Projects

IWillTry.org is a repository of ideas, experiments and projects to help the average person reduce their energy consumption and their contribution to climate change. Oh yeah… you can save a few bucks too. Some of these links will take you to the Instructables website where I’ve posted some projects. I plan to move everything to this site eventually. – Rob

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Projects

Rob's Rocket Stove Build a rocket stove for home heating – I built this ultra-efficient wood burning stove from a used hot water tank in order to efficiently dispose of wood scraps from various projects.
Heat your home with a dehumidifier Heat your home with a dehumidifier – Due to energy released when water condenses, a dehumidifier produces more heat energy than the electrical energy it consumes. I did an experiment to find out how much more.
Convert your doghouse to a chicken coop Convert your doghouse to a chicken coop – I was just about to get rid of my unused doghouse when I had the novel idea of repurposing it as a chicken coop.
Flat panel solar thermal collector Build your own flat panel solar thermal collector – Here is my design for a very efficient (though not very robust) water heating solar panel you can build for about $60 in parts.
Home Heliostat Build a heliostat for home heating and lighting – A heliostat is a mirror that tracks the sun to reflect light continously onto a desired target. I built one for providing supplemental lighting and heating for my home.
Solar Attic - south roof 6 Build a solar attic – As part of a recent re-roofing project I installed clear panels over some attic spaces. Under these I’m experimenting with solar water heating and an indoor greenhouse.
Solar Hot Dog Cooker Build a solar hot dog cooker – I had some materials left over from my heliostat project so I threw this little hot dog cooker together. It’s a great afternoon project, taking only a few hours to build.
weatherproof your home Weatherproof your home – In most older homes a tremendous amount of energy can be saved simply by better sealing your home. If you own a home, this generally offers the biggest bang per buck of any energy conservation measure.
Super insulate your hot water tank Super insulate your hot water tank. – You’ll be surprised to find out what is the optimum amount of insulation around a hot water tank. I was. My “Frankentank” ain’t pretty but it works, and now my tank costs about as much to operate as a light bulb.
Oil filled electric space heater Convert from gas to electric space heating – You might be surprised to find it can save you money, in spite of the apparent higher cost of electricity. It can also reduce your carbon footprint significantly depending how your electricity is generated.
Convert your gas hot water tank to electric Convert your gas hot water tank to electric – I used an ordinary stove element to convert my inefficient gas hot water tank to electric on a timer, reducing it’s energy consumption by about 80% and saving $270 per year.
Two small chest freezers Two chest freezers are better than one – When I retired my aging chest freezer I chose to replace it with two smaller chest freezers. Read this article to find out why.
Remote Power Switch Build your own remote power switches – I build custom power switches for all my equipment to reduce standby power draw. Being able to mount the on/off switch in an accessible location makes all the difference.
Gas furnace shutoff valve Turn off the pilot flame of your gas furnace in the summer – The 2 minutes a year it takes to turn off your pilot flame for the summer could save you around $50.
Freezer Thermostat Adjust your fridge and freezer thermostats – Most people haven’t got a clue what temperature their fridge and freezer are set to or how much it affects their energy consumption.
IWillTry.org sign Express yourself with a sign – A great way to influence people is to display a sign on your property. You don’t have to promote this website. Just create something that gets your particular message across.

Experiments

Measure the drag coefficient of your car Measure the drag coefficient of your car - There’s a lot you can do to improve the aerodynamics of your car. Measuring your drag coefficient is a way to quantify those improvements.
How many seconds of idling is equivalent to starting your engine How many seconds of idling is equivalent to starting your engine? - I once heard that starting your car engine consumes less fuel than 10 seconds of idling. I experimented on my own car to see if it was true.
Space Heater Comparing natural gas vs electric heating – Over the course of two winters, I compared the cost, efficiency, and greenhouse gas emissions of heating my home with natural gas vs electric space heating.
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There are 10 comments on “Projects”

  1. Leigh said ... 2008-08-13 at 1:57 pm

    I love this site so much. I rarely build anything practical (most of what I build is simply art). It’s inspiring to see practical solutions to everyday energy-problems.

    We need people implementing these types of solutions by the billions. A combination of Iwilltry-style-ingenuity, laws, economic-incentives and sex-appeal will do the trick IMHO. I can’t wait for the day that energy-unawareness is equivilent to racial ignorance in the eyes of the public.

  2. Jeff said ... 2008-10-10 at 2:23 pm

    During the summer I built what I like to call the Green-Green House. See all the wood that was used is from a old porch that was removed from a house and thrown in my woods to eventually fall apart. I was able to rip all the 2 x 8′s into 2 x 3.75 and remove all the nails and build the frame. I have a total of $40.00 in this 8′ x 8′ x 9′ greenhouse. After seeing your instructable on the thermal heat I am going to build the pannel and use the hot water that is generated to run through the greenhouse in a continous loop to warm the greenhouse during the winter. I am also working on a small solar cell pannel to mount on one side of the roof of the greenhouse that will charge two gel-cell batteries that will be able to run a 300w voltage inverter that then can be used to power lighting for the greenhouse and back porch. If we had more people willing to try new ideas and put their minds to work we would have a much happier place. I have not used a single ounce of faucet water to water the greenhouse. I have two 5 gallon rain buckets that tie into a central line which is 1″ pvc with several small holes drilled in it, I turn a valve on and the greenhouse gets plenty of water.

  3. Digitalbill said ... 2008-10-22 at 1:52 pm

    I read with interest your solar heat collector plans. I have a sign shop in california and also love to tinker. You used coroplast for your project. I think a more efficient panel would be “alumalite or econolite”. Both products are thin aluminum panels mounted to a coroplast type center and they come in black. They are made for rigid outdoor signs and won’t de-laminate at high heat. They not expensive either. I hope this suggestion is of use to you. I truly enjoyed your website, thanks for sharing.

  4. Mike Hughes said ... 2010-04-22 at 5:45 pm

    Hello Rob,

    Well it’s been over a year now since we corespoinded regarding your Coroplast Solar Collector.

    Just wanted to give you an update on my progress. I have a system up and running useing the coroplast. I have built and installed two 2′ X 8′ panels. or roughly 32 sf of collector area. The two panels are heating 165 gallons of water for a DHW use. After ironing out the adhesive problem I have not had an issue with them. They have been up and running now for over a year and I am happy to report no problems what so ever.

    Also as you might expect the panels are extermely efficent. I have calculated efficency’s regularly in the 60-70% range. Anyway wanted to keep you informed on things and thanks again for the great idea!!

    Mike Hughes

  5. Kevin Coleman said ... 2010-07-25 at 12:14 pm

    Interesting site. Lots of useful ideas regards solar energy. Will have to read over the next few days.

  6. Gary said ... 2012-10-14 at 8:16 am

    I have a great project for your site how do I post

  7. Paul Messier said ... 2013-01-23 at 12:53 pm

    Any lessons learned about 3 items: solar/attic roof, electric water heating and insulation values since 2009
    Thanks

  8. Rob said ... 2013-01-23 at 10:59 pm

    Hi Paul,
    The super insulated electric water heater conversion has been a huge success. It has run flawlessly. I took it apart recently to inspect the element and tank and it looks just like the day I put it together.

    The solar attic project is on hold. The polycarbonate panels have held out fine so far with no sign of mildew/mold or darkening or any wear of any kind. The first couple winters I had to remove a few of the screws and clean up some burrs on the screw holes that were resulting in some water getting past the rubber gaskets (should have been more careful when I put it together) but it’s held tight this past winter with no leaks. I haven’t found the time to add solar collectors, but I have used a fan to blow warm air from the attic down into the top floor of my home. Too many projects on the go.

    Not too sure what you mean about insulation values. Thermodynamics hasn’t changed much in the last 3 years.
    Cheers,
    Rob

  9. Cliff said ... 2013-03-12 at 2:30 pm

    Hey Rob, how’s about a combination of your heliostat with this’sun tunnel’ idea… (http://www.tubularskylight.com/catalog/category.cgi/7/13/19/p1/default/N.html)
    It seems like a natural interior heating method, I know I could use it for North-side rooms.
    Of course it would require a single focus point for the helio, what do you think?

  10. Rob said ... 2013-03-13 at 6:43 am

    Hi Cliff,
    To get any significant amount of heat through such a small opening would require concentrations of 5-10 times. While that is achievable in theory, in practice, at that concentration you will almost certainly melt something (or worse, ignite it). The materials of your existing roof or exterior wall and the sun tunnel are likely not designed for exposure to 5-10 suns. Different materials would likely need to be chosen for safety considerations. You’d also need to be very careful that the heliostat does not drift off target to part of your house (or your neighbours ;-) ) that you didn’t intend. Basically, as soon as you start focussing sunlight with a large mirror, unattended use becomes dangerous. I would recommend limiting yourself to a maximum concentration of 2 times which can be achieved by using 2 flat heliostats aimed at the same target.

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