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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A Nature for Health and Happiness

Millions of people have been sending their thoughts out into the world about Robin Williams’ recent death, and so, I have to chime in here, too:

How can anyone find happy thoughts

when the funniest man on Earth cannot find enough happy thoughts to stay alive?

Because, depression can take anyone, just like cancer, diabetes or a bad accident.

Gratitude. Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

Just to make it clear, I, like billions of others, was a huge Robin Williams fan. He was entirely and absolutely awesome and I am so very grateful for his existence. I am also very grateful for his strong fight against depression that he must have kept going for so many years.

I want to talk a bit about the media coverage and the way some said he died:

The term “committed suicide” is very archaic and intimates a crime. “Killed by/ died from/ succumbed to suicide/depression” should be used now instead.

However, I prefer “died from depression”, as it takes away the word suicide, which means “to kill oneself” or “the act of intentionally causing one’s own death”. With severe depression, I think the Depression, the Disease, is causing the death, not the person. The person IS NOT the disease, the person HAS the disease.

I send out my warmest thoughts, hugs and condolences to all families and friends of people who have died from depression. It is a wretched illness.

And to those who are fighting depression right now, I have some words:

Keep fighting, patiently try to wait to see each tomorrow and never give up… because, eventually, (and I speak from extensive personal experience), it can get better.

Remember to Look Up! Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

I have been very close to the devastating effects of depression (alongside other concurrent medical conditions) my whole life. I count myself as a lucky survivor. Without divulging the messy details of my own experience with this disease, (I might still want some fresh information about my life to use in my future memoirs) I can honestly say, I truly know how bad it can get, and I am also living proof it can get better… with time.

I am lucky to say I am Not the fourth person in my family to die from depression. And I promise I never will be, because I have healed somewhat and found effective weapons to use against depression, every day.

My weapons against my family’s genetic predisposition to depression are as follows:

  • Finding purpose and meaning to my existence and working for it like a mission,
  • Speaking, feeling and exhibiting daily gratitude for the existence of so many wonderful people (and dogs) in my life and the things they do,
  • A daily routine of healthy habits such as: a healthy diet, proper hygiene, exercise, keeping a clean home, regular naps, stretching sessions or “yoga”, meditative self-hypnosis, positive self-talk and quite importantly, “work before play” -procrastination of any chores, when one is physically capable of them, is a recipe for negative feelings in the future and often a provocation of feelings of depression.
  • Having family, pets, house-plants and gardens: surrounding yourself with living organisms that will not survive without your dutiful care is a great incentive to get up each day!
  • Fighting for/supporting/learning about the preservation of our environment, worldwide health and earth’s natural wonders – concentrating on things that really matter both on small and large scales.
  • Surrounding myself by nature and revering it as much as possible: hearing bird-songs and insects, listening to tree-leaves rustling, watching flowers blossom and whither, regarding sunrises and sunsets, hugging trees, spotting the moon and constellations on clear nights… all these are crucial for me to nurture my inner happiness.
  • Getting out in the sun: sunlight therapy is a must!
  • Physically creating anything that has a lasting, positive effect and impact is also crucial: laying down stone pathways, planting long-lasting herb and flower gardens, mowing a group of winding trails through a wild field of young saplings and tall grass, photography, drawing, painting, sculpting and writing… creating anything that can potentially last for decades or more, can sometimes be as therapeutic as medicines.
  • Concentrating on future dates, that may or may not have significant meanings to you: for instance, I once focused on surviving until 1999, then I focused on surviving until 2005, then it was 2012, now it is 2022…

Field Trails. Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

Entrance to the Kitchen Garden. Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

The kitchen Garden was a long thought-out project for us that took years to finally get around to doing. We were working so hard on research and development of the Okapi Fan Control Systems, that landscaping around our home became low on the priority list.

However, this year, we found the time and energy and the results were fantastic! The whole area of the kitchen garden used to be just overgrown and unused, (except sometimes as a naughty-dog toilet!). I dug up the 6 inch deep sod, turned the soil, laid out where the paths and planting areas should be. We gathered the river-stones from my parent’s riverside farmland, Julian laid the gravel around them (raked up from an abandoned portion of our old driveway) and he inset the wood-stumps.

I like to sit in the middle of our new garden and think about the years that led up to this accomplishment.

Kitchen Garden's First Year. Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

Most of the perennials we grew from seed or transplant this year. The mint patch and chives are old transplants from a friend’s garden. They took off this year after some serious weeding and care. I have some mint harvesting and preservation to do! The sage, thyme, oregano and basil started indoors from seed, and now they have already filled out their plots. (I use them every day in my morning eggs!) I then planted: carrots, rainbow chard, lettuce, spinach, kale, yellow beans and bell-peppers from seed. From the local greenhouse nursery we got the seedling cabbage and tomato plants. I also made a border around the outside of the kitchen garden and planted a wild-flower mixture of seeds.

Gardening is good for the soul. It gives purpose, on top of the many purposes we already have in life. Gardens give you something to look at and check on every day, and if you look closely enough, you really do see them growing. I find this extremely rewarding and reviving: much better than TV.

Growing up on a farm, we had giant gardens every year. Now that I finally have my own, it feels like one of my life’s top accomplishments.

And, I am excited to expand and add more garden plots next year!

That very statement above is proof recovery from severe depression is possible. It does take time, and it is possible!

Blue Flowers are Special. Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc

Three very special and blue family-members: my grandfather, his son (my uncle) and my cousin all died from depression.

I hope to never see another family member succumb to this disease. But like cancer, sometimes, despite the healthiest of lifestyles and the best treatments available, the patient still doesn’t survive depression.

And it’s never their fault.

We also do not fully understand the causes of depression, but we know for certain they have a huge basis in changes that occur in the chemical and structural make-up of the brain and body. There are many quite valid and supported theories that depression can be caused by short-term and long term infections, malnutrition, exposure to toxins, epigenetic changes resulting from short-term and long-term traumas both internal and environmental, inherited genetics, hormonal imbalances, many concurrent diseases and other yet-to-be fully understood causes of physical changes that affect mood, cognition, behavior, sensations…. Depression is much more than just a “mental-health” condition.

In the words of my grandfather, a practicing medical doctor, whom I never had the chance to meet:

“In the future, we will discover that behind many mental disorders are actual physical causes, that will someday be treatable.” – 1970’s, Thomas C. Donald, M.D., who died from depression.

So, never give up! The breakthroughs over the past many decades we have already made in many forms of treatment have been incredible! Every year we discover new and clever ways of helping those in need discover how they can become a healed and revived person.

If you are feeling blue, consider trying to live green.

Take a few simple steps toward this nice color. You may find it helps, just a little.

Have You Found Your Purpose? Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

There are a million ways to get greener.  It can be as simple as shopping consciously, using reusable bags, less plastic, creating less waste, using less electricity or heating fuels, driving less, buying local produce or growing your own, going for hikes and appreciating nature, or helping educate others about unique ways of getting more grounded, more in touch with the earth beneath our feet.

Live as is there is a tomorrow...because there is a tomorrow. Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

Green living certainly isn’t a cure for severe depression,

but is can definitely nurture a nature for health and happiness.

Live Green, Live Well. Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc.

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.

Kejimkujic Birthday

Image

I just celebrated my birthday last weekend. It was fantastic. We went to Kejimkujic National Park, in southern Nova Scotia and hiked 5 of their 10 short trails in one day. They were beautiful. Each one. No, I mean: each tree, each leaf, each rock, each stream, each river was beautiful. The fall season is by far my favorite. And every birthday I make it a point to get out for a hike.
I was like this as a kid with my birthdays too. I had a simple formatted request for every one: a walk in the woods and mom’s home-made dinner of fried-chicken, potato salad and pumpkin pie. She never failed at delivering this. I was so spoiled. Truly. How many millions of kids in North America get to go for a walk through the woods, and wander over old farmstead pastures for their birthday? Not many, I bet.
Some just don’t have that available to them. Too many are trapped by concrete.
This past week an article in the BBC news talked about the fact that many kids are too disconnected from nature. That they do not get enough exposure to it, and that there is a strange growing idea that nature is dirty and unpleasant. Stepping off the pavement is a strange and creepy thing to some kids. This is terrible. (“Just one in five children connected to nature, says study” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24532638)
So I write to encourage you and your family to get out for a hike. Get into the fields and woods and go explore! You can fear the dangers of scratches and bug-bites and tick-born illnesses, or you can fear being mugged and run over at a street-corner. But if you take the right precautions, none of these fears are legitimate.
Live a life with nature, and you will be happy. Live a life without nature, and you have not lived.