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.

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Williams’ Beach and Searching for the Perfect Paint

I grew up on a farm near a river.

Our cows grazed on our hillside pastures, producing beef calves every spring.

We spent the hot summers helping with the hay harvest and cooling off in the river.

The part of the river that runs through our land is precious, and we named it Williams’ Beach.

 Williams' Beach, Salt Springs, Pictou County, Nova Scotia. Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

Since I was very young, I did rock paintings here.

I had a secret cache of my best painting stones hidden in a hole in the side of the riverbank, every summer.

 

In the riverbed are millions of stones. Many are granite, hard and speckled. There are fools-gold here and there, quartz and other strange mineral stones: some with multiple cubic indentations left from crystals that have dissolved or eroded away. Those always fascinated me as a kid. They looked like fossil molds, which I would sometimes find from ancient scallop-like shellfish. The idea of some ancient cube-shaped sea-creature never left my mind.

I am not a geology expert at all, but amongst all these very large, dense and hard stones are many smaller, lighter and softer stones, which I presume to be varieties of sedimentary rock: compressed compositions of ancient sediments. These are the stones that yield the colored paints.

So there went my little kid self, alone (except for my dog and following barn-cats), happy and free, collecting colored stones: white, cream, yellow, blue, green, purple, red, orange… I would draw, write, graffiti with them all over the harder, flat, large stones. Often, in deeper pools elsewhere along the river, my friends and I would draw and write on rock walls deep underwater, wearing goggles and holding our breath. It was a fun way to keep busy and stay cool for hours on end.

However, the most fun came with vigorous, repeated scrapings of a soft colored stone against a hard, rough “palette stone”. This had to be done at the riverside, because to make the paint, the stone needed to be dipped into the water frequently between rubbings. Slowly, I formed paste. This paste, the powdered sedimentary rock mixed with water, was my own, natural rock paint.

River rock paints palette and painting stones. Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

Sometimes I would just paint my legs and arms or face. Other times I made cute rock-cards for my mum and dad: a picture and some simple words smeared on a flat stone. My mother kept some of the rock-cards many years later. She may still have them somewhere, faded and hidden away.

The neat part about it all was watching the rich colors of the wet paints change as they dried to lighter colors. It was sad, yet satisfying to watch the intensity of the color change to paler hue. Often surprising was the brightness of it, as compared to the look of the original painting stone itself. When applied in thick coats some varieties of the paints would crack and crumble off the skin. Others seems to adhere more evenly. They all had an earthy scent, and if applied to the lips, like lipstick, I sometimes tasted them: slightly salty, bitter, tangy and sweet.

Different colored stones produced different properties of paint: different scents, tastes and textures.

There is so much science in such an innocent and simple pastime.

 


 

Over this past year I have written to almost 30 different companies, trying to find a specially black-coated or painted aluminum mesh screen that does not smell or off-gas at the high temperatures.

We have plans to build our next set of solar air heaters using this special temperature-resistant black screen as the solar-heated element within the solar collector box. The mesh aluminum screens work at least 10% better at producing and transferring heat to the passing air than other solar collector designs, such as down-spout, pop-can or flat panel designs. This increase in heat-transfer efficiency and efficacy occurs because of the greatly increased surface area for the air-to-be-heated to travel by, through and around the hot screen’s woven wires versus just passing by a single, smooth flat hot surface. We know this because we have tested the designs against each other, and the basic science predicts our results, also.

Solar AIr Heater Screen Sample Testing. Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

 

Standard insect screens do work well, but they will off-gas for a few weeks to months (depending on the type/brand) before they stop smelling. We know this from experience. I do not like this smell and find it unpleasant on the lungs.

I also refuse to sleep in a room that has recently been painted until the walls have completely cured. Even with the best of modern paints, claiming very low VOC emissions, this can sometimes take up to a month!

I have a sensitive nose and lungs. I really like my fresh air.

So I have been researching high-heat metal coatings and paints, contacting big paint companies, screen manufacturing companies, emailing and talking with technicians and presidents of these companies throughout North America and China.

I have stumbled over a few false leads, received many replies of “no such product is available” and tested samples that smelled even at room temperature, so of course they failed the heat-tests.

Recently, I made progress, however, and hope to have found the company that can provide the specialized coating just perfect for our needs. After further testings and research and soon we hope to be making a large order of this specialty black-coated aluminum screen that has no odor and is designed for high heat use.

Once we build a few large heaters with it and test them out on our own home, we plan to be able to provide this highly specialized solar-heater screen material to the public.


Okapi Fan Control Systems Warrior. Rock Paints. Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

After about 8 months of research, I think I have come very close to finding this ideal black coating for our solar heater element, and at the same time, I find myself sitting by the riverside contemplating natural paints. So much science goes into paints and colored coatings.

I never mixed in a fixative with my rock paints, so they would wipe or wash away very easily. Now I am thinking it may be time for me to start learning about natural fixatives and how to truly make my own rock paint for artistic purposes.

Yet, the whole point of the rock painting of my youth was its impermanence and that it had to be done by the riverside. The process and simply being by the river, with the bugs,  rushing water, wind in the trees, bird and pets was as important as the end result of any painting. The idea of bringing painting stones and palette rocks back to my house and mixing up my own paint with egg yolk and water from the tap in my kitchen seems so very unnatural. Perhaps I will have to bring my fixative ingredients to the riverside if I wish to strive for some permanence of imagery.

 

Going back to the river, to Williams’ Beach, after being away from it for too many years,

was quite a spiritual reunion.

I quickly found myself with striped arms and legs, markings on my belly, chest and face.

I had found my old self again.

 Striped markings from rock painting. Okapi Warrior. Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

We visited Williams’ Beach again, yesterday.

Very quickly, my step-daughter had striped legs and arms, markings on her chest and face. She looked like a tiger, or perhaps more appropriately, a young, striped Okapi. She danced from stone to stone in the setting sun, wild and free, singing and smiling.

She didn’t want to leave.

Perhaps, because down by the river, surrounded by those ancient stones and fresh water,

it always feels like home.

River Dog, Ash never leaves the water. Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

Canada Day!

I am always so grateful to live where we live: Canada!

The people of our nation have worked very hard, giving their lives to provide for the rest of us a safe, healthy and kind place to live. Thank you to everyone!

We work everyday to try to continue these efforts… and now you can help out too!

We want subscribers to our YouTube channel.

Why?

Because the more subscribers we have, the more likely

someone who is researching how to live more environmentally friendly and reduce their heating bills

will be able to find us!

 Subscribe to our YouTube Channel for a Chance to Win!

Subscribe to our YouTube Channel for a Chance to Win!  http://goo.gl/72dL6O

Thank you for helping promote the green-living movement!

People like you are going to make this world’s future great!

Our Living Family Heirloom

 

 

Spring has its delights.

The pussy willows beckon to be petted, fiddleheads curl me batty, spring-peepers drive Julian nuts

and songbirds serenade us all day long.

Spring can seem so incredible that it can be a wonder how we survived the winter.

Spring is also that time of the year for mother’s day, father’s day, reunions, weddings, births, birthdays, graduations and gatherings: an exhilarating season!

Yet, what I love most about spring, is watching my family heirloom start to blossom.

It lives in our bathroom: a warm, moist environment, perfect for her tropical roots. She gets plenty of eastern morning sunlight, and spends all winter tenaciously growing long tentacles, that once having reached the ceiling, then begin crawling across it.

Spring is all about nurturing the next generations and revering the past generations.

I am usually not one to dwell too dearly on things like dresses, blankets, photos, old plates, jewelery, watches and paintings, yet I do absolutely cherish these objects from my family’s past. I love imagining the people who came before me using and living with these objects and then deciding with deep gravity to pass them on to the next generation.

An heirloom, a thing that shackles a family history together, is a chain of love and care.

The most important living family heirloom, which I might cherish even more than this remarkable plant that lives in our bathroom, would be my chain of genetic code.

Your DNA can be a strange concept of an heirloom to grasp, unless you simply hold your own hand.

My family genetic code is full of wonderous and frightening things:

strange abilities in academics, the arts and athletics; perseverance and dedication in almost everything we attempt; outstanding levels of compassion and empathy; yet also with startling amounts of sadness and despair that have terminally gripped too many of us by the throat; and then there are those mysterious, incurable  diseases that have left a few of us with joint, skin, belly and neurological problems…

Our 100 yr-old “night-blooming Cereus” plant is our living family heirloom.

Our night-blooming Cereus has spanned up to 5 generations in our family. My great-great-grandma acquired it on her travels and handed down a cutting of it to her daughter. (Take a single fat, juicy leaf from a Cereus, stick it in some soil and soon you have your clone.) She then passed a cutting from her plant down to my Grandma. Grandma’s grew large and strong, also. She passed down a cutting from hers to my parents.

I received my cutting from my parents’ plant in my early twenties as a celebration of living semi-independently.

Receiving my piece of the family heirloom was a very precious milestone.

I stuck that leaf in the soil, added water, watched and waited. It has grown into the strongest looking Cereus plant I have seen so far: luscious and green, fat and juicy (as compared to my sister’s cutting, my parents’ and my grandma’s). I think it does so well because I have pruned it frequently or more likely, I have just been very, very lucky.

We often get 7-9 blossoms a year, which is quite a privilege when raising this tropical plant (even though it is always indoors) through the bitterly cold winters of Nova Scotia.

Growing up with my parents’ tentacled plant was fascinating. We got to stay up late on the nights it bloomed, celebrating, watching and smelling it unfold. But our old farm-house was chilly and well shaded by giant trees. Their plant only bloomed about 1-3  times a year, if we were lucky. Its leaves have always been a little narrow and pale.

So here it is: a little piece of my ancestry.

This was taken yesterday, the morning before the first blossom of 2014.

Then came another gorgeous, spring sunset, but my attention was elsewhere:

for as night falls, the Cereus opens.

It remains open all night, emitting an intense perfume that fills the house.

For a night-bloomer, it has an unusally pleasant odor: fruity and fresh, flowery and kind.

It creeps open into the early morning, hitting its maximum size just after midnight.

Everyone smiles and seems excited. My step-daughter swoons, the dogs are cheerful and relaxed. Julian then sleeps so deeply and peacefully, it is as if all is simply perfect in our world.

It makes me feel absolutely elated: full of tinglings of love, gratitude, exuberation and generous satisfaction.

The aroma could very easily be mildly intoxicating. Some say extracts from the plant and its fruit can cause mild hallucinations (we have yet to see ours make any fruit), and were once also used to treat heart conditions.

A relative of the dragon fruit, the Cereus, a type of cactus, also known as the “Queen of the Night”, is exotic and full of mystery.


By sunrise, it closes.

It is done, spent, exhausted and limp.

I imagine the whole plant is resting very deeply today, after such an energetic night.

The night the Cereus blossoms is always a monumental event:

it is a night to remember all who came before us and all who may come after us.


May we all leave a legacy of compassion and empathy:

one that smells sweet and clean,

that is beautiful to behold,

and most importantly,

 strong and enduring. 

And there are more to come this year!

Already, another bud is beginning to grow!