People are using recycled laptop batteries to power their homes

August 23, 2017 by  
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Why spend thousands of dollars on a Tesla Powerwall when you could build your own – for a fraction of the cost? This is a question many alternative energy enthusiasts have asked, and it is ultimately what has led hundreds of people to develop their own versions using recycled laptop batteries. Now that plans for DIY Powerwalls are being shared for free online, several people have created rigs capable of storing far more energy than the Tesla version. On Facebook , YouTube and in forums , people are learning how to safely create their own DIY versions that cost much less than a Tesla Powerwall. One of the most popular powerwall builders is Jehu Garcia . He told Vice, “It’s the future. It’s clean, simple, efficient and powerful.” Joe Williams , another DIY powerwall enthusiast, added ”The end result is being able to rely on something I not only built myself but understand the ins and outs of to power some or all of my electricity in my home. That is inspiring.” There are several DIY versions capable of storing more energy than Tesla’s Powerwall. On the French forum  Diypowerwalls.com , user Glubux said his powerwall can store 28 kWh of energy. “I run all the house with it, in fact I even bought an electric oven and induction cooking plate to use the extra energy during summer,” they said. Australian YouTuber Peter Matthews claims he has created a gigantic battery that can store 40 kWh of energy. Reportedly, it harvests power from over 40 solar panels on Matthews’ roof and stores nearly enough power for his home’s electricity needs. “The only things I don’t run are the big air conditioners and the water heating system,” he said. The alternative energy aficionado created DIYpowerwalls as well as the most popular powerwall Facebook group . Related: Mercedes takes on the Tesla Powerwall with a new battery for buildings Most of the powerwall hobbyists recommend using 18650 lithium-ion batteries for their projects. The batteries are usually encased in a colorful plastic and can be found inside electronics, such as laptops. If sourced online or from a computer store, the batteries will cost more than $5 a piece. If obtained second-hand, from old Dell, HP, Lenovo and LG laptops, it’s possible to save hundreds — if not thousands — of dollars on the project. Of course, one might meet challenges collecting the batteries , as tech companies frown upon their creative repurposing. A positive effect of the DIY powerwall trend is that it reduces waste . According to Carl E. Smith, the CEO and president of  Call2Recycle , approximately 95 percent of consumer batteries which are sold in the US are not recycled and are ultimately thrown away. ”Virtually all batteries can be recycled into valuable secondary products which is the biggest reason why they should not be landfilled and should be recycled instead,” he said. Though it can be time-consuming to source the used batteries, it’s a worthwhile investment according to DIY powerwall enthusiasts. And, if one carefully follows instructions when building their own version (such as those that follow), the risk of burning down one’s house is minimized. Ultimately, there is a risk associated with creating your own energy storage device, but the trend can’t be ignored as it grows in popularity. Via Motherboard Vice Images via  Daniel Römer ,  Jehu Garcia ,  Glubux

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People are using recycled laptop batteries to power their homes

This DIY trellis doubles as a lush private oasis with seating

August 22, 2017 by  
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Looking for ways to spruce up your yard with some nifty DIY outdoor furniture ? This wooden trellis, built by Notcot ‘s Jean Aw and Shawn Sims, is a head-turning project that combines a vine-supporting exterior structure with a cozy wooden bench on the inside. From one side, its a beautiful yard feature that hosts lush greenery, but from the other side, it is the perfect cozy spot for entertaining and relaxing. The trellis doesn’t function only as support for beautiful passion flowers, but also doubles as a private nook with an L-shaped wooden bench . The couple wanted to create a private space for their back yard that’s comfortable to lounge on. They paired it with smaller coffee tables, transforming it into a multifunctional space where they can relax, dine or work. Related: This pallet-based patio proves that even renters can have stylishly-remodeled spaces Passion flower vines growing up the wooden structure acts as camouflage that hides the seating area, turning it into a lush, private oasis. The structure is sturdy enough to withstand the elements. Head on over to Notcot to see how it was done. Via Notcot

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This DIY trellis doubles as a lush private oasis with seating

You can build one of these tiny backyard offices in less a week for under $7000

August 17, 2017 by  
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Austin-based Sett Studio designs tiny offices that take conventional workspaces to task. These micro-offices can be used for a variety of applications – and they can be set up in no time for an affordable price. The firm’s newest design, named NOVI, is perfect for those looking for a mobile outdoor workspace – and the DIY version can be built for just $6800. As the tiny living concept is gaining in popularity, an increasing number of people are taking that idea to the office with  flexible spaces that bring them closer to nature. This year, Sett Studio is launching a new concept that weds their award-winning contemporary design with an affordable price. The NOVI DIY can be built by anyone with little to no construction experience. The firm provides full sets of instructions on how to assemble the unit. Related: Tiny workplace on wheels can make each day at the office different! Users can choose to built the structure themselves or hire a contractor. Sett Studio can build the entire project on side and have the unit completed in under a week. The DIY unit costs $6800 and is currently available only in Austin , Texas. + Sett Studio

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You can build one of these tiny backyard offices in less a week for under $7000

Revolutionary glass building blocks generate their own solar energy

August 17, 2017 by  
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There’s a new building block in town, and it generates its own clean energy. Researchers from Exeter University developed new glass blocks that are embedded with small solar cells . Not only do the blocks generate energy, but they also provide thermal insulation and allow natural light to enter buildings. Called Solar Squared, the blocks are embedded during the manufacturing process with an array of optical elements that focus sunlight on tiny solar cells . The blocks are made to ensure maximum solar absorption, even in tricky urban areas. “The modular design is completely scalable, and allows for seamless architectural integration,” according to an Exeter press release . “The streamlined nature of the technology enables it to be embedded in conventional construction materials, meaning that its applications are myriad.” Professor Tapas Mallick and Dr Hasan Baig, along with IIB Research Commercialization Manager Jim Williams, hope their patent-pending design will revolutionize the construction industry . Related: Tesla’s new solar roof is actually cheaper than a regular roof “Deployment of standard solar technology is limited by the large area requirement and the negative visual impact,” said Dr Baig from the Environment and Sustainability Institute in Cornwall. “We wanted to overcome these limitations by introducing technologies that become a part of the building’s envelope. We now have the capability to build integrated, affordable, efficient, and attractive solar technologies as part of the building’s architecture, in places where energy demand is highest, whilst having minimal impact on the landscape and on quality of life.” There are challenges, though. Dr Baig says it’s difficult to communicate how the building product serves a dual purpose, and that expectations of price should reflect the same. “People tend to make comparisons with standard solar panels found on roof tops but it’s necessary to also include the value of the underlying building material in order to quantify the value proposition.” For this reason, the group aims to ensure that Solar Squared will cost less than conventional glass blocks with the added cost of electricity . They are currently seeking test sites and investors – in case you know someone who can take this to the next level. + Solar Squared, Exeter University Via New Atlas

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Revolutionary glass building blocks generate their own solar energy

Prototype 9 is a retro electric roadster with the Nissan Leaf’s heart

August 17, 2017 by  
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Infiniti is bringing us back to the 1940s with its Prototype 9 roadster, which is set to debut this month at the 2017 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. On the outside the Prototype 9 is a sexy retro concept – but under the skin it’s all about the future, since it’s powered by the next-generation Nissan Leaf’s electric powertrain. “Prototype 9 celebrates the tradition of ingenuity, craftsmanship and passion of our forebears at Nissan Motor Corporation, on whose shoulders we stand today,” stated Alfonso Albaisa, Senior Vice President, Global Design. “It started as a discussion: What if Infiniti had created a race car in the 1940s? If one were to imagine an open-wheeled Infiniti racer on the famous circuits of the era, such as Japan’s Tamagawa Speedway, what would that look like?” Related: Why the new Nissan Leaf won’t need a brake pedal The Prototype 9 is powered by Nissan’s new EV powertrain, which mates a 30 kWh battery with a prototype electric motor. The electric motor generates 148 hp and drives the rear wheels via a single-speed transmission. The Prototype 9 has a top speed of 105.6 mph, and reaches 62 mph in 5.5 seconds. It also has a maximum EV range of 20 minutes if you drive it really hard on a track. While the Prototype 9 is going to debut later this month, we won’t have to wait too long to see the next-generation Nissan Leaf. The 2018 Nissan Leaf is scheduled to debut on September 5. Images @Infiniti + Infiniti

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Prototype 9 is a retro electric roadster with the Nissan Leaf’s heart

The devastating reason Mumbai dogs are turning blue

August 17, 2017 by  
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Lately, blue stray dogs have been spotted running around Navi Mumbai, India , and it’s no laughing matter. Inadequate waste treatment at a local river has allowed dye to leach into the water, turning dogs who wade in a bright blue color. To add to the concern, the pollution is likely harming fish and birds who rely on the water resource. Residents began noticing blue dogs roaming the streets and were prompted to bring a complaint to the local authorities, asking that the water pollution be controlled. “It was shocking to see how the dog’s white fur had turned completely blue,” said Arati Chauhan , who runs the Navi Mumbai Animal Protection Cell. Related: What’s the deal with this green cat? According to the Hindustan Times , “the levels of biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) — the concentration of oxygen required to sustain aquatic life — was 80 milligram a litre (mg/L). Levels of chloride, which is toxic, harms vegetation, aquatic life and wildlife, were also high. “Allowing the discharge of dye into any water body is illegal. We will take action against the polluters as they are destroying the environment,” said Anil Mohekar of MPCB in Navi Mumbai. According to Arati Chauhan, she and others have been working with local authorities to assure that the problem is cleaned up and prevented in the future. Via the Hindustan Times and Boing Boing Images via Arati Chauhan/ Deepak Gharat

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The devastating reason Mumbai dogs are turning blue

4 DIY herbal remedies that take the sting out of pesky insect bites

August 7, 2017 by  
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We share the planet with many different species, and some of them bite or sting us on occasion. Mosquitoes , horse flies, fire ants, bedbugs, spiders, fleas, bees, and wasps can cause nasty reactions with their saliva or venom, but we don’t need to run to the drugstore to alleviate any potential reactions. Instead, we can enlist our plant allies and a few household ingredients to relieve the torment. Read on for a few DIY recipes that soothe insect bites without the nasty chemicals. When gathering wild plants for your herbal remedies, be sure to collect them from areas that haven’t been sprayed with pesticides and aren’t too close to active roadways. If you grow these plants yourself, try to avoid chemical fertilizers and just use compost to nourish them as they grow. 1. Plantain Poultice Plantain ( Plantago major ) is an invaluable plant for just about every type of insect bite or sting , and it grows so prolifically that you can undoubtedly find it somewhere near you. If you’re walking outside and you get bitten, look around to see if there’s some plantain growing nearby: just crush up or chew one of its leaves, and rub it all over the affected area for relief of both pain and itchiness. Alternately, if you have these extra ingredients at hand, you can make a poultice instead: What you’ll need and how to make it: 4-6 plantain leaves 1 teaspoon bentonite clay powder 1/2 teaspoon activated charcoal powder Fresh aloe vera gel Step 1: Chop the plantain leaves very finely. I mash mine in a mortar and pestle as well, but you can also put them through a food processor. Here’s a tip: if you have one of those Magic Bullet-style mini smoothie makers, they’re pretty much ideal for chopping up fresh herbs. Step 2: Cut a 3-inch piece off your handy aloe vera plant, and squish the gel out of it. Mix that, the bentonite powder, and the activated charcoal powder with the chopped plantain to create a thick paste. Step 3: Slather this paste on bite and surrounding area. It should alleviate the pain, as well as overall irritation, and both the bentonite and charcoal will draw the insect venom out of the bite. Which types of insect bites and stings will this help? Pretty much all of them. For spider bites specifically, add some crushed fresh yarrow leaves to the poultice, as this will help to draw out the venom. 2. Creosote-Infused Oil Leaves from the creosote bush ( Larrea tridentata ), also known as chaparral, can be used to create an infused oil for all kinds of insect bites, though it’s particularly well suited to fire ant bites and scorpion stings. What you’ll need and how to make it: Dried leaves from the creosote bush High-quality olive oil Clean, sterilized jar and lid I generally use the folk method for creating infused oil, so that’s what I’ll be describing below. If you’d be more comfortable using official ratios, then it’s 1 oz of dried leaves to 10 oz oil. Step 1: Fill your jar 1/2 full of dried leaves, then pour in olive oil to fill the jar almost to the top. Step 2: Use a chopstick to stir it well, then cap it with the lid. Place in a sunny spot and shake daily for 2-3 weeks. Step 3: Strain well through cheesecloth and a sieve into another clean jar. Decant into colored glass dropper bottles, and label with the name and date. Store these in a cool, dark place. When and if you get stung or bitten, apply a drop or two to the area. Which types of insect bites and stings will this help? Spider, kissing beetle, and mosquito bites, bee and scorpion stings, and those weird caterpillars that have hairs that’ll lodge in your skin and make you scream in pain. *Note: It’s best to avoid creosote if you’re pregnant or nursing. 3. Plantain Vinegar When you combine plantain with apple cider vinegar, you end up with an acidic tincture that neutralizes wasp sting venom surprisingly well. Note that this works for wasp stings, not bees: wasp venom is alkaline, which is why the acid in vinegar neutralizes it. What you’ll need and how to make it: Handful of plantain leaves Apple cider vinegar (you can also use white vinegar in a pinch) Clean, sterilized jar and lid Step 1: Gather some plantain leaves and rinse them well under running water. Step 2: Pat them dry, then chop them up and loosely fill a small, clean jelly jar 2/3 full of the chopped leaves. Step 3: Fill the jar all the way to the top with apple cider vinegar, and stir the contents gently with a chopstick or spoon handle to release any air bubbles. Close it up with a clean lid and store in a cool, dark place for 3-4 weeks, agitating the jar gently every day to draw out the plantain’s medicinal properties. Step 4: Once that time has passed, strain the liquid through a few layers of cheesecloth into a clean jar, or into amber dropper bottles. If you get stung by a wasp, use a cotton ball to apply this tincture to the affected area immediately, followed by ice to reduce any swelling. Alternate with the ice and vinegar for about 15 minutes, and keep applying the vinegar as needed to relieve pain and itchiness as it heals. If you get stung before this has a chance to cure, just apply plain apple cider vinegar. It won’t do as much for alleviating the pain and inflammation, but it’ll counteract the venom so you can heal more quickly. Which types of insect bites and stings will this help? Fire ant bites and wasp stings, as well as flea and bed bug bites. Related: DIY insect repellent lotions and sprays 4. Jewelweed or Calendula Salve Now, if you happen to have jewelweed growing in your area, you’re in luck. Also known as Touch-Me-Not, because if so so much as touch its seeds, they’ll go squirting off several feet away, Impatiens capensis is incredible for alleviating all kinds of skin irritations. In addition to neutralizing poison ivy reactions, the gel inside its stem will also soothe insect bites instantly. You can’t tincture this plant because it reacts badly with alcohol, but you can make a salve with a few simple ingredients. *Note: If you can’t get hold of jewelweed in your area, you can use calendula flowers instead. What you’ll need and how to make it: 3 cups fresh jewelweed stems and leaves (or calendula flowers), coarsely chopped 1 cup high-quality olive oil 3/4 cup beeswax or carnauba wax pastilles Tea tree, peppermint, and lavender essential oils Step 1: Chop the jewelweed coarsely and place in a small saucepot. Step 2: Cover it completely with your olive oil, and bring to a simmer. Keep simmering for about an hour, until the plant has softened and the oil has changed color. Remove from the heat and let it sit overnight. Step 3: Strain the oil into another, clean saucepot through several layers of cheesecloth or muslin lain inside a strainer. Use a metal spoon to squish all the oil out of it. Step 4: Warm this oil on low heat, add the wax pastilles, and stir gently. I use a small baking whisk for this, but you can also use a metal spoon. Step 5: Remove from the heat, then add 8 drops each of tea tree, peppermint, and lavender essential oils. Step 6: Pour the mixture into a small jar or tin, let set for 20-30 minutes, then refrigerate. This salve will stay good for up to a year if kept in the fridge. While calendula doesn’t have jewelweed’s itch-neutralizing properties, it’s a good all-purpose herb for alleviating skin irritation and inflammation. Which types of insect bites and stings will this help? All of them. Related: How to make your own herbal tinctures at home Remember that prevention really is the best medicine, and it’s good to take steps to avoid being bitten or stung. Spraying exposed skin with a diluted yarrow tincture is just as effective as DEET. (Follow the link above for a DIY tincture tutorial), and wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when you’re gardening or hiking in the woods can help to keep all kinds of bugs from biting you. It’s important to educate yourself about these plants before using any herbal remedies to make sure they don’t contraindicate with any medications you may be on, or trigger any allergies you may have. For example, people who are allergic to chamomile may also be allergic to other flowers in the Asteraceae family, such as the calendula listed above, or arnica. If you have any nervousness about using these remedies, talk to your healthcare provider or a local herbalist for advice, and then try a small test on your skin to see if you’ll react badly to the salve or poultice. Images via Unsplash and Wikimedia Creative Commons, and by the author

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Hydra-Light lantern doesn’t need a batteryjust saltwater

August 7, 2017 by  
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Hail, Hydra…Light? You too might be singing this portable lighting product’s praises if you find yourself off the grid without a battery to your name. Designed with campers, boaters, and outdoor revelers in mind, Hydra-Light’s range of flashlights, lanterns, and energy cells harness salt and water as its power source. Several models even come with a USB port, so you can juice up your cellphone or smart device at the same time. Each Hydra-Light features an energy cell that comprises a carbon-based membrane and a replaceable metal-alloy cylinder known as a PowerRod. When an electrolyte like saltwater—or just regular table salt and water—is added to the mix, the two elements react to generate a current. Related: Light-powered device can purify air and generate clean energy This reaction continues until the PowerRod is exhausted to a sliver, leaving only “harmless mineral sediment” behind, per the Australia-based manufacturer. “When the rod has become very thin, it is removed and a new one is inserted—which takes just seconds—making the cell like new and ready to continue generating power,” Hydra-Light said. “All that’s needed during the lifetime of each PowerRod is a periodic rinsing out of the mineral sediment and refilling with fresh saltwater. Unlike conventional batteries, the power output remains constant and does not decline over the lifetime of the rods.” Hydra-Light claims that a single PowerRod provides more than 250 hours of continuous power, which is equal to the output of about 85 standard AA batteries but at a “fraction of the cost.” (Each Hydra-Light product includes a preinstalled PowerRod.) It’s still salad days for the company yet, but the technology is nothing if not promising. For the 1.3 billion people around the world who live without electricity, Hydra-Light could prove life-changing. For the rest of us, it’s several more sets of single-use batteries we don’t have to toss out. Americans purchase—and presumably dispose of—more than 3 billion dry cell batteries every year to power our various gadgets and gizmos, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency . Hail, Hydra-Light indeed. + Hydra-Light [Via Digital Trends ]

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Hydra-Light lantern doesn’t need a batteryjust saltwater

Gorgeous solar-powered greenhouse home in Sweden hits the market

August 7, 2017 by  
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If you’re looking for a gorgeous home surrounded by an idyllic landscape, this greenhouse hybrid is currently on the market for a cool $864k. Located in Gothenburg, Sweden, the A-frame residence has three bedrooms and a large, daylit greenhouse tacked on to one side. Equipped with various energy-efficient features and solar panels , the space is the epitome of green luxury living. The home itself has a beautiful interior design with white walls and polished concrete floors that create an open and airy living space. The latter, kitchen, three bedrooms and bathrooms are spread over the first two floors. However, the star of the home is located on the top floor – a massive attic space clad entirely in glass panels with exposed wooden beams, where residents enjoy stunning views of the surrounding landscape. Related: Giant greenhouse in Rotterdam doubles as a light-filled family home The new tenants won’t have far to go to the garden thanks to the massive greenhouse attached to the home. Surrounded by floor-to-ceiling glass panels and exposed wooden beams, the greenhouse was designed to provide a perfect climate for growing a variety of fruits and veggies year-round. The affixed greenhouse is more than just a fun gardening space, however. The home’s living area benefits substantially from having the insulation provided by the light-filled space, which helps keep it warm during frigid Swedish winters. It also reduces energy usage and costs throughout the year. + Eklund Stockholm New York Via Dwell Images via Eklund Stockholm New York

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Gorgeous solar-powered greenhouse home in Sweden hits the market

Fully-furnished shipping containers form unique prefab hotel in Manchester

August 7, 2017 by  
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Architecture firm Chapman Taylor unveiled images of the recently completed Holiday Inn Express at Manchester’s Trafford City – the first hotel in the North West to be built using a special type of volumetric modular construction based on steel shipping containers . The hotel was built off-site, as separate modules, and assembled on-site in under a month. The architects worked with the main contractor, Bowmer & Kirkland, to develop a detailed design of the hotel with a focus on exploring modular options. Related: This shipping container hotel is so cool you’ll forget its a shipping container All 220 guest rooms were completed before off-site, and include interior furniture, fixtures and fittings, carpets, curtains, wallpaper and floor-to-ceiling windows . A team of workers then stacked the first 125 modules on a podium structure upon their arrival at Trafford City – in less than one month. The use of a comprehensive BIM model helped inform the detailed design and enable off-site fabrication. Every container features a vapor control layer and pre-finished rain-screen cladding that make them watertight. + Chapman Taylor Via World Architecture News

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Fully-furnished shipping containers form unique prefab hotel in Manchester

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