We have been off grid for 5 years. We installed our own off grid power system, and designed our own wind turbine. We have produced biodiesel and converted diesel engines to run on Veggie Oil.
My background is computers and electronics for over 20 years. We are offering a new service, personal one on one support, in solar and wind, off grid power systems, battery care, inverter and charger help, and other off grid topics, including off grid internet options. Try it out for free for the first ten minutes on us. No obligations, no upfront fees, no hidden fees, We want to help you become more self sufficient. If you want to continue after 10 minutes, or schedule additional sessions, we charge $1/ minute, with a money back guarantee if you are not happy with our advice.
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Today, more than 93% of American homes have smoke detectors installed. Since the mid 1960’s these safety devices have proven to be reliable and effective. Recently, however, the concern has risen about the safety of smoke detectors due to the potential of radiation exposure.
Not all smoke detectors contain radiation. There are essentially two types of smoke detectors – ionic chamber and photoelectric. While both contain circuit boards, wiring and batteries, only ionic chamber smoke detectors contain radiation (we’ll talk more about photoelectric later on).
The ionic chamber smoke detector is the most popular choice with American homeowners. They’re inexpensive and considered more effective at detecting smaller amounts of smoke produced by flaming fires.
This type of smoke detector works by using a radioactive material called americium (Am-241) to sense smoke particles. The amount of Am-241 is very small (<35kBq). To put it in perspective, 1 gram of Am-241 provides enough material for 5000 residential smoke detectors. Before we look at Am-241’s purpose, let’s take a look at what exactly Am-241 is and its’ potential health hazards.
Am-241 is a silvery metal that tarnishes slowly in air and is soluble in acid. It has a half life of 432 years and emits alpha rays. In an ionic smoke detector, Am-241 is used in the form of a foil.
Am-241 was discovered in 1945 during the Manhattan Project. According to the Uranium Information Center, the first sample of americium was produced by bombarding plutonium with neutrons in a nuclear reactor at the University of Chicago.
As previously mentioned, Am-241 emits alpha rays. Alpha particles are large – so large that they have trouble penetrating matter such as a sheet of paper or the human body. If alpha particles are ingested or inhaled, however, they can do significant internal damage including cancer. Fortunately, the Am-241 in an ionic smoke detector is protected in a ceramic chamber located within a larger, tamper-proof aluminum chamber. If left undisturbed, the danger of inhalation exposure is negligible.
So, now the question is: How does Am-241 detect smoke particles? Inside the chamber, alpha radiation ionizes the air. A low electric voltage (supplied by a 9Vbattery or 120V household current) is applied across the chamber creating a current that flows through the ionized air. When smoke particles enter the chamber they neutralize the ions. This in turn alters the current resulting in an alarm.
It appears that as long as the ceramic chamber containing the Am-241 is left undisturbed, an ionic smoke detector poses minimal risk to your health. This of course includes keeping old detectors away from children who express the natural curiosity to see how things work.
Another issue arises when it comes time to dispose and replace (suggested replacement is every 10 years) your smoke detectors. What do you do with your discarded unit? The status quo has been to discard them with household trash. Most cities and county officials are becoming alarmed at the sheer number of smoke detectors gathering in local landfills. They are calling upon individuals to take it upon themselves to act responsibly and discard of them properly which includes sending them back to the manufacturer for proper disposal.
At the end of this piece, you will find a list of manufacturers with addresses and/or phone numbers. It is the law that any manufacturer of smoke detectors is required to take back discarded units. You can usually find return instructions in your user’s manual or warranty. If you don’t have this information, contact the manufacturer and ask what their policy is. Typically, you can return used smoke detectors by sending them back via ground or parcel post and labeling box “for disposal”.
Another alternative is to contact your local Waste Management office and find out when the next hazardous waste round-up will occur. (Your city hall should also have the information) At one of these events, you can dispose of not only your old smoke detectors but your old paint, chemicals and other hazardous waste.
Now that you’ve discarded your old detectors, it’s time to replace them with new ones. Here you may decide to stick with the ionic chamber detectors, or consider trying a photoelectric model.
A photoelectric smoke detector uses a light and a sensor (positioned at a 90 degree angle to one another) to detect smoke (picture the letter T with light shooting across the top and the sensor down at the bottom). Under normal circumstances, the light passes straight through. Once smoke enters the chamber, the smoke fills both parts of the T and the light is scattered forcing some of it down the chamber and tripping the sensor which then triggers the alarm. No radiation is used. This type of detector is best at sensing smokey fires such as a smoldering mattress.
Whatever model you choose – just be sure have it installed correctly, keep it clean (vacuum occasionally to remove dust and NEVER paint over a detector) and do monthly tests to make sure it’s functioning and the battery still has juice. Smoke detectors, when installed, removed and disposed of properly are safe, life-saving devices.
At the Enviro Week show in St. Maarten, we met Bruno Therond and his water makers. He kept us hydrated all weekend with these awesome machines:
The Air/Water Generator (AWG) Technology condenses moisture in the air “water from the atmosphere” and purify it into a superior grade of purified, potable water. While the principle & technology is well known as a refrigerated dehumidifier the application to AWGs are fairly new and the water collected is purified and stored instead of being disposed off.
The key challenge is to keep the clean drinking water purified until consumption.
The water produced remain purified through an elaborate system using 5 stages of filtration including ultra violet light to ensure complete sterilization of all water born bacteria.
These environmentally friendly, low voltage, chemical free, 100% independent automatic water supply can provide from 24 to 5000 liters of water per day for drinking water and additional purposes & water needs, (irrigation, cisterns, animals, etc.)
There is no connection to any water supply what so ever, no bottles to be delivered, no pipes.
The purified water quality is free of chemicals, chlorine, chalk or any other preservative agents.
It is a dehumidifier.
It also recycles and cleans the air you breathe.
It’s getting rough out there economically. Times are getting harder, and a primary way to ease the crunch is to use less, and use what you need more efficiently. We have gone on a hunt to wring out the best efficiency we can out of our appliances and usage habits, and share some of these tips with you. We have put together a free guide to help you in the areas of water, electric, fuel and other areas of consumption we think will be helpful.
We have produced a DIY guide to home energy conservation and efficiency. Learn how to save hundreds per month in heating, cooling, transportation and electric bills. We live off grid, and produce our own food, fuel and energy, from heat to electricity. This is no joke. You will save money if you implement these tips. Living green does not have to cost money, it can save money. In these harsh economic times, measures need to be taken to reduce operating expenditures, and reduce resource depletion. We have done it, and we are sharing. We ask for a $10 donation, but the guide is yours regardless. You can download it from the files section of the discussion group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/resource_conservation/.
We recently obtained a new shower head. Now I know it’s hard to get excited about a shower head, but when you find a good one, a good shower is the only way to start the day. This particular unit saves on water (save more by showering with a friend), yet still provides a wonderful water soaking experience. Good flow, good pressure, and very invigorating. It has 5 water settings, and is direction adjustable.
Read more about the Monarch Maximum Flow Eco-Friendly Showerhead at http://www.greenandmore.com/eco-friendly-standard-spray-showerheads.html?itemId=844