Self Sufficiency in Basic Needs

Our modern society is based on many conveniences, easy and inexpensive access to the necessities of life, and mass production and high efficiency of just about everything and anything we could possibly want. Supporting this is a massive transportation system that consumes vast quantities of energy. Should anything interrupt the flow of transportation or the supply of energy, whole cities could quite literally starve. Supermarkets typically contain a relatively small supply of food, which would be gone in a matter of days or weeks at most, should the supply chains be cut off

This is an extreme example, and while not likely to happen, it could. Even so, I am not sounding the alarm to undo everything that has been done in the last 150 or so years. Far more likely to happen is the cost of energy, primarily oil, will continue to rise making everything else more expensive.

With this in mind, I think there are opportunities for some people to consider the alternatives, which include but are not limited to: more efficient engines, energy from solar cells, alternative fuels, heating with firewood and planting a garden. This web page, therefore, will be dedicated to a collection point for my own thoughts regarding these issues.

I am not at all suggesting that everyone should return to living like the Amish, nor am I being critical of the Amish. I admire their lifestyle, but I don't believe it is for everybody right now. What I am saying is that I believe many people, with just a small amount of effort, will find that some area of their lives could be modified so that they are less dependent on potentially unreliable systems, while enjoying any of a number of side benefits as well. In each of the sections of this web page, I will try to give examples of such benefits.

If you would like to keep informed of anything relating to this page, please send an e-mail to

Self Sufficiency page index:

"Independent" living: gardens, heating with firewood, etc.
Energy Devices, Wankel and solar cells

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Independent Living: gardens, heating with firewood, etc.:

I would stress that this may not be the best idea for everyone, however, consider the following:

Making Maple Syrup
I once lived with a family who owned a piece of property with a lot of maple trees on it. The family the equipment necessary to harvest the sap. With a little bit of work on my part, I was able to set up the equipment and gather the sap. To turn it into syrup, of course, I had to boil the sap. Most syrup making operations do this in a sugar shack designed specifically for this purpose. We, instead, did this on the wood stove that heated the house. Thus we were able to combine the benefits of using wood heat instead of oil to heat the house and using the same heat to boil down the sap.

Making honey
Keeping bees is a little extra work to get started doing, but once they are set up, maintaining them isn't as much work. Bees not only provide honey, but also can polenize fruit and vegetable gardens, fruit trees, provide wax, and provide other benefits as well.

Heating with wood
Modern wood stoves have become increasingly efficient, and if you have a supply of wood available, or if you are up to getting some exercise chopping and gathering the wood (a good form of exercise), you can benefit two ways: getting exercise and reducing your energy bills to heat your house.

Keeping a garden
Keeping a garden may be a lot of work, but it will keep you active (exercise) it will provide you with some of the best tasting produce you'll ever have, and if you get a bumper crop (often possible with a little extra work) you can share with neighbors, which is a benefit to building friendships.

Some people I know have gone so far as to plant fruit bearing trees and bushes around their house.

While mandatory recycling has done away with some of the opportunities in this area, some opportunities remain, especially when the price for scrap metals is high. In states with deposits on bottles, this is one opportunity.

It is also possible in some areas to reduce waste by composting biodegradables and burning or recycling paper.

Combined opportunities
While any one of these things may be a very unproductive thing for some people, when they are combined, there is sometimes a synergistic effect, making the two projects more worth while. This was especially the case with the Maple Syrup, when it was possible to heat the house and boil maple syrup at the same time.

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Energy Devices, Wankel and solar cells:

The purpose of placing these inventions on my web page is to promote the benefit they (or similar or other inventions) can provide and thus hopefully encourage someone to actually develop and market them.

I am not familiar with the technicalities of actually developing these things. Perhaps there are technical hurtles that would make their development much more difficult than I am aware of. I am also aware that the current suppliers of the energy these devices will make less necessary could put up a big fight to prevent their development (they may have already done so). There may be other issues that I am not aware of.

These two inventions are not my own, I am only stating them here because I want to promote them.

Solar "cells" using antennas.
I actually have an article about this invention. The name given as the inventor was Alvin Marks. Apparently, an antenna tuned to the wavelength of visible light will capture up to 80% of the energy in the light. Such antennas would convert the light into AC electrical current with the same frequency as the frequency of the wavelength of light captured, much like a radio antenna captures radio signals. Since the wavelength of visible light is small, thousands of such antennas could fit in a very small surface area. Since current solar cells are only about 10-20% efficient, such a device could provide a far more significant source of electricity than current solar cells.

The article on this appeared in the publication Taipan, November 1990, Volume 3 Number 1, page 14 and 15. The article title is "Solar breakthrough-Massachusetts entrepreneur points way to profits from environmentally benign technology." Other details from the article: Alvin Marks formed a public company to develop this technology. The name is Phototherm Inc. (OTC-pink sheets). The acronym LEPCON (Light to Electric Power Converter) and LUMELOID describes Alvin's solar cells. Phototherm Bahamas LTD. has also been established to facilitate an endeavor with the Chinese company China Petroleum Engineering Construction Corporation, to develop a LUMELOID prototype. At a dinner conversation "seven years ago" (according to the article) between Marks and the (at the time of the dinner) Director of the Third World Energy Division of the United Nations, Dr. Usmani, Usmani challenged Marks to come up with a better solar cell.

The article ends with the following information: Investors and entrepreneurs in sesarch of more information should contact Dr. Alvin Marks, co/ Advanced Research Development, Inc., 359 R Main St., Athol, MA USA 01331; (508)249-4696; fax. (508)249-2134.

According to the information box in this magazine, Taipan is published monthly by Agora, Inc., 824 E. Baltimore St., Baltimore, MD 21202-4799 USA, FAX (301)837-3879.

Given that this article is over 12 years old, I cannot guarantee that any of this information is still valid. The article states that Alvin was 78 years old, so he may not even still be alive.

The following web site promotes Lumeloid, but doesn't give any details as to progress in production, or sales or anything like that. Just an e-mail address to contact.
Doing a search on Google ( for lumeloid will find many more documents on this technology.

This site sells units that protect against surges/spikes etc and also reduces energy costs for an entire home

Energy efficient (inefficient?) rotating internal combustion engine (The Wankel).
When I first put this web page online, I only remembered seeing a simple diagram of a cross section of this engine. It looked something like a triangle made to fit inside a cylinder. Each of the 3 spaces inside the cylinder left by the triangle acted like a piston chamber, forcing the triangle to rotate. The rotation could thus provide direct drive to wheels or whatever else needed to be rotated. This eliminates the conversion of the up-down motion of a piston to the rotating motion required by a wheel. There were also other significant efficiencies over a piston engine, particularly in needing less lubricating oil, less of a cooling system, and other benefits.

I have been told that Mazda developed such an engine in 1971, dubbed the Wankle Rotary Engine, but it never caught on. It was used by Mazda in the RX-7 for many, many years. It was also used in a model airplane engine.

I have also been told that this engine is inefficient for several reasons, including poor sealing within the combustion chamber, incomplete combustion (possibly because of not enough room for full expansion of the exploding fuel, as well as too short a period of time for the gas to fully cumbust), and possibly other problems.

Mazda has reintrocuded the Rotary engine in a new sports car called the RX8. It looks like a good car, but the mileage is only 25mpg on the highway. It is not clear if this is because of the engine or because the car itself is heavy.

At least one person has suggested that a steam powered Wankel engine might work well.

There is a considerable amount of information on the web concerning the Wankel engine. Go to and enter "Wankel engine" into the search box.

Here are some of the better pages I have found so far:
Freedom Motors:
Information about the Wankel engine:
Masda Rotary web ring:
Information about the Wankel engine:
How the Wankel Rotary Engine works:
This page actually shows a Wankel in motion! It also says the Wankel may make a comeback in 2003.

Non-Wankel high efficiency engines:

Interested in these ideas or do you know of other possibly huge energy saving or producing devices that aren't currently on the market?
Please send me an e-mail to this address: Thanks!

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