Monday, April 9, 2012

Software Geek to Hardware Junkie

Hello, my name is Arlene and I have a new addiction...
I have been addicted to fabric stores for years, but I have been resourceful and turned that into an asset. I search out great deals on fabric and patterns and then resell my finds on eBay. Here are some of my symptoms: it is extremely difficult for me to drive past a fabric store, when I open my mailbox and see a fabric store flier my pulse quickens, every Saturday night after midnight, I go to the Hobby Lobby web site to see if they have patterns on sale the upcoming week. Yes, it is a long standing addiction. But this weekend I discovered a new vice. Alan and I were out to lunch at our favorite diner and I picked up the local community paper to see if there were any garage sales where I could pick up some canning jars. As I opened the paper, a Menard's flier fell into my lap and all the sudden I felt my pulse quicken as if it were a sale ad for JoAnn's Fabric.

My excitement over this sales ad for a home improvement store made me realize this was not the first time I felt the lure of hardware this week. First, there was our 450 mile trip to Lehman's Hardware in Kidron, Ohio (see my last post). The fact that I spent an enjoyable 5 hours (and a lot of money) there the first day, returned a second day for another 1 1/2 hours and then a third day for just a few more items, should have been an indication of my growing infatuation. Then this weekend, I went to Harbor Freight with Alan. Now I have gone there with him in the past, but it was strictly that - walking inside the store with him and looking around while he picked up what he needed. But oh, this trip was different. First, as he was browsing the Harbor Freight web site the day before the big sale making up his wish list I was asking him if he had this, that and another thing on his list. Yes, before I knew it, I was browsing the same web site on my computer and creating my own wish list for the next day. But it's fine, I can stop whenever I want...

Early the next morning, we enter Harbor Freight and we each grab a cart. The first item on my list, the greenhouse pictured here. While I may use it as a greenhouse at some point, I have learned you can use one as a solar food dehydrator. An RV style refrigerator with a freezer could run off the 12V system we will have in the house, but we do not want to be bogged down with trying to maintain enough solar charged batteries to keep it operating 24/7, or that much LP fuel to keep it running. While you can get propane refrigerators with freezers we opted for a fridge only version. Adding a small freezer almost doubled the amount of propane consumption. Having a goal of self-reliance and no practical power source to operate a freezer, has me researching canning and dehydrating solutions. I am compiling recipes into a 'want to try' list and will start a second tab on this blog when I have verified some that are 'keepers'.

Our best deal at Harbor Freight was our first solar panel kit. We have been evaluating different options, and went there with the intention of buying a single, inexpensive solar panel we could set up to charge some gel cells to power our AT&T cell service and a wireless IP camera. We will use these to check on the house when we are not there. Plus, this set-up will be our initial internet connection while we are down there periodically working on the house. We found a solar panel kit that included three solar panels and some other parts we will need that was on sale. We had a coupon for 25% off any one item. With the coupon, the three panel kit was less than what two of the single panels would normally be so we went with kit. Although we only need the one panel immediately, we will be adding in the others in a short time.

Oh, by the way, I just took a break while writing this because Alan had to run to Radio Shack and asked if I wanted to go along. Lowes is in the same shopping plaza as the Shack so I said yes, as long as we could go to Lowes afterwards. Really, I can stop any time I want...

Today's questions at the end of my blog:
1. What is the current learning curve project? Solar panels. There are two main types of solar panels: Crystalline and Thin Film (amorphous). Crystalline are the most efficient, and produce the most power. Crystalline come in two types: Mono and Poly. Monocrystalline are the most efficient, and the most expensive. Thin Film, better known as 'amorphous', are the cheapest type of panels, the Harbor Freight panels we just bought are amorphous. This type of panel are very inefficient, but they have three features that should be considered: they take outside heat from the sun and weather very well, they are an inexpensive way to get started and learn about solar power, and, most important, in less than bright sunlight (cloudy days), they keep chugging putting out power when both types of crystalline panels would shut down. If you have no problems with shade or frequent cloudy days, crystalline panels would produce more power for you in a smaller area. Many people are experimenting with an array of panels of mixed types. I'll post more on this topic when we start to play with it.

2. What is the current fun project distracting me from the learning curve project? Canning. I have been doing a lot of research on how to can and what can be canned. My list of 'need to try items' includes meatloaf, bacon and cheese. Those are three separate projects, not all together. But on second thought, canned cheesy bacon meatloaf does sound good. I am also on a quest to find cheap/free canning jars. Hint to my children: Mother's Day is coming and you can buy canning jars on the Ace Hardware web site and have them delivered to a local store for free. Yes, I was shopping on the Ace Hardware web site but really, I can stop any time I want...

1 comment:

  1. Love this :) So funny--I have the same quickening-of-the-pulse sensation when I open the mailbox to a new weekly sales flier to Pick N' Save, or when I flip through the Sunday paper coupons.... I love those green houses. I want to get one, but to put my plants in.