"Technology has given us the ability to make electrical power anywhere, on any rooftop or in any backyard," said Richard Perez, the publisher of Home Power. Perez, who was Tuesday's main guest, has been living off the grid since 1970, in a remote mountainous area in Oregon.
The current power grid is an overtaxed and aging system he pointed out. Rather than sink more money into it, he argued for the use of home power through solar panels. These panels, either mounted on a roof or the ground, produce energy through their photovoltaic cells that is stored in large batteries. Interestingly, when the batteries reach capacity, the power can be fed back into the standard electrical grid, and a residents' electric meter will actually spin backwards, Perez explained. Another bonus of this situation, he said, is that the excess power can be distributed locally to neighbor's homes, alleviating the expensive process of sending electricity long distances along power lines.
While not everyone may be ready to convert to solar power, Perez advocated for more efficient usage of home appliances. For instance, he pointed out if your refrigerator is more than five years old, a newer one would use up only half as much energy, because of the Energy Star regulations that have gone into effect on newer models. Incandescent light bulbs can be replaced by compact fluorescent bulbs which burn cooler and have a far longer life span, he noted. Perez also discussed "phantom loads," i.e. electronic devices with remote controls that are always on, thus sucking up small amounts of power. While the cost per household is small, on a grand scale across America, if these were turned off when not being used "we could eliminate 4-6 coal plants," he said. He suggested plugging such items into a power strip that could be conveniently turned off when not in use.
Dry it Yourself
Before there was frozen pizza and canned peaches, there was dried food. In fact drying has been for thousands of years the main method of food preservation. Tonight's guest, Richard Perez has posted an article by Dennis Scanlin on his website, that details how to use and construct a Solar Food Dryer. By lowering the moisture content in food, spoilage is prevented and flavor and nutrition are to some degree preserved. Just about any food source can be dried, and once completed they tend to take up less weight and bulk than other storage methods.
The way the food is dried is affected by temperature, humidity and air flow. Temperatures used vary depending on the item, with higher temperatures drying faster. The Solar Dryer costs about a $150 to make and uses such basic materials as plywood, stainless steel, and aluminum. This outdoor contraption operates by natural convection, and can for instance, dry 7-10 lbs. of thinly sliced fruit or veggies in one to two sunny days.
In the first hour of Tuesday's show Teacher Scott Rubins and Evan Shapiro of Court TV's Forensic Curriculum discussed the increased interest in the study and practice of forensic science. When a caller phoned in from death row to ask the guests about DNA profiling, Shapiro and Rubins noted that it's an interesting phenomenon to watch science catch up with evidence, as it's done in recent years.