I’ve tried making a DIY solar air heater such as this before with less than optimal results… yeah, I screwed it up. 🙁 I’m sure I could do better in the future but, if you’re not the DIY type, you might really like the fact that these folks have built what looks to be a quality solar air heater. Better yet, installation looks fairly straightforward too. The only problem I see is that I can’t find the darn solar air heaters on their website! I was really just curious about the price, maybe you’ll have better luck than I did. Here’s the installation video…
You only need to watch the first minute or two of this video to get the idea; Personally, I’ve never had trouble splitting kindling with a small ax and, honestly, I see myself more likely to smash my finger with the mallet when I’m cold and not paying attention! Regardless, this idea may prove useful for some folks out there. Here’s the video…
I really like this guy. He’s soft spoken but brings plenty of useful wilderness advice in each and every video. This time he gives dozens of tips and tricks about camping in the cold, mostly regarding staying warm inside his tent. Though a lengthy video it’s a good one to take the time to watch through if you have any interesting in cold weather camping…
It never occurred to me to use this simple idea to help keep my feet warm in the winter cold. For about a $1 you can add some much needed insulation to all of your winter boots and shoes. Skip to about the 0:35 mark to get to the *trick* he suggests…
Since it’s been much colder around the Pacific Northwest than it should be for this time of year it got me to thinking about several of the troubles that we could face during an emergency situation due specifically to the winter cold. Though I’m sure this list isn’t exhaustive it will get you started to think about what you might face if/when the many services we rely upon cease to run. In no particular order (except the first one) here’s my thoughts:
- Keeping warm can kill you! For those that are accustomed to heating a home with a wood stove, for instance, this shouldn’t be much of a problem but for the rest of us that rely on central HVAC to heat the house we could do dumb things such as burning stuff inside the house or using appliances improperly and without ventilation to keep warm. Doing so could start a house fire or result in carbon monoxide build up… both of which are bad for your health and general ability to stay alive. 😉
- Water storage will freeze. This includes water stored in disposable bottles as well as water in large barrels if kept anywhere that can get below freezing for extended periods of time, especially outside and in a vehicle. If you do keep water anywhere it can freeze then ensure it’s never more than about 90% full as water will expand when it freezes and burst the container. Moreover, you’ll find that melting a now large block of ice for drinking water is rather difficult to do inside of a container and the larger the container the worse it is. The best plan of action is to keep your water supplies from freezing in the first place.
- Fuel lines may freeze. Though not usually a problem for most people except those at higher latitudes frozen fuel lines can be trouble for car engines and equipment you expect to rely upon during an emergency, including generators and other small equipment.
- Hardened/frozen ground makes digging difficult. This particular problem is concerning for many reasons, including not being able to plant crops (though a greenhouse or hoop house can help) but also with things like being able to dig a hole to bury fecal waste–a much bigger problem than most realize–and even for burying survival caches. If you own your property it may be wise to have some holes pre-dug for sanitation and to bury caches before the ground freezes.
- Water may be difficult or impossible to procure. One of the suggested ways to get water is with a rooftop rainwater catchment. I plan to do so and since it rarely snows here that should work but what about those who live where it regularly snows? I’d suggest it’s rather difficult to procure rooftop rainwater from snow, at least until it melts which could be a long, long time. Similarly, many small nearby streams are likely to freeze. Even if a stream is big enough to NOT freeze it may be rather dangerous or difficult to get to the water. My advice: have plenty of water stored and work early on in an emergency to procure more water.
- Food stores may freeze or worse. Depending on what you choose to store you may find that a variety of foods including canned goods, for instance, have frozen solid; this makes them rather difficult to cook. 😉 You may also find that foods in your refrigerator have actually warmed up despite cold temps in the house! Yes, you will still need to run your refrigerator or choose to move these foods (perhaps into a portable cooler and outside) to take advantage of the winter cold. Be aware that doing so will eventually cause these items to freeze as well, be it things you want to stay frozen such as meats from the freezer to things you don’t want to freeze such as milk and cheese.
- Solar powered items will be less efficient, perhaps even useless. When the sun is lower in the sky you get less energy out of it, especially at higher latitudes. You may find that things like solar ovens are nearly useless in the winter; that said, I have used my Sun Oven in the winter in the Midwest to some extent but have yet to try it here in the Pacific Northwest. Other items like a camp shower may take much longer to heat up. Moreover, solar panels will be less efficient and, therefore, take longer to charge batteries. Speaking of which, most anything that relies on batter power may be less efficient too.
Those are my thoughts on why the winter cold can bring some unique survival problems. What else can you think of that I didn’t mention? I’d be grateful to hear your thoughts.
Ever since we’ve moved to the Pacific Northwest I’ve had a slight fascination with our electricity bill, well, after we got our first bill anyway. It was a big one! Or, at least, the bill was much more than I expected.
Obviously, these numbers will vary quite a bit from location to location and dependent on a variety of factors such as how you use your appliances and other electronics, how many people are in the house, whether everything is electric or not, as well as preferences for heating and cooling temperatures… which is what I’ll focus on here.
So you understand me, everything is electric, from the water heater to the house heater; also realize that we do NOT have air conditioning but we did occasionally run a small window A/C unit for about a month in August. If you run an house A/C then the numbers could be even worse in the summer months.
Now, during months where we had the heater OFF I found that we were very consistent in our electric usage and averaged right around 32 kWh per day…. that’s 32,000 watts each day. When put that way it sounds horrible. 😉 This seemed to hold steady from basically May through now.
We also had an anomaly week where we used over 100 kWh filling up and using a hot tub that didn’t last very long. Ignoring the hot tub week, I can safely say that we used (on average) in the low 50’s per day or roughly 20 kWh more than when the house heater was OFF. During this time we still used heat somewhat and probably a few electric blankets.
During months where it was coldest–January and February–we ranged between 56-87 kWh per day and roughly averaged in the mid 60’s kWh per day. Though I only have data from January of this year, I’ll assume that November is roughly equivalent to March and April timeframes where we had a wide range of power usage from 47-65 kWh per day and that December is equivalent to January and February usage.
To summarize usage:
Summer and heater OFF = 32 kWh / day
Spring and heater functioning somewhat = 52 kWh / day
Winter and heater functioning nonstop = 65 kWh / day
As you can see, we used roughly double the amount of electricity with the heater on and running full-time than not. At a cost of $0.10 per kWh that’s a difference of roughly $3 per day. Granted, we actually pay $0.09 at the lower tier and $0.11 at the upper tier and so I simply averaged it at $0.10. Anyway, multiplied over the month we would spend an extra $90 or so more than with the heater OFF.
If I assume that December, January, and February (traditionally the coldest months) are all the same then we average $90 more per month during these months than our baseline timeframe of (mostly) summer months: part of May, June, July, August.
The timeframe around the spring and autumn months, which comprise half the year, average about 20 kWh more than with the heater OFF or about $2 per day… or $60 per month.
Now, if I were able to somehow get by the entire year with no heater–likely not feasible–I could theoretically save about $630 over the year (6 months at $60 more and 3 months at $90 more). Obviously, this isn’t going to happen.
What I can do, however, is to cut back our heater usage. Room temperature is considered 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Most people set there thermostat somewhere in the mid to upper 70’s, it seems to me. Energy agencies–from federal to local–suggest adjusting your thermostat to lower temperatures than that in the winter (to around 68 degrees) which is lower than most people feel comfortable.
I’m advocating going even lower… set it to 55 degrees. This is technically where hypothermia *can* set in. I say *can* because if you bother to put on much–if any–clothing, are relatively healthy, and haven’t been exposed to wetness or a breeze then you probably won’t literally freeze to death. Really. You’ll be cold but you won’t freeze.
You know what I suggest instead? Put on some darn clothing!
In fact, a gripe I tend to have is that all of my family complain about the thermostat setting–it’s currently set at 55 degrees but I doubt it will last if my wife has anything to say about it and she does–because they’re so accustomed to being able to run around in shorts and a t-shirt… literally.
Whenever they complain I tell them to first put on some long clothing, socks, slippers or shoes, and then try a sweatshirt if they must. If that still doesn’t do the trick then we’ll talk about a space heater, heating blanket, and if I must… turning up the heat.
We, as a society, have forgot that we need to learn to “heat the person” again and not literally WASTE both heat and month by heating up the environment. Doing so is perhaps the least efficient way to heat ourselves.
If/when times get tough and people either NEED to cut back on their heating bill because they simply cannot afford it or their utility providers are unreliable then they need to have another plan. Sure, people will learn to make do buy why not learn that lesson now?
Learn simple things like heating the person (with clothing, heating blankets, etc), one room heating (or NOT heating entire floors), the “room within a room” technique to conserve heat, and so on. Learn to “harden” your body against the cold and to not expect or to need as much auxiliary heat.
Doing so could not only make life during a SHTF event more bearable but potentially even save you hundreds of dollars each month if you simply do NOT have to heat the entire house to comfortable levels. Think about it and consider how you can best incorporate these thoughts into your daily life.
We’ve never lived in a place where you didn’t need a heater in the winter and air conditioning in the summer… until our recent move to the Seattle area. Here, homes don’t have centralized air conditioning because they say you don’t need it.
While that may be true, we’ve noticed the interior of our home can be a bit too hot these days, hotter than even the outside! Enough to make you sweat, in fact. As such, we’ve been learning to strategically open windows and doors to get a good breeze so a handful of the suggestions below will be about maximizing that strategy…
1. Determine prevailing wind direction (and use it)
The first step is to figure out which windows and doors to open to get that breeze flowing good. Probably the best way to do it is to experiment one weekend to see what works for you but, in general, winds blow from west to east (with plenty of localized exceptions to that rule) so you could just start with opening any east and west facing windows and see what happens.
Beyond that, try standing outside and see how the wind blows around your house. There are many factors that might affect this, from other homes to trees, slopes, time of year, time of day, and more. Once you get a good idea of how the wind blows then get to opening some windows!
2. Not all windows or doors produce the same results
Though you can open just about any window or door and let some air in, there’s a big difference between just “letting some air in” and actually getting a good breeze going.
For example, when we first started realizing we needed to open some windows to cool things down we started with a small window in the kitchen and a larger one in the living room. While this helped a bit there happened to be a wall between the two windows which didn’t allow for much of a flow.
Eventually, we learned to open one particular door in the dining room as well as a window in the living room and that got a good breeze going that worked to really cool most of the house (it’s a single story home). The same goes for our bedroom where we could open a window there and one in the bathroom to get a good, unobstructed breeze going.
You’re going to want to experiment and see what combination works best for you. Also, doors allow much more airflow than windows but bugs and insects can be a problem. Consider installing a screen door on those doors you’ve identified as most suitable.
3. Use the time of day to your advantage
It should go without saying that as the day progresses it gets hotter and eventually cools down at night. Use this to your advantage and choose to get a cool breeze going early in the morning and late at night if you can. Then close the windows/doors when the sun starts to come up.
You might be surprised at how much even a one or two degree drop in temps can help throughout the day and, I’d imagine, to keep your air conditioning from running as much. I’d suggest leaving windows open at night when it’s coolest but that’s got to be up to you due to security concerns. Speaking of which, it’s generally NOT a good idea to leave windows/doors open during the day in rooms that you’re not actually using for home security reasons as well.
4. Force the issue
Sometimes the wind just isn’t blowing like you’d prefer but you know the outside air is cooler and you want to take advantage of it. What to do? Force the issue… with fans.
Probably the best way to do so is with an attic fan but that’s not something everyone has and can be a bit expensive to install. You could, instead, use a simple box fan or two with one pulling cold air in through the window that should be bringing air in and use the other box fan to push hot air out through the window that should be sending air out of your home. We do this a lot. Box fans are relatively inexpensive and can move a decent amount of air.
5. Avoid adding unnecessary heat
There are many activities that we do during the day that can add heat to the house, from cooking food to showering, washing laundry and dishes, watching television, surfing the Net on the computer, even lighting adds heat.
Think about what it is you’re doing. Here’s a few suggestions:
- Do you really need to turn on that light or can you see well enough? Maybe open the blinds for a bit and use sunlight?
- When you shower, use that exhaust fan! Open a window. Keep the bathroom door closed until it’s cooled off.
- Forget the dishwasher’s heated dry; dishes can be air dried fine enough given time. In fact, run the dishwasher before going to bed and let them air dry overnight.
- Try cooking foods in uncoventional ways, from using a crockpot in the summer (to reduce heat produced by the oven) to “wonderbox” cooking, do more backyard BBQ’s, or whatever. Just try to minimize heat from cooking in normal ways.
- Minimize use of electronics, especially computers, during the hottest part of the day. Or, choose to use devices like tablets which generate less heat than computers, for example.
6. Use ceiling fans
I would also encourage you to use your ceiling fans as much as possible. They’re super efficient and can help move air around the house and even provide some cooling effect. Just be sure the air flow is downward and you’re good to go.
7. Use shades
Use blinds, curtains, and shades to block sunlight as it radiates heat into your home through windows. I would also suggest awnings but they’re a bit out of style. 😉 A longer term strategy would be to plant shade trees and bushes around the house.
8. Close it up if not being used
Close up areas of the home that you don’t regularly use. I know many people that have homes much bigger than they need and rarely seem to use entire floors. If this describes you then consider NOT cooling those areas, at least, not as you would floors/rooms that you frequent.
I’m sure there are more suggestions and I’d be grateful to hear any that you have. Thank you and I hope this helps.
EDIT: People keep telling me I may wind up with some significant mold issues in the near future doing this, so, I’ll warn you that “your mileage may vary” and I’ll have to keep tweaking when I flip the vent open (probably need to wait much longer than 10 minutes for sure) so that I minimize moisture output as I have had times where it was ridiculous. Also, I’ve seen some mention that this could cause a fire hazard, though, I don’t see how it’s any worse than any other dryer duct so long as you keep the lint down. Last, one commenter said NEVER to do this on a gas dryer as this could be dangerous due to CO2 fumes. I don’t have a gas dryer and have never owned one so I am ignorant of the subject. PLEASE do your research before attempting this install on your dryer!
A week or so ago I posted a video titled Save Money On Your Heating Bill for Less Than $15! which featured a simple device that you can install in the vent duct between your clothes dryer and the outside vent.
I was so excited about saving money on my heating bill that I jumped at the chance and impulse-bought this Dundas Heat Keeper Kit. It happened to show up the next day and I was about to install it when I immediately realized it wasn’t going to work THAT easily because I needed to purchase two dryer vent ducts. All these vent ducts do is connect your dryer to the duct that goes outside the house.
Anyway, I went with two five foot long ducts so that I could extend from the bottom of the dryer (where the duct outlet is) up to above the dryer where I connect it to the Dundas Heat Keeper Kit and then back down to the floor again where it connects to the outside duct. If you’ve ever messed with dryer ducts you’ll understand. I needed two because my dryer happened to connect directly to the outside duct, you, however, may be able to get away with only one additional dryer vent duct depending on what you have in your home already… pull the dryer out and look.
The setup is really simple: connect a vent duct from the dryer to the heat keeper and then connect the other end of the heat keeper using the second vent duct to the outside vent. They provided two “clamps” that were nothing more than large zip ties for connecting the dryer ducts to the heat keeper which worked well enough but I wouldn’t have called them clamps. I also had to purchase two additional 4″ metal duct clamps as well but you may not need to. Here’s what it looks like when completed:
I briefly thought about velcroing it to the cabinet above but I figured it rested well enough atop the dryer and “the boss” didn’t complain other than to say after the first time I used it “It’s not very warm!” But, in my defense, I just started using it. Later on it warmed up. Speaking of which, I also immediately turned the laundry room into a sauna as evidenced by this picture of the now fogged-up exterior door:
Well, the first test is how much warmer the house feels. I can attest that the laundry room is a virtual sauna. 😉 After a few more run-throughs I determined that I needed to let the dryer vent on “summer” mode for more than just a few minutes like the first time. Honestly, 15 minutes is probably best for me but I seem to let it go about 10 minutes otherwise I forget to switch the Heat Keeper to “winter” mode in order to send the dryer heat back into the house. The kitchen and bathroom (which are both adjacent to the laundry room) feel a slight bit warmer for sure. The rest of the house? Not so much.
The second–and likely more important test–is how much warmer the house thermostat registered. Sadly, I have yet to register more than a degree or two higher than the typical setting of about 64 degrees. You might think that’s not important but I suspect–only through my own subjective feelings, mind you–that this makes more of a difference than you might think.
Aside from some serious testing I couldn’t say for sure how much this Heat Keeper may be saving on our heating bill, but I figured I was literally venting this otherwise “lost” heat to the world and I was better off investing a bit of money to conserve heat that I was paying for anyway.
I have considered purchasing yet another duct vent, perhaps even one twenty feet in length, so that I could then direct the dryer heat into the major part of the house, specifically the kitchen but have yet to do so. Of course, my wife didn’t sound too happy about that plan so I doubt it will come to fruition. Ultimately, I’d say a $30 investment at most won’t break the bank and may be more useful than not.
I’d imagine some of you who have recently served in the military may have seen these Concrete Canvas Shelters (CCS) but they’re new to me so I thought I would share them with you. In fact, it was my eldest son (he’s only 11) who pointed them out to me… no idea how he found out about them but he loves everything “military” so I’m sure he was searching YouTube.
Anyway, these CCS shelters have been around for a handful of years or so and appear to have found their way into military applications but I immediately saw how useful such a structure might be for preppers. Here’s some highlights from ConcreteCanvas.com:
“CCS have two major advantages over conventional tented shelter:
– Operational: CCS enable a hardened structure from day one of an operation. They provide much better environmental protection, increased security and vastly improved medical capability.
– Financial: CCS have a design life of over 10 years, whereas tents wear out rapidly and must then be replaced. CCS are a one stop solution, saving effort and cost over the lifetime of medium to long term operations.
The key to CCS is the use of inflation to create a surface that is optimized for compression loading. This allows thin walled concrete structures to be formed which are both robust and lightweight.”
Watch this video on setting one up as well as important characteristics I’ll reiterate below:
As you saw in the video, once you have the shelter where you want it, setup is relatively straightforward. Granted, you’re going to need a few things to make it happen, including the ability to lay it out flat (probably using a vehicle), a generator to run an fan in order to inflate the shelter, and water (probably under pressure) to saturate the canvas so it hardens. According to the video the shelter will be operational within 24 hours.
The video also says the shelter can be covered in “earth, sand, or snow providing an excellent thermal performance” and offers significant protection from small arms fire and fragments. In fact, I think they recommend you berm the structure to offer such protection. Beyond that, the CCS is even 100% fireproof since it’s made from some sort of ceramic. Moreover, the plastic inner is apparently a sterile environment too. Finally, it seems you can even link more than one shelter together to form an even larger structure. Now that’s cool!
They also make concrete cloth that’s not intended to be a deploy-able shelter as shown above but, rather, for other purposes. Here’s a few ways the military has utilized Concrete Canvas to harden their defensive structures, shore-up failing walls, slopes, and more (just watch the first two minutes):
Pretty cool, huh? I thought so. I never could find any pricing info… seems they want you to contact a sales rep which is code for “they’re probably expensive.” Perhaps someday they’ll be a great and affordable option for the rest of us.
A little over a month ago I was contacted to review the Free Country Snowridge 3-in-1 Systems Jacket. I said “sure” but had a better idea: I requested my wife to get the jacket and review it instead. This was both a good and not so good of a decision as I later realized because she now loves the jacket but her writing skills… not so good. So, I proceeded to sit down with her and help review the jacket a bit better.
If you’re unaware, a 3-in-1 jacket is essentially two jackets that can be used or combined in three ways: wear the outer midweight jacket alone for warmth and wind/water protection, wear the inner polyfilled jacket alone just for warmth, or combine them both for greatest warmth as well as wind and water protection.
This particular setup offers a wind and water resistant midweight outer jacket that is plenty warm by itself. In fact, my wife found herself wearing the outer jacket most of the time, even in relatively cold weather that hovered in the mid-40’s. She also found herself out and about during some days with a good amount of windchill and never had a problem.
The inner jacket can be worn alone if you like and would work perfectly for cold days where you don’t expect any rain as it’s plenty warm by itself. She didn’t do this, yet, but I suspect it will get plenty of use over the coming winter. And, of course, the two can be combined and I think my wife choose to do this once or twice, particularly while sitting outside all day during a recent garage sale. She got so hot (even in below 50 degree weather) that she wound up removing the inner jacket as it was too warm. That prompted me to read reviews of similar 3-in-1 Free Country jackets and that trait alone was the #1 benefit everyone cited: that the jackets were sooooo warm, even in cold Chicago and New York City winters they said.
Now, you can look for yourself but these jackets come in two different color patterns that are actually quite stylish. She opted for the black (with white and purple trim as shown) which comes with a solid purple inner jacket that’s quite pretty… if you’re a girl, that is. 😉 Heck, if it didn’t have the purple inner I probably would have “stolen” the jacket and worn it myself…. but, I gotta’ keep up the bravado… can’t be caught in any girlie colors!
As for material, I can’t say that it’s going to stand up to a bear fight but for normal everyday wear and tear it should do just fine. It seems to me that the important inner workings of the jacket functioned fine as well, including zippers, flaps, straps, and so on but I didn’t wear it (just tried it on) and found no obvious problems.
The jacket does include a removable hoodie that includes nice drawstrings to cinch the hood around your head when it’s really cold. This is a pet peeve of mine as I own a jacket that doesn’t allow you to cinch the hood down and, as such, it’s always flopping around, driving me nuts. Had I realized how annoying that would be I never would have purchased that particular jacket.
This Snowridge jacket does include two decently-sized outer pockets, though, not quite as deep as I would prefer… my wife thinks they’re fine. It also includes a smaller upper pocket for small things if you like. I would have preferred to see an inner pocket too but that’s not a big deal. Again, the “boss” didn’t seem to care. The inner polyfilled jacket does include two pockets as well. You can read the finer details about the jacket system on your own but by-and-large it’s a good jacket, especially for the price.
Last, comparing this system to the two jackets my wife regularly wears–a lightweight wind/water resistant jacket for the fall and a much thicker coat for the winter–this Free Country Snowridge 3-in-1 Systems Jacket seems to beat them both hands-down and has become my wife’s favorite very quickly. In fact, she’s already packed up her other jackets in preparation for our move.
Considering that it should make for a fine fall and winter jacket for years to come I’d say you can’t go wrong. The best part? My wife liked it so much that I wound up buying a similar Free Country 3-in-1 jacket for myself… just waiting for it to show up. 🙂
P.S. I have recently subscribed to their newsletter (you can do so at the bottom of their main page if you like) and occasionally notice flash deals and other ways to save money on their gear. In fact, I even looked for better deals on Google and Amazon for these jackets we’ve got and couldn’t find any. I think they’ve turned me into a fan.