Category high-powered vacuum tubes

Ignoring Murphy’s Law

If you think I’m just joking when I talk about Murphy’s Law, think again. I’ve been doing projects since I was 5. I’ve done easy ones, I’ve done hard ones. I’ve been in the linear particle accelerator at Stanford University working on projects with doctors and engineers who have fancy degrees and thousands of years’ worth of experience. Nothing ever goes the way it’s supposed to. Never.

Always remember: Measure twice, cut once. Then be prepared for anything, and always be patient. Every project involves art and science. The science part is usually obvious, and that’s what attracts most people. The art is in smiling when things go awry.

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Skipping the Groundwork

Strictly speaking, you don’t have to do an energy audit and take conservation steps before installing a solar system. But bypassing these processes violates the spirit of solar philosophy. Actually, I don’t really have to put this item in this list because you’re already an environmentalist, right?

Going with the Cheapest Bid Because It’s the Cheapest

Do I really need to elaborate? In case I do, let me just remind you that you get what you pay for. Cheap usually means more headaches, shoddy quality, and more money in the long run. Spend a little more money up front for quality equipment and better workmanship. In the end, you’ll be glad you did.

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Your Eyes Are Bigger Than Your Stomach

Any solar system that generates more energy than you use is a waste. You save nothing by using a solar system at less than its capacity. If you install a solar water heater that’s too big, you’ve wasted money. If you install an intertie system that’s too big, you get nothing for the excess power that you don’t use.

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Cheaping Out on Water Heater Systems

If you review the availability of solar water heater systems, you’ll find a large range of prices and performances, and you’ll discover that some systems don’t work very well in cold climates. If you’re in a climate where temperatures can drop below freezing, the pipes or the collector in some solar water heaters can burst (but the manufacturer will never tell you that).

Now picture this scenario: It took six men to lift the collector onto your roof, and this was after it took an hour to pull the thing out of its very large, very expensive packing crate that was delivered via truck because UPS doesn’t deliver anything that big. So now you need to get six men to lift it back down, repack it, and send it back to the factory for warranty repairs...

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Retying on Solar When You Rarefy See the Sun

If you’re in a cloudy, rainy, cold climate, and your utility rates are low, don’t install a PV system, no matter how much you want to jump on the bandwagon.

You can use your money to save the world in many other planet-friendly, more efficient ways. Install a geothermal system for heating and cooling. Put in a pellet stove and figure out how to work it perfectly. Give to Greenpeace.

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Going Out of Your Mind by Going Off-Grid

If you have a choice between going off-grid and installing a PV intertie system, do not go off-grid. The economics are horrible, in a relative sense. Off-grid systems use batteries, which are operational and waste nightmares. Plus, you can’t get a mortgage for an off-grid house.

Nevertheless, a movement is afoot to “go back to Mother Nature” by going off-grid. This movement would be better titled, “getting away from humanity while punching Mother Nature in the gut.”

You can save a heckuva lot more pollution by going intertie than off-grid in many ways. If you want to get away from humanity (I’m empathetic, believe me), go backpacking and remember to take biodegradable toilet paper...

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Opting for a Solar Swimming Pool Heater Rather Than a Solar Cover

Wait a minute, you’re thinking. This project was listed in the ten best solar projects chapter!

Exactly. Solar pool heaters are very expensive, and you don’t get any return on investment from them. They don’t last that long because sunshine and chlorine eat them up. They’re hard to maintain because they’re on your roof, and they leak everywhere when they break (not if they break, when they break).

And you know what? A solar pool cover is about 2 percent of the cost and works better. Plus, if you’ve got any sort of respect for Mother Nature, you don’t mind freezing cold water because that’s exactly the way she serves it up most of the time. So what’s a little cold water? Instead of getting out of bed in the morning and flipping on your coffee pot, jump into your freezing pool...

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Ten or So Worst Solar Mistakes

In This Chapter

^ Not seeing the forest for the trees ^ Leaping before you look ^ Measure once, cut twice — no three times

elieve it or not, you can abuse solar power. I don’t mean just by laying out naked in the sun for hours without sunscreen, but rather by installing ill-advised projects or not attending to the details as well as you should. For some of you, this chapter is a reminder of what not to do. For others, it’s a how-to seminar.

Installing Like Curly, Moe, and Larry

I watched a Three Stooges movie where Curly plugged a leak in a shower by connecting a pipe to it. Then the other end of the pipe leaked, so he connected another pipe to that. The other end of that pipe leaked, so he installed another pipe. Pretty soon, the bathroom was filled with pipes...

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