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Pioneers show Americans how to live “off-grid”

from Reuters

By Tim Gaynor

BISBEE, Ariz (Reuters) – With energy prices going through the roof, an alternative lifestyle powered by solar panels and wind turbines has suddenly become more appealing to some. For architect Todd Bogatay, it has been reality for years.

When he bought this breezy patch of scrub-covered mountaintop with views to Mexico more than two decades ago, he was one of only a few Americans with an interest in wind- and solar-powered homes.

Now, Bogatay is surrounded by 15 neighbors who, like him, live off the electricity grid, with power from solar panels and wind turbines that he either built or helped to install.

“People used to be attracted to living off-grid for largely environmental reasons, although that is now changing as energy prices rise,” he said, standing in blazing sunshine with a wind turbine thrashing the air like a weed whacker overhead.

Spry and energetic, Bogatay makes few sacrifices for his chosen lifestyle. He has a small, energy saving refrigerator, but otherwise his house is like any other, with satellite television and a computer with Internet service.

“Electric and gas are going to skyrocket very soon. There are going to be more reasons for doing it, economic reasons,” he said.

Bogatay and his neighbors at the 120-acre development are among a very small but fast-growing group of Americans opting to meet their own energy needs as power prices surge and home repossessions grow.

Once the domain of a few hardy pioneers, the dispersed movement is now attracting not just a few individuals and families, but institutions and developers building subdivisions that meet their own energy needs.

“It has its roots in 1970s hippy culture and survivalism, but it has now superseded that completely,” said Nick Rosen, a trend analyst and author of the book “How to Live Off-Grid.”

“Because of technology advancing … and because of high house and energy prices … there are a lot more people moving off grid.”

read more here..

Cleaning cat urine from carpets

from Cat World

If the urine is still wet, blot up as much as you can with paper towels. Stand on the paper towel to help absorb as much moisture as possible. There are many commercially available products on the market designed to remove & neutralize cat urine odour. Some of these products come in powder form, so can be easily vacuumed off, others are liquid (often as a spray), so once you have applied it, it can be dried with the aid of a hairdryer.

Old cat urine is a bigger problem as it begins to break down, it is this process which results in the offensive odour. If the urine has dried & you are having problems locating the soiled area use a blacklight. Turn out your lights & move the black light around the floor, walls & furnishings to help identify soiled areas. Cat urine will glow green. You should be able to purchase a blacklight from your hardware store, or pet store.

You may also want to try some home remedies. Blot up as much urine as you can with paper towels. Apply baking soda to the wet urine stain. This will draw out the urine. When the baking soda turns yellow from the urine, remove & apply some more. Repeat until the baking soda stays white. If possible, leave on the carpet overnight. The following day, vacuum it off.

White vinegar is a time tried and proven ingredient that aids in removing both urine stains and the odour. Combine one part distilled white vinegar to two parts warm water to create a spray. Remove as much urine/spray as you can using a paper towels. Mist vinegar spray over areas of cat urine and rub with a paper towel. An alternative method is to mix the solution in a bucket and dip a clean cloth into the liquid. Rub the stain with the vinegar solution. After the vinegar dries, wipe away both solution and stain with warm water.

Another simple to make spray uses 15 ounces of hydrogen peroxide, two tablespoons of baking soda, and two squirts of liquid hand soap. Mix in a plastic container with a plastic spoon. Discard after use. Apply this solution to cat urine stains or odour areas, and then rinse away with warm water.

Senate Debates Bill Aimed at Curbing Foreclosures

by Brian Naylor
From NPR

The Senate begins debate Thursday on a bipartisan measure to deal with the housing slump. The Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2008 aims to address the problems faced by families and their communities dealing with foreclosures. Unveiled Wednesday night, the package includes tax credits, grants and expanded federal programs.

“Obviously, for millions of people on Main Street who wonder whether or not the Congress is paying attention to their concerns, what’s happened to their homes, to their economic well-being, this effort that we’ve put into the last several days, I think, is a major step in the right direction of offering some real hope to people on Main Street,” said Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT). “It’s not the end of the road, but it’s a very strong beginning.”

The measure, ironed out behind closed doors, comes after lawmakers reported hearing from constituents that the government seemed more interested in helping Wall Street, as shown by the Federal Reserve’s $30 billion rescue of the investment bank Bear Sterns.

“We’re going to work in a bipartisan way to tell the American people that we have heard from you; we know there are housing problems as well as financial problems,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), a co-sponsor of the measure. “And this is going to be our first reaction to a lot of this. It will not, as Sen. Dodd said, be the end.”

The bill attempts to tackle the foreclosure crisis in a number of ways. It makes loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration more widely available, an issue Congress has been deadlocked over. It makes $4 billion available to communities to buy and rehabilitate foreclosed homes. It also gives tax credits of $7,000 for buying a foreclosed home. There are also tax credits aimed at homebuilders and other businesses hurt by the housing crisis, and funds for counseling. Returning soldiers would be given an additional six months before foreclosure proceedings could begin against them.

The measure is already being criticized for not going far enough. Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) says the measure may not be everything, but it will help: “I think it helps overall confidence, when people look at their elected officials and see them actually coming together to try to move something forward. Is it a magic bullet? No. Is it a cure-all? No. But is it a very strong and substantial step in the right direction? Absolutely.”

Senators will spend the next several days debating and trying to improve the bipartisan bill. Democrats will try to attach an amendment that was stripped from their original measure, to allow bankruptcy court judges to lower mortgage payments for homeowners facing foreclosure. That provision, opposed by the banking industry and the Bush administration, led to Senate Republicans blocking the housing bill in late February.

For now, most senators seem to be on the same page, largely because they can all tell tales similar to Sen. Bill Nelson’s (D-FL):

“Our people are hurting. There’s no doubt that the housing market in my state of Florida is in shambles. Florida home sales just last month were down 28 percent compared to this time last year.”

While the White House says it likes some of the provisions in the Senate bill, it says it has serious concerns that other provisions would hurt homeowners more than help them.

For more, go here.

What direction should my ceiling fan go in the winter?

In the 1880’s after the invention of electricity, the first ceiling fan was born and became the first real electrical appliance. Then in the late 1940’s with electricity at a super low cost and the air conditioning intro, ceiling fan needs some what disappeared.The rebirth of the ceiling fan occurred when energy costs began to rise at an uncomfortable rate in 1974. As these costs rose especially air conditioning prices, Americans began to search for alternate meathods of heating and cooling. This brought out the forward and reverse direction of the ceiling fan to increase efficiency during the winter and summer months.

In the Summer the Ceiling Fan should be rotating counter clockwise

The effects of a ceiling fan in the summer months are directly related to the well know wind chill factor. By producing a breeze or wind chill, a ceiling fans downward airflow can make a room with a thermostate setting of 78 degrees feel like 72 degrees. The actual thermostate in the room will not change, it does not cool the room, people in the room will feel the wind chill effect making them more comfortable.


This will save from 30% to 40% on air conditioning bills. So, make sure during summer months that your ceiling fans are rotating counter clockwise pushing the air down.

In the Winter the Ceiling Fan should be rotating clockwise

Ceiling fans are generally associated with warm weather usage. However, when a ceiling fan is in the reverse motion (winter mode), the upward flow of air will push the warmer air trapped at the ceiling back down to earth making your feet feel as warm as your neck. With out a ceiling fan pushing the warm trapped air the ceiling of a room would be 15 degrees warmer than on the floor.


To avoid wind chill in the winter warming the ceiling fans should stay on low speeds at all times. Remember that in the reverse direction the ceiling fan should be pushing the air upward.