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Making good use of a plentiful resource like recycled pallets for heating and for building solar projects just makes a lot of sense when working on a budget. Many times when you are starting something new on a budget all of the materials may not be immediately available. The number of pallets being used in the U.S each year are staggering. Amazingly there are an estimated 2 billion pallets in circulation within the U.S. alone. A majority of those wood pallets are replaced each year putting a major drain on hardwood resources. (Dick McCarrick. Analyst, Foresight Science & Technology). After recently finding a local resource for free recycled pallets my creative juices were now kicked into high gear. Let the building of solar heating projects to provide warmth during the frigid winter months begin! This weekend I was looking at some of the best weather to date out here off the grid. With the colder months coming up fast I wanted to take full advantage of this beautiful couple of days by building something. Something cool, something hot (radiant heat from the sun), and something solar had begun being built out of recycled 2 X 4s and pallets out here in preparation for winter.
“Its good to have less than you need and its good to have more than you need to figure out what you actually need.”
About a month ago my brother gave me a lead on a perfect sized pot belly stove for the off grid camper. Two weeks later I had it in the back seat of my car with a seat belt on the way out to its new home. I was grateful to have found such a solid and sturdy heating source. Aside from the heat this cast iron pot belly stove would give me the ability to cook as well. There was only one problem. I needed fuel to feed this hungry pot belly stove. Recycled pallets seemed like a good option so this last week I managed to find a good source for free pallets. After visiting twice this week I was able to score 3 heavy duty pallets for building along with another care full of recycled pallet pieces, kindling wood, and yes.. more wood (8 foot long 2 X 10s) for building. Needless top say last week was a good one and I was really looking forward to the weekend off the grid. Saturday I spent the day cleaning in and around the outside of the camper. Saturday’s highlight was cleaning the kitchen and reclaiming the meal area from the grip of countless items that made their way for storage. If your a regular listener you know I love to cook. The last year has been frustrating with not having a kitchen or refrigeration. This was one small step for man.. and great leap for me! lol I celebrated by firing up the rocket stove for several hours until the sun went down. As the sun waved good night through the trees I started dinner on the rocket stove. It turns out that recycled pallets burn really good! Splitting up some pallets into pieces was easily done with a hatchet and hammer. The split pallet wood fit perfect for the rocket stove allowing just the right amount of airflow. Ahh. Another perfect end to a perfect day with the satisfaction of work done during the day, the anticipation of a good meal, and the smell of wood smoke out here off grid among the chirping crickets.
Waking up to the promise of another beautiful fall weather day out here off the grid meant one last opportunity to make good use of the day before heading back to work tomorrow (Monday). I wanted to make the day a productive one so I started building a new solar project for the camper. Observing the sun as it rose in the morning, graced the sky at high noon, and set in the west in the evening gave me the opportunity to figure out the best placement for my new solar project. I had been wanting to build some solar projects ever since arriving out here off the grid but the unrelenting summer heat made it intolerable. The fall and winter months turned the tables on the whole heating / cooling issue and meant that I could go full on with my solar projects. My recent finds with recycled pallets gave me new inspiration for some off grid solar projects. As of now the camper has no heat. The only thing I have been using are candles for a minimal heat source. 4 – 6 layers of clothes don’t really count! lol Using pallets for firewood is a great free option but again they burn fast. I gathered several 2 X 4s, some deck screws, a cordless screwdriver, the video camera, a couple of free recycled pallets, and some ingenuity. By days end I had the basic framework of an 8 foot by 8 foot wooden frame for my new solar heating project. The nickle sized mosquitoes started coming out like vampires on Halloween night so I called it a night. Quickly gathering my tools with the mosquitoes giving chase I felt a sense of accomplishment with the days work on the start of my new solar heater. In the end it was a great weekend with awesome fall weather. Forcing yourself to work with what you have is a good exorcise for critical thinking skills. I would suggest everyone give it a try once in a while even if you do have all the materials you need for a new project!
Show notes from today’s Off The Grid Podcast
- Today’s lesson: Sometimes you need to work with what you have in order to build your solution.
- Here is the link mentioned in the podcast to the site with cool pallet furniture.
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