How to build a DIY Passive Solar Thermal Water Heater. Simple and Efficient!!

    This project goes into the build of a passive solar thermal water heater using pex pipes and 4 X 8 plywood piece. The pex pipes are sturdy and tough , doesn’t easily leak. This passive solar heater can reach upto 120 – 150 F on a typical sunny day. Instead of pex pipes, you can use cheap irrigation pipe for this project. The pex pipes are more stronger and durable . The heater can be used for heating your domestic water, space or room heating or just heating a swimming pool.

    The box that contains the pipes are made of 4 X 4 plywood . Four pieces of 2 X 4 pressure treated lumber are joined along the sides using screws to make the frame. We staple in some bubble insulation along the dimensions of the box . Since the insulation material is silver, it will reflect heat. To avoid this ,we coat it with a flat black paint to attract the solar heat.

    Two holes are drilled on the sides of the frame for the inlet end of the pipe where the cold water comes in and outlet end where the hot water comes out. The inside and the outside of the heater is painted flat back using rust-oleum high heat paint to absorb maximum heat from the sun.

    The first layer of half inch pex tubes or irrigation pipes are secured inside the solar heater box using half inch pex talon clamps. The clamps are installed on four sides of the box securing each loop of the pipe. The second or upper layer of pipes are secured in using zip ties. The total length of the pipe is 200ft.

    The pipe comes in through the inlet hole and goes to the outside on the first layer , all the way around and work itself inside .It then goes through the top layer and all the way to the outside and then exit through the outlet hole.

    The bottom layer pipes aren’t going to be exposed to the sun as much but they still will be warmed up because the whole box is covered with lexan polycarbonate sheet. The top layer with the pipe that goes outside through the outlet hole will have the highest thermal BTU.

    A very inexpensive reed thermometer with a 4 inch stem is installed on the side of the heater using a half inch to three eighths bushing reducer .

    A 4 X 8 Makrolon Polycarbonate Sheet is placed on top of the heater box and secured down in place using a No 8 One and one fourth sheet metal screws ,finishing washers and rubber grommets. Silicon adhesives are used to seal the gap formed between the sheet and the box frame.

    The Solar thermal heater is placed at an angle of 20 degrees. This is done with the help of leg supports with dimensions 16 and 8 inches 2 X 4 pieces at both the sides. A 50 watt Renogy Solar Panel is also installed adjacent to the heater. This Solar Panel is for powering the bilge water pump.

    A 500GPH 12V bilge pump is used to pump the cold water through the pipes into the heater . In order to control the flow of water through the pump , it is connected to an speed control electric circuit box which has a relay, a buck boost converter,a motor pump speed controller, potentiometer and a switch. The pump is powered by a 50W Solar Panel .The negative connection from the panel is connected to the relay, the positive goes to the switch.

    The relay determines the voltage for the buck boost converter .It activates on a certain voltage we set and then powers the buck boost converter. The buck boost converter will keep a constant voltage no matter what the voltage the solar panel is putting out. It is then connected to a 15 amp motor pump speed controller and a potentiometer which is used to control the voltage of the bilge pump motor. The 12V 500GPH bilge pump is connected to the motor pump speed controller.

    In order to test the unit, we place the heater near a pool to heat it. The bilge pump is submerged into the pool which is then connected to the heater with help of a PVC hose. The output pvc hose is returned with heated water back to the pool. The water reaches upto 140 F based on our test.

    • How to build a Offgrid Homemade Emergency Washing Machine that use no electricity.Also works as a Composter
      This project goes over the detail on how you can take an old 55 gallon plastic drum and turn that into a hand crank washing machine and a compost tumbler. The frameworks has uprights on the edges, holding up the barrel all the way down. The upright on the sides are 3 foot long 2 x 4. The base that it sits is 3 foot 2 X 4.Long brace that holds the two sides together is three foot eight inches long. You can take apart the whole framework by unscrewing the side rails and store the barrel for using them in an emergency situation. The barrel sits on a one inch hardwood dowel which is installed through one inch hole at the top of the upright. These barrels have a line in the middle of them so it is pretty easy to find the center by measuring across the line and then dividing it in half. The hand crank is made of PVC pipe with some screws to the end side of the barrel. The hand crank gives you something to grab onto if it gets very heavy so you can pull it back up and really move it around. It has a one foot by one foot door on the front .We use couple of cheap cabinet hinges to hold the door up when unloading the clothes. It also has a little S hook latch that locks it into place. A hole down in the middle of the barrel is for drainage. A small plug and a cap acts as a drain. The plug is put through the hole from inside and sealed with the help of PVC glue. Next step is to add agitators to our barrel . As you rotate the barrel, the clothes will roll over those agitators back and forth and get the clothes moving a lot better and help clean it. We add 3 PVC pipes inside the barrel that act as the agitators. You put clothes in through the top and add enough water just to cover the clothes, add any biodegradable liquid detergent and close the lid. Start moving the hand crank back and forth. This will agitate the clothes. The agitators slosh those clothes around, get them grinding against each other and that is going to clean all the dirt out of them. After about 15 minutes of agitation, we pull the drainage plug off the bottom and drain the water or recycle it by collecting them underneath a bucket and pour it around your plants and trees. As long as we are using biodegradable soap/detergent, the soap and the dirt that is in your clothes isn't going to hurt the plants. We put the plug back on, and fill the barrel with some clean water and agitate for another 15 minutes. This is the rinse cycle. Pull the plug, drain that water or use it on your plants. This setup can be also used a tumbling composter. Compost can be made of just about anything that was once alive .You can use leaves, grass clippings, garden waste, kitchen waste, chicken manure or any other waste material. Just dump all in there and turn the compost in there using our handle every couple of days for 2 weeks. We want to keep the compost aerated so that the microbes and bacteria that break down the compost can utilize the oxygen efficiently and help in decomposition. After 2 to 3 weeks, you probably have some pretty decent compost that you can use on your garden. Also through the drain hole, we can collect the residue compost tea which is high in nutrients. You can use that compost tea for plants that really need a good dose of nitrogen.
    • How to build a Multi Use Simple Homemade Wood Gas System from Scrap Materials that can be used as a Generator,Cooking Stove and Lantern
      This project goes over the build of a simple gasification system that functions to produce wood gas for running a generator, a cooking stove and for lanterns. We feed the wood chips and other materials through the opening at the top of the gasifier ,the air also gets drawn in from the top .The air would drop through the wood mass, down to the reduction zone and gets collected down at the bottom of the tank through the output pipe . The materials needed to build this down draft style gasifier are a 3 old propane tanks, old steel sheets, wood pellets. The first step is to make sure that propane tanks are empty .Remove the handles from the top of the 3 propane tanks and unthread the valves. Cut the top portion from 2 tanks and stack the body of the tanks on top of each other and weld it. One of the cut out top pieces can be used a lid . The bottom portion of the lower tank is cut open to create the reduction zone of the gasifier. To make the reduction point, we take the scrap steel sheet and make a five inch wide small tube of the them and weld them to the bottom third propane tank . The bottom five gallon propane tank is used as a ash bin where all the ash is going to get caught and as an outlet for all the gases coming out of the system. The top portion of this tank is cut in such a way that it fits the reduction zone collar of the secondary tank. Make sure that both the tanks fits nicely together so that you can pull the inner chamber out of the bottom ash tank to remove it, dump the ash catch out and use it again and again. The top of the upper tank is cut open .This acts as the feed area where all the wood pieces are dropped in. We make a screen with holes using a 20mm hole saw cutter from the leftover cutouts of the propane tank. We are gonna mount this screen inside the gasifier lower reduction zone. A hinge and a wire is attached to the screen so it can open and close. This gives us the ability so we can shake the screen if it plugs up with ash or other materials. The wire goes through the reactor up to the top . We have a pressure relief system installed on the lid of the gasifier. If anything were to happen inside of the gasifier , the build up pressure can be made to escape through the top lid .This is done by hooking up two springs on both sides of the lid through small loops .The springs on both sides is attached to hand levers. We drill 8 half inch diameter holes just above reduction zone area and put thick steel tubing through them to the center of the chamber. The airflow will go in and be drawn down through the center of the reduction zone that helps in efficient burn. The pipes are curved in to the chamber so that it does not interfere with any wood mass as it goes into the reduction zone. We add plugs along these 8 tubes to regulate the air flow into the system. Next step is to add the draw fan to the gasifier. Here we use a pellet stove fan .We add a 2 inch plate over the face of the fan and a threaded pipe to seal any air going into the gasifier. We start up the gasifier by putting some chopped wood through the top and use the fan to get the wood gas producing out of the bottom outlet pipe.
    • How to build an Underground Off Grid Survival Shelter from an Old Shipping Container
      This project goes into the build of an Underground Survival Bunker from an Old Used Shipping Container. Shipping containers can be effectively used as an alternative emergency shelter as it cheap to build, can provide you with security during storm, flood or hurricane or it can used as a storage cellar or even as a garage. Before starting the project, make sure that shipping container you have bought is not heavily used, banged up or rusty with holes. It is preferable that you go with a new one instead of a overused beaten one. The container used here is a less damaged one. The dimensions of the container is 20ft long and 8 and 1/2 ft tall. The shipping container cannot be buried directly the way they are. It is not safe. The strength of the containers lies in the floor and the uprights.The load bearing capacity of the container is distributed along the corners of the container. Here we invert the container so that the floor of the container is the new roof. The inverted floor has more strength to withhold any stress from outside. Before burying the container, make sure that you have a proper foundation. Don't place the inverted container directly on the soil. Since the earth will settle overtime, the probability of the container also settling and becoming off balance is there. Also add a drainage system to the foundation so as to prevent any concrete runoff in case of a flood or massive rain. To roll over the container cheaply with a crane, we use bunch of old tyres lined on support corners of the container where the beams are the strongest. We pull the container using a rollback tow truck and lay them right on the tyres and do this process once more to completely invert the container. Make sure you have the container doors are locked in place. Since the load bearing capacity of the container is not located on the walls and roof ( floor in our case) , it can be crushed by the soil around it once it is buried, so proper bracing around the sides and floor is necessary. You have to build the support structure from the inside to hold everything securely. Walls made of 4 inch structural steel beams sandwiched between 2 quarter Inch steel plate firmly supports the inside of the container from caving in . Two such walls spaced apart are installed. Couple of structural beams are welded across the sides of the container too for extra support. The back wall has two structural beams running across .Also an opening for escape hatch is made in case of an emergency situation. The door for the hatch is bolted down using rubberized silicon so easy removal later. Since the floor ( the original roof) structure is really flimsy and weak, we secure them with structural beams along the width of the floor from the front all the way across to the end. This is then covered with steel plates that is welded all along the length of the floor. The roof the container ( the actual floor) is covered and sealed up water tight with quarter inch steel plate. Holes for the air ventilation pipes and and entry opening hatch are also made alongside with this. The roof needs to be sealed tightly to prevent any leak. To prevent the container from gathering moisture and attracting rust and thus erode and fall apart, the exterior is sealed with a triple coated water proof paint. Eight and half foot deep hole is dug with the help of an excavator. As we said before, the first thing to do is to make a proper foundation with drainage options before the container is placed . The container is safely placed with the help of a crane once the foundation is finished. To provide some extra seal, the top of the container is coated with tar and then covered by 20 foot X 100 foot plastic sheet . Then we begin covering up the container with the soil and bury them completely.