I am a Farmer!

“It’s true. The fantastic present and future of solar air heating systems rests on the shoulders of founding fathers like yourself and many other DIY solar enthusiasts, who spent decades diligently and arduously working away: experimenting, bravely designing, building, tearing down and then building again and again… You have made the next generations very proud.” –Meredith Williams

I recently wrote this in a comment thread on a popular solar air heater YouTube video.

And I meant it.

Meredith Builds and Installs solo, her own solar air heater! Operated by Okapi Fan Control Systems. Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

(And she is currently working on building Three more, using a new design!)

 

I think there have been too many people who have scoffed at emerging technologies, alternative methods and new ideas for as long as humankind has existed. It takes a steady mind, but also a mind full of fire and spice, to pursue an idea when everyone around them is emitting negative thoughts and comments.

I don’t think we give the founding fathers (and mothers) of solar air heating enough credit. I can truly say that, thanks to them, Greenhill EnviroTechnologies was born.

Without the hundreds of YouTube videos out there, solar forum posts and threads, and the odd article in various publications, each showing his or her version of a solar heating device (mostly “his”, actually: there are only a few females talking about solar air heaters out there and I am one of them,) no progress could ever have been made.

 

Scientific breakthroughs rarely come from a single spark of insight, solely generated from within one person.

Scientific breakthroughs grow forth from internal ruminations over thousands of observations of the external world.

It takes a community to work together, whether they even realize they are working together at the time, for science to actually advance. Techniques, hypotheses, theories and ideas all need to be tested, retested, tried and trialed by many before they can ever become accepted by the masses as true, reasonable and incredibly useful. It is amazing what can be accomplished when we all blindly work together.

The solar air heating movement had its beginnings over four decades ago, but we all know that we and the rest of the Earth have been soaking up the sun, its heat and energy since the beginnings of time. So, really, it’s nothing new.

Fire in the sky! Okapi fan control systems for solar air heaters. Solar Furnaces. Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

It shouldn’t be too shocking to learn that you can heat your home on frigid, sunny days just by using the power of the sun and some awesome technology.

Thank goodness for communities, both in the real world and now in the virtual world of the internet. It has allowed for tremendously widespread collaboration of ideas and support.

 Most importantly, thank goodness for the support!

When you are one person in a small community trying to do something innovative, combating the naysayers, closed-minded neighbors, name-calling and teasing, can be quite overwhelming. I am certain, that “lack of support” has killed many revolutionary ideas, over and over again, throughout history.

It takes a brave soul to move forward in fantastic new ways whilst being weighed down by skeptics and minds fearful of change.

I am extremely grateful I worked hard to adopt an open-mind and fearlessness in the early days of Julian’s research into solar air heaters.

“Sure,”  I thought, “building one for yourself is fine. It’s a cute hobby!”

I’ll admit I had many thoughts over the past few years that it should not be anything more than a hobby. I’ll admit I had thoughts of:

“What is this guy doing spending all his time working on these crazy solar heaters, circuit-boards, fans, programming and mad-scientist contraptions?”

“Why can’t he just go out and get a normal job like everyone else?!”

Julian Jameson, creator of Okapi Systems. Software and hardware Engineer, Mad Scientist, Brave, Innovative Soul. CEO of  Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

Julian Jameson, creator of Okapi Systems. Software & Hardware Engineer, Mad Scientist, Brave, Innovative Soul. CEO of Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

Julian is now working on finishing up the Android Mobile Okapi App.

Yes, the MS Windows version of the Okapi Viewer App is completed and already available, and so is the Solar Heater Output Calculator App! And they are awesome!

Okapi Viewer App. Solar Air Heater Analysis program. Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

And soon, solar heat farmers will be able to walk around holding their touch-screen devices and assessing their solar heat harvests! They can and will assess from looking at the instant data on their screen how much they are harvesting, how efficient their solar heat harvesters are, how much they are not only helping themselves, but also helping others.

Eventually, this readily available, scientific tech-assessment tool will lead to more efficient solar air heaters, greater yields and many more solar heat harvesters being built and installed all around the chilly world.

Eager View... What does the future hold? Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

Julian has done good work for us all and he is not stopping there.

This whole experience reminded me of my background, my upbringing, my own parents. They were private-school and Ivy-league University-educated, free-thinkers from the USA. They came from families with doctors, lawyers, teachers and business-owners. Then, they decided they wanted to “live off the land” and have a farm, in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Oh, the naysaying was tremendous! The condemnation was horrific! The skeptics and critics were relentless!

“How can you waste your education and become a lowly farmer? You could have an amazing job in the city, you could teach, you could be a lawyer, you could be a doctor, you could work on Wall Street!”

“What kind of terrible childhood are you going to be giving to your kids? You are crazy!

And…

“Who do you think you are, you damn Yankees! You dirty Americans! You come here with your fancy degrees and decide you can farm our land!”

“You do not belong here!”

But I had special parents. They stood up tall and proclaimed:

“In fact, to farm, it takes a tremendous breadth of knowledge and no farmer should ever be considered ‘lowly’!”

They went back to the land and thank goodness they did! My childhood rocked! I learned and practised animal husbandry from the beginning. I knew general anatomy (inside and out) of cows, cats and chickens, how the internal organs looked and worked, how reproduction occurred, all by the time I started school. I could rope and catch a calf solo and fend off the charging mother cow by the time I hit double digits. I learned to count as a toddler by bringing in pieces of wood, one at a time, to feed the fire that kept our farmhouse warm and cosy.

Our farming Neighborhood. Wind farming, solar heat farming, strawberries, chickens, cattle, horses, pigs, goats... Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

Most importantly, I learned that being different, being of American background (even though I was born in Canada,) a weird foreigner among others in our Canadian community who had been here for many generations, was not easy. In fact, I grew up surrounded by naysaying, teasing, rejection and relentless skepticism. It only taught me to work harder, to pursue my own ideas and thoughts, to carve my own paths. It taught me to persevere while swimming through a murky sea of shunning, judgement, negativity and pain.

When anyone manages to swim through such a treacherous sea in life, it often can lead to an existence of immense fulfillment.

Now, all those lessons learned from my parents, learned through my tough, hardworking farmkid childhood, my teenage years of extreme academia and sports and a young adulthood full of medical struggles, pain and suffering, have been very useful! They gave me the courage to support and work with Julian as he developed these innovative fan control systems. These lessons-learned gave me the strength to create our clean-tech start-up for a niche, but growing market, from scratch. These lessons-learned have led to a great first year of gaining internet awareness, customer confidence and contacts around the globe, all interested in the present and future technologies of solar air heating.

It has been trying, sometimes terrifying, but very worth it.

We really have a business, now: a fledgling about to soar!

The Eagle that watches over Julian's office. Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

And I am feeling very tired after another full day’s work. Yet, it is all worth it. It makes me feel rooted to our soil, connected to my ancestors: I am giving honor to them by trying and working my hardest towards something good for humanity. I also feel connected to the future: I will be leaving behind something of value.

How Green are your Footprints? Giving back to the community, giving back to the Earth. Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

I am giving back to the community every day and my existence finally feels justified.

Farming can come in many forms, and I feel I have grown up to carry on the family farm, in essence. I bring in a huge solar heat harvest on every cold, sunny day; and I work directly with other farmers, to encourage, help and support them in bringing in their harvests, too.

Solar heat farming is a nice occupation: bright, cheery, warming and never-ending.

I am very proud to call myself a farmer.

DIYwoman. A solar heat farmer. Drawing by Meredith Williams, MDW.

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Are You a Solar Space Heating Cadet?

Spiral Sun, Okapi Fan Control Systems: Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

So, there is this giant fireball in the sky that we call the sun. It sends down oodles of powerful electromagnetic radiation upon us every day, and we mostly just use it to get a good tan.

We have all heard of solar PV panels that magically convert this solar radiation into electricity,

but have you heard of a different kind of solar collector that turns this awesome solar radiation into HEAT? 

If your answer in “…umm, no?”, then you MUST keep reading!

Your future, everyone else’s future and the future of Earth depends upon You learning more!

Solar space heaters (often referred to as solar air heaters, solar collectors, solar furnaces, solar pop-can heaters…) are insulated boxes with a black interior metal something-or-other and a clear polycarbonate (like that tough Lexan, plastic glass stuff) or real glass covering, mounted on a sun-facing wall or roof of a building.

They collect solar radiation and transform it into heat!

You know how when you wear a totally black outfit and sit in the sun you get super hot as compared to when you wear, oh, say, something very bright and reflective, like a white, sequined, disco jumpsuit? Well that is solar heating science at work!  

 

Okapi Systems: Intelligent, variable speed fan control systems for solar air heaters. Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

There are two main types of solar air heaters: 

  • “Closed-loop solar air heaters”: With these, air from within the home or building is pumped through vents in the walls into the solar collector box, where it becomes really hot and is then pumped back into the building. Fantastic free heating!
  • “Open-loop Solar Air heaters”: These take the cold air from outside the building and preheat it before it is pumped into the building. This type of solar air heater is often used for large, industrial buildings that require extra ventilation. Definitely some free-heating, plus fresh air! (-assuming the air outside is not polluted)

 

Ok, Now You Need a Very Quick History Lesson:

The history of solar air heaters began a few decades ago with creative hippies going back to the land and doing all sorts of innovative and nutty stuff.

Hippies and Back to the Landers started making Solar Air Heaters.

They started building the original solar heaters which used no fans at all and relied upon the natural convection of heated air to flow from the top of the solar collector, through the upper vent and into the home at ceiling level.  But, this natural, hippy air-flow by convection is very minimal and not the ideal way to heat any space, especially NOW, with all this amazing technology at our fingertips in the 21st Century.

 

Alright, here comes the good stuff!

Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc. Logo

In 2013, along struts this plucky, young company from Canada, Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc., with an incredible invention called Okapi that has turned the world of solar heating upside-down, literally!

Turning the world of solar heating upside down. Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

Julian Jameson, creator and inventor of the Okapi Systems, was having fun YouTubing in 2012, and to his great surprise, discovered that the science of solar air heating was way, way, way behind the times.

Julian Jameson: Creator of Okapi Systems. CEO of Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

Jameson, who has a very cool background in computer and video game design and programming, in addition to electronics, realized how important it is to be able to control the flow-rate and direction of the air that passes through the solar collector box.

The result? 

-Good-bye, Hippy Passive Solar Heating.

Hello, Futuristic Active Solar Heating!

 

A bit of a ‘mad scientist’, Jameson thought actively blowing hot air out at the ceiling was pretty much pointless, too, and the world deserved much better. He determined that precise variable-speed fan control systems operating solar space heaters made them all heat a room better, and heat it more often! And so, he invented the Okapi Systems: variable-speed fan control systems that effectively heat a space by blowing the hot air out at floor-level and maximizing the solar heat harvest!

Okapi Systems: Fan Control Systems for Solar Air Heaters. Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?

Well, it gets even better.

 

It turns out that we are polluting our precious air throughout all the cold months of the year around this planet burning wood, oil, gas, coal and sometimes dung. This air pollution from all this smoke is contributing to sickness and death, increasing the CO2 in our atmosphere and creating climate change!

We are all burning stuff to stay warm during the cold seasons, when on sunny or even just partial-sunny days,

 we shouldn’t be burning a darn thing!

Sick, Polluted Earth! Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

 

And so, off goes this daring, new company, Greenhill EnviroTechnologies, dancing around the internet with their crazy brand, “Okapi” (named after an obscure animal that hardly anyone has heard of: a cousin of the giraffe, but it has stripes and a much shorter neck). They had a successful Kickstarter Project in 2013 to finalize their first product line of intelligent, variable speed fan control systems, then had another successful Kickstarter Project this fall of 2014 for their new wireless options!

It turns out there are a lot of old, young and new hippies out there trying to change the world for the better!

 

Solar Flower Power. Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

Solar Flower Power!

In fact, there are thousands of people building these solar space heaters and putting them on their homes, log cabins, cottages, garages, workshops, barns, sheds and doghouses! And now, there are actually commercially available solar air heaters! Yes, you can go out and buy one! Except, their fan control systems don’t hold up when compared to the patent pending, innovative features of the Okapi Systems. Eventually, all these commercial solar air heaters are going to have to have Okapi Systems operating them in order to optimize their solar heat harvests.

 

DIY Solar Heaters: Are you up for the Challenge? Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

 

Alright, you are feeling like you have learned something new, now, and that always feels pretty sweet. It gives you hope for a future with less pollution, a healthier planet, and yes, you could save a lot of money on your heating bills, too! (And, wow, aren’t those heating bills getting outrageous?!)

 

Solar Air Heater Building Season! Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

 

So here’s the punch line: Wireless Modules & the Okapi Viewer App

The Okapi Fan Controls Systems can now come equipped with data broadcasting abilities. With the “Okapi Viewer App” you can read the performance of your solar space heater instantly on your smart phone or tablet devices. You can also connect with your computer, log data, then graph the performance of your solar space heaters.

Congratulations: You are now a Solar Space Heating Cadet!

Well done: you have learned a lot.

Now, your mission is to share this knowledge with others.

You can do it.

You can make this technology popular.  You can learn more.

You can train all your friends and family to become Solar Space Heating Cadets, too.

You can build and install a solar space heater.

 

The future is now: Check it out, get involved and change the world.

Make the Next Generation Proud.

Okapi Systems with Wireless Modules.  Fan Control Systems for Solar Air Heaters. Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

Happy Solar Space Heating Season!

Warm Regards,

Meredith Williams

Meredith Williams, President, Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.