Categories: Home Finance

Rethinking Energy: Passive Solar Homes

I want to help you rethink the way you do energy a little bit.

1st: Use high quality energy for high quality purposes and low quality energy for low quality purposes. What I mean by high quality energy and low quality energy is that high quality energy is very dense energy and it has the ability to do a lot of work while low quality energy is not very dense and it does not have the ability to do a lot of work.

Example: gasoline is high quality energy. The energy in one gallon of gasoline can keep your smart-phone running for over 3,000 days. That is a lot of packed energy. On the other hand, the sun is not a form of high quality energy. For example, it takes about 21 square miles of photo-voltaic solar panels to get the same energy as a nuclear power plant that takes up 1.7 square miles of land.

  • We should be using high quality sources of energy like gas for high quality purposes like driving a car.
  • We should also be using low quality energy sources like the sun for low quality purposes like heating our homes.

2nd: I  want to propose a new way of thinking about insulating and heating your home. The conventional thought process for heating your home is to moderately insulate your home and then use an efficient heating system to do the rest of the heating of your home. Any added insulation on today’s standard houses does not make sense economically because the added cost of insulation will not be made up in saved costs in heating. I am going to show you that in the long run, it is worth it to super insulate your house.

Theoretical numbers: The graph below proves that the theoretical numbers I will be using are correct.

Spend the extra money to super insulate your house is worth the extra upfront cost.

  • No need for central heating system
  • Can get to zero heating costs
  • Large upfront costs, but will payoff in the long run with the new way of thinking proposed

Costs below are of initial build of a house. It is difficult to retrofit an old house.

Energy and money saved from new insulation.

  • Cost=$4,555
  • Savings=162
  • Payback=62 years

Under a new way of thinking though, by spending the $4,555 on insulation costs, you can eliminate the need for having a heater in your home. By completely eliminating having a central heating system, real costs savings can be found.

My Pop Can Solar Air Heater

Instead of having a heating system, you could use pop can solar air heaters to heat your home. Right below this you can see a picture of the finished product.

This pop can solar air heater was made of the following materials.


  • Air comes in a whole in the bottom and then travels up through the cans and then out of the top.
  • As it travels through the cans, the energy from the sun heats up the pop cans.
  • These pop cans then transfer the heat to the air as aluminum is a very good conductor of heat.

The Numbers

  • Produced 4.2 GJ of the total 18.33 GJ or 23% of the the extra insulated house’s heating load.
  • 14% of the total heating load in the coldest month.
  • 7 of these pop can solar air heaters to heat the highly insulated house.

Now this is a new way to think about heating a home. Instead of having a furnace, you spend more money on insulation and then use some small form of solar air heating to fill the final gap.

Using this system

  • save $375 a year
  • Payback of 4 years which is fantastic.
  • Using low quality energy in the form of the sun for a low quality use in the form of heating the house.
  • It just makes sense, but it does take a new way of thinking.

To note, having 7 pop can solar panels laying up against your house may not look the best. Also, it would be difficult to find that many used windows for free and to drink enough to get all the pop cans needed. Because of these points, it may not be feasible for people to heat their homes with pop can solar air heaters, but it does show that heating your house with the power of the sun is very possible.

Passive Solar Homes

So instead of using pop can solar air heaters, why not have your home be a solar air heater. The pop can solar air heater is just the sun shining through windows and heating up the air on the inside. If you just put windows on your house on the south side to capture the sun, then there is no need for pop can solar air heaters.

To sum it all up, it makes sense for people to spend the extra money on insulation when they were initially building their house so that their homes are prepared to use a low quality but readily available energy source of the sun.

Categories: Personal Finance

The Value of Knowing Your Strengths: Strengthsfinder 2.0

I recently took strengthfinders 2.0 test and below I have listed my top five strengths. It doesn’t give me my weaknesses. Strengthsfinder has a focus is on strengths because they have found with research that focusing on strengths is more important for success than focusing on weaknesses. This is counterintuitive to our culture. So often in our society we work extra hard on fixing our weaknesses without ever making our strengths stronger and really focusing on where we naturally excel.

Below I have listed my top five strengths along with action items to practice the strengths for the upcoming five weeks. Each week I will do one action item for each of the five strengths. As I go along, I will update you on how the practicing the strengths through these action items go. Wish me luck! (If you would like to take this test as well, click here.)

Relator: I enjoy close relationships with others. I find deep satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a goal.

Week 1: Deliberately learn as much as you can about the people you meet. You like knowing about people, and other people like being known. By doing this, you will act as a catalyst for trusting relationships.

Week 2: No matter how busy you are, stay in contact with your friends. They are your fuel.

Week 3: Make time for family and close friends. You need to spend quality moments with those you love in order to “feed” your Relator talents. Schedule activities that allow you to get even closer to the people who keep you grounded and happy.

Week 4: Be honest with your friends. True caring means helping the other person be successful and fulfilled. Giving honest feedback or encouraging your friend to move out of a role in which he or she is struggling is a compassionate act.

Week 5: Let your caring show. For example, find people at my school to mentor, help my

Classmates get to know each other better, or extend your relationships beyond the office.

Activator: You are determined to generate a lot of enthusiasm around various projects, events, or activities.

Week 1: You learn more from real experience than from theoretical discussions. To grow, consciously expose yourself to challenging experiences that will test your talents, skills, and knowledge.

Week 2: Give the reasons why your requests for action must be granted. Otherwise, others might dismiss you as impatient and label you a ‘ready, fire, aim’ person.

Week 3: Remember that although your tenacity is powerful, it may intimidate some. Your Activator talents will be most effective when you have first earned others’ trust and loyalty.

Week 4: You possess an ability to create motion and momentum in others. Be strategic and wise in the use of your Activator talents. When is the best time, where is the best place, and who are the best people with whom to leverage your valuable influence?

Week 5: You can easily energize the plans and ideas of others. Consider partnering with focused, futuristic, strategic, or analytical people who will lend their direction and planning to your activation, thereby creating an opportunity to build consensus and get others behind the plan. By doing this, you complement each other.

Ideation: I am fascinated by ideas. I am able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.

Week 1: Finish your thoughts and ideas before communicating them. Lacking your Ideation talents, others might not be able to “join the dots” of an interesting but incomplete idea and thus might dismiss it.

Week 2: Understand the fuel for your Ideation talents: When do you get your best ideas? When you’re talking with people? When you’re reading? When you’re simply listening or observing? Take note of the circumstances that seem to produce your best ideas, and recreate them.

Week 3: Schedule time to read, because the ideas and experiences of others can become your raw material for new ideas. Schedule time to think, because thinking energizes you.

Week 4: Sometimes you lose others’ interest because they cannot follow your abstract and conceptual thinking style. Make your ideas more concrete by drawing pictures, using analogies or metaphors, or simply explaining your concepts step by step.

Week 5: Sometimes you lose others’ interest because they cannot follow your abstract and conceptual thinking style. Make your ideas more concrete by drawing pictures, using analogies or metaphors, or simply explaining your concepts step by step.

Achiever: I have a great deal of stamina and work hard. I take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.

Week 1: As an achiever, you relish the feeling of being busy, yet you also need to know when you are “done.” Attach timelines and measurement to goals so that effort leads to defined progress and tangible outcomes.

Week 2: Remember to build celebration and recognition into your life. Achievers tend to move on to the next challenge without acknowledging their successes. Counter this impulse by creating regular opportunities to enjoy your progress and accomplishments.

Week 3: You do not require much motivation from others. Take advantage of your self-motivation by setting challenging goals. Set a more demanding goal every time you finish a project.

Week 4: More work excites you. The prospect of what lies ahead is infinitely more motivating than what has been completed. Launch initiatives and new projects. Your seemingly endless reserve of energy will create enthusiasm and momentum.

Week 5: Make sure that in your eagerness to do more at work, you do not skimp on quality. Create measurable outcome standards to guarantee that increased productivity is matched by enhanced quality.

Competition: I am highly motivated to be the very best and win the topmost prize.

Week 1: Try to turn ordinary tasks into competitive games. You will get more done this way.

Week 2: Design some mental strategies that can help you deal with a loss. Armed with these strategies, you will be able to move on to the next challenge much more quickly.

Week 3: Take the time to celebrate your wins. In your world, there is no victory without celebration.

Week 4: Let people know that being competitive does not equate with putting others down. Explain that you derive satisfaction from pitting yourself against good, strong competitors and winning.

Week 5: When you win, take the time to investigate why you won. You can learn a great deal more from a victory than from a loss.

After Week 1

Relator: I found out that some engineers at the school I go to want to study abroad. They were interested in how I will manage to be able to finish my engineering degree in 4 years while still taking a semester off. To act making my ability into a strength, I invited them over to my apartment for dinner so that I can share with them how this is possible.

Activator: The challenging experience this week that I exposed myself to was this blog. It isn’t easy writing every week. I am not the best writer as you reading this know. I am trying to work really hard at putting together information that would be useful to college kids and those just graduating from college. The toughest part is figuring out what exactly will help people learn and be changed financially because what is out there right now just isn’t cutting it.

Ideation: I have failed at forming my thoughts before speaking them. This is something I will have to continue to work on.

Achiever: I am setting weekly goals for myself now. I should start celebrating on Sundays for things I have accomplished and be content with relaxing because getting things done isn’t the most important thing in life.

Competition: Now, every time I sit down to work, I try to make it a competition for how fast I can get done what I am trying to get done. When I forget to do this, I find myself wandering to things that are not important in life. To remember though, everything isn’t a competition.

The Value Geek 2019