Archive for the ‘Building’ Category

So we can reduce our electricity cost on the smallholding, we are evaluating some small wind turbines with initial test installation of 800W Falcon wind turbine on the roof of one of our barns located in the valley area of our smallholding.

Many of the small wind turbine suppliers will try and impress you by showing you graphs and videos of their turbine’s voltage, or amperage when the wind gusts, or how fast the blades spin. From our experience there is only one performance metric you need to be concerned with which is power output (watts) vs. wind speed (mph). You need to establish what the average wind speed is in your location and only then can you decide if a wind turbine makes sense. You don’t need gusts of wind, you need steady wind to enjoy free and clean energy.

For more information on this, see green spec small wind turbines.

In the UK, static wind turbines need explicit planning permission so it is advisable to discuss your plans with your local authority before committing to the project. However, in July 2006 the Housing Minister, Yvette Cooper announced that from 2007 changes to planning laws will allow householders to install small scale wind turbines without planning permission – as long as they do not impact on neighbours. It seems that since then, guidelines published through government planning portal for England and Wales is just producing hot air.

It makes sense to develop a certification scheme for micro generation of renewable energy that covers both standards for wind turbine products and their installation but the government needs to step up and create real incentives and not burden the industry with confusing rhetoric.


Read Full Post »

Making earth tiles out of soil

I’m making tiles out of soil! Yep, just plain soil/earth from the land – well mostly… After a lot of testing I’ve come to a recipe of 9 parts soil and 1 part lime. Plain soil would be OK, but the lime should make the tiles a bit more durable and waterproof as well protecting them from moulding while they’re drying (an unpleasant side effect of building with earth in damp environments).

Ideally I would use hydraulic lime (the good stuff), but I couldn’t get it in time, so I’m using hydrated lime I had to hand instead (the normal stuff at most builder’s merchants)…. Devonshire soil is great for building. Unfortunately they are taking forever, since I am doing everything by hand. A lot of rocks & worms to sift out frustratingly, but I’m working on a solution.

Simple handmade wooden forms and everyday tools needed to make the tiles… next time I’ll make metal forms as the soil clay sticks like crazy to the wooden ones.

Sifting the earth. All the clumps, rocks and roots have to come out. Ralph needs to dig deeper into the subsoil next time! Sooooo many worms and roots.

Mixing earth little by little into the slaked lime, before pouring back into the main mix… this reminds me of folding chocolate into egg whites for chocolate soufflé – maybe I shouldn’t make tiles when I’m hungry?

Drying “flagstone” shaped tiles

These were the winners. Both survived initial drops from 6 foot. On the left is one of just plain Devonshire soil and on the right a mixture of soil +25% sand and +5% of my special additive 😛 … A little haggard looking now, but they have been out in the elements for about a month. Quite remarkable.

Next time I will do a few things differently to speed up the process, but it is still very satisfying to know you can just go outside and have most of your materials right there for free on the land. 😉

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: