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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

frugal living 14


FRUGAL LIVING 14

UTILITIES
ELECTRIC

You can have a generator, and there is always micro-hydro or a windmill, but for most of us not living on the north side of a mountain in a rainforest, solar is usually the best frugal means of electrical generation.  If you already have a generator for site construction ( I did all mine with manual tools, but I know how many of you fancy yourselves a Tool Man Taylor ), than by all means use that puppy until it dies.  But long term, the gasoline cost alone makes generators cost prohibitive ( never mind the machine and I would NEVER buy another Chinese gennie-I did try one out and it was a waste of money- but rather a Honda or nothing ).  If the wife insists on clothes dryers and curling irons and whatnot you might not have a choice, and there are books on battery banks and big diesel generators for a near grid like existence, but for a frugal life generators are a poor choice.  Windmills are great, and here the wind never stops, but they have a maintenance requirement AND you would catch me being sodomized by Obammy before you’d see me up a tower.  Solar is best both for the price and the fact they last thirty years without you doing anything to them ( baring rolling the dice on Chinese quality, of course ).  And the thing that makes generators and windmills and hydro unnecessary is that it is far easier to learn to use a lot less electricity than it is to try to afford to live like a middle class suburbanite.  I have a mere 70 watts of panels, and I have lights, TV, use my computer nearly every day, cut my own hair and occasionally watch a movie on DVD.

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Right now, Chinese panels are about $100 a 30 watt panel at Amazon.com.  Throw in a Marine battery from Wal-Mart for $66, and for about $300 you get 75 watts, a charge controller ( keeps the battery from over charging or discharging ), all your wiring and a battery.  And any idiot who can tell the difference between a positive and negative terminal can wire up a 12v solar system.  Okay, you take your panels and secure them- no need to use them as an expensive kite.  I took L brackets for a wood shelf, hammered them flat and got some #6 bolts and attached the brackets to the panel sides which were pre-drilled holes.  Then I screwed those into a wood pallet facing south at an angle ( and tied the pallets down with rope and tent stakes ).  I took the wires and twisted the two types together ( + and -, remember.  This is just like working on a cars wiring ), and attached those to the charge controller wires.  The controller wires went to the battery ( don’t add too many panels together, exceeding the amp max rating of the controller.  If needed, buy another controller or a higher rated one ).  Marine batteries have those smaller posts that these wires are designed for. 

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Continued next time

END

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21 comments:

  1. Dam. Just when it was gettin juicy.....

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    Replies
    1. I think the two parts totaled 1500 words, so I had to break them up.

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  2. If I wanted enough solar power to run my refrigerator and my computer, how many solar panels like the ones you described would I need? I think that's all I would need because I have alternative heat, light, cooking, etc.

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    1. I swore there was just a comment recently on this. You convert a freezer to a fridge and then you only need something like 400 watts a day for it. Can't remember exactly. Original posting minion? Anyway, at 400, I'd get a minimum of 100 watts panels, and I'd be more comfy at 200 watts. Call it $2 a watt. Cheaper than a lot of propane refers.

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    2. re chest freezer as refrigerator

      AnonymousFebruary 4, 2015 at 8:52 AM
      excerpt
      The most efficient refrigerator you can buy for a "normal" price is a chest freezer. You modify the controller to just keep cool, not freeze. The motor is designed to run a freezer, so you have just bought extra decades of operation under very low stress. Top-loading means that the cold doesn't fall on your feet while getting a Coke. Insulation is often over 3" and sometimes 4" on all 6 sides.

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    3. Damn, I can't even remember one week ago. Thanks

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  3. You could build a tower that allows you to lower the wind generator to the ground for maintenance. Build the tower on the ground and use blocks and timbers to get it up high enough to pull it into position. Thirty feet should be high enough for you.

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    Replies
    1. It was really just easier to buy a few more efficiant machines and learn to live on far less juice.

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  4. A solar system can be simple as yours or huge and expensive. A good mid line can be got for under the price of a Honda 2000. What I want is 4 100 watt panels a Morningstar controller and 2 T115 6 volt batteries. Add a small inverter for daily use and a large one for occasional building jobs.

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    1. While a Honda would be great to have, in twenty years when there is no gas those panels are still going strong ( batteries, another story of course )

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    2. "batteries, another story of course"

      I don't recall the status of such batteries? But I seem to recall a type of battery sold some years back that shipped dry, and you added the acid when ready to use, but perhaps my memory serves me wrong? Such a battery might hold up better to long term storage.

      My idea for long term refrigeration is a follows James. A root cellar with an old style wooden refrigerator (Ice box). Block ice, as it holds up best. You can form your own giant ice trays; fill with water, and wait for a cold enough night. Ice would last all summer long in the ice houses of old. It may not last that long in your refrigerator, but depending on your motivation, you can build a dedicated ice house and have ice all throughout the summer. Have a drain system that contains the melt off from the refrigerator. The waste water can be filtered and drank, or used for another purpose. A buried junk appliance such as an old freezer can be placed on the north side of a building, and serve as an econo or temporary root cellar. You will need to place some insulation panels over the top of the appliance.

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    3. After getting the initial solar power system with marine batteries I plan to save up money to get the 'nearly forever' Edison batteries. They need a source of distilled water and lye to keep maintained but some have been in continuous use for 60+ years with maintenance. They are bigger, heavier, and slower to respond to both charging and drawdown, so you don't want one to run an electric vehicle or your remote controls, but for an off grid cabin? completely doable and replacing the every 2-5 year battery replacement that the common marine battery needs. There are even some made here in the USA , I think by a company called 'Zap works'

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    4. The entry level are, what, $1200? And that is LOW amp rating. So figure two grand. Yickes

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    5. Wayne, the dry ship battery are any regular marine batt. Just order from auto store, along with acid. The problem is, you can't hook them up to a solar system. They need high output charging for the initial charge. Then they can go on to panels. So, you'd need generator and whatever you hook up to 110 AC ( or perhaps 220? ) as far as a charger, THEN switch to 12v. PS-I might be hazy on some of those details, just going by memory.

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    6. Gary: You have discovered the very-sweet spot of cost vs. useful in alt-energy. It is UP TO 4 GC2 golf car batteries in series to get 24 volts and ~220 Amp/hrs (of which you should use ~100A/hrs cycling if you need to, or 40Amp/Hrs regularly to keep exercised even if you don't need to like with a toaster or 1500W cube heater), charged with a Morningstar SS-15L-MPPT controller and the not-optional but extra cost remote battery thermometer. Since you are using 24v battery you can/should install at least 400W of PV, and up to 800W if you live along the PNW I-5 so that you can MAKE SURE to get as many hours of 15A charging as possible (you add early morning and late afternoon charging with more panels but not more mid-day Amps) with this controller. If you want more peak charging amps, you get a Tristar MPPT 30-45-60 model for more money).

      pdxr13

      The bottom-end is a 12v set-up. Recommend a pair of 6v batteries in series for 12v (220A@12v). Real deep cycle batteries are not "Marine Starting" and will not have a Cold Cranking Amps rating, even though you can start an engine with them. They do have thick plates, which is what you need. Golf car batteries go on sale in the spring at Sam's Warehouse near golf course/resort places, so buy some. Dollar-for-Amp, nothing is cheaper. Morningstar SS-15L is the best small charge controller you can get for $160-$259 (depending on your shopping skills), but you MUST also buy the remote temp sensor which is sold separately. Read the owner manual for free on-line! Do not mount the controller in the same air-space as the batteries! Route the wires through a wall to the vented batteries, or build an externally-vented cabinet for the batteries. Get 400W of PV, or at least more than 200W, and mount them as best you can (even on pressure treated wood, if you have to. Steel or alloy is good) so that they are centered South. Ability to adjust the pitch for the season and latitude is good, and will gain neighbor admiration and several percent of PV power. When shopping for panels, get the kind designed for "24v", which your controller can buck down to 12v for charging. There are big ones that are about 45# that put out 290 W, or smaller ones from 100W to 160W that are good.

      Generator is for Dec-Jan in the PNW where solar is 0-5% of June peaks. Diesel, 1200 or 1800 rpm. Costs lots of panels for a good one.

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  5. i wonder if marine solar panels are more robust than typical.

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    1. Who is our boater here? Sixbears?

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    2. I'm ex navy, and know a few things about boats, one of them being whenever you add the term marine to anything, the price skyrockets. Usually without a corresponding value in quality.

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    3. Hard to find anything with quality, enough to make the exceptions memorable ( Dickies slacks, for one, still trying to find a decent affordable pair of boots ). Flashback to Disco and the 70's when everything went to plastic

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    4. Q: Are "marine" solar panels better than regular?
      A: No. In general, solar panels are outdoor things. Outdoor over saltwater is a little more corrosive than outdoor over land, but unless you have a US Navy budget, you will get regular panels and like it. A place to concentrate your shielding and sealing efforts is on connectors. Try to keep them dry and out of the sun. Run wiring with drip loops so that the drip falls off without coming inside.

      pdxr13

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