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How to Build a Homemade Portable Water Heater for Your Camping Adventures

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camping-by-ishikawa-ken-via-flickr

Mix one part necessity and one part ingenuity and the human brain can solve just about anything—or at the very least, make something that already exists even better.

Most of us would never think that the process by which we heat water can be improved upon and yet the technology responsible for doing just that is improving all the time (just take a look at the efficiencies afforded by the tankless water heater).

When it comes to the great outdoors and spending time within it with family and friends, creating the type of gadgets that will make the experience as comfortable as possible is big business—a statement that is indelibly supported by the proliferation of specialty stores that offer all the intelligently designed and diminutively built camping accessories that you’ll ever need.

And while you may be forced to shell out your hard-earned money on things like a compass or portable water filtration system (though to be fair, both of these items can be readily made in the wild by a knowledgeable outdoors person), you just might have it within yourself to build your very own portable water heater—meaning you’ll never need to go without a muscle soothing shower after an arduous hike ever again.

First Thing’s First—What Can You Buy?

For those who are roughing it, a solar shower bag is a relatively inexpensive way to heat water so that taking an outdoor shower does not become synonymous with some sort of inhumane cold-water torture.

How it works: A dark coloured bag (usually black so that it absorbs the greatest amount of solar energy) is fitted with a hose and nozzle. The sun heats the water, and gravity does the rest. On the whole, this product is easy to store and is lightweight (two things that go hand in hand with camping), but there are some drawbacks. The first, and it’s not much of one, is that it must be hung from a tree otherwise the user must hold the bag up while showering (making it very difficult to lather and rinse). The second issue is that it relies exclusively on the sun to heat the water—on cloudy days or if camping in thick bush, it will be near impossible to heat the water. No sun, no warm shower.

What You Can Build Yourself

The solar powered shower bag is a nifty idea, to be sure—but what if you could make something yourself that could not only use the sun’s solar energy to passively heat water, it could also be placed on a fire to heat water quickly? Surprisingly, you can—and while the solution may not offer the compatible qualities of a solar shower bag, it is much more versatile than a typical store bought portable water heater.

What You’ll Need

To create your own DIY portable water heater, you’ll need the following:

– Weed sprayer (made of metal, and NEW—don’t repurpose a used weed sprayer no matter how vigorously it’s been cleaned)
– 1/4” x 1/2” MPT fitting
– Proper shower hose
– Shower wand
– Trickle valve (to turn the water on and off)
– Low flow shower head (used to maximize the water supply)

Step 1: The tank. Again, it’s highly recommended that you purchase a new tank and one that is made of metal. If you can find one painted black, great; otherwise purchase a can of spray paint and paint it black so that it will absorb more of the sun’s solar energy.

Cut the weed sprayer’s existing hose, leaving about 1 inch (2.5cm).

Step 2: Assembly. Insert the MPT fitting (available at any hardware store) into the hose. This threaded piece will allow you to attach the shower hose. If you plan on heating the tank with a fire, it’s probably better that the shower hose be made of metal. Then:

– Attach the shower wand
– Trickle valve
– Shower head

That’s all there is to it. You now have a portable water heater/shower that you can take with you anywhere, one that can use both the energy from the sun and a fire to heat the water.

Even if you’d rather not place the tank directly on the fire, you can boil water using a separate receptacle then pour the hot water into the tank. For a nice warm shower, try to observe a 2 to 1 ratio—fill the tank up two thirds of the way with cold water, then add your hot water.

The long lose (a typical shower hose is about 5 feet long) allows you to place the tank on the ground, meaning you won’t need to rely on a tree to keep it aloft—and by pumping the tank to build pressure, you also won’t need to rely on gravity to make the water come out.

 

 

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Environment

Road Trip! How to Choose the Greenest Vehicle for Your Growing Family

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Greenest Vehicle
Licensed Image by Shutterstock - By Mascha Tace -- https://www.shutterstock.com/g/maschatace

When you have a growing family, it often feels like you’re in this weird bubble that exists outside of mainstream society. Whereas everyone else seemingly has stability, your family dynamic is continuously in flux. Having said that, is it even possible to buy an eco-friendly vehicle that’s also practical?

What to Look for in a Green, Family-Friendly Vehicle?

As a single person or young couple without kids, it’s pretty easy to buy a green vehicle. Almost every leading car brand has eco-friendly options these days and you can pick from any number of options. The only problem is that most of these models don’t work if you have kids.

Whether it’s a Prius or Smart car, most green vehicles are impractical for large families. You need to look for options that are spacious, reliable, and comfortable – both for passengers and the driver.

5 Good Options

As you do your research and look for different opportunities, it’s good to have an open mind. Here are some of the greenest options for growing families:

1. 2014 Chrysler Town and Country

Vans are not only popular for the room and comfort they offer growing families, but they’re also becoming known for their fuel efficiency. For example, the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country – which was one of CarMax’s most popular minivans of 2017 – has Flex Fuel compatibility and front wheel drive. With standard features like these, you can’t do much better at this price point.

2. 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

If you’re looking for a newer van and are willing to spend a bit more, you can go with Chrysler’s other model, the Pacifica. One of the coolest features of the 2017 model is the hybrid drivetrain. It allows you to go up to 30 miles on electric, before the vehicle automatically switches over to the V6 gasoline engine. For short trips and errands, there’s nothing more eco-friendly in the minivan category.

3. 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Who says you have to buy a minivan when you have a family? Sure, the sliding doors are nice, but there are plenty of other options that are both green and spacious. The new Volkswagen Atlas is a great choice. It’s one of the most fuel-efficient third-row vehicles on the market. The four-cylinder model gets an estimated 26 mpg highway.

4. 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

While a minivan or SUV is ideal – and necessary if you have more than two kids – you can get away with a roomy sedan when you still have a small family. And while there are plenty of eco-friendly options in this category, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is arguably the biggest bang for your buck. It gets 38 mpg on the highway and is incredibly affordable.

5. 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel

If money isn’t an object and you’re able to spend any amount to get a good vehicle that’s both comfortable and eco-friendly, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel is your car. Not only does it get 28 mpg highway, but it can also be equipped with a third row of seats and a diesel engine. And did we mention that this car looks sleek?

Putting it All Together

You have a variety of options. Whether you want something new or used, would prefer an SUV or minivan, or want something cheap or luxurious, there are plenty of choices on the market. The key is to do your research, remain patient, and take your time. Don’t get too married to a particular transaction, or you’ll lose your leverage.

You’ll know when the right deal comes along, and you can make a smart choice that’s functional, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.

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