Tag Archives: solar power

“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…

gore

Don’t get me started…. 😉

You too? Right?

Well?

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

I’m dreamin’ of screamin…

16 Oct

I know… you were expecting another boring “My Container is better than your container” speech, huh?

As you know, my family is building a shipping container house, if it KILLS us.

And, it just might. But, stop drooling into your monitor, waiting for the scraps, huh? The boy gets everything. Everything.

Now, as we toil and grind, and cut, and hack, and curse like sailors…

I decided to put myself in your shoes, for just a moment. I mean, you’re sitting there, having “Corten Container dreams“… thinking about a big hammock stretched between two steel boxes, the water in the pool lapping quietly by your side, as you sleep the peaceful sleep of the blissfully happy.

Ah… I can see it all now….

(fade to dream…)

Boy… now you went and did it…

You finally built your ‘off-grid’ solar, photovoltaic, energy efficient, insulated like crazy, “Corten Chateau” in the country. It’s so cool and so ‘top-secret” that not even your nosy battle-axe of a Mother-In-Law knows where it is!  🙂

2007_10_lacurbed
You’ve got your own satellite Internet hook-up (Thank you “DISH-I.P.“!!), and you’re out by the lap pool (that you built out of a shipping container shell) on your wireless laptop, hammock lulling you to sleep… as you ponder the actual writing of your memoirs!

But then… your wife comes out and tells you that the kid is out of diapers!

What do you do? What do you do?

Do you race into the garage and jump in the Bio-fuel powered HUMMER, to go on a “Pampers Expedition”?

hummer1No! Those nasty villagers keep keying my truck! Bastards!

Do you hop on the Harley and race thru the countryside, looking for “Harley Huggies“?

micro_hawg

Nope! Not enough cargo space… Diaper boxes are HUGE!

How would you like to jump into THIS baby, to go get baby some “buttcovers“?

volkswagen-l1concept

And it gets 170 miles to the gallon. So, you can be gone a LOOOOOOOONG time before you have to refuel…

Now, we’re cooking with gas!

Okay, so it’s NOT gas. It’s diesel. In fact, it’s not just diesel, it’s a hybrid, and it’s electric, too!

volkswagen-l1

(I know, I know… What else would a ‘hybrid’ be?) 🙂

(dream over! WAKE UP!)

Those geniuses at Volkswagen have done it again! They’ve set the world on fire, at least at the Frankfurt Motor Show!

At a lunchtime press conference on the first day of the Frankfurt Motor Show, they kicked everybody’s butt with a carbon fiber, half width, 1-liter hybrid electric diesel tandem two-seater car named the L1. Now, they’re slating this car to go into production, in 2013. When it does, it will almost certainly be the most fuel efficient car available with a combined diesel fuel consumption figure of .364 Gal / 62.14 miles (1.38 l/100km), thanks to its “miserly motor” combo, almost feather-like weight – 838 pounds (380 kg) in total – and an aerodynamic drag co-efficient of just 0.195!

They didn’t do this ‘overnight.’ They’ve been hard at work on it for over seven years. Back when it dawned, the idea that you could build a production version of the radical two-seater, which achieved fuel consumption of one liter fuel per 100 kilometers, was so remote as to be considered “insane.” Even “those in the know” called it “unthinkable“.

The L1 is the second generation of the Volkswagon 1-liter car, and it’s really, really close to production readiness.

volkswagen-l1b

(Since it’s the second Generation, why didn’t they call it the “L2”? or the “L1.1”? Hmmm…)

And its dimensions are pretty amazing – the length of the L1 at 12.5 feet (3,813 millimeters) is still similar to that of a Volkswagen Fox, and its height of 3.75 feet (1,143 millimeters) nearly matches that of a Lamborghini Murciélago, while the car’s aerodynamically optimized width of almost 4 feet (1,200 millimeters to be exact) has no comparisons in the world of today’s production cars.

volkswagen-l1c
I figure that you could get about (5) of these in a standard 2-car garage. That, my friends, is a whole fleet of fun!

And Volkswagen is just like my kid:

“Why?”

“Dad, Why?”

“Daddy!   Why? Why? Why?”

As they developed the L1 prototypes, they questioned EVERYTHING under the sun. They asked questions about automobiles that had never been asked before!

How do I know all of this? Well, I read it in print, so it must be true! Right? I mean, if it wasn’t true, they couldn’t print it, right? 🙂

Seriously, those engineers at VW started with the body construction, and asked themselves that age old question:

“Yeah, yeah, energy, schmenergy… But will it attract girls?”

Wait, that’s not it… 🙂

They asked themselves how a car would have to look to attract Halle Berry. Wait… that’s not right either…

Okay, seriously, they asked themselves how a car would have to be built to consume as little energy as possible.

The logical answer: it’d have to be extremely aerodynamic and lightweight.

Well, duhhhhh!

But, that’s not easy. After all, some idiot is gonna be gawking at you, while you’re toolin down the road in this baby, and that somebody else is gonna smash into you. Why, it’s as sure as this big butt in my jeans…

So, the words for the day were: “maximum safety.” But how do you do that with a 4 foot wide car? You “use the Force, Luke.”

Yep, the same “force” the ‘air monkeys’ use… You use High-Tech carbon fiber. CFRP, to be exact!

And the V’Dub guys wanted you to have a good time flying this down the highway. What better way than to build it, to resemble a fighter aircraft?

Well, just call me Maverick, and strap my butt in! I feel the need for some speed!

The seat layout had to be: One seat behind the other.

volkswagen-l1roof
And none of them sissy “scissor doors” either. It’s been done to death! You get into it just like the flyboys do… You step down into it, when the canopy gets “raised.”

Beyond the looks, this baby is all “high-tech.” Each component has been redesigned, a special chassis with aluminum components was developed, and above all… the crucial CFRP technology from Formula-1 racing and airplane construction was transferred to automotive manufacturing.

This has been combined with a unique form of hybrid drive to create a near-production vehicle. I bet it even uses Dy-lithium crystals! 🙂

Sign me up! I want one.

And you better wake up, too!! There’s gonna be a long list, when these babies hit US shores…

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin

Shut Up! You can’t actually LIVE “off-grid”!

14 Oct

Or… can you?

Greetings, Campers!

Lately, I’ve been exploring the possibilities of moving my family to a place “far and away” where power fears to go. And, you can forget about cable TV. Not gonna happen.

That’s right, I’m talking about (gasp!) Mississippi! Um… er… not really…  🙂

Contrary to popular belief, they really do have power and cable TV in Mississippi. It just doesn’t work all that well, yet… 😉

If you’ve been reading along, you know that my blog is aimed at building an off-grid alternative home out of shipping containers and recycled aircraft hangar comnponents, so that the family nestled safely within can take more responsibility for their lives and livelihood.

In our case, we’re building a home out of re-purposed shipping containers, commonly called ISBUs (or Intermodal Steel Building Units).

Like I said…  we’re not just using these marvelous containers, we’re also using some components we scrounged off of an old aircraft hangar, and anything else we could find that looked sturdy… but that’s another post, entirely! 🙂

The idea is to build a home out in the country, away from everybody else. Why? Well, it appears that the neighbors would certainly like it better that way.  It seems that around here, the locals are rather “ISBU intolerant,” and we need to get out of “eyesight and earshot”, if we want any peace and quiet.

Like having a two year old terror of a little boy is going to provide anything that resembles “peace and quiet.”

Yeah, right?!

I’m sure you already know that we’re replacing a home that was eaten by a hurricane. I am sure that you know that we’re doing it without the help of the insurance company that we paid to protect us from this kind of loss. As a result, much of our life as we knew it has changed.

And, I’m sure that you know my wife is going through radiation and chemo to combat cancer, as we do all this. So, you can see that we have our hands full.

One of the cool things about using containers is that they go up fast. On a Monday, you may have a vacant lot, but by Friday, you can have a nearly completed home sitting there.

It’s a LOT of labor, but it’s worth it…

And, I’m sure that you know that we’re struggling…

Well, you do now!

As we go thru day after day of torment and trial, waiting for somebody in charge to “man up and make a decision” (besides “NO!”)  people reading this blog are starting to get involved.

As in… we’re helping other people build THEIR ISBU homes.

And this has presented some interesting opportunities. I’ve told you about some people who have land to trade for help and labor, as they construct the homes of their dreams. And, I’ve told you about an idea I have, to build a hangar, that will house shipping containers instead of aircraft, as they get transformed into homes for worthy families.

Ronin doesn’t have a lot of money.

In fact, Ronin struggles each and every month, to insure that Joshua has diapers, and Momma has medicine. But, Ronin does have something that some other people don’t have. VISION.

I’ll just barter for the things we need, and we’ll just “rough it” until we get to where we’re going.

Where are we going?

Well, we’re going as far away as we can from “some people” (who shall remain nameless) who lack anything resembling common sense or even a grasp of reality.

Starting with transportable modules built from Intermodal Steel Building Units (shipping containers), you can actually fabricate a pretty solid home, for less than the price of a stick built one.

And, it’ll be made out of Corten Steel.

If you’ve been reading along for the last year and a half, you know that it is possible, and that it’s happening more and more. You may see an ISBU home in your own neighborhood, soon…

Or, you may drive past one, out on some lonely country road, or maybe on a far-flung beachfront lot, sitting there all by it’s “onesies”.

And you may wonder about the possibilities of living in a steel house “out in the middle of nowhere”.

WE don’t just wonder about it. WE crave it. It’s all I can think about, most days.

That’s right… we’re going “off-grid”.

Now, living “off-grid” means exactly that. No power hook-up. No water company. No sewer pipes to connect to, to haul your … um… er… well, you get the picture. If you don’t , I could SHOW you a picture, but you wouldn’t like it… nuh-uh! Ewwww!

Living “off-grid” means being responsible for all your needs and requirements. It also means that if you screw up, you can’t blame anyone but yourself.

Shhhhh! Don’t tell my wife that, though! She already blames me for nearly everything as it is!

One of the questions I get asked a lot, is whether or not it actually makes sense to build and live, totally off-grid.

“But Ronin, can you really live ‘free – in the wild’ in this day and age, without becoming something out of a SciFi movie plot?”

Virginia, take a  pill. You really can live “off grid”, completely  unfettered by utility poles and free from the monthly harassment of those pesky utility bills. Honest.

I’ve shown you how to do the hard parts. Earth friendly HVAC, Solar hot water production, Photovoltaic Electricity production… you name it.

We talk about it here. Constantly. Endlessly. Until “I’m blue in the face”… Get it?

And we’ll continue talking about it, until some of you finally get it thru your thick skulls… You know who you are! 🙂

The info is there, people… Hit the archives, if you doubt me…

But, unless you’re independently wealthy, there are other problems to solve.

Like, for instance… “If I live off-grid, how do I get paid?”

I mean, you have to buy groceries, right? I mean, if my son get s hungry, he gets REAL grumpy. If my wife gets hungry… well… let’s just say it’s hard to tell, because she’s ALWAYS grumpy… 😉

It’s because of stuff like this that people seem torn by the idea of leaving the safety of the subdivision, to go it alone, in “the wild and woolly outdoors…”

To those who fear “abandonment”, isolation, or possibly even becoming “pariahs”, I say this:

“Follow your heart. If your intent is to take care of YOUR family, the neighbors won’t matter that much. They don’t pay your bills, or make your meals.”

At least, MY neighbors don’t and if they did, I’d be afraid to eat it.

You see, Ronin doesn’t like being poisoned… 🙂

So I took a poll, on one of my other blogs…

And I discovered that more and more people who work over the internet, for companies in far away states.

Now, I’m not talking about “Google” type jobs, or “get rich quick” schemes.

I am not talking about “internet telephone answering” or “help-desk answering” jobs in Mumbai…

I’m talking about REAL jobs!

You know the kind… Highly paid, professional positions, held by responsible people. They do actually exist.

And, it’s starting to happen more and more… although it’s happening slower than might be possible if companies would just start giving thought to how their operations operate, and more importantly for them, what the actual costs of operation are.

Because in the end, we all know that in that boardroom, it’s about profit.

Alas, it has not happened on a large scale yet. Perhaps its because of a ‘warped” management mindset:

If we let our workers actually work from home, a bunch of managers will get laid off.

“Who can I terrorize, if they aren’t here?”

Obviously, in a telecommuter based operation, less managers are needed and their psychological power is vastly diminished when employee performance is measured only objectively.

(For me, that’s be a good thing. I got “fired” once, for decking a miscreant of a manager, after he started shaking his fist in my face and calling my kids bad words, after I refused to stay late and clean up yet another one of his messes. I didn’t exactly pummel him, according to the on-lookers. He just kept falling down…)  🙂

I say “fired” because he didn’t understand the phrase:

“Before I quit, I have something to show you… my fist.”

“And G_d smiled…” the company got taken over later that year, and he was one of the first to get canned. The next time I saw him, he was an assistant manager, at Wendy’s.

Having your workers actually work from home actually makes good sense to me. As a manager of one of these companies, you’d end up evaluating people on their work quality and their productivity. And, you wouldn’t be plagued by dealing with “office politics” or gossip, or even prejudice.

A worker would get merit (or maybe even “demerits”), based on actual work! What a concept! 🙂

Your company could “downsize” that corporate office they’ve been throwing money into, at a time when companies have to streamline in order to survive in this miserable economy.

And hey! The real estate market sucks right now, finding a smaller building should be easy!

Look… if America business is going to compete with “companies from beyond…” they have to think progressively. What’s more progressive than saving money, by making your operation more productive, and easier to manage?

It takes some adaptation, to be sure… but lots of companies are proving that it’s quite possible, and even profitable. Sure, some workers are going to be concerned about maintaining their little power structure, because they won’t be in the office to continually pucker up an kiss someone’s butt…

But frankly, I’m getting pretty tired of “brown-noser’s” anyway.

Companies claim that Internet service isn’t reliable enough.

Or, worse, that it isn’t available to all of their workers. Bull.

Companies like Dish IP are making Satellite Internet connection a breeze. You can get a satellite uplink for $50 a month. You’ll get more than enough bandwidth to work on-line, and blast email back and forth. You’ll even have enough to video conference, if the boss wants to catch you in your underwear, plowing through spreadsheets.

Remember that you’re dealing with satellites. If you can get a Dish TV setup, you can get an internet link. So, there aren’t really any limits to what you can do…

If you need to do some massive downloading, then get off your butt and head for the car. Hey, that’s what WiFi is for! Go find a WiFi hotspot, (or a McDonald’s) and download away on your laptop, while you eat a fast food lunch. Nearly every town has a free WiFi hotspot, somewhere. You can usually find one at your local library. You just have to go find it.

The benefit is that you’ll not only fuel your need for the latest iTunes upgrade, you’ll also get a tasty, calorie laden, over-priced  meal that you’ll have to pedal off on your exercise bike later.

But it’s all good! Attach your exercise bike to a car alternator and voila! You just made an instant “Idiot Powerplant!” You can even charge up your batteries in your home power bank! 🙂

Now, all you need is direct deposit paychecks, and on-line banking.

Congrats!

You’re off-grid, supporting your family and buying groceries! And, you don’t have to put up with that miserable bastard in the next cubicle, anymore!

Could it get any better?

Now get into your pajamas and get your butt in front of that computer! That’s it…

Good Job!

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin Addendum: Since I wrote this post, I’ve been deluged with people doing exactly what I’m talking about. In fact, Greg S. in Texas is doing exactly that, while he waits for the arrival (they’re enroute) of his (3) 40′ ISBUs, that he’s going to use to build HIS new Corten Castle!
Greg says: “… it’s totally off grid….wind power, solar, well, and septic…it’s the freakin’ dream.”
Way to go, Greg! 🙂

3-2-1… GO! Instant Shipping Container House!

7 Oct

Greetings!

As I sit here, toiling over Shipping Container Home plans, I’m reminded that things are getting tough all over…

As you know, we’re having a really hard time getting past all the bureaucrats that decided to stick their noses into our little project. So, we’re stalled out and our patience is wearing thin. So, I’m helping some other families achieve their housing goals, by lending them my considerable insights and insanity…  🙂

A build I’m working on in the Carolina’s is going up and down so fast you’d think that it was a roller-coaster.

In the beginning, we thought to build a rather contemporary home, that in my view was destined to come an ISBU landmark.

But “things happen” and budgets change, and rules have to be followed (damn those Planning and Zoning Nazi’s!) and at some point, it comes time to re-access, and try to figure how to get a house up, before the snow falls…

You start every build thinking about “Champagne and Bling…” but somewhere along the line, you’re reminded (usually by your significant other or your accountant) that you’d better aim for “Beer and Pretzels“.

So, I started thinking about how you could get a house up, in a time period of about 3 months, that had the potential to house a small family. Now, remember, according to “Ronin’s Rules“… that house has to be affordable, sustainable, and energy efficient.

It has to supply all of the primary needs;

  • Shelter from storms
  • Warmth and Cooling
  • Nice traffic flow
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Potential for Power Production
  • Low Maintenance
  • Provide ample storage, and
  • Provide the potential for expandability

Okay, we can do this…

Now, we need about 1,000 square feet, to start out. And, we’re not made of money, so let’s set the budget at around $50,000. That’s the price of a new car, if you can keep yourself from driving into the local Mercedes Benz Dealership.

According to a study I just read:

$50,000 is about a fourth of the cost of a new entry-level “starter home”, in today’s market, in most of America.

The goal here is to build a 2 bedroom, 1 bath home that will provide all of the goals we ‘ve noted, for under $300.00 a month.

Lemme see… $50,000.00 at 6%, over 30 years… is $299.78.

“But…” you say, you can’t get a loan. In fact, everyone in America seems to be in that boat.

You can if you have “equity.” Equity is the amount of money you already have invested in your property, based on it’s current appraisal. It’s the amount that you “don’t owe.”

And, we’re going to aim it so that this little beauty appraises out at about $109,000.00!

That’s about $115 a square foot, the national average for “appraisal footage”, in this category of homes.

So, the day you move in, you’ve made $59,000.00. Naturally, you’ll use that equity, to establish a $50,000 loan. Who’s laughing now? Huh?

Oh yeah, and we need a piece of ground to set it on.

Piece of ground acquired, and budget in mind, how can we do this? After all, what we’re building is a glorified “starter home.”

Here’s what I wanted:

I wanted the family to be able to build this home, out of pocket.  It’s a young married couple, with one child, a little girl.

Fundraising:

No, they didn’t have a bake sale! Can you imagine how many cupcakes you’d have to sell, to pay for a home-building project? Oy! 😉

They have about $35,000 in savings (after they sold off one of their cars). A relative died, and they got the car. So, their bank account gets a “Detroit Infusion“.

They have “In-Laws” who generously agreed to donate $15,000 each, to help them get the house going. And, they had a piece of ground with a nasty trailer sitting on it, just begging for demolition.

The property already has a good well.

So, we have an acre and a half of land with good south exposure, all the water we need, and $65,000.00 to build with.

It’s time to buy some boxes…

We found a trio of boxes for $1,500 each, plus shipping. They are 40′ High Cube Shipping Containers, and they’ve only been used twice, as near as we can tell. They hauled a load of fabric from China to the Eastern Seaboard the last time out. They’re located in Savannah, GA.

Through a fleet transport broker, we found a guy who has cargo to move from Savannah to Columbia. It’s a huge load of furniture. It’s enough that he can fill several boxes with his gear. The furniture guy will load the containers onto flatbeds and haul his crap north!

This is better still! The building site is nearby. Actually, it’s just outside a small town…

So, we get this guy to use our boxes to haul his stuff to Columbia and then we truck the boxes from Columbia to the building site, a distance of about 80 miles. These are empty boxes and we can actually pull them behind a big Ford F350 Diesel Pickup… which the family just happens to have access to…

So, we have (3) 40′ ISBUs, and no shipping costs, except gas… um…er… diesel. Okay, we’re gonna use some fuel, but it’s a far better cry, than paying over  $700 each, to have them delivered to us, via tractor trailer.

But, can you actually build a home out of three ISBUs’ that will comfortably house a family?

We’ve all seen this Adam Kalkin – Quik House floorplan:

3-ISBU-FirstFloorPretty nice, huh? But wait a minute… where do you sleep?

3-ISBU-SecondFloorOh yeah… if you want to SLEEP in this house, you have to add a second floor!

Now, I’m not bashing this plan at ALL.

In fact, I’d live in it, myself (with a few “twists”). But THIS HOUSE will cost you a lot more than $65,000. In fact, this house, as cool as it is, will cost you almost $200,000 before you’re through, in most marketplaces.

If I had $200,000 to build with, I might consider it… But, I don’t. I have $65,000 bucks. Remember?

I need to build a house to shelter a small family, that may (and most probably will) grow larger.

Hey, I just had another child… and I’m 50 years old. It CAN happen! 🙂

No, smarty-pants, it didn’t involve a mailman, or an appliance repair guy…  At least I don’t think so… Hmmm… 🙂

Not only do we need to get this house up fast, we need to provide the owners with the potential for expansion.

I’m thinking something like this:

3-2-1

I know, it’s not as pretty as Adam’s plans… Sheesh, everybody’s a critic!

Here’s the deal;

We lay three 40′ ISBU’s side-by-side. We haven’t decided on a foundation yet, but I suspect it will simply be three “footed” walls 24′ wide, 1′ wide, and 5′ high, spaced 20′ apart, on center.

Now, those walls will start below grade, so we’re only lifting the boxes up a foot or two.

Oh yeah, by doing this, we don’t have to do a massive site prep plan. And, if we want a taller crawlspace underneath, we just pour the walls a foot or two higher.

Boxes in place, we have a 24′ x 40′ x 9.5 shelter. Almost 1,000 square feet. 960, to be exact. Now comes the fun part. We gut the interior walls out. Practically all of them will go. Depending on final design, the bathroom and the kitchen may still have a partial corrugated steel wall. But, you won’t see them.

The drawing is pretty self-explanatory. What it doesn’t show is the ability to add access to a second floor, if necessary. For instance, you could add a “loft ladder” to the bathroom hallway, opposite the bathroom door.

You see, later, I’m thinking that they’ll build UP, onto the “roof terrace”, and take that entire back section, to build a nice Master bedroom, right over the two lower bedrooms.

The lower bedroom closets will have to be reworked, but that’s not that hard to do.

“What? No tub in the only bathroom? Ronin, are you crazy?”

Relax… keep reading. 🙂

Our family got a Steam Shower as a gift from a relative who installed it, and then hated it.

Whaa? How in the world can you hate a steam shower? He must be nuts!:)

And, showers take less water than a tub bath, x the number of occupants. We’re fetching our own water via that well outside, so we’re going to conserve it.

Anyway, because the family stressed that they only take showers, we can put a hot tub up on the roof, for those times when Mom and Dad need to soak under the stars.

It’ll be “quality time”.

The roof (planned to be accessed by a “u-shaped” wooden staircase outside) will be large enough for our “solar farm” (solar and photovoltaic panels), a nice terraced space, plus a cool little landscaped area used to get away from the kid(s).

We’re talking about a “parental oasis” possibly.

And Later… that new Master bedroom won’t interfere too much – they’ll just have a cool deck outside their bedroom, with a hot tub on it. The solar and photovoltaic panels will re-mount to the awning roof.

And here’s the cool part;

Remember, they started with $65,000.00. $35,000 was theirs… and $30,000 came from the “In-Laws”.

You build the house for $50,000.00.

Yes… $50 Grand. How? Well… we’re gonna use some volunteer labor. It’s nice to have relatives that are construction workers, plumbers, and electricians.

That means that you still have $15,000.000 left over.

Hey, as Billy Mays used to say… “But wait… there’s more!”

  • We’ll use government programs to help offset the cost of the solar and photovoltaic systems.
  • We’ll use that new Cash for Clunkers Appliance package, to help pay for appliances.
  • We’ll apply for a Government grant to actually help build the house.

That’ll bring in about $28,000.00 to go back in the bank.

We found a grant that will help families build a home, to the tune of about $15,000.00. It’s a grant. No pay back. ZERO! That, plus the existing energy and appliances packages available will yield at LEAST $28,000.00.

That means that you have $43,000.00 in your hot little hands. But, it’s a good idea to pay back “you know who” or you’ll never hear the end of it… trust me.

There goes $30,000.00!

You’re back to $13,000.00. So, you’re only out of pocket $22,000.00 so far… IF you stuck to the budget as closely as you could.

I’m betting that you only have about $5,000 left over. 🙂

After they get their appraisal and their certificate of occupancy, they can take a loan out on that house, that equals any equity they created. I’m betting it will be way over $50,000.00.  That means that they’ve immediately paid back the “In-Laws” and they still have money for decorating.

They have a brand new house, brand new appliances, enough power production to offset the majority of their power bills, and money in the bank.

They apply for, and get that $50,000 Home Equity loan. The payment is $299.78. Remember?

So, cash in hand, we pay some bills. In fact, we pay ALL of them. This way… “Nervous Nellie Nana” can just shut the heck up about carrying a bunch of debt… 🙂

This family is going to make a mortgage payment now, but it’s only $300.00. That’s far less than rent for a comparable space.

And, they can add on, later.

Is America great , or what?

After we ‘final’ the designs, I’ll talk about exactly how we’re going to accomplish this.

The Renaissance Ronin

If you’ve enjoyed the blog, learned from it, or just found yourself entertained, please consider contributing a few bucks to it, to help us keep it up and running. We started doing this, so that we could share information, as we tried to save our family. Every penny counts, and we really need the help.

And… Stay tuned for another exciting episode of:

“What’s that ‘Container idiot ‘ up to, NOW?”

“George, I can see it clearly now… there’s boxes up in them trees!”

24 Sep

Greetings, Campers!

Aren’t you sick of all this “Shipping Container Nonsense”… yet?

Nope? Me either!

As you probably already know, I’m the guy building shipping container homes, for sport and even profit!

Of course, in my case, the profit is the knowledge that another family has found a home! 🙂

And… I find it sporting to give the local Planning and Zoning guys aneurysms! Plus, my own family will profit by this as well, by getting a “Tonka Tough” house to live in, when it’s finally finished!

I’ve been telling you about a plot of land that we’re “experimenting” on…

It’s just outside Ocean Springs, Mississippi, for those of you who are interested in WHERE we’re building this little “science project.”

The idea is to take several damaged shipping containers rescued from “the place shipping containers go to die” and reuse them as shelter, by turning them into modules. These modules will be interconnected, to form an entire residence, by “compartmentalizing” each space.

shipping-container-treehouseNope. Not this. Can you imagine? I bet my local Planning and Zoning guys would have  strokes right and left! Hey… wait a sec… that could be… maybe… um… nah… never mind. 🙂

We’ve been debating, arguing, and just generally bullying each other for a few weeks, but here’s what we’ve decided.

The first experiment will be a “floating home” that is nothing more than a village of container segments all interconnected by walkways.

We were going to build a “galley” kitchen unit that will include a built in 6′ x 8′ “banquette seating arrangement.”

But… cooler heads prevailed, and now the kitchen, dining area, and family room will be housed in a central room, that serves as the nucleus for the whole demented collection of Corten molecules!

(2) Bedroom modules will be constructed, one for the “parents”, and one for any guests foolish enough to want to visit.

816MST

The bedroom modules will be entered thru double french pane doors that open OUT.

Yeah, yeah, I know, the code guy’s gonna have a fit…

In a space this ‘tight’, it’s the only way that makes any sense. This means that in spring and summer, the doors can be opened allowing the module to extend out onto the 8′ x ?’ deck.

(We’re still arguing about whether or not to just screen off the decks to begin with, to keep bugs out. I’m all in favor of starving the mosquitoes, so that they’ll go elsewhere. Those little lanai’s could be quite cool! )

You enter into an almost 8′ wide “seating area,” backed by a 4′  organizer closet that runs up 7′. A double row of  (5) stacked 1’x 1′ boxes forms a knee wall above the closet. The lower boxes will open into the sitting area, and a few of the upper boxes may open into the loft hidden behind that knee wall of boxes…

I haven’t decided yet which way the boxes will face. I suspect that they’ll open into the loft, to allow for more storage up there..

The sitting room is just a place to relax away from everyone else. We’re talking about (2) opposed chairs and a table between them, nothing fancy.

I know, you’re already complaining that the closet could be larger… But we’re building “small quarters”, here. Downsizing means getting rid of stuff you don’t need.

That 3′ opening on the left side of the closet leads to a full bath… behind the closet.   We’re thinking about a pocket door, here. And, for an added bonus… On the left side of that doorway is a 1′ deep storage cabinet, based on simple 1′ x 1′ x1′ stacked cubes. That storage cabinet is 3′ deep. We’ll just screw them all together, to make them all “connected and sturdy”.  Stacked 7 high, that’s almost 21 cubic feet of storage.

WHY?

Because I have about (160) 1′ x 1′ x 1′ wooden boxes. Built out of 1″ MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard), they were used to ship huge electrical relays, internationally. Who cares? The REAL cool thing about MDF is that it’s really stable, and those boxes will accept paint really easily!

Why do I have such a large stockpile of them?

Don’t ask me why! My wife says that it’s because I’m an idiot! I suspect it’s really because I can’t let anything go into the garbage… and…

… because they would fit into my storage unit. 🙂

A local manufacturing company went out of business and the new tenant found then in the building when he moved in. He didn’t want them… Guess who did?

So, I just got 21 cubic feet of storage space, for free! Who’s the idiot now…Char? Hmmm? 🙂

And, if it looks cool… I might just continue it into the bathroom, to kiss the sink! 🙂

The bath is virtually the same as any bath you’d find in a “normal” house.  A sink and cabinet with a toilet next to it. and the tub running across the end. We may angle the sink in the corner, to get a few more feet of “moving around” space. No composting toilet, sorry folks.

Plumbers cost a fortune! If I had my way, we’d just cut a big hole in a “butt shelf.” Look out belowwwwww!  🙂

I recently bartered for some glass block, so we may even do a “feature window” of glass block behind the tubs.

Back in the sitting room, a library ladder attaches to a brass rail that spans the room, above the closet.  That ladder leads up to a clerestory loft, and that’s where you’ll sleep.

Unless, of course… you’re in the doghouse, like I usually am. 😦

WHY “Library Ladders”??

Because we salvaged four of the units that needed some TLC, and we had some fun rehabbing them. Plus, now they’re just itching to have my fat butt fall off of them! 🙂

We’ll create the clerestory loft, by building a knee wall on one end, and a full 8′ wall on the other, that will receive glass. We’ll cap it with a SIP (Structural Insulated Panel) roof overhead, naturally.

Remember that SIPs will carry themselves in short spans. So, we don’t need any beams or trusses.

In the sleeping loft, you’ll find a built-in Queen sized bed running across the back.We’re doing two of these units, so in one, we’ll run one bed system length-wise, on a raised “storage pedestal.” A built in headboard and footboard will allow a small place for knick-knacks, and beverages.  We’ll slant the headboard and footboard and then upholster them, so that the bed can also be used as a reclining seat, to read in the window. This’ll leave a nice space in front of the bed, that faces into/over  the sitting area.

We’re still undecided about the second bedroom unit. I’m all for building in the furniture, but the vote is still out.

(1) Bunk House with bathroom will be built, to give the kids their own space (and you can bet it’ll be located way out on the edge, where they won’t disturb anyone else!).

This lil beauty is going to be a “side entry module.” Essentially, we’ll use a french door to open the module to the deck. Their lanai will be wider (the full 16′ width of the module) and have a built in bench and table on one end so that they can play, eat, or whatever, in peace. The clerestory play loft is accessed thru a hatch above the bunk beds, to prevent kids from falling out and maiming themselves. It’s created by building a 5′ tall knee wall in that bunkbed end, and then an 8′ window wall in the bathroom end. Obviously, you just frame in the sides.  A SIP roof covers it up, and keeps the critters out. Or, it keeps the critters IN, it depends on how you look at it. 🙂

816Kids

(1) “Meditation Module” is being built. It’s an 8′ x 16′  library, really, with soft places to enjoy the scenery and read a good book, draw, or even hunker down behind a computer. A loft in the eaves will provide that CPU space, or maybe even another bed. A powder room will complete the unit.

All of these modules will orbit a large octagonal room (in the center of this mess) made out of  SIP panels and french doors, and like I said… each module connects to that, by it’s  own “deck”.

That center room is the only “module” that won’t be ISBU based. It’s essentially a big open space, with a pitched roof to match. We MAY build a loft into it. The idea is to construct it out of SIPs  (Structural Insulated Panels) and recycled french doors (from a huge hotel rebuild in Destin, FL), and then put a thick  octagonal SIP roof on it.

Why?

Well, because we got a hell of a deal on the SIPs. They are “left-overs” from a large construction job. Now, you don’t usually have anything left when building with SIPs,  as each panel is usually precut, at the factory. In this case, they decided NOT to build a certain segment of the building. Thus, “left-overs.” We’ll take ’em.

A wood stove in the center of the “gathering room” will provide heat for the space.

Again, I know, I know… Why?

Sheesh, you ask a lot of questions!

Well, if you must know, it’s because we already had the woodstove, and it needed a home. The lot that this whole Corten Community is going in is heavily wooded, and there are a lot of downed trees. So, firewood will NEVER be an issue.

So, as we toil away cutting Shipping Containers up into even smaller Shipping containers…

I started looking at the size of these “reduced” boxes, and I’ve been thinking about how you could actually use one to build a “Tiny House.” The primary difference is that you’d just start with a steel carcass, about 8′ wide, by 16′ deep, and you’d have a 9.5′ ceiling. Cut the top out and add a big pitched roof (say… 8/12 pitch), and you have a terrific loft area. You could get about 200 square feet out of one of these easily.

The first shipping container arrived today from the ISBU dump, and needless to say, we jumped on it with plasma cutters blazing.

It was like those Sci-Fi alien movies, where the mechanical arms come outta nowhere, and start cannibalizing anything with metal in it! 🙂

We’re cutting this first ISBU into three sections, and one section is pretty much garbage. From it we’re going to get (2) 16′ deep sections, and they’ll be turned into bedrooms with ensuite baths. I’ll post the drawings when we finalize the actual design, in the next few days.

I’m sure you’re asking why we’re cutting before we have solid plans. I know that I would be.

Well, here’s the deal… The Shipping Containers that we’re getting right now are damaged boxes, and we’re just cutting around “the damage.” Careful cutting will give us two usable “pieces,” and we already know that we can build a pretty nice little sleeping box in 16′ of running space.

To recap:

Each bedroom will have a sitting area, a closet, a full bath that measures approx. 6′ x 8′, and a sleeping loft, overhead. Each sleeping module will have it’s own solar hot water heating system, and have radiant in-floor heat.

Each module will have at least an  8′ x 8′ front deck that will connect each module to the center octagon, in a hodge-podge kinda Ewok village sorta thing…

Concrete pilings built using sonotubes and rebar will hoist the whole shooting match up off the ground.

Each module will provide most of it’s own power, using photovoltaic panels and inverters that will feed into a “common” battery bank. A “desulferator contraption” will refresh deep-cycle golf cart batteries that we “commandeered” from a local golf course, for free.

So, now you know. We’ve finally lost our minds… But somewhere in all those metal scraps, we may just find them, again…

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin

Welcome to ‘My Shipping Container’ Farm!

21 Sep

“In the Beginning, Gawd created an idiot… named Alex…”

At least, that’s what my wife says……

Hey, if you’ve been hanging around, you already know the drill…

I’m the guy in Mississippi trying to use recycled and re-purposed stuff to build a home for my family, after a hurricane ate my old one.

And just like thousands of families on the Gulf coast, we’re still not back in a house.

Now my build is a bit complicated, for four reasons.

First – Because the insurance company turned out to be greedy @ssholes who don’t want to pay off claims, “we’re stuck like Chuck”.  So, we’re in a pool of over 2,000 families waiting for the resolution of a class action lawsuit.  The lawyers say it could take years…

Second – The Planning and Zoning Nazis in this neck of the woods see ISBU container homes as a blight on the landscape, and they don’t want them anywhere near their neighborhoods. So it’s a fight, from the very beginning, to the bitter end.

Third – We have to pay as we go, because there isn’t any “formal” build money. Walk into a bank and then tell them you want a loan to turn steel shipping boxes into a house. They’ll treat you like you’re a stand-up comedian… Oy.

Fourth – My wife has a disease that is killing her, and we’re racing against the clock against the cancer.

In the meantime, we’re still without a home of our own.

If you’ve been following the blog, you know that my wife has cancer, and she’s having a rough go of it. And, we now have a healthy almost 2 year old son (October 12th), who was “the chocolate icing on a horrible ‘crap’ cake…

Whaaat

Where did the time go? Where did my hair go? Where? Ah… never mind…

You see, we found out that she was very ill, the same day we found out she was pregnant.

My wife is a trooper. In fact, my wife is the “General Patton” of wives. She elected to risk her life to carry our son.  She knew that the treatment she needed to go after the cancer, would kill him. She knew that waiting for the treatment would probably kill her. But, she waited until after Joshua was born, to start treatment. A life, for a life.

By then, the disease had taken a firm foothold, and now we’re fighting it with everything we have.

I’m not going to kid you… It’s real hard, and we pray it will turn out okay, but we’re doing the best that we can. Facing and fighting cancer without medical insurance is a real bitch. Massive layoffs after the storm, and then again after the economy tried to commit Hara Kiri (Seppuku)…

hari-kari

… put a lot of us in dire straits… it’s a big boat, so grab an oar, huh?

(And for those who are wondering… No, you can’t get Medicaid in Mississippi, if you make more than $500 a month. We tried, until the frustration nearly drove us mad. You CAN get “near death – indigent care” treatment, but the quality of this care is pathetic.)

And, so… as we fight this… we still need a home. She DESERVES a home. I OWE her a home. G_d knows she’s earned it…

Time out… Just amuse yourself while I go take a pill… okay?

Okay, now that my blood pressure is going back down to something that resembles “normal”….

Our home goals aren’t “lofty”. They start the same place as yours probably did;  It all starts with a safe place to sleep and enough room to store all of your crap… 🙂

Many people have asked me how I’m going to fabricate containers for an ISBU home, without having to have two homes at the same time. Many of your know that I’m pretty much home 24/7, as I need to be close enough to help out at home. I’m also the full-time care “nurse and chief cook/bottle washer. So, I need to be “steps away.”

It only complicated things further, because… on top of that, it’s hard enough making ends meet, with chemo and radiation and medications, and all the damned diapers…

Diapers… My kid goes thru a diaper an hour… or so it seems… He’s almost ready for potty-training…

Thank G_d! 🙂

So, like I was saying, we need to find a way to cut costs, so that all of our resources are headed at this build. But how do you do that?

Well… like the old saying goes; ‘The sky’s the limit!’

Remember those aircraft hangars that we took down?

A while back, I told you about a federal program that allowed for the removal of Aircraft Hangars from specific airports around the country, so that “proper” brick and mortar boxes could be rebuilt (according to the FAA and Homeland Security). After miles of paperwork, you “won” the right to find contractors with the right credentials, and you couldn’t resale the buildings, after you took them down.

And… No “Scrapping for cash… buddy!” like it’d be worth it. ‘Cash for Clunkers’ has provided all the scrap steel anybody could need, for a while, at the expense of taxpayers, again… Don’t even get me started!:(

scrapped-cars

Now, the powers that be thought that some terrorist might try to blow up a bunch of airplanes, or perhaps hijack a small plane to use as a fuel filled missile, or whatever…

I’m not sure I buy it, because you don’t store a “fully fueled” airplane in a hangar. You fuel it on the tarmac, before you take off… usually. And, a typical small aircraft won’t haul enough fuel or payload, to make it a “formidable weapon” in the hands of bad guys.

But, whatever… if they want to give away hangars, I’m taking one… or maybe even three…

And, that’s exactly what I did.

One of the hangars was 80′ x 120′ x 40′. It was actually (2) 80′ x 60′ hangar structures, connected back to back. And it had 30′ walls, and a gabled roof.

Recently, an ISBU experiment I’m participating in made me start re-thinking about HOW you build shelter.

And that started me to thinking…

Rather than just cannibalizing the big ugly boxes for ‘steel and siding’, what if you put one back up to store all your junk in, and then… you found a way to carve out a place inside it, to sleep… huh? A box in a box that rocks!

It could work. But how?

The hardest part about having an aircraft hangar on your property is this;

elephant_in_yard

“It’s the elephant in the yard.”

After all, it’s huge, it looks like it belongs somewhere else, and it sticks out like a ‘sore thumb.’

But, what if you put a wrap-around porch on it? Now… it’s starting to look like something else, eh?

Barns are big, but nobody has a fit when they see them… Especially around here.

So, we just build a “barn”.

No! I ain’t painting it RED. Nuh-uh!

Barns have big doors. Gotta get a tractor in there somehow, right?

Hangars have huge doors in them, too… to let planes in.  And, they frame those doors with big internal trusses.

Now, a “regular” aircraft hangar door wouldn’t bear the additional weight of a porch… but if you added internal framing and bracing to it, and then increased the hydraulic lift capacity, by, say…

… using larger rehabbed cylinders from an industrial scrapyard, it sure would.

Aircraft hangar doors use a small truss inside them, to keep the door rigid. That truss only has to carry the siding, basically. But, I’d need a much bigger “door truss” system in order to carry the weight of a roof, a deck and the porch railing.

But, it’s not THAT much weight… a pair of 4′ trusses would do it, easy.

I’m not the first guy to think about this. In fact, I know of a guy in Florida who did exactly what I’m talking about, he just went “store-bought.”

And you know me… I’m a cheap bastard who would rather “do-it-myself… or do without.”

No “Jew” jokes… I’m watchin you!

And turn your speaker volume down, the soundtrack is terrible! 🙂

And, I just happen to have (8) rehabbed tractor cylinders. Barter is a beautiful thing.

So, I’m thinking to myself;

“Self..” I says… “If I build a box that’s 80′ x 80′ by 40′ tall (30′ at the East/West ends)… I have a fab shop. And, if I build a balcony into that ‘fab shop’, that’s 24 feet deep (3 containers), way in the back… I have a 24′ x 80′ loft, one that’s got a pretty high ceiling if I cut the tops out of the containers.”

And, I would, too. The hangar I’m thinking of rebuilding has a gabled ceiling, that starts at 30′, and goes up another 10′. I’d build my loft up in the air almost 20′.

Why so high?

Well… A High Cube shipping container, sitting on the ground, is 9’6″ tall.

And I’ve gotta get both under it and on top of it. The containers will set on roller frames, that hold it up the same height as a tractor trailer flatbed. That way, I can just winch it off the flatbed onto my fab frame and then… winch it back onto the flatbed, when it’s time to move it to the site.

The roller frames are just really “dummy tractor trailer flatbeds”, basically. That gives you about 50″ underneath to punch holes, weld flanges, and just generally make a mess.

It’s not that complicated, if you think about it. The roller frames are just big steel frames made out of scrap I-Beams, with “casters” on them, to let them get pulled around, if necessary. Along the rails, there are several rollers, that will allow the container to by pulled on and off.  Remember, they don’t have to be monsters, as a 40′ Shipping Container isn’t that heavy, even after you add an interior to it.

Now, we have several hangar doors, so we’ll cut them down to fit our needs… We’d gonna put one “monster” door in “the front”, and we’d mount (2) in the back. The rear ones will measure approximately 25′ across and they’ll be 15′ high.

Why?

Jeez, you ask a lot of questions! Well, since you asked…

We need to get those containers back out, once they’re ready to move… “slide in –  slide out…”

Now, a bay 80′ wide by almost 60′ deep gives me the space to work on (4) containers at a time. Easy.

And, after all… I’m the “Corten Commando”, I is! Here’s how we’ll do it;

Recently, we came across a “container graveyard” where “old  and damaged containers go to die”. Upon inspection (actually, we’re still going thru them), we discovered that many of these containers were still usable, if you just cut off the “nasty bits.” In fact, we’re building a “small village” out of several of these segments, as an “experiment.”

So, I earmarked several containers, for cannibalization. We’ll cut them off at 24′. Take (6) of those 24′ segments, and then stack them (2) high, as one “8′ x 24′ x 19′ assembly” on each side of the hangar, all the way in the back.  Now take that last stacked segment, and place it all the way back, dead center.

Now you have a 24′ deep “base” for (2) rows of (3) High Cube containers. And, you have (2) 28′ wide corridors under it, to allow you to move stuff in and out of the hangar.

Are you getting this?

You just built a 24′ x 80′ x 9.5′ “residential space”, 19 feet up off the ground.

Plus, you get to use all that “stacked area” for storage, small offices/bathrooms, and “what not.” All welded together, it’s solid steel. Wind isn’t going to bother it all that much. It’ll shed rain like a Himalayan cat sheds hair. Flood waters? Hello! I’m 19′ up in the air. I spit at flood water! Fire? Last time I checked, you gotta play with a lot of matches, to get a steel building to burn down…

And, it’s shipping containers!

I’m staying within my theme of “Build it fast, build it to last!”

Okay, now I have a “building box” that has room to burn, and a 1,920 square foot loft space, that is easily turned into a small residence.

It’s “the Hangar Home from Hell…” I tell ya!

I have a place to live while I build my boxes out, and I don’t have to worry about the weather, unless it’s a hurricane. And, I suspect that I’m not going to be building in this part of Mississippi. I have a few irons in the fire and the first good one that heats up… well, let’s just say I’m itching to pack. It might even be out-of-state. We’ll see…

Sure, the hangar itself will require a bit of insulation to make it ‘livable.’

The reinforced concrete slab… miles and miles of it… will need to be insulated to at least r11, on the interior. The perimeter slab gets nada…

The Hangar walls and ceiling?

That’s what spray-on closed cell foam is for! An inch of closed cell foam will get you an R value of about 7. Most residential building codes call for r values of 26-30 in the ceiling, and at least 13 in the walls. So, figure on about 5 inches in the ceiling, and at least 2 inches in the walls. And yes, more is better.

And remember, kids… Closed cell foam is a extremely rigid. The foam cells are closed to each other. That’s why they call it “closed cell.” This property makes it a very good vapor and water barrier.  So, no leaks!  And, it doesn’t eat up a lot of your cavity space, either! It doesn’t expand as much as open cell foam so it can be applied a lot flatter and you only need half as much.

Plus, just to keep the Planning and Zoning Nazi’s at bay…

Closed cell foam does indeed meet building code requirements as a vapor barrier. It also does double-duty as a water and air seal.

foam

You know how much I love SIPs, but can you imagine what the materials would cost, to put Structural Insulated Panels on THAT roof? Oy Vey! I’d have to sell my kid…

I could cut back on the insulation in the shop area, but why? I gotta work in there! Besides, there’s a method to my madness…

The residential section needs windows, right? Could you achieve decent window glazing surface areas to meet code? You’re gonna need at least 20-25%. Yep! Easy. That’s why we pushed it all the way back. You have three exterior walls right there to punch thru!

Plus, the internal “container castle?” It’s inside an insulated and roofed box, already!

See? Told ya…  Say it with me; “A method to the madness…”

All I need to do is “isolate the residential bits” to cut down on the shop noise driving the inhabitants crazy. After all, Mom needs her sleep, and if she get’s woke up… well lets just say it ain’t pretty… Using the term “grumpy” ain’t even close!  I’d rather dance with a Grizzly Bear!

Am I worried about interrupting Joshua’s sleep? Nope.

Know why? It’s because he never sleeps. I love him to death, but the damned kid is almost two years old, and he’s never once slept thru the night. Not once! He sleeps for three to four hours, and then, he’s up and going 400 miles an hour. Doctor says he has a “high metabolism.”

So, anyway… I’ll just close off  the ISBU roof section, and insulate the inside wall, floor to ceiling. I will put in a window or two so you can look from the house to the hangar build shop.  I’ll just need to be careful about where they get placed. After all, windows have an r value of about 12, if you’re lucky. Do they slow down “sound”? Maybe. Will they stop the sound of a grinder? Never!

On that inside wall… Again, spray-on closed cell foam is a wonderful thing. We’ll use about 3 more inches. I want to not only keep the space warm, I want to quiet it down.

Plus, now I have an insulated attic space, or even a small “second floor” for the residence…

Underneath the residential section, more closed cell foam. A few inches, please… No need for a “cold butt”, huh?

I’m thinking that we do a pretty simple floor plan, a trio of bedrooms (two on one side, and the Master on the other), two full baths, a kitchen and a great room configuration that incorporates a dining room, and a family room. This is a good sized space, you could even cut it in half. I don’t need any structural walls, so it’s all partitions. We could start out in one huge “loft-like” room, with a couple of bathrooms punched into it. Then, along the way, we could finish it out, by installing wall segments. In the meantime, we’d be high, dry, and safe.

See? It’s easy.

And, after we get the containers below it ready to set, we just walk them across the yard!

It would give us time to build them out at our leisure, and then assemble them next spring. Because each level of the house is container based, we’d always have a roof overhead. So, we could even add one level at a time, until we reach our goal.

crane_moving_container

Yeah, I know that it would require a few visits by “the crane man…” to do it that way. Oy! Crane’s are expensive!

Or, we could just move them out of the hangar as they get finished (to be stockpiled/stored behind it) until we have all the “assemblies” finished. Sure, we’d have to close up any openings, but hey, that’s what plywood is for!

When we get the main house finished (hell, it could take a few seasons), we just use the “hangar house” as a guest house and the shop becomes a big garage.

Or, better yet… we could even use the set-up to fab more containers for someone else’s house! Split that upper residential section in two, and you could have “worker housing!”

That huge roof would also allow you to mount enough solar and photovoltaic panels to power most of Mississippi. So, I’d have ample power.  I need panels for the radiant in-floor heat system, too! No problem! That roof is so big, you can probably see it from space!

(Okay, not really, but it WOULD be huge!)

And, I do love SSMR (Standing Seam Metal Roofing)! So, the roof would go on, fast, fast, fast!

I could even carve out an “upper deck”, to use some of that roof space above the container housing section. Maybe put in a greenhouse and a small garden!

You could launch a water balloon at the neighbors for miles, up there! 🙂

I’m giving this some serious thought. In fact, I may just go down to the local planning and zoning office and spring it on ’em.

WHY?

Well, to be honest… it’s because I love to make them turn blue! It’s funny as hell watching their neck veins quiver like that! Sure, it’s evil. But hey… I gotta be true to my nature… huh? 😉

Now, all I need is about $19,000 for concrete…

Stay tuned…

The Renaissance RoninExciting, huh? Wake up! The post is over! Go home! 🙂

Addendum: October 14, 2009: I heard from Joe today… the owner of the “Florida Hangar House” that I showed you in this post. He has more photos of his build, and they are available, HERE.

Take a look!

A Corten Treehouse in the Woods!

5 Sep

Greetings, Campers!

Happy Freakin’ Labor Day, AMERICA!!

lane

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!

SPECIAL NEWS FLASH!

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.

0aabaumarausuu

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

Mother Earth Meets Chili King! – Who makes more heat? :)

31 Aug

If you’ve been reading along…

You already know that this blog is all about my family’s quest to build an affordable, cool, energy efficient house out of recycled stuff like shipping containers and aircraft hangar components, that makes maximum use of earth friendly design, passive solar heating and cooling, geothermal exchange,  energy management, and common-sense sizing of the house for it’s designated use and the users. Namely… US!

Where do you put a home like that? Well, around here, it’s located in:

“Not in MY backyard, you Bastard!” 🙂

But, I’m gonna do it anyway… somewhere, somehow, someday… soon!

The most natural place for a home like this is on a south-facing lot. Duh!

If you ask the neighbors, however, the best place to put my house is anatomically impossible! Go figure! 🙂

But, the house is gonna get built, and I’m gonna have to heat and cool it, or my wife will kill me two times! 😦

So, how will I do it?

As you’ve probably guessed… I’m a big fan of making somebody else do all the work, so I guess that I should heat and cool my house in a similar fashion! Enter “Geothermal Energy.”

When most people think of geothermal energy they think of massive magma eruptions, or superheated geysers erupting from the earth.

But, it’s a topic that seem to cause some confusion. Speaking of “buts…”

I don’t know what all the fuss is about. I can heat a room up, clear it out, and watch whatever I want on the TV, until the smoke clears… All I need is a big ole’ batch of my world famous “Three Alarm and a bottle of Pepto  –  Kosher Chicken Livers, Oysters,  and Peanut Butter Chili…

King-O-Chili
Don’t ask for the recipe… It’s a secret! Oy Freakin Vey! Somebody open a door, huh? 🙂

Khal-II

And yes, as a matter of fact… I always blame it on the dog… 🙂

Few people realize that natural heat energy created by the Earth’s core has enormous potential to be tapped for human consumption. More importantly, this form of energy is environmentally friendly (way friendlier than the neighbors!) and can be generated in your own backyard.

Whether the neighbors like it or not, I might add!

And, you don’t need to watch any corny Brendon Fraser movies to figure out how to do it, either!

journey_to_the_center_of_the_earth

You don’t have to take a journey to the center of the Earth to get this energy!

There is a rule that remains the same, no matter where you go…

Okay, almost anywhere you go… Stop splitting hairs, huh? This is hard enough already! Sheesh!

The rule is: At about 30 feet into the Earths surface the temperature stays relatively constant.

But how do you get the “constant temperature” from there, to where you need it?

You use a Geothermal Heat pump. Picture your Mother-In-Law sucking down Mint Julep’s thru a straw until the cows come home!  That’s how a Geothermal Heat pump works!

Geothermal heat pumps work by carrying heat from one place to another.

In warm locations such as islands, heat pumps can transfer heat from the home down into the ground thus cooling the environment much like a refrigerator does.

1000-island-travel

In cold locations such as northern places where crazy architects like Paul Stankey play, for instance… heat pumps can transfer heat from the ground into a building. Thus through this simple system you can produce “ambient air that warms or cools your home depending on the location.”

stankey1

And we’re not just painting pretty pictures here! If you stay tuned, I’ll describe all the steps you’ll take, when designing and building your own geothermal home. Steps like fighting your way through the pre-design and design processes, muddling through the technologies used and even achieving the “expected” results.

Next time,. we’re gonna talk about water.

That’s right.

WATER.

Geothermal and water go together like Cake and Ice Cream! And Gawd knows, I’m an expert at eating Cake and Ice Cream! 🙂

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin FYI: I do NOT work for Paul Stankey! So, stop asking! Even though he’s a “house smart” guy, and I love his work… I’d never work for a guy who wasn’t smart enough not to live in a place that gets debilitatingly cold! Nuh-uh!  He’s crazier than a bag fulla mad cats! 🙂

How “cool” is COOL?

23 Jul

Many of you know that my family is building a home out of steel shipping containers.  In fact, it’s been a long trip down the “you’re either crazy or just plain stupid” road, if   my email is any indication.

You see, not many people in the mainstream actually see the merit in building a house out of Corten Steel boxes, piled one on top of the other. I suspect that those same people don’t get the luxury of experiencing heavy weather and hurricanes, annually.

Around here, each storm that rolls through leaves a pile of flotsam and jetsam in it’s wake, and then… years later, we’re still not rebuilt to anything that resembled “normal” the days previous to the hurricane.

So, I thought to myself;

“Self… if I wanted a house that was relatively impervious to weather, where would I start?”

And then it hit me, like my wife’s left jab…

I’d build a house out of solid steel. And what better way to build a weather resistant house, than to start with a weather resistant box, eh?

Shipping containers are solid Corten Steel boxes DESIGNED to repel Mother Nature’s wrath…

And they’re laying around everywhere.

Why?

Because. That’s why!

Stop asking so many questions! You know how easily my attention gets diverted! 🙂

Actually, it’s because of the trade deficit, and some rather poor thinking on the part of those poltroons in DC. If they’d insisted on “balanced trade” with other nations, we wouldn’t have a stockpile of these boxes sitting around blocking out the sun!

But, their stupidity is our gain, eh?

So, here we are… we’re building a house, out of steel boxes, that will keep us safe, and dry, and best of all… with a few bucks left in our pockets at the end of construction.

If you’ve been following the blog to date, you already know all of that.

But, the number one question I get in my email is;

“How in Gawd’s name are you gonna survive the heat of a metal box? You live in the South, you idiot!”

Okay, that’s not the number one question…

The number one question (based on my most recent poll) is;

“How far is your head stuck up your _______?” 🙂

First, let me point out that a man my age isn’t flexible enough for any “anatomical impossibilities,” so the answer is “About Zero.”

Second, just because I’m smart enough to see a solution to a problem that other’s don’t see, doesn’t make me an “idiot.” It makes me an “idiot savant.” At least according to my wife, and a few neighbors that are still speaking to us. 🙂

Okay, back to the question of the day;

“How do you make a shipping container livable?”

Well, you do it just like you’d do it for any other type of housing. You use insulation, and then… you use HVAC.

My insulation goes on the OUTSIDE of my boxes, and then, they get covered up in “skin.” In my case, we’re talking stucco, stone veneer, and siding.

(Yes, I’ll use a vapor barrier, smarty pants… I didn’t forget.)

The rigid insulation will go outside the boxes because it doesn’t make any sense to put it inside, and make a small place even smaller. Capish?

The roof (and possibly even the side panels) will get SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels),  and that will insure that my R values are really high. Everything will get enough caulking to silence “even the loudest of In-Laws…” and then… we’ll condition the inside space.

But how will we do that? I mean, A/C is expensive in the South! Oy Freakin Vey! Using A/C will cool off your house, but it’ll keep your kids outta college! 🙂

So, here’s what WE’RE doing;

I may be a pig, but I’m a smart pig. I need A/C and even heating, but I need to be able to afford it. How am I gonna do that without becoming a slave to those bastards over at Mississippi Power?

By using “Geothermal Energy,” that’s how!

Geothermal energy is without a doubt, one of the world’s Greenest Heating and Cooling Systems.

Say it with me… I know you wanna…

“HOW GREEN IS IT?”

If you’re looking for an efficient, cost effective, and environmentally friendly heating/cooling system, then a geothermal heat pump is the greenest way to go.

Don’t believe me? Well, go look here… to learn the facts about geothermal energy, from those EPA guys.

The EPA studies energy efficiency

Even the EPA was smart enough to conclude that geothermal energy is the most environmentally friendly heating/cooling system. Not bad for a “Government entity.”

After all, we all know how smart THOSE “Gov’t types” are…

Don’t get me started… I mean it… 🙂

The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory concluded that in comparison with typical (conventional) residential systems, geothermal energy is more efficient and cost-effective, and you can read about that, here;

GEO HEAT PUMPS

Geothermal energy is available no matter where you are. Don’t believe me? Check out this map!

usmap1And we’ve all heard about the massive pile of federal, state, local, and even utility credits, tax credits, and grants available to citizens, to adopt the use of green technologies in their homes, right?

Geothermal cost savings can be increased by geothermal energy incentives.

Of course “your mileage may vary.” If you live in a bankrupt state, that IOU won’t go too far. That’s what you get for electing a bodybuilder to be your governor… 🙂

Like anything else, where you are has a lot to do with what things cost. And energy related products are no exception. So… energy and cost savings of geothermal heat pumps will vary by region and type of conventional system they’re compared with.

But, if there is one thing I want to hammer home, it’s this:

The energy cost of geothermal vs. conventional HVAC systems will always be lower — and the geothermal system will always be greener.

Over the next several days, we’re going to look at Geothermal Energy Systems, and discover why we need them.

And at the end you’ll understand why I’m using it, and exactly how I’ll do it…

And that means that you’ll be able to do it too!

Stay tuned!

The Renaissance Ronin

Google the Grid!

20 Jul

Here’s some news on the Alternative Energy Front!

Google and Microsoft Are Building Smart Power Grids!

Yep, those titans of power (in the form of INFORMATION) have combined to try and gain a stranglehold on your house! OMG! 🙂

Just when you thought it was safe to go back outside…

Two High-Technology giants Google and Microsoft find themselves competing again, and this time it’s not about “cloud computing,” or even “Search Engine Technology!” The “guru’s of geekdom” are developing “bi-directional power grids” that will not only bring electricity to your house, but will also help you optimize usage and consequently, save money. Uh huh… and if you believe that one… 🙂

They might be on to something here, folks. The problem with the current power distribution is that it is like a one-way traffic. While the power is constantly being transmitted to your homes, nothing is transmitted from your homes to the power stations.

What? Those greedy power bastards want my juice? No Way, I tell you! Nuh-uh! Where’s My Gun??… Wait… Take a breath… Count to three…

(Take off your shoes and count your little piggies if you have to… We’ll wait!) Now… exhale.

Do the power moguls want to steal your precious power from your homes?

Do they want to limit your ability to make toast, or boil the oatmeal for the monsters that live in your house? Nope.

What they do want, is to snoop. That’s right, they want to peek through your windows, and see what color skivvies you’re wearin.

(Boy are they gonna be shocked at my house! Cuz’ I ain’t wearin’ any… At least not at the moment…)

Oh stop rollin your eyes! I’m wearin running shorts. You guys are pervs… Sheesh… I gotta start writin to a better class of people… 🙂

The power peeps want to see what you’re doing, so that they use the user trends information and make power available accordingly. It’s practically impossible to make informed choices if you don’t have the right information. And we all know that’s true. Information is at the heart of all good decision making!

“Lemme see… Do I want sugar-free strawberry glaze, with this pretty picture of Catherine Zeta Jones on the label, or do I want that “all in the box” generic stuff? No pretty pictures. No idea of what’s inside… But, it’s cheaper… CZJ is cheap (C’mon, she married that Douglas knucklehead, remember?), but… plain-wrap is cheaper… Guess we’re eatin “Gawd Only Knows Strawberry Pie tonight!”

Google has an application now, called PowerMeter and Microsoft’s bringin up the rear with it’s own version, called “Hohm” achieve exactly that. The goal is to provide you with information that can help you optimize your energy usage. For instance, do you know how much energy you exactly consume when you wash one day’s laundry…

(You’re supposed to do laundry a day at a time? Whaaa? That’s news to me! I’ve been wearin these running shorts for a week now!…)

Or when you’re watching your favorite soap opera? (Heaven forbid you should miss “General Hospital”…),

Or… How much cash could you save by pumping up your insulation, replacing that old refrigerator (the noise level around your house will drop too, if your house is like mine. My wife has been nagging me for two years to throw that piece of junk away!), or by turning off the tube to avoid watching that TV show you hate??

Whaaaa? Hey, somebody better tell those guys that the REASON Cable TV got invented, was to avoid that! Turning off the TV? Those guys are crazy?

But, What amount of energy is burned if you forget to switch off a light bulb or a fan?

Yeah, I know you can get a “Kill-a- somethin or other- watts” meter (I even wrote a post about it!), but you can’t use it to monitor yourself 24/7. So, it’s very hard to figure out which of your bad habits waste energy more… in order for your wife to nag you about… cutting down on them. 🙂

Wait, maybe I better rethink this!

I guess it makes sense. It explains why I have to call the damned power company when MY power goes out! Like they don’t already know…

Sometimes, I think they turn it off and on, just to piss me off!

“Ronin’s just about to turn his computer back on again.. Wait for it… wait for it… okaaaaaaay… Quick! Turn it off! Hee -hee!” Bastards. 🙂

Power rates are usually based on something called a “uniform rate.”

Now, that’s not to describe how the power company won’t send anyone to your house, without having a police escort… or is it? Hell, every time those guys show up here, they eat all of Joshua’s donuts… Bastards!

Whaa? Your power guys don’t show up with bodyguards? Well, here’s how to make that happen… Wait until they get up on the pole by your house, to check the transformer. Then,,, when they’re not lookin… turn the hose on ’em!

Instant COPS. Just like on TV.. “Bad Jew, bad jew, whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do when the Ronin gets you?”

Hmmmm? Okay, supposedly, there’s a uniform rate that dictates how much you pay for your kilowatt hours of power.

But that doesn’t make any sense to me.

I mean… Sure, jack up my rate when it’s 104 outside, and it’s not even noon yet. But… if it’s 3am, and I wanna blow dry my hair, I’m pretty sure not many other people are pretending they still have hair to blow dry… Or are they? Hmmmmm… again.

Shouldn’t power used when everyone else is asleep, cost less? Hmmm? Just a thought…

So, if I use this software to see what I’m doing on the power grid, I should get smarter about how I use power, I could save a few dollars, AND I’ll be saving the environment, too? Right?

Here’s what the guys in charge say:

Translation;

Some public relations lackey said;

“With the help of Google’s PowerMeter your appliances will be able to decide when to use more power and when to use less. Once the grid is installed, using iGoogle you’ll be able to monitor your power usage minute-by-minute, for individual appliances. On your Google home page you will be able to add the tracker the way you add any other gadget there. The PowerMeter is designed to show a granular, real-time view of electricity-consuming devices.”

According to Google labs: “Google PowerMeter receives information from utility smart meters and energy management devices and provides customers with access to their home electricity consumption right on their personal iGoogle homepage. We are currently testing Google PowerMeter with a number of utilities and plan to expand our roll out later this year.”

And those guys up in Redmond are trying to squeeze their way onto the boat too…

(May they fall off, and right into the water while holding onto power lines… those “Vista-birthing” bastards… Don’t get me started…) 🙂

Microsoft’s done what Microsoft is good at. They threw cash at a license for advanced analytics from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy to provide consumers with personalized energy-saving recommendations.

Of course it’ll happen on-line, so that they can secretly chart your power usage, and further garner a foothold into your life, so that they can go sneaky-sneakin into places where no big business should ever go, like my living room… and then sell that “insight” to someone who is trying to tell me how I should live my life… those rat-bastards… Um… er… where in the hell did that come from? Oy. I gotta go take my medicine.

According to Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer at Microsoft, “Microsoft Hohm demonstrates how a combination of advanced software and Internet-based services can help people track, understand and manage their personal energy usage.”

And we can sell that data to your neighbors! MICROSOFT Strikes Again! Muuuuuawhaaa-haa!

Okay, so he didn’t actually SAY that last part… But, he was thinking it! 🙂

Stay tuned.

The Renaissance Ronin