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Mr Franklin's Folks

by gmoke Fri Apr 22nd, 2022 at 01:29:53 AM EST

Preface:  I originally wrote this a couple of decades ago, based upon my experiences  working with a traveling energy show in the 1970s and 1980s and my own experiments with public displays of renewable energy at farmers' markets (https:/www.dailykos.com/stories/2005/8/21/140257-).  I rewrote it for a new venture, Flourish Fiction which is trying to fill the need for "more hopeful stories to awaken imagination and help inspire the next generation of climate solutions."  It is also published there at https://flourishfiction.substack.com/p/mister-franklins-folks?s=r

This is one way to imagine how to change the climate conversation in one growing season.


Mister Franklin's Folks began when a small group of people decided to bring a solar fountain to the local farmers market.  A solar electric panel pumped water up from a tub into a little fountain that would splash and spray.  The brighter the sunshine, the higher the water would go.  Children loved to turn it on and off with their shadows, jumping into and out of the sunlight, making the water dance and themselves laugh.  Older kids asked questions, and so did some of the adults. "What's it  for?  How does it work?  Why are you doing this?  So what?"

The exhibit was labeled "Solar Fountain/Wishing Well" and some coins lay at the bottom of the tub.  Nearby, there was a table under the shade of an  umbrella where one of Franklin's Folk sat with a collection of books, pamphlets, leaflets, cards, and stickers, along with a big can labeled "Donations." The van parked behind them was full of working models and public experiments, product demos, and testing equipment.  They shared guides with anyone who wanted them.  For a small donation.

Each week, from Memorial Day to the week before Thanksgiving, throughout the farmers' market season, they'd be there. Each week, they'd set up a little solar fountain and present a different example of solar ingenuity and practical power.  When they said power to the people, they meant it.

They said, "A south-facing window is already a solar collector and we can show you how to use it.  A south-facing porch is even better.  It can become a sunspace or greenhouse and you can grow food all year long."  

They provided designs and projects that began by caulking and sealing a window and ended with a complete one-room HVAC and electrical system for daily and/or emergency use.

"A  few inches of solar panel, a hand or foot powered generator, and a set of rechargeable batteries is a perpetual source of personal electrical power.  You can have power as long as the sun keeps shining and can turn the handle or push the pedal when it isn't.  You can have power as long as the batteries hold a charge.   And when the batteries die, recycle the old ones and buy some new.  That is, unless we've changed to capacitors, flywheels, or fuel cells by then."

They had plans for many DIY solar projects and organized a bulk buying club so that people could save money on parts and supplies.  

"Let your kids make their own battery power from sunlight and a little exercise.  Power your electrical devices with a walk on the treadmill."

They called themselves Mister Franklin's Folks because, like Benjamin Franklin, they believed in ingenuity and thrift.  They quoted from Poor Richard's Almanac:
"A penny saved is two pence clear. A pin a-day is a groat a year. Save and have."

"Every little makes a mickle."

"A wise Man will desire no more than what he may get justly, use soberly, distribute cheerfully and leave contentedly."

"Spare and have is better than spend and crave."

They updated these home truths by putting them into an ecologically regenerative context. Each week they offered practical lessons in real thrift or "how to save money while saving the environment, the community, and the world."

Like Mr Franklin, they were experimenting with electricity but instead of kites and lightning, they were looking at the sun for energy independence and building the idea of a renewable economy use by use, appliance by appliance, socket by socket, room by room.

"What would Mister Franklin do these days?" they asked.  "Benjamin Franklin was one of the early researchers into the Gulf Stream.  How would he deal with global warming?"

These were some of the things that Mr. Franklin's Folks did at their table at the farmer's market, week after week, all that year.

More Mr Franklin's Folks?
. yes 100%
. no 0%
. not yes 0%
. not no 0%
. neither yes nor no 0%
. both yes and no 0%
. don't understand the question? 0%
. none of the above 0%

Votes: 1
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A problem with passive solar household heating here in Colorado is that it is too sunny. Unless properly engineered, the house will be hot in the winter and a furnace in the summer. It turns out that ventilation and shading of the glass is important. Even in a regular house without any particular attention paid to solar heat, keeping things cool is the primary problem most of the year.

It is April 22 and we had our windows open all night because even though it got down to 5 C last night, today's high temperature will be around 26 C.

The power of the Sun is more than most people imagine--even in "temperate" climates.

by asdf on Fri Apr 22nd, 2022 at 04:27:54 PM EST
Some of the "early" solar homes of the 1970s had to be managed the way you would a sailboat, paying strict attention to sun and wind, ventilation and insolation.

We've learned, judging from experience, since then.

PS:  Some of the earliest solar homes, for instance Maria Telkes' phase change heat storage house, would have worked much better if they had paid more attention to insulation and air infiltration.

Solar IS Civil Defense

by gmoke on Fri Apr 22nd, 2022 at 04:48:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My first student job, in about 1978, was to write a program to calculate sol-air temperatures by season and latitude, for various locations in New Zealand. Working for a professor of architecture.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Sun Apr 24th, 2022 at 10:08:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We're on the local "Green Power" plan, which uses utility company solar panels to provide electricity via the regular power lines. When the program was introduced, it was estimated that it would add about $8 to the monthly charge for domestic customers.

The regular electricity rate is high right now due to the problems in Texas last winter (frozen natural gas lines that drove the price up all over the country) that the utility company is still paying off. As a result, the Green Power rate is lower now than the regular rate, because the solar panels are cheaper overall than the coal+gas that provides most of the conventional power.

So that is good.

by asdf on Tue May 3rd, 2022 at 09:34:25 PM EST

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