or solar panels in the US to bail out America’s unemployed. There would have to be one in every city in America to do that.

And, if there was, the price of goods would have to drop. Competition, remember?

And, that’d mean more cuts, to supply cheaper products. Talk about a “Catch-22!”

With manufacturing on its back, enacting a new energy tax to drive more jobs offshore… is just insanity. And, I’ll point out that I mean no offense to REAL insane people.

If you watch Cable, they keep saying that; “Of course, the economy can’t keep falling forever, and most forecasters still see a recovery starting this year.”

Yeah, what’re they basing that on? More false hope and promises that are starting to smell like lies?  The decline in manufacturing slowed last month and housing sales have picked up — and supposedly these are both positive indicators.

Whaaa? Not around here. In most of middle America, the opposite is true. And, almost all of those tax credits for buying a new home are aimed at the buyers buying “newly constructed” homes, which will only create a glut in the “pre-owned housing market.”

How do you buy a new home when you’re unemployed? Huh? Boy, renting is starting to look better and better all the time!

They keep saying that consumers are spending more. But the cost of living is going up daily.

Sure we’re spending more! You keep jacking up the prices, you @ssh@les!  We still have to eat! Our children’s tummies still grumble. They don’t understand “tightening the belts.” Oy, oy, oy…

The real question should be about “strong and sustained” employment expansion. If the “stimulus” were working as advertised, that would be stronger than “Mr. Clean,” or even the “Incredible Hulk,” huh?? After all, those idiots in DC have thrown trillions of dollars at the recession.

Let’s not forget about that famous $787 billion dollars that was supposed to yield $1.50 in growth for every $1 that was spent.

This almost trillion dollars (don’t forget about interest, as we had to borrow the money from “somewhere.”) followed the $168 billion dollars that George Jr. and “Queen of the Most High Wacko’s” Nancy Pelosi promised in February 2008 would prevent a recession. The jobless rate that month was 4.8%.

Did THAT work? No. So what did Obama do? Exactly the same thing. Throw good money after bad. Hey, it’s not like it was HIS money. After he leaves the White House, he gets a pension for life. It’s not like he’ll be out looking for a job at TGI Friday’s, or Walmart… He’ll just write a book, and make speeches, and get… even more money!

So where has the stimulus money actually gone? Most of this government spending has gone to transfer payments — Medicaid, jobless benefits and the like — that do nothing for jobs or growth.

Let me repeat that for the “reading impaired;”


The spending that might create jobs — on roads, say — is dribbling out with typical government efficiency.

  • Hey, they’re building schools in places where schools are already standing empty.
  • They’re building libraries in places where people don’t live.
  • They’re building airport expansions in places where planes don’t land…
  • They’re building copshop’s multi-million dollar “indoor training facilities ‘ so they can hone their skills… in places where they only have three cops.
  • They’re buying local law enforcement agencies helicopters and airplanes, where they (a) don’t have pilots, and (b) don’t have airports to land them in.
  • And let’s not forget million dollar highspeed powerboats to interdict drug sales, for cops who live in landlocked counties.

They even bought a law enforcement agency with four cops (I’m serious) $287,000 worth of ammunition. Whaaaa? Those idiots never heard of reloading? Maybe they should make friends with those guys who have the “indoor training mecca” and start learning to save some of that ammo…

You think I’m kidding? Nope.

$287,000 worth of ammo… That’s a lot of 9mm… Like, about 2,500 cases (remember, they get a discount for volume)… Lemme see… 1,000 rounds to a case times 2500 cases, divided by 4 cops. That’s like 70 rounds an hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, just to use it all up. Yeah, that’s doable… I hope they’ve got donuts and coffee stockpiled too!

Can you imagine a mountain of empty brass that big? Man.. I wish! 🙂

Meanwhile, the money for all of this has to come from somewhere, and Democrats are already saying it will require big (unstimulating) tax increases in 2011, and perhaps sooner. Whhaaa? I’m shocked.

So, while they’re giving away money they don’t even have, they’re going to ask us for money we can barely keep, to keep them in lobbyists and frosty cold beverages, while WE sweat the hard stuff all by our onesies! Oy Freakin Vey!

The Administration argues that the recession would be worse without the stimulus. Yeah, prove it! Oh yeah… you can’t. It’s impossible to prove or even disprove.

However, if you harken back to a time not long ago… Obama’s economist lackeys predicted late last year that the stimulus would keep the jobless rate from exceeding 8%. And now, it’s just climbed past 9.5% and it’s still climbing…

Uh-oh… Time to find a scapegoat to sacrifice on “The Alter of American Ineptness!”

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it’s far more likely that America would have been better off without all that insane spending, and the higher taxes and debt financing that they bring right along with them, like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in a picnic basket!

I hate to say I told you so, but;

“You bastards in DC are all a bunch of freakin morons! You’ve sold us lock stock and barrel to the Chinese, and anybody else stupid enough to loan us money. We’ll be lucky if our grandchildren still speak English as a first language, before all this madness is through!”

Whew… Glad I got that off my chest.

I can’t wait to see what Congress brainstorms next… Perhaps they’ll just sell our children into slavery, or legislate sweatshops in America, so that the citizens they betrayed can still find a few pennies at the end of the day to eat with.

The best thing Mr. Obama could do to create jobs would be to come clean, admit his cabinet is filled with idiots, and start over. That is, if they’re anything left to rebuild, by the time he’s “done” rebuilding.

Gawd Save us… because Obama won’t. Not if his “progress report” so far is any indication.

Now, where’d I put those MRE’s? I think a storm is coming… and I’m not talking about a “hurricane.”

And “Pat…” I’m proud to know you. You’ve got a backbone of steel, and a heart of gold… You just made “Ronin’s Hero of the Day” list…

Now, if the President would just show that much courage, integrity, and backbone… maybe I’d get some sleep.

Stay tuned…