Tag Archives: power

I’ve gotten a bad case of shingles…

18 Jun

From the “what will they think of next” file:

Yes, I’m building a house out of garbage. Yes, I’m really using shipping containers. In fact the only walls in the entire house are those shipping container skins.

Okay, there may be a few little tiny bearing walls, and possibly a partition wall or two, but you wouldn’t really wanna watch me in the bathroom after eating a case of Hormel’s finest chili, topped with artificial cheese and “double onions” now, would you? I didn’t think so… 🙂

It’s not like I’m crazy or anything… or am I? 🙂

Yes, I tore down an old aircraft hangar (2 actually) and I’m using the steel, the skin, and the bi-fold doors as part of my construction booty.

And yes, we’ll get almost all of our power, hot water, and heat, and all of our A/C as well, from good old Mother Earth.

Why? Because we can, that’s why!

But the roof is gonna have to be “store-bought.” And, as a result of that, I’ve been looking high and low, for a good, efficient solution that was “DIY” installed.

And then I came across “Solar shingles.”

I know it sounds like a skin condition you get after hanging out at the beach too long, but… according to Alternative Energy News, researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland have developed flexible solar panels that could be installed on roofs like shingles.

solar-powered-rooftop-shinglesThis technology was originally used to protect flat panel televisions from dampness. They used to cover television screen with transparent, thin films that acted as barriers. These transparent thin film barriers are now becoming the basis for flexible solar panels that would be installed on roofs like shingles. These flexible rooftop solar panels are known as building-integrated photovoltaics, or BIPVs. They could replace today’s boxy solar panels. We all know that current solar panels are made with rigid glass or silicon and mounted on thick metal frames. If we compare present solar panels and flexible solar shingles we will find the later ones less expensive to install than current panels and made to last 25 years.

Okay, where can I buy them?

This technology was developed by PNNL in 1990s. They consider utilizing this technology in fifteen possible ways. One of it was solar power. But when Vitex Systems licensed the technology from Battelle, it refocused its goals. They saw potential and commercial success in developing ultra-barrier films for flat-panel displays, such as televisions. Now Vitex and PNNL, which is operated by Battelle for the Department of Energy, are reorienting the use of ultra-barrier films. The time might be right for them to exploit the current alternative energy scenario. Mark Gross, a PNNL senior scientist, explains “There’s a lot of wasted space on rooftops that could actually be used to generate power. Flexible solar panels could easily become integrated into the architecture of commercial buildings and homes. Solar panels have had limited success because they’ve been difficult and expensive to install.”

Why do they always have to use words like “exploit?” Yep, “green is good!” Everybody knows that solar is good, but TV is BETTER? I’d like to slap those marketing guys around like Mike Tyson’s speedbags… We could’a had these years ago… Wanna bet they’re gonna be mass produced in China?

The encapsulation process and the ultra-barrier film – called Barix™ Encapsulation and Barix™ Barrier Film, correspondingly – are already established and efficient moisture barriers.

Hey wait… this sounds familiar… Uh-oh… they’re using a proprietary process to manufacture these panels,a process that they’re licensing from another tech company. I read about those  guys. They develop a ground-breaking process, and then sell it’s right’s to the highest bidder, and they rake in millions of bucks, without getting their fingernails dirty. And somebody has to pay the piper…

Hmmm… So much for affordable product.

Now researchers are trying to proof a technology that could be successfully implemented to solar panels. The research work will be undertaken by Vitex and Battelle. It will be done under a cooperative research and development agreement recently signed by Vitex and Battelle. Battelle is the majority shareholder of Vitex, based in San Jose, California. Currently researchers are engaged in creating low-cost flexible barrier films and they are evaluating substrate materials for solar panels that can survive sunshine, rain and hail for decades. They will also work out the details of manufacturing process for large-scale production.

Wait, these are the same guys who only wanted  to use them for TV’s! I bet they’re just going to build “solar powered – outdoor TV’s…” Dammit…

PNNL’s research will be funded by DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Technology Commercialization Fund. The estimated cost of the project will be $350,000 . A commercial match to the funding is required, and Vitex will provide up to $350,900 in labor, equipment and materials. If this project is completed successfully, this progression will decrease solar panel manufacturing costs to less than $1 per watt of power, which would be competitive with the 10 cents per kilowatt-hour that a utility would charge.

Oh… they want taxpayer money.. I see… “Grant Me a Grant… and pay me in Benjamin’s…” I get it… I bet Vitex will write off their $350k as “R&D.”

“Vitex is proud to continue its long, successful relationship with PNNL,” said Martin Rosenblum, Vitex’s vice president of operations and engineering. “Vitex is excited to further its Barix™ technology’s proven barrier performance for photovoltaics toward mass manufacturing. Together, we look forward to creating a product that will help alleviate America’s dependence on foreign oil and increase America’s access to an abundant renewable energy source – the sun.”

Translation: “If we can figure out how to get you to pay us to build it, we’ll not only build it, we’ll sell it to you… but not wholesale! After all, you gotta make power, to use our TV’s!”  🙂

Don’t you just wish one of these “tech companies” would actually develop and deliver some of this geekware priced affordably enough so that the average joe could afford it? I suspect that it’ll be years before we see any of this stuff, and it’ll be priced so high that we can only see it on those “tweak” homes on Cable TV specials! Argh!

Oh well… back to the drawing board… Where’d I put my crayons?

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance Ronin

I Wanna Be Responsible!

15 Jun

Okay, okay…

Since the beginning of civilization mankind has been using fossil fuels to “move mountains.” Hey, for centuries we thought that those fossil fuels were cheap. I mean hell, they were laying right there on the ground in some cases!

It’s true! Uh-huh! It is too! I know it’s true because I saw it on TV! That Jed Clampett was a genius! Who’da thought of using a scattergun to drill for “Texas Tea?” 🙂

But that was then, and this is now. Now that we’re more “civilized” and supposedly even smarter (I wonder whose yardstick they are using to measure THAT by, because I’m sure not seeing it…), we’re starting to see the real cost of using these fuels.

There’s no doubt that we’re destroying the environment. There’s no doubt that with all the newfangled technology that become so commonplace, we’re spoiled rotten, and even lazy.

Recently, I was in a store (okay, it was [gasp!] Walmart) during a thunderstorm, and the power went out. So what, right? Well, we couldn’t buy anything. The cashiers didn’t know how to tally up the sales any way but by punching register keys.

Where before, we walked to the store, or sent a letter, now we use our computers or a cell phone.  In most homes, we don’t wash dishes in a sink, we use a dishwasher. (Okay so in MY house, I’M the dishwasher.)  The point is, now we rely on technology instead of our backs. And, that’s a bad thing, I’m thinking. Our health has deteriorated as fast as our muscletone.

This is just the beginning of the bad news for the next generation. There’s more. Not only will they be rather unfit, and ignorant about how things work, the way things are going, there won’t be any power to run all of their gadgets. Mankind will come to a screeching halt. Why? Because everything runs on electricity, nowadays.

According to the newest forecast from the World Energy Council (WEC) global electricity requirements will double in the next 40 years. And at the same time, “the same guys” (OPEC) are gonna be in charge of the oil, so you can bet that prices for the dwindling resources of petroleum and natural gas are gonna go sky high.

I know that we’re trying to shift to other alternative sources of energy but frankly, the cost is still way too high for us “little people” to embrace. For example; we know that solar energy is a really great energy source. It’s clean, it’s green, and the sun isn’t going to go out any time soon. But the price of solar panels still resides heavily on a common man’s pocket. Our government has to stop talking about how much they’re doing to “help us,” and actually start doing it.

In my income bracket, giving me a tax credit isn’t enough. They need to step in and subsidize the cost of solar energy, especially in areas of residential usage.

They haven’t re-invented “the grid.” It’s still archaic, full of holes, and fraught with peril.  A windblown tree can knock the power out regionally, for days. One tree. And the resulting power outage from that single tree falling across power lines can kill people. I’ve seen it happen. And that’s not going to change any time soon.  I watched a commentary by two politicians the other night on CSpan, where they were debating where the funds would come from to rebuild the national power grid. They were throwing around numbers like $1 TRILLION dollars. A trillion dollars.

Subsidizing Solar Energy costs would cost far less, and give back some of the responsibility to the families that actually use electricity.  Making our own power would actually TEACH us to use it more responsibly. Imagine that… responsible consumers. If they really want to help fortify the infrastructure of America, they can start by taking off some of the load, by letting us carry it ourselves.

And, I can use one of them newfangled solar panel contraptions to help warm up my “cement pond!”

I bet you could even use one to power a still. I mean, I’ve heard about “solar stills” before. I wonder how many proof they get outta those rays for my ‘shine? Hmmm? 🙂

That’s what I think. I wanna be more responsible. Gimme the power! What do YOU think?

Stay tuned.

Yeah, I know… I’m more like Jethro Bodine, than Jed Clampett, but I can dream, huh? 🙂

Jackson and “Jacked Up.”

28 May

Okay, so I took a few days off…

It’s been “pretty difficult” around here lately (in fact, on a one to ten, it’s been an “eight”). The “Mommy” is slowly recovering (“Mommy” recently had a stroke), and Joshua, astutely sensing a momentary change in the balance of power, has taken the opportunity to wage a full frontal assault, and try to make the “Daddy” crazy…um… er… crazier. This is a pretty simple task lately, as Daddy has had his hands full… Oy Vey, have I had my hands full…

Beyond that, due to difficulties beyond my control my appearance at a “meeting of the mind” (singular) in Jackson, was accomplished “by notarized document/statement, read aloud by some unfortunate lackey who will have to bear the scars of having my words rattle around in their brain until the cows come home.”

I say “mind,” because after participating in several of these “Jacksonian jousts,” I’m convinced that there is only one sane person in “Jackson Authority,” and they just pass the brain around, at random.

I’m told that my statement was either well received, or thrown in a well (I’m not sure which), as the phone line that connected us was garbled.

It was just basically the same old “Ronin Rant.”

Get off your dead asses, and do your jobs! Families need homes. YOU need constituents.  The STATE needs to generate tax dollars HONESTLY! Families without homes don’t pay property taxes, and they sure don’t vote in your favor, come election day! We’ll remember that you didn’t give a damn, and then… we won’t either. I promise. Capish?”

For those of you keeping track, this was just another gyration, as the politicians in Jackson strive to drag this whole set of events out as long as possible, so that the people they are answering to either (a) drop dead from exhaustion, or (b) become so senile that they forget why they’re so pissed off.

The issue is whether or not to actually “release” the grant parcels to the families that qualified for them, MONTHS ago. I suspect that the truth of the matter is that they’re still trying to figure out how to make more money off the “re-urbanization” program. This program isn’t costing Mississippi a dime, folks. Not one penny! You see, the Fed has compensated Mississippi for the “land” that is being parceled out, but like most politicians, when the miscreants in Jackson smell money, they do just about everything they can to figure out how they can get their grubby little paws on more of it.

I’d remind them that “there isn’t anything honorable or even remotely responsible in standing between families that need homes, and the property that will make it possible.”

It’s ridiculous really. They complain that their tax bases are dying slowly on the vine and that people are leaving Mississippi for “greener pastures.” Then, they actually demonstrate WHY people are leaving, yet they fail to recognize it. Talk about “being detached and living in a fantasy.”

Attention, self-serving politicians; We will not forget, or go away. (In fact, some of us CAN’T, or we would have… as we’re really sick and tired of your greediness and irresponsibility.) Do your jobs, serve your constituents “honorably and responsibly,” or come next election, I promise you that you’ll be looking for work. (Good luck with that, by the way… as you idiots also killed off most of the jobs!) People like me are going to hold you accountable for your lack of action, and we’ll be more than happy to remind voters what miserable bastards you were, when we actually needed you to do your jobs, for once. I’m taking careful notes, and keeping a list of names. And, I have no problem being one of those who help fan the winds of change.

For example: The Internet is a powerful stick, and I’ll make sure that I beat you on the head with it, for all to see. Think about it for a minute, huh? I’m an “ex-military father/husband, with a dying wife and a baby child, who lost our (completely paid for) home to a greedy insurance company (who bought and paid for) a bunch of greedy politicians who just didn’t give a crap about anything but THEIR own power-mongering, “foreign-soil” junkets (and I’m not talking about ALABAMA), and excessive lifestyles.”

You really don’t want that, do you? Let me assure you… You REALLY don’t want that. I can spell “RECALL.” And, I know what it means, too.

That said, let’s talk about something more pleasant, huh?

Lately, I’ve been trying to figure out how to get a home built, using containers as the primary structure. Unless you’re living under a rock, you already know that.

And as my own build is hopelessly mired in “red tape,” I’m currently involved in helping other families build their ISBU homes Some surprising developments have given me hope that soon, despite the procrastination of Jackson’s “finest,” we’ll be building our own “Corten Castle” soon. It may NOT be in Mississippi, but it’s going to get built.

We’ll talk more about that later.

Anyway, I’ve been asked a series of questions lately, that I found so intriguing, I’m going to post them here, and see if I can get a few of you to comment. And, to be accurate, lately the most interesting inquiries aren’t so much “questions,” as “ponderings,” about the combination of structures, essentially combining different types of alternative construction together, to form “habitats.” I’m frankly enjoying this, because it means that some of you guys and gals are truly thinking out of the box, while trying to use one.

Here’s what I’m talking about.

Lately, I’ve been quietly working on a new ISBU project in New Mexico. The family involved isn’t building “in crisis,” or anything like that. They’re actually dedicating their own funds to this build, “simply to prove it can be done.” The home will be a vacation retreat, but it’s large enough that they could live there full time, if they choose to, later on. If I had to categorize it, I’d call it a “bug-out” build. It’s a place to run to, if things get stupid, or you just need to get out of town. I can completely relate to this mindset.

They’re using (3) 40′ HQ ISBUs to build a 24’x40′ box. It’s multi-level, with one ISBU level on what is essentially an elevated and insulated slab, that will hold all the mechanical and service elements of the home. The kitchen, dining room, bathroom, and mechanical room for the A/C and Hot water Heater is in the boxes. Also included in this level are the garage (2 car) and a small workshop. This entire level will be “earth-bermed,” in a manner that will make it similar to the “earthships” popular in the area. A greenhouse will occupy most of the south facing exterior.

Try as I might, the people building just aren’t interested in solar anything, including hot water, geothermal A/C or photovoltaics. Whaaa?

Okay, so there’s ONE solar panel, and it’s mounted on a pump system on a water tank.

Wait, it gets better! You know WHY they aren’t interested in using a bucket full of those “green” elements? It’s because they have their own “fast running” creek/stream/river, that never dries up or freezes over, and the guy building the home is an electrical engineer who has developed a hydroelectric turbine that will fit into a pipe. Big deal, right? Wrong. HUGE damned deal!!!

It’s only a 12” pipe!

And, this little beauty of a turbine will produce enough power to run just about anything he wants to plug in, forever. And to prove it, he’s gonna make it the SOLE source of power, for his home.

(The singular solar panel is used to power a pump that will help him move water to another parcel for irrigation of a “survival” garden. It was pre-existing.)

His “power-pipe system” runs out of the river, and then back into it.

A singular power source from water pressure. Talk about “guts!” If I tried to do that, I’d wake up dead in the morning, with my wife laughing over my carcass! 🙂

So, As I learn more about this little gem of a powerplant, I’ll fill you in, too! Suffice to say, I want one! I can picture this placed between cisterns filled by a well (which is operated by solar power). I have a few really big pieces of culvert pipe that are just begging to be used in a “power by water” experiment. If you filled a rather large primary tank, and then used an outlet pipe to fill a secondary one (and placed one of these little powerplants in that outlet pipe between them…) you’d get hydroelectric power from the water pressure that flowed thru it…

I’m not sure it’d work, because you’d have to keep that first tank filled to get enough pressure (in a constant flow), but I can see it in my head. However, my wife reminds me that “I see a lot of things in my head, most of them unrepeatable, unprintable, or felonious.” 🙂

Okay, I admit it. I get all caught up in this “grant property polka” currently going on in Jackson, and I want to go “postal.” Deal with it. 🙂

Here’s where his build is REALLY different. He’s gonna build his bedrooms and common areas into a dome built ON TOP of the containers. The dome will be 24′ feet in diameter and about 20′ high. It will be built entirely of SIP’s (Structural Insulated Panels) and glass. A winding “freeform” staircase will allow access from level to level, with an ”open overlap loft” plan that will allow you to stand on the main level and look up, to see the top of the dome.

This isn’t such a bad idea. He gets a stable base to build on, lots of room for his “hard stuff” (plumbing, electromechanical requirements, etc…) and really bright and airy creative spaces for his comfort zones.

What other ways can you think of to combine different type of alternative homes together, to form a “super” alternative home?

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I Gotta Get Me One Of These “Bug-Out Boxes!!”

27 Apr

Say hello to;

The All Terrain Cabin (ATC)

A bunch of Canadians, tired of being shown up by us “innovative Container types” decided that they’d “one-up” us by slapping together a cabin, and putting it on the road, for everybody to see…

atc1Little did they know  that they were playing right into our hands! You see, it’s exposure that we’re after! We want people to see us (but not “exposed,” because that’s against the law)!! 🙂


So, probably fueled by that horrid Canadian Beer, they bent over their drafting boards, and came up with this beauty of a cabin! Now, I’m guessing that they came up with it “lickety-split,” because everybody knows that Canadian beer isn’t all that good, and it goes right through you like “a bullet through butter!” 😉


Seriously, a few “bright bulbs” in Canada decided to show us how it’s done, and I must say that they did a fine job!  They’ve brought together good design, some great technology, and even some imagination and wrapped it in a “Corten Cocoon.” And now, it’s on the road, for everybody to see and experience!


In spite of being taxed by that terrible Molson stuff (how in the world do you drink that swill? Blaaaaech!) they designed a small cabin, using a standard ISBU shipping container as the basis, and then they brought the “Canadian Flair” to it. Now Canadian Flair isn’t a WWE wrestler, it’s a combination of all great things Canadian, squeezed into a very small package. Hmmm… That reminds me of a tiny little lass from Toronto I used to date, back when I still had hair on my head. I wonder what she’s up to? I’d call her, except for that pesky restraining order… 🙂


The result is a a really efficient cabin, full of style and smarts! The cabin, although quite small, is perfect for a for a family of four (and even your dog) to live or vacation in, “off the grid” in what can only be described as ” Corten comfort and contemporary style.”  Remember, it’s a shipping container. Delivery is as easy as you could imagine it might be! Just roll that lil beauty onto a train, truck, ship, airplane or helicopter (if it’s on steroids), and off it’ll go, to the destination of your choice. And, in travel mode, it’s all folded up and indistinguishable from any ordinary shipping container. So, you could move it every year! Talk about a “time-share” that keeps on giving!  This year; “The Rockies!” Next Year; “Tahiti!”  Yeah, Baby!


Once it arrives “home,”  it unfolds rapidly to 480 glorious square feet  of completely self-contained, sophisticated living space with all the comforts of your home in the city!


If you want to live softly, smartly, and stylishly on this rock of ours, this may just be the way! But, it’s just an evil April Fools Joke, I’m afraid. You can’t have one. Why? Because there’s only one ATC in the whole world and there are only so many places it will visit. They have no intention of building them for us to live in! Oh the horror! Why? Oh Why? 😦


See? I told you you had to watch out for those darned Canadians, they’re SNEAKY and they’ll break your heart!! I expected something like this out of Paul Stankey, but to have it perpetrated  by our neighbors to the north? That’s just wrong! 🙂

Stay Tuned!

The Renaissance RoninRenaissance Ronin is a blog dedicated to helping you help yourself. We’re going to teach you everything you ever wanted to know about building a home out of recycled materials. A home that will save you money, provide you with comfort and security, and provide for your needs, for decades to come. If you appreciate what we’re doing here, hit the Paypal button up there on the right, and lend us a hand!  We really need your help!

“Bubba Boxes” for the masses!

4 Apr

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times…

Our country imports more than it exports! “Lions, and Tigers, and Bears! Oh My!”

It’s called a “trade deficit.” But one byproduct of this development is the metal mountains of empty shipping containers piling up at  shipping ports and transport centers. And it’s not just here, either! These containers are becoming a blight on the landscape, blocking out the sun, and ruining the “environment” of the locals!

What to do with them all?

Fear not! There are groups of innovative architects, engineers, and alternative housing visionaries who have THE answer!

How about an inexpensive home? Or maybe an Art studio in your backyard? Or how about a self-contained weekend get-away? Do you need a medical clinic in a remote area? And I bet somebody could use some FEMA type relief-housing after a natural disaster that actually makes sense!

Hey, howabouts a cozy “Corten cabin” in the backyard for when the “In-Laws” come to visit? I mean, that way… they’d have their own space and they wouldn’t feel like they were intruding on you… Yeah, right!

And you could slip out in the middle of the night, all “ninja-like…” slap a padlock on those wonderfully sturdy doors, and ship that puppy off to China! I’d tell ya the rest of the “plan,” but my wife is watching me type… 🙂

Lots of people all around the planet are building prefab, ecologically intelligent structures from empty cargo containers. And this may come as a shock to some of you… but they’ve been doing it for decades.


A 40 foot container can cost you anywhere from $800 to $2000, plus a shipping fee to your building sight. That’s kind of crazy sounding, huh? You have to pay a shipping fee, to get a shipping container. Well, just like you learned in high school Science class; “There ain’t no free lunch!” 🙂

There are several companies and organizations  in America now, like [ISBU2YOU] that will actually outfit the container with doors, windows, insulation, HVAC, and all the amenities your little heart desires, from utilitarian (like building in composting toilets), to upscale (like installing solar and PV arrays).

Let’s face it, you either like ISBUs, or you hate them. I personally think that they get a bad rap, but that’s just me. Using the containers as housing is a  fascinating concept to some, and an  “industrial waste – eye sore” to others…


But whatever your view, you have to admit that our concept of the world is changing fast. “McMansions” are out, and “Microhouses” are “IN!” And, GREEN is all the rage! It’s time to re-utilize the junk we’ve spent decades creating, and reconfigure the way we think, so we can reevaluate “our right to the disposable lifestyles” that we’ve been living, before it’s too late!

Now may be the perfect time. For the first time in “real” history, the Government is actually looking for alternatives to housing. It’s quite possible that there are “Stimulus Bill” dollars available to build a home out of recycled shipping containers. We’re going through the bill line by line, looking for places where we might find some assistance.  The way I see it, if we can bail out AIG, it’s time we bailed out families. American Families. You know, the people who actually built America in the first place!

Look, houses aren’t the only things you can build out of these wonderful boxes. Containers make perfect low cost structures for clinics in remote or impoverished areas. A building such as this might mean the difference in a non-profit having the money to start medical services or letting people suffer and die. Facility expenses can be a huge burden when calculating the money needed to get a project off the ground.


A pal of mine, Paul Stankey has built a terrific “Holyoke Cabin” in Minnesota. It’s a “small scale beauty,” a masterpiece full of natural light and industrial-urban attitude out in the woods. It just takes creativity to create a sense of intrigue by capitalizing on the aspects of building with metal containers! Plus, it’s cheap, and the materials are readily available!


Although Paul used “little boxes,” all the structural load in an 8-by-40-by-9 1/2-foot container is carried by the corner castings, steel columns at each of the four corners. This means that doors and windows can occur anywhere else in  the structure. Whole walls can be cut out and replaced with glass, and interior walls can be anywhere or nowhere.

You can build in walls that slide out (just like in an RV) to make your ISBU cabin even bigger! And when it’s time to go home, you just push the sliders in, lock the container doors, and off you trot! And, Your cabin is secure!

Plus, as an added bonus… The boxes can be stacked like giant Lego blocks, cantilevered into space to create intriguing overhangs and practical decks, or cut apart and reassembled into new configurations. Talk about versatile!


So why aren’t you building one? Hmmm?

container-cabinEven a “modest” box makes a splendid cabin!

Help is available. There’s a new group setting up shop in late April, called “ISBU2YOU” that’s going to start turning out cabins you can truck anywhere, set down, and then, pick up and move to greener pastures, if you decide to! Think of it as an “Armor Plated RV.”

I call ’em “Bubba Boxes.”

They’ve promised me that they’re going to get a detail package ready, so that you can learn how to live in the woods (or anywhere else for that matter) in style, while your friends and neighbors go broke spending a lifetime paying for mortgages, second homes, and hotel bills! ! They’ll give you all the details on how they’ll fab a container cabin for you, and ship it out to your site!

Now I actually know these guys, and I’ve seen the stuff that they’ve built, “far afield” in disaster relief efforts. It’s amazing what you can do, with a little bit of creative energy, and a plasma cutter!

For the price of a new full-sized car, you could be in a nice warm container-cabin, without a huge mortgage! Think of the possibilities! Add a water line, and an electrical cord, and voila!

You’re in heaven!

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance RoninAnd please remember that we’re trying desperately to save this blog. As my wife’s illness worsens, the budget gets tighter and tighter. If you like what you read, and it helps you find your path, please consider hitting the Paypal button, and donatining a few bucks to the cause, okay? We really want to keep this blog going!

“The Stimulus” has stimulated my brain…

1 Mar

You know… it’s funny…

All things really do come back around!

When I was a kid, my parents (“Gawd fearin’, man-killin’, shoot–em-up and eat the entrails”)  US Marines, had us convinced that the world was going to come to an end in our lifetimes.

So, while most kids grew up on Bambi movies and trips to the Ice Cream Shop (does anybody remember “Foster’s Freeze?”) we grew up on “Bambi Burgers” and instead of settling down in front of the TV every Sunday night to watch Walt Disney…


We found ourselves forced to watch John Wayne, Audey Murphy, and “Tora, Tora, Tora” kinda stuff… and as we got older, we saw post-apocalyptic action thrillers… because “someday we’d be forced to speak Russian or Chinese and work as slaves, if we weren’t careful!”

You’re old enough to remember stuff like “Mad Max,” and  “Red Dawn…,” right?


Well, we watched stuff kinda like that. After all, the point of post-apocalyptic movies was that people did survive, even if they had to endure horrible things in the process. Oy!


Other parents took their kids on camping trips to the beach where they played in the surf, they BBQ’d, and the boys spent the entire weekend, looking at girls.  Not in MY family. We went to places like Joshua Tree (out in the middle of the CA desert) where we got dropped off miles before the spot my parents would camp, equipped with a knife (a Kabar), a canteen full of water, some beef jerky, a couple of Hershey Bars, a length of rope and some fishing line, and a thermal blanket. We roasted sinewy rabbits (that we snared) over a small campfire (small enough to remain “unseen” in case “the Chinese were actually watching”),  suspended by green twigs.


And, if we didn’t make it to the campsite (“HQ”) by the time my parents were ready to “bug out…” we were in serious trouble! You think I’m kidding, but I’m not!

BTW: My older brother and I used to smuggle small .22 caliber pistols into our “gear” when Dad wasn’t looking. Rabbits are smarter than you’d think!


Ever since the bailouts, I’ve started listening to the people around me, whining and complaining about the decaying  state of politics… and America, in general.

And it’s increased in decibel level, since President Obama started going on TV to describe the Stimulus Bill, and all the debt that America is taking on.

The natives are getting restless, folks! Although I grew up thinking that my parents were insane (they WERE Marines, after all!), now, it’s all starting to make sense… and that’s not good.

(Now, before you start in on me… I love Marines.  L-O-V-E them. “God Bless ‘Em, every single one of them.” Nothing makes me prouder than hearing about “our boys” (be they “man” or “woman” – I’m talking  “serious” terms of endearment here) out there doing what has to be done. Regardless of where you stand on the “current state of war,” you have to admire and respect people who are willing to fight and die for things they believe in. America needs Heroes. The US Marines grows them. Semper Fi!  ‘Nuff said.)

Years ago, we built a home for some friends who decided to “dig in and drop out.” They wanted to build an “earth sheltered house” that you couldn’t see, unless you were standing right on top of it.

And you wouldn’t be, because “the Daddy” was an extremely bad dude. I grew up in one of “those families.” You know the ones… We had a “war shrine” in the living room. We had an American Flag hanging in the front yard. We have ancestors buried at Arlington National Cemetery. We had “weapons of mass destruction” hanging on all the walls. (Okay, in our case it was “huge calibered, high powered, bust a cap and kill everyone in the room” kinda stuff…) My father was an honest to Gawd “Korea and Vietnam Legend.”  (His friends called him “Colonel Killzone…”) We were constantly surrounded by “really bad dudes” fresh from the fight.  I’m not talking about street punks with AK’s. I’m talking about guys that, when pushed, could change history wherever they found their feet… Guys who KNEW death by it’s “first name” and weren’t afraid of anything… much.

We heard all the stories told late at night, spoken softly over bottles of Scotch, with softly playing  radio designed to drown it out, so that we couldn’t hear it. Tales told by “men made of iron – with tear filled eyes,” guys who were honoring the “cherished memory of the fallen…” And, most of them would have traded places with those heroes in a heartbeat. Sometimes it hurts more to survive…

(If you don’t understand this, you’ve just never been there, and you should thank your lucky stars for that. Some of us aren’t so lucky.)

As a result, we had really, really, high “fear” thresholds.

And this guy… well… he scared the hell out of us!


Okay, that’s not his “real” picture. But in my defense, he said if we ever dared take his photograph, he’d hunt us down like dogs… and kill us… two times! And we believed him!

I’d been “summering” up in Northern California, in a remote cabin on a river. It was good times. The DEA and ATF were on the loose, trying to run off all the guys growing “pot.” We had a “Hari Krisna” temple right down the road.

And surprisingly, they were about the nicest people you’d ever want to meet (the Krishna’s… not the DEA)! If you ever needed help doing anything at all, the Hari Krisna’s  were always right there, ready to pitch in. And, everybody knows that Krishna girls don’t wear bras… or evidently underwear. So, we ALWAYS needed their help, for something… 🙂

There were naked hippies in the river, just about 24/7. (And confidentially, some of those hippie girls were HOT…hot…hot!)  The beer was always ice cold (we kept it in the river), the fish were jumping (we drank the beer while we were fishing… duh!),  and an early morning bowhunt always put game on the table.

And then… HE showed up.

That guy. The one I was telling you about. And once he got there, he decided that he wasn’t leaving. We’ll call him “Uncle G.”

At first, we were “apprehensive.” I mean, we knew “Uncle G” wouldn’t kill us… because we were “kindred.”  Hell, we’d had nightmares about him since we were kids! “Uncle G” had “war wounds.” WE had “war wounds.” We were “isolationists who just kept to ourselves.” “Uncle G” was just antisocial. I mean, the kind of antisocial that they criminally prosecute you for. The banjos playin’ in the background, “Deliverance” kinda antisocial… 🙂

(Just kiddin’ “Uncle G!” Now put the gun down… I’ll just back out of the room slowly, okay? I mean, nobody needs to get hurt, right?)

He was “Married with children.” And I’m not talking “Al Bundy.” More like “Ted Bundy.” And his daughters were… um…er… breathtaking… all 4 of them.

As in, if you looked at them twice… he’d take your breath away, permanently.

So, we bribed him with fish, freshly killed deer, some jerky when we had it to spare, produce from our garden, and several good bottles of 10 year old single-malt Scotch.

(Because, campers… Giving a “mountain dwelling serial killer” bottles of good Scotch will keep him from killing you. I know it sounds crazy, but evidently it’s true!) 😉

Anyway, they were living in two old school buses that they’d converted into RV’s. So after about 3 months of this, Momma wasn’t having fun anymore. Nuh-uh! So, “Daddy” decided that he’d better find new digs, or he’d be “flying solo.”

Imagine our shock when he showed up on our porch, wanting to “talk.”

Now, we immediately started stammering about how we’d never even looked at his daughters!… and that we’d never do it again!… and that if he’d spare us… (“please, please, oh gawd… please!”)… we’d gouge our own eyes out with dull wooden spoons, so he wouldn’t have to do it… We pleaded with him not to kill us! We said he could just “hurt us a little bit and we’d never tell!”  We cried like schoolgirls who got their best shoes all muddy!

(Hey, don’t laugh! It was the only plan we could come up with! This guy made Rambo look like one of the “Village People!”) 🙂

And he just started laughing…

It was one of those “Muuuuwahhhhhaahhhaaahhhaaaa!” laughs so bone-chilling that even thinking about it to this very day, sends more chills running up my spine than… um… er… never mind… why should I tell you?

It turns out that he just wanted our help.

He’d seen what we’d done with a couple of shipping containers that we’d hauled up from the coast. And he wanted to do something similar, to make a home for his family, before his wife “helped him wake up in the morning, dead as a stone.”

A year before, we’d gone down to Crescent City, and acquired a couple of shipping containers. Now folks claimed that we’d absconded with them, but we don’t see how that could have possibly been true, because it’s not like you can actually steal a big steel box that sticks out like a sore thumb, and haul it off into the wilderness, without someone seeing you do it… unless it’s really dark.

Seriously, we’d hauled them up onto flatbed trailers (using a tractor and a few winches) and then we drug them behind pickup trucks, up and down several miles of pretty difficult logging roads, to reach their final destination. Once we arrived and covered up our tracks… we set those containers  up on concrete blocks, slapped roofs on them, built porches around them, and then… well… never mind. It’s not important and I don’t remember exactly how “the statute of limitations” actually works! 😉

But the “fast and dirty” of it is that they became “1 room cabins, with a view.”

Unfortunately, the “view” was of the local bears pillaging around at the “dump,” but it WAS a “view…” just not a very good one… And if the bears got too close, you could just run inside and slam the double steel doors closed! Bears can’t get thru Corten Steel… can they? Gulp!

Anyway… They  (the “Corten Cabins,” not the bears!)  had small “Swedish Stoves” inside them (for heat and cooking), the bed folded out of the wall, we built “skylights” (that leaked like a waterfall for a while), and even a “real” window or two.  We insulated them with fiberglass batts, and then we put paneling over it. The bathroom was a hike outdoors to the “bunkerfied” port-a-potty, until we could build a suitable “outhouse.”

“Uncle G” decided that he wanted to do likewise, but he wanted to further fortify them by pushing dirt up around them. Voila! Our first “Underground Corten Castle” was born!

And that… is the guts of this post… I bet you thought I’d never get to the point, huh?

With all this talk about “survival, succession, and suffering…” It made me remember that home we built him.  And it looked something like this;

simple_bunker_comp1It was about 2500 square feet, a three bdrm, 2 bath home (although one of them was in the “basement”), with all the amenties that you’d expect in a house, but it was “underground.” Okay, the basement was mostly underground. The rest of the home was covered in dirt, after we covered it in rigid insulation and concrete.

It took us the better part of three summers to build it. “Uncle G” lived with his family in the central section while it was being built. There were no “Planning and Zoning Nazis,” and even if there had been, he’d have just killed and eaten them.  😉

If you could get close enough to it to actually “see” it, you looked down into a submerged courtyard, that we used to call “the crypt.” Why? Because if you were stupid enough to try and climb down into it, he’d bury you! That’s why.

We built retaining walls off the main structure (we had literally TONS of river rock at our disposal, and Hari Krisna’s who would “work for food…”) and they (the walls, not the pony-tailed crazies) ran out about 25 feet, to another pair of containers, that were converted into a 16’x16′ 2 story greenhouse on one side, a 16’x16′  “office” on the other, and an 8′ path down the middle that served as a “steel bailey.”

It was basically just a fortified entry door gauntlet. Trust me… you didn’t want to sell Amway to anybody at this house (or even a vacuum cleaner) unless you wanted to disappear, forever.

It was one of those places where the signs that were posted said:

“If you can read this… You’re already DEAD.”

And “Uncle G” wasn’t kidding.

You know, I kinda miss old “Uncle G”. I’m gonna give him a call…

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance RoninLook… I’m recycling, reclaiming, and even BEGGING for material (sometimes “on my knees”) because my family’s SURVIVAL is at stake.
I’m asking you to get involved.
If I’ve helped you, informed you, educated you, or just entertained you… consider donating a few bucks to the blog, to help us survive and rebuild OUR home. Our family needs a home. Our situation is dire. And yes, I’m begging… I’m not going to waste bandwidth plastering pictures up of my wife in her sickbed… or my little 2 year old son. I’ve written about the circumstances here, already.
If you guys and gals show any interest in this, I’ll see If I can remember the floorplan… It was real simple, easy to build, and they (“Uncle G”, his wife, and a few grand-babies) still live there, to this day. I’m amazed. I figured that he’d be rotting away in some Federal Maximum Security Penitentiary by now!

It’s Okay to Use the Sun… Honest!

10 Feb

And now for the next exciting episode of;

“Ronin’s 10 simple rules of homebuilding!”

My family has embarked on an expedition to build a new home, using “alternative” means, and construction practices. In fact, we’re using stuff that people around here never even considered using. By using ISBUs (Shipping Containers) and reclaimed Aircraft Hanger Components (steel) we’re building a multi-level home, to house the tribe.

002_domSo what if it’s only 8′ wide? We have incredible views… of Mississippi. Wait… that’s not a selling point. Hmmm, I may have to rethink this…

We’re going to prove that you can build an affordable, efficient, attractive home, out of junk! Either that, or we’re gonna prove that our neighbors know how to build fences high enough to obscure their view of our new abode…

Now, we’re explorers by nature, I suppose, but as you’ve probably guessed… I’m sure that the neighbors wished that we’d launched this expedition in another neighborhood.

In our last episode, we looked at an exciting new roof system, that makes your entire roof a solar collector. Can you believe it? Now, you can generate power to run your iPod, create hot water to soak your feet, and blind the paparazzi (all at the same time!) as they fly over your house (trying to take “intrusive” photos of you and the kids) because of your new-found fame fame as the neighborhood “Green Guru!”

Man… those Fabral guys are just fabulous! They oughta get an award or something…

Okay, okay… in my case, any buzzing over my house will probably be the Police Helicopter, looking for evidence pertaining to “missing neighbors.”

I know, I know… this thread of posts is starting to sound like “The 12 Days of Christmas,” but hey…

If I’d written the whole thing… documenting all the rules, complete with 8×10 glossy pictures with circles and arrows drawn on them… in ONE post… you’d have turned the channel after about paragraph #3.

You’re not kidding anyone, bub! I know you’re reading these posts, because I can hear you breathing! But, nobody comments… and frankly, it’s giving me cause to rethink this whole “blog” thing. These posts don’t write themselves, you know! LOL!

I’m really not trying to be an “Attention Whore!” I just need to know that this is actually helping somebody out there, or it’s just wasted energy.

That said, here’s the next rule to consider, when building your new home;

Design For And then Install Solar Power Systems

Everybody with (a) an IQ above 30 and (b) a pulse…  knows that solar electric systems are the most cost effective, reliable, easy to integrate way of changing your home’s energy use and cost.

Tune to HGTV, Discovery, or the Science Channel, and you’ll quickly learn that alternative energy sources are in huge demand today. Look around you and you’ll see lots of evidence that that the world is running out of oil and the guys that control it have us by the proverbial… um… er… wallets.  A lot of us, in fact the legion grows by the day, are desperate to find ways to use the earth’s other resources in order to power our demanding planet. The human race becomes more power hungry everyday, we must come up with alternatives to oil.

Now, if you’d asked me 10 years ago, I’d have just offered to “Bust out the Nukes and thin the herd…” but now I’m “Super-Daddy,” and it’s a “kinder, gentler planet…” (grumble, rumble, snort…!) So…

I suppose one of the options is solar energy.


Solar energy isn’t “magic,” nor is it mysterious! Grade school kids build solar collectors as science projects, without having to rob their parent’s wallets, or their own piggy banks!

(In fact, we used to build one at our seasonal “deer camps” to heat our hot water, for less than $20. I recently saw a “re-design” that shows you how to build a solar hot water system for less than $10.)

Say it with me: “Solar is Simple.” You simply use a system of solar panels (collectors) connected together to form an “array” to harness the Sun’s rays, and convert them into water or electricity. Then, you use batteries (like the ones in your car) or an “Inverter” to get that new power to the plugs on your wall! As as simple as it is, it defies logic that today it produces less than one tenth of one percent of worldwide energy demands.

We’ve talked about using the Sun, in a “passive” way, to help heat your house, remember? If you don’t, we’ll just sit here and wait, while you go back and read some of my previous gems… um…er… posts, namely “Orienting your house…” and “Maximize your Girth.”

Back already? You’re bored to tears, huh? Well… tough toenails! If you didn’t fall behind, the rest of the class wouldn’t have to sit here staring off into space! LOL!

Where was I? Oh yeah!

Using solar panels in an array to make energy from the Sun falls into the category of  “Active Solar.”

The best part about Active Solar Systems is that this type of energy is basically “free” (after you’ve installed the system) because the sun’s energy is abundant and inexhaustible and available to virtually everyone. And you can do anything you want, with the power you create.

Well, not exactly “anything.” I wanted to form a “cult” that worshiped “Green Guru’s…” but my wife showed me the error of my ways, by reminding me that no matter how much power I created, she knew where I slept…

Anyway… You can use solar power to heat homes (and your business), you can use it to grow food, treat water, or even fuel up your car. Hey, the possibilities are endless! And, once you come up with a use and put it into action there’s no reason to stop using it, talking about it (that really pisses off your neighbors:

“Even though it’s the dead of winter, my utility bill was only $12 bucks last month… how much was yours? Hmmm?…” as you smugly sip gourmet coffee out of your new coffee mug!

ah_ha_mugAnd, creating that power means that you can (gasp!) write about it! See?  I’m doing it NOW! LOL!

(It’s all about “Power” baby!!! LOL! Okay… I’ll stop now… maybe… maybe not.)

And, if you’re sneaky and devious, a smart homeowners can even collect enough solar energy to sell it back to their local power companies. This gives them free power for their own homes plus a little on the side… income! What did you think I was talking about? Jeez! You gotta get your mind outta the gutter, pal…  Okay, you don’t have to be “sneaky and devious,” but it does give me another excuse…

Setting up a home solar heating and cooling system has never been easier, and it usually costs about $8-10 per Watt (your mileage may vary, depending on your location). And in most parts of America, government incentive programs exist, including tax rebates. Now, provided the government doesn’t bankrupt itself with all these dang-blasted bailouts, those programs and incentives should lower your  installed costs into the $3-4 watt arena. So, some quick calculating will reveal that 10-12 cents per kilowatt hour energy rates can easily be achieved.

And, don’t forget to use the Internet to shop for your hardware! No matter what your “Energy Contractor” cousin says, if you are able to buy parts in bulk or wholesale, your system price will drop dramatically. You’re still gonna let out a “gasp!” at the up-front price for your system, but I assure you that it will be the best investment you ever make. The up front costs are the highest part, but you’ll see a return the very frist month. After that, slowly but Shirley (I know, I know… don’t call you “Shirley…) um… er… surely, you’ll see more cash left over in your monthly budget.

There aren’t any “Maintenance Monsters” lurking here. If your system is designed and installed properly, that new energy system’s ongoing expenses are pretty minimal and sometimes amount to “virtually nothing.”

Remember (after you catch your breath) that user rebates and tax credits have made it possible for everybody in America to get on the bandwagon, and help take a load (literally… sorry, bad pun!) off an antiquated system that wasn’t designed to complete the task now required of it!

Here’s the list of things to consider;

  • Read everything you can, and then… work with experts to design a system that supplies 80-100% of your home’s electricity and Hot water needs.
  • Insure that the new system will integrate carefully into the design of your home.


  • Keep telling yourself that these energy systems have become cheaper, simpler, much more attractive and are heavily subsidized, making them a very strong investment. Not only will you save money, they’ll pay for themselves when you sell your house.
  • Use experts to coordinate the design of your system with the HVAC systems to provide synergy and cost savings. Nothing makes less sense than two competing systems, trying to accomplish the same goal. The time and money you spend now, will either haunt you, or bless you, in the future.
  • Orient uninterrupted roof planes if you can, and have them face generally (+/- 20 degrees) south at 4:12 pitch or greater. You need a place to “park” your system, remember?
  • These systems will eat up your roof space. Allow for 500 square feet of panels for each 2,500 square feet of conditioned space on a southerly, unshaded roof. Don’t allow a solar system to be installed in a shady or obstructed space. It just defeats their purpose!


  • If your roof is inaccessible, or too small, then look elsewhere! Panels can be placed in the landscape and concealed with plantings as well. The top of a covered walkway or gazebo works well, too!


And here’s where Ronin sticks his neck out;

Add solar hot water or heating systems if your budget allows, but only AFTER you’ve reached 100% of your homes energy requirements. If you are the “average American,”  the lions share of your utility budget is spent on heating and cooling your home. Hot water ranks farther down the list, unless you have a tribe of teen-aged girls… LOL!

Okay, there you have it… We’re over halfway through the list… See, that wasn’t so bad…

Next time, we’ll tackle making the outdoors and the indoors work together, without fighting like squabbling brats… Man, where did that come from? Sooooooory! LOL!

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance RoninFYI: Paul Stankey didn’t really put his “Container Cabin” on a mountaintop in the tundra… I did it for him. For some strange reason, he’s always complaining about being cold… Wait! It’s because he’s almost living in the Arctic! What a NUT! So, I just thought I’d show him how “elegant” cold can be! LOL!

See the Classiest “Top” in Town!

8 Feb

We interrupt this broadcast, to bring you this late breaking news:

Many of you have followed along, as my family (slowly, methodically, and offtimes painfully…) builds a new home, using stuff that most people would consider “alternative’ construction materials. Our use of Shipping Containers and recycled Aircraft Hanger Components does make the neighbors nervous, I admit.

angry_mobAt least I think it’s “nervousness…” It’s hard to tell with all the glare from the pitchforks and burning brands…

However, even our “Alternative House” uses many of the same components you might find in other “conventional” homes in the neighborhood. Some of these  “cross-over” components can be used by anyone seeking lower utility bills, better energy efficiency, and an enhanced lifestyle.

Like for instance; I get email all the time from readers who want to “go solar,” only to find themselves mired in “pitched battles” with their Homeowner’s Associations.

This cracks me up, considering I live about a stone’s throw from “Hooterville,” where a neighbor’s status in the village is measured by how many derelict cars he has dumped in front of his trailer. Okay, maybe it’s not THAT bad, but it’s an absurd, surreal little corner of the rock, to be sure! LOL!

It seems some people (damned neighbors, anyway!) think that solar panels are ugly, property depreciating diversions, destined to rob them of their hard-earned equity.

Okay, I can see how a few panels thrown up on your roof might be considered “unsightly.” Even I have to admit that I’ve seen a few panel arrays that “didn’t quite look like they belonged there…”


These aren’t exactly “unsightly,” but they could use some dressing up, to make them blend in with the roof. Can you say; “Afterthought?”

Well, you can take a big sigh of relief because those clever folks over at Fabral have come riding in, to your rescue!


Fabral’s Solar SSR is a standing-seam metal roof system that harvests energy from the sun.

You remember from previous posts how much I like Standing Seam Metal Roofs, right? Well…

The wizards at Fabral have invented (fanfare, please…) The Solar SSR, a photovoltaic solar laminate, produces electricity when exposed to sunlight and offers a green solution for metal roofing applications.

And before you start in on me… NO! It ain’t magic! It’s science. You remember, it’s that stuff you slept thru in high school, so you could dream about cheerleaders, and puberty, and cars… eh? At least, that’s what I did…

Electricity generated by the laminates is fed through the electrical system into the power grid. The flexibility and durability of these laminates make them ideal for metal roofs, where expansion, contraction and curving are considerations.

And fear not, ye dwellers of Hurricane Alley! Fabral has your back!

The panel/laminate bond that’s created up there on your roof has been tested and proven to withstand winds up to 160 mph.

So not even your Mother-In-Laws screaming and hollering at you, will dislodge it!

Take that, Hurricane Katrina!

HINT: For those of you compiling your Christmas and Hanukkah lists, I want this! I’ll be good, I promise.

Okay, I probably won’t be “good,” but I’ll keep it on the “low-low…” Okay?

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program…

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin

Note: In “celebration” of both winter, and “frozen friends…” I give you a new header photo “Container Cabin in the Sky!” Some of you will recognize the cabin, it’s a “Stankey Monument.”

Doctor, Doctor! All this “Wind Power” is making me sick!

19 Nov

Those of you that have been faithfully following along (and shame on you if you haven’t!) know that my family is building a home in Southern Mississippi, out of junk, rubbish, flotsam, jetsam, and even some old garbage. Yes, we are!

At least, that’s what the neighbors are saying…

The reality is that my family is one of those that got caught between the “fine lines of insurance litigation,” and we have to find our own way through the “we don’t have a house anymore” maze, seemingly without any real assistance, after Hurricane Katrina ate our old house!

So, we’re building an “alternative” home. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s an “extra” one, or that there will be punk rock music screaming out of it at all hours while Ronin and scantily clad girls gyrate on the front lawn…


Well, you got me! Okay, maybe some times, if I have anything to say about it!… Now I’m not advocating “contributing to the delinquency of a Minor” or anything…” We’ll check ID’s carefully! LOL!

We’re building a home out of shipping containers and recycled steel that we reclaimed from old aircraft hangars.

Part of our “quest” is to find bold new ways to power this solid steel beast, so that we can kick the utilities guys off the property, never to be seen again. Why? Because we don’t like getting “held for ransom” every month by rapidly rising power costs, that’s why.

Because of this, we’re looking at ways to generate electricity in a manner that will allow us to live normal (well… maybe not “normal”) lives, without worrying about whether we remembered to pay the power bill.

For instance, we’re going to install photovoltaic panels, and then use an inverter and a battery bank to move the power around. Hey! The technology is “off-the-shelf” now, and it’s easy to understand, and deploy, even by a nitwit like moi!


And, we’re even thinking about building a small-scale wind turbine to generate power on windy days (mostly, my wife claims, when I’m out in the yard yelling at the damned neighbors to get their pooping dogs off my lawn… LOL!) to help charge the batteries up. But I’ll admit it’s a little bit harder to figure out how it works! So, I had to sharpen my crayons, after I wrestled them away from Joshua!

howto-wind_powerNow, my wife also claims that I’m just an unsociable bastard, and I just want a wind turbine to power up my “Death Ray,” but I’m telling you it’s not true. I don’t even have a “death ray.” Yet.

In fact, I’m not even sure what a death ray would look like.


Oh yeah… It’d look just like that… But it’s not like I’m actually planning, or anything! I’m way past that stage… LOL!

But, there is trouble among us, folks.

There are opponents to wind power out there who claim that wind turbines will drive you crazy! I’m not kidding!

At least, that’s what some people are claiming! Believe it or not, there are some opponents to “wind power” who are actually making the claim that the low-resonance hum (“infrasound”) produced by wind turbines is capable of making you physically ill.


Now, I have heard everything! What a bunch of rubes!

This goes way beyond “I don’t want to look at your stupid wind turbine in my neighborhood!” It’s pandering to the implied threat that wind turbines can harm you. I guess they figured that just not wanting “your damned wind turbine eyesore” to affect their property values, they’re trying to validate the opposition to it, for “the good of public health!”

Now, none of the “offered findings” were supported by evidence, nor explanation given to substantiate any of their wild claims. I’d speculate they extrapolated a scenario where a person purchased and installed a personal windmill in a location around their house, and then the poor bastard started getting headaches. Probably from the nagging of his busybody neighbors…. I suspect…

Using that same logic, I could declare that Wind Power Generation doesn’t even work because I installed my wind turbine in a place where there was very little wind – and failed to generate any power. After all, that’s a “version of the truth” too, isn’t it?

So, let’s take them off at the knees, shall we? Hmmm?

Okay, first off… “Infrasound” is sound with a frequency too low to be heard by the human ear – in general it is bass waves with a frequency below 20 Hz to 22 kHz. I’m not even sure that dogs can hear it!

If you’re a vet (and I’m not talking “War Vet” here) drop me a note and clue me in as to whether or not a dog’s hearing range includes that frequency wavelength, okay?

Folks, “infrasound” is literally all around us, already. We live in an environment of naturally occurring infrasound — everything from waves, wind, earthquakes, surf, waterfalls, hurricanes, thunderstorms creates “infrasound,” and this includes ANYTHING that produces a naturally occurring slow oscillation of the air. So naturally, we get exposed to infrasound all the time.

But I have yet to see anybody falling down “crazy” because of it. I figure anyone who found themselves in this predicament was  pretty much “crazy” to begin with!

And let’s not forget that there is a whole lot of human generated infrasound – from slow speed fans to engines, cars, buses, trains, airplanes, explosions, machinery, and my personal favorite, Harleys!


What? It’s “GREEN.” It IS too! And blue. I love blue…

Now, these “whining people of questionable intelligence” claim that wind power generated “infrasound” is actually a health problem for people living near modern wind turbines. They also claim that it will “unseat a normal person, and make them crazy, with enough exposure to it.”

All I can say is that I’d love to see the evidence! From what I can tell (and I have searched like “a deranged diner looking for more Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie!) this is not supported by any facts I can find.

If, for no other reason than these stupid statements (offered up into the public record by people lacking any kind of credentials) discouraging people to purchase and install windmills, I’d say small personal windmills are simply a serious threat to the energy companies monopolistic hold on your reproductive anatomy… um… er… wallet.

From the studies I’ve seen (and I’ve about Google’d myself to death over this one) , there is general agreement among (learned and degree’d) Acousticians that infrasound from wind turbines isn’t even a problem.

(There is a turbine noise issue to which we do need to pay attention, but inaudible noise making your body parts vibrate is NOT it. Turbines vibrate, and that vibration transmits through anything attached to it, like the tower, for instance. Thus, turbines make “noise.” That’s why we put them way up in the air, away from our ears. Plus, it puts the windmill in the most efficient “airflow” zone. Duh!)


Yet these miscreants continue to exploit the blurry connection between wind turbine infrasound and the risk to our seemingly fragile human health. Their argument is based on the concept that these alleged high levels of low frequency (sounds like an oxymoron, huh?) noise excite the body to vibrate (most notably in the chest) and that profoundly deaf humans perceive noise through vibrations in their bodies.

One study I read put it this way: “But the thinking is circular to claim that wind turbines generate inaudible infrasound that can be felt but not heard and that this infrasound vibrates the chest with dire health risks.”

To begin with (unless you’re a dog, possibly), the noise frequency levels that produce these body vibrations are well above the hearing threshold. You would hear the explosion on TV, the car crash across the street, or the bar noise and band speakers cranked to maximum loudness (as well as feel them) unless you were already deaf. So the idea that unperceived wind turbine infrasound is pounding your body and making you sick – is just another one of those “we don’t want wind turbines” myths.

It’s just more “boo-hoo, you’re trying to deflate my stock value” or “not in my backyard, because I’m an ignorant, nosy bastard!”  psycho-babble.

On the other hand, like I said, there is a “problem noise” that come from wind turbines. It’s the fluctuating swishing sound of the blades passing the tower. Compounding that is the “gear noise” created by the shaft drives that actually transmit the movement of the blades into power, as it passes along the turbine motor.


And, this noise DOES irritate some people who are highly sensitive to fluctuating sound. Audio Engineers call this sound  LWP – “Long Wave Propagation,” and it’s a tone that is a resonance frequency undetectable by the human ear. The sound is only apparent when the harmonics of the 14 rpm rotation of the turbines comes into contact with buildings farther then 1/4 mile from each turbine. And within a mile, LWP dissipates to nothing. Zero.

So, there is a noise that is heard at a distance from each Wind Turbine that is inaudible standing beside the large machines. I, Ronin (seer of all, and all powerful swami of swampgas)  predict that as Wind Generation gains popularity, it means that some engineer is going to make a bundle of cash devising and deploying some kind of Noise Canceling technology, to mitigate the sub-audio hum.

I can see it now… Noise Canceling headphones big enough to fit “Lilliput invaders,” clamped firmly to the wind turbine bodies! LOL! Paying attention, BOSE?

But, unless you live next door to a wind generation farm, I seriously doubt you’ll be able to hear it, coming from a single wind turbine mounted up in the air, charging your battery packs.


I’ve been around a LOT of wind turbines, and part of the maintenance includes making sure that they are adjusted and aligned to work the most efficiently, and that includes making doubly sure that the revolving blade mechanism is well lubricated. The blades will “cut” through the air (but again, they’re way up there and you’re standing on the ground, unless decapitation is your idea of a fun way to spend your weekend).

If you really want to entertain this discussion competently, the actual problem is that wind energy nay-sayers use acoustic terms like “infrasound” without knowing what they actually mean. It’s a condition that is typical of whiny bastards. They’ll tell any idiot that would listen to them that “infrasound is a health problem for all people living anywhere near an operating wind turbine.” And those “poor people” are going to be portrayed as “helpless victims, unable to actually hear the infrasound,” but you can rest assured that “they can all feel it and that puts their families collective health at risk.”

“These insensitive “Wind Turbine Bastards” must be stopped at all costs, before they kill us all!

Oh… Come on, now. Get a grip. Start with one on REALITY…

The way I see it, what needs to be clearly defined is the difference between Personal, and Commercial Wind Power Generation.  Personal wind generation turbines make a very slight impact on the surroundings. One of the reasons for that, is the nature of their installation…

The people installing these “personal” wind generators usually have a decent amount of property, and thus, impact, both visual and audible, is kept to a bare minimum.

While it’s possible that in some bizarre set of circumstances the turbine swish noise might be problematic for some people, I’d wait until those “victims” actually appear to pay attention to this “twisting of the facts to serve stockholders.”

If people in an area where wind turbines are being used start claiming that the blade swish sound is affecting them negatively – be skeptical. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that it’s gonna turn out to be people looking for “free money” by litigating against a big corporation, in the hopes that they’ll cave and settle out of court.

I can only presume noise varies with the wind turbine type and location. I lived next to a CA windfarm…


And I mean directly next to, as I lived in a tent during “combat training” exercises (on and off again for years) and I experienced less “wind turbine” noise than produced by the grazing cows, horses, goats, and sheep. In fact, the wind whistling through the canyons made more noise than the turbines overhead. I hope no-one’s saying ‘all wind farms are noisy’, because my personal experience proves otherwise.

Intermittent sound fluctuation really only affects some very, very  sensitive people – certainly not “everyone.” How many of these “sensitive people” are there lurking about, waiting to scuttle your plans to harness the wind to get power? Studies put the number at 1 in 500,000. So, while it is a real problem – it’s just not a really pervasive one.

wind-noise-tableSo, Campers… What have we learned?

Wind Power is GOOD.

Whiny, lie spouting, “the sky is falling” Bastards are NOT good.

Why? Because Ronin says so, that’s why.

Now, I know that after reading all this, you think old Ronin is a genius, but I tell you it ain’t true. I don’t even live in a lamp… LOL!

Stay Tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin

Power to the People!! (Alternative Power) Lower Your Bills!

4 Nov

or: Planning the Power System for your Palace!

On the eve of the American Presidential Elections, I’m thinking about power. And, it’s not Republican, or even Democrat. And, you’ll be happy to know it’s not even “political.” The networks just declared Obama the next President of the United States… Boy, has HE got a mess to clean up!

Okay, if you’ve been following along, my family is building a home out of shipping containers and aircraft hangar parts.

And NO! We’re not tree-huggers, or Eco-Terrorists! We’re just an “average” family (and if you believe that one…) who needed an affordable house, after a hurricane ate our old one. Normally, you’d just use insurance money to rebuild, but in our case, the #^$%@!! insurance company still hasn’t settled with us. So, we needed to find an affordable alternative, to protect the tribe…

Now, my wife and I love trees, don’t get me wrong, but you won’t find us in the forest spiking potential lumber targets to voice our angst, and we aren’t gonna blow up any fishing vessels. That’s a felony, no matter where you hail from, and felonies aren’t that fun to drag out at the family reunion, ya know? Besides that, somebody could get hurt… Seriously hurt.

You can help the environment, and even yourselves, without needing a criminal law attorney. Honest.

Plus, if I’m headed to prison, it’s gonna be for something like terrorizing my nosy neighbors or something. I mean, really! Can you imagine? I can hear that conversation already!

“What’re you in for?”

“Ummmm, I spiked a tree.”

“Have you met my friend Bubba? He’s gonna become your “special friend” too!” LOL!

I don’t think so…

And, once you start planning, you realize that power bills are getting higher and higher, right? Well, maybe it’s time to do something about that, too!

Be it solar (photovoltaic) or wind generated, getting off the grid is getting easier!

Advances in technology, and marketing/competitive pricing pushed by eager consumers have made the ability to divorce the utility companies both affordable, and (more importantly) understandable, for average homeowners.

Sure, there are a lot of options; Solar, Wind, and if you live by a coastline, there’s even “Tidal,” now…


(I opted for the one where you harness your kid to a bicycle and make him peddle for his supper, but “Child Services” got all huffy and puffy with me, those liberal, pansy,  weasels!! LOL! )


I went out and got the “deluxe model. I tricked the neighbor kids into thinking I was building a pedal-powered Playstation, and they powered up my battery bank for a week! LOL!


So (since I’m now hiding from “Child Services Nazis”), I’m forced to find another road…

In a perfect world, I’d just slap up a big wind turbine tower, and snatch power from the sky (wind) but… the Air Force Base over the fence wouldn’t like it much, and the wind isn’t that reliable here.


(I know, with all the hot air I’m expelling, you’d think I could generate enough energy to power a couple of family households, huh? LOL!)

And, besides that, a big wind turbine isn’t gonna come cheap. If you have the land, the money to invest, a wind turbine system can be a great investment.

Unfortunately, the flaw is that it takes at least 10-20 years to reach “payback,” so they aren’t really an option for many people.

(Yes, I’ve heard about “the micro turbines,” a small power generation system with a “small upfront investment.” However, they come from China, they’re made out of plastic and nylon, and on close inspection, they look more like a schoolkid’s toys, than something to bet your families existence on. I haven’t seen anything that makes me think they are gonna be durable enough to be reliable.)


And, conventional wisdom says that wind turbines have to be set up as high as practical. The best winds are well above a building or tree line. In fact, you’re looking at hundreds of feet in the air, to really reach the wind’s “constant current.”

(These micro turbines are designed to harvest a great amount of wind energy at lower levels. So, anything at all can become an obstruction. You’ve been warned.)

And that leaves Solar Panels…


About the only thing that solar panels have in common with wind turbines is location. Placement is crucial to solar panels as well. But, once they’re up, you don’t have to do anything.

Ongoing maintenance costs make wind generation something to really, really think about. Trust me on this. If you go wind, you’re gonna get real familiar with the inner workings of your turbine assembly, and it’s gonna happen sooner than you probably expect. Most wind turbines only operate efficiently, when they are “finely tuned.” And guess what? That’s where maintenance comes in…

Solar power doesn’t require any real maintenance. Sure, you might replace batteries every once in a while, but other than that, it’s pretty much a done deal from day one. The panels don’t require any maintenance (except an occasional cleaning) and that’s a “no fuss operation” (unless you’ve placed them on a “difficult” roof).

But, just like the wind turbine, there are things you have to consider from the get-go. Like, for example, determining just how much power you need…

So, how does the “Average Joe” do that?

First; You have to determine what you would like to power, and how long you want it to run. Now, would be a good time to start making a list, and checking it twice, kids…

Second; Are your appliances or devices AC, or DC, or a mixture of both? Allow extra pages for your kids iPods, Zunes, Playstations, and notebook computers. Trust me, overlooking these will come back to haunt you!

Third; You must determine your “load requirement.”  In a nutshell, devices which operate using electrical power are often referred to as “loads.” These loads are usually the largest single influence on a power systems size and it’s cost.

So, to determine the “load requirements,” you just add up the watt and amp requirements of all your devices and appliances. Voila!

(I know, you’re screaming at me already; “I don’t know any of this stuff! Easy, my ass! Ronin, you big, fat, liar!”)

Relax, pilgrim! Take a breath! You’ll bust an aneurysm if you keep that up!

A great way to find out is to invest in a device called a “Kill-A-Watt” meter. You can find one at any electrical supply store for about $25.00. (And, some power companies actually have these that you can “borrow” to measure your load requirements!) Once you have one, all you do is plug your appliances into it, and read the meter!  The display will give you the total watts and amps used when your appliances are running and even when they’re turned off. Yes… your appliances use power even when they aren’t working.


I know that it doesn’t seem fair, but it’s the reality! Deal with it! LOL!

If you’re like me, you need a number that includes all your appliances, the well pump, the house lights, the TV sets, the Playstation, the stereo equipment, and the computers.

Gawd forbid we don’t have enough power to run the computers…

Let’s say that all added up to a “load requirement” of 730 watts. I’d suggest that you consider at least a 1500-2000 watt “inverter” because that way you will have more power than you need. Remember that you have to allow for 50% more wattage than you actually need, to allow for spikes, and “sudden demand!”

(Like when you wife decides to blow-dry her 11 and a half feet of hair, at the same time you’re watching the playoffs on the widescreen, and your kid is having a Playstation Slamfest with his pals, with the stereo cranked up to decibel levels equaling “earthquake”…)

An inverter is just a “magic box” that converts DC power or direct current to standard AC power or alternating current, which allows you to run electrical equipment off your car or marine battery for household, mobile applications, emergencies or simple convenience.


Three or four 12 volt 100 amp (deep cycle) batteries should do well for storing enough power, depending on how many hours a day you plan to use power. Remember your batteries are like a gas tank. Add as many batteries as you need, to store your juice!


Now, figure out how much power your system will produce. This is measured in “amps at voltage.”  Then you convert these numbers into wattage. Got it? It’s easy. The magic formula is amps time’s volts equal’s watts. Keep in mind that you can add systems to an existing array.

I know it’s confusing… Just bribe your kid with a cookie or two, and he/she’ll explain it to you. I HATE “New Math!” LOL!

Some low power DC lighting and appliances may be run directly from the generator or battery with out an inverter. So, theoretically you could run DC lighting and with an inverter run AC appliances at the same time. Your mileage may vary.

Enough mumbo-jumbo, techno-speak, okay? Just determine your load requirements and then build a power system large enough to handle the load. And if I was you (be thankful I ain’t!) add about 30% to your system requirements, to allow for the stuff you’ll add on later. You’ll be surprised what you can’t live without! LOL!

And you don’t have to build a system large enough to run the entire house. You can stay on the grid, and just knock the hell outta your power bill, especially during those “peak hours.”

Think about the possibilities! Where I live, hurricanes regularly knock the stuffing out of the grid, by eating all the power lines and we end up without power for weeks at a time.

An emergency electrical back-up system would keep your refrigerator running, keep lights on or power up a sump pump until grid power has been restored, whether hours, days or even (gasp!) weeks.

Regardless of the type of system you’re installing to extricate yourself from the grid, it’s a good idea to check your zoning regulations and height restrictions.

(If you’re too short, you won’t be able to see over the counter, and if you’re too tall, the people at Planning and Zoning feel threatened! LOL!)

Obviously, I’m talking about the height of the wind turbine mast, here. Duh! But you knew that, huh?

Stay Tuned…

The Renaissance Ronin