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.

Making Strides

Here is a post I wrote back in February, 2014.  I had a very ponderous day.

making strides copy

Salt Springs Provincial Park, Pictou County, Nova Scotia, Canada

If you had the choice between making many, quick, short steps or making few, slow, long steps,

which would you choose?

I have tried both ways.

 

Making many, quick, tiny steps was loud. My feet made sharp scuffing sounds as they hit the ground. My whole body worked hard with each step and my breath was frequent. My snow-panted legs swished against each other piercingly, my arms snapped back and forth vigorously to keep up my momentum. I was expending a lot of energy and felt a strong sense of vitality. It was exhilarating, fun and enlivening. But, I also noticed, with all this noise my crunching feet and swishing clothing made, that I could no longer hear the birds or wind. I was concentrating so hard on moving and moving quickly that I lost track of the trees and hardly noticed the dogs running around me.

 

Making fewer, but longer steps felt smooth and stealthy. My motions were eerily quiet. I could hardly hear my steps. My body was calm and relaxed, my arms barely needed to swing and my breathing was stately. I heard a raven calling across the field, I saw the dogs racing and chasing each other. I felt the wind and I marveled at the trees slowly drifting by.

 

These two ways of progressing are completely different, and both essential to practise at different times while on a walk, in life and while starting a business. The quick, short steps are invigorating: they get the heart racing and the mind focused. The slow, longer steps are restful and allow for observations and creativity to flow.

 

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We successfully completed our Kickstarter Project for “Okapi: the Intelligent Fan Control System for Solar Air Heaters” in November, 2013. It was an exciting experience full of very busy days, a lot of good noise and many short, quick accomplishments.

 

Now, we are taking slower, longer strides with our business. We are thoughtfully meandering the legal territories associated with bringing an electronic product into the market. The previous quick, short steps we used in announcing ourselves and gaining public awareness were exhilarating and awakening to our spirits. Currently we are calmer and quieter, learning, researching and creating so much along the way. Yet, soon, we may quicken our steps, again!

 

effects of time copy

Salt Springs Provincial Park, Pictou County, Nova Scotia, Canada

 

As much as I want everyone to have solar air heaters on their houses NOW, I accept that getting this technology into the minds and hands of the general public will take time. It will take many, quick, loud and small actions, combined with fewer, calm, large actions.

With time, we will reach our goal, our destination: our Greenhill vision.

end in sight copy

Salt Springs Provincial Park, Pictou County, Nova Scotia, Canada

 

This vision is beautiful and kind, sweet and relaxing. It is a place where the air is clean, the land is not disturbed, the hillsides are vibrant with wildlife, yet everyone is still warm and cozy.

And the Geese Return… Happy Spring!

 

geese return copy

 

Thank you to everyone: our Kickstarter Project was successful! Thank you to everyone who pledged for prints and paintings: your support was so very helpful. I hope you are enjoying the artwork. And to our adventurous solar air heater builders: your pre-orders were so very important.

 

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Those special DIY backers will be receiving their Okapi Systems very shortly as we finally smooth out the last tiny legal details of our electronic product distribution abilities. We have been so very thankful for the kind patience.

We, ourselves, have been quite frustrated about how long it has taken to figure out all these details, but they make the process a difficult and meandering one for a very good reason: consumer safety! None of us want some dangerous person soldering electronic products in their basement and selling them on the internet without them being checked-over by officials and standards agencies to ensure they are safe for use, meant for their intended use, and comprised of safe and certified components. So the long certifications, standards and guidelines process, though frustrating, is something for which we should all be grateful!

 

At the bottom of our website are links to all our social media sites: Follow us on Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube and Like us on Facebook. We invite you to join in on discussions, post questions or comments, share our pictures and posts and become a part of this green movement!

 

The winter was busy and oh so quick: full of shovelling snow, cross-country skiing, working with CSA, learning about the sale of electronics products,  making our company website, writing proposals and applications, some research and development projects and lots of family time…  Check out the new website: www.greenhillenvirotechnologies.com.  The next major addition will be coming soon: our Purchase page: where you can make an order, pay for it and have your Okapi System delivered to you right away! Very exciting times….

 

home energy consumption copy

Check out our website pages devoted to information and calculations about energy, environmental and financial savings from the use of solar air heaters.

 

We are getting more involved with our community: next week is the local NSCC (Nova Scotia Community College) Entrepreneurship Conference. We have been invited to give a short workshop about how to pitch a good idea, and tell our personal tales of becoming entrepreneurs. Visit our social media sites to learn more: the entire day’s events are open and free for the public as well!

NSCC Entrepreneur poster

 

 

 

dawn of heating copy

You can also “Sign-Up” on our website to get an email-notification of when we will be ready to start receiving and processing orders.

 

Happy Spring, Environmentalists!

 

PS:   “Follow” this blog… I promise it will only get better from here!  😉

 

green fernsmall

“Green Fern”, 2013, oil on watercolor paper, 8″x10″, by Meredith Williams, MDW. A Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc. Kickstarter Reward.

 

 

Okapi: The Intelligent Fan Control System for Solar Air Heaters

 

Our Kickstarter.com Project

 

Okapi Systems are intellegent, variable-speed fan control systems for closed-loop Solar Air Heaters. It is robust, serviceable, smart and Patent Pending.

Based in Greenhill, Pictou County, Nova Scotia, Canada, Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc. is introducing a new clean-tech product to help everyone deal with the rising financial, environmental and health costs of electricity and fuels used for home-heating throughout the world.

Visit us at our website: www.greenhillenvirotechnologies.com

You can learn all about Okapi: what it does, how it works and why not only you, but all of us need one.