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Thursday, February 12, 2015

frugal living 15


FRUGAL LIVING 15

UTILITIES

ELECTRICAL ( continued )

For a battery, look at the cold amp rating.  Say, 600.  A good rule of thumb is that this rating is about the number of watts you can drain from the battery until the charge is half gone ( try not to go below that, to elongate battery life.  Marine batteries are designed to drain and charge repeatedly, but best not to drain below half if you can help it.  Regular car batteries are only 20% less expensive and you will kill it quick by draining it in a home electrical system.  USE marine types.  Many folks insist on special batteries like 6v or golf car or forklift batteries.  For a small system, these are unnecessary ).  Try to keep your battery from freezing, and check the water level no later than every three months ( use distilled water.  If you keep the jug in a cupboard-avoid any sunlight-it should last long enough for you to get your 89 cents worth ).  I buried a Styrofoam cooler to its lid and put the battery in there after punching a hole for the wires.  I’m assuming there is no freezing.  I did forget the water issue for some time, and the battery let me know about it.  Every time I plugged my computer into the inverter ( the box that turns your 12v DC into 120 AC current for those devices designed to plug into a wall socket ), the watts being used showed a huge variation.  Once I topped off the water, and after a few days to-I guess-stabilize itself- the usage was normal again. 

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If you are in an RV, you just hook up to the RV battery wires.  I used those for the longest time, but I hated the battery being uninsulated.  My solution was to take an old pair of jumper cables and go from the buried battery to the clamps up in the RV battery box.  If you are wiring a Unabomber Shack, you just need two pairs of wire, for the positive and negative terminals.  Also, an RV light socket simplifies things ( or, us a car bulb socket ).  I got a roll of 4 ply wire at Wal-Mart in the auto section.  I think they were meant for a stereo system.  You don’t need them color coded white and red or whatever, just don’t mix up which color is + and which is -.  I separated the wires, attached by the insulation.  That way I get something like a hundred feet of a pair of wires.  Not that wire is cheap anymore.  At the battery end, attach those O ring thingies to the wire, then put that on the small post of the battery.  You can stack them more than one on, plus the wires from the panels and the wires going out to the sockets can use the same post.  Wire to the inside ( you don’t charge a battery inside-toxic fumes ) to your bulb socket ( whatever size bulb, find the equivalent white LED bulb at Amazon or the RV store.  Mine was $12 and only uses 4 watts- a bargain compared to incandescent bulbs which might be fifty cents but use twenty watts ). 

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You can attach to yet another socket for more than one light, just like they do in an RV.  Just hook another set of wires from one socket to another.  On some sets of wires, you can hook up a cigarette lighter socket to use lots of different 12v appliances ( my TV has a cigarette lighter plug ).  Get from an auto parts store.  On wiring, once you leave the battery, go from larger to smaller wiring.  Don’t go from small to large.  I don’t know if that is a “thing”, but my stuff never worked doing that.  Also, I have no idea if you can plug too much stuff in at once.  I have two lights and one cigarette plug going at any one time, no more than 20 watts.  I’m not sure what the max is.  Also, I tried three different inverters for a 35 watt computer.  The 60 and 100 watt inverter refused to work.  I needed a 200 or a 400 watt one ( $40 at Wal Mart ).  Not sure why that was.  The point is, you don’t need to really know much to get this thing to work.  It’s a panel(s) to a battery to a few sockets and an inverter ( the inverter comes with several hook-ups, one which is to the big battery posts, so that keeps it out of the way of the other wires ).  And not much else.  Remember, in the winter you get less energy on your panel than in summer.  Mine is about half.  So, using five hours a night for one light, and an hour of TV, I use about one hours electricity ( 70 watts, 35 in the winter ).  If I go a week without sun, I still recharge the battery after a full sunny day.  But I could go almost three weeks without draining the battery below half.  More on appliances and power draw in other sections.

END

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21 comments:

  1. "Every time I plugged my computer into the inverter ( the box that turns your 12v DC into 120 AC current for those devices designed to plug into a wall socket ), the watts being used showed a huge variation."

    You might look to see if you can get a DC power adapter for your laptop James. The inverters draw power in their conversion process, so this would probably be a more energy efficient way to go, and stretch out your power usage a bit more. Just idling (The inverter) without a load, it is drawing power, so you want to shut it down when not in use. But you probably already know most of this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The computer plug inverter says 18v. Could I splice the computer cord ( not the AC cord ) into a 12v plug? Really, I have little idea how any of this works if it isn't 12v. Same issue I have with electric bikes. They aren't 12v, and I'd want to use a 12v battery instead of their weird volt $400 battery.

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    2. The average charging system provides around 14 volts for a 12v system. I don't know if that is why your inverter is rated like that, a higher voltage to charge the battery, but most of my experience with electronic devices show lower volts cause no harm, the device will just not power up. Higher volts are what lets the smoke out. I have heard of folks using car starter motors to power a bike, but never researched it much. Probably something on YouTube or a Google article somewhere if you like to find out.

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    3. “The computer plug inverter says 18v. Could I splice the computer cord ( not the AC cord ) into a 12v plug? Really, I have little idea how any of this works if it isn't 12v.”

      Ahh; you got me there Jim? After reading your post I went and looked at my AC adapter for my laptop, and it says it's 19.5V? So I tried to find one online for my laptop, and they do sell one, but it's $100! Your laptop certainly doesn't run on that high voltage, and in a desktop, the fans use 12V, so I can't explain the high voltage, or how they get around it for the mobile adapters that they do sell?

      I thought that I was offering a simple power saving suggestion, but I guess I wasn't, and dropped the ball on that one.

      I guess unless you can find a cheap mobile DC adapter at Ebay for your laptop, stay with what you've got.

      Delete
    4. Hey, I appreciate you trying to help. I'd love to have a direct to 12v computer. Alas, probably cheaper this way.

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    5. Jim...
      Look for a car adapter for your computer. They are more efficient than an inverter. I bought one online from amazon for my lap top and its cost was around 20 bucks.

      Delete
    6. Thanks! A tool I didn't know existed.

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    7. Blogger ate my reply yesterday, I'll give a quick retry again.
      Your laptop probably works fine on 12 volt, the battery probably won't charge though.

      For the bike battery thing, if you can find out what the low voltage cutout is for the lithium battery is, you'll have your answer to whether it'll work on a 12v lead acid.

      Delete
    8. So, if it is above 14v, out of luck, right?

      Delete
  2. Eat your heart out Mr. Hairless.
    I just got a 30 ft. fifth wheel for $2900.00 delivered to my house . They could not fixed the electrical problem. Well being an electrician pays off. Took me some time but I got it. In the process I found a little treasure, worth every single second I worked and being the cause of the short.
    Now I have financial and housing independence. (I have the not so junk land).
    Thanks for the teachings, Mr. Hairless.

    Your anony minion.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thank you, for paying attention. Also, Mr. Hairless doesn't exactly praise the hair, does it? Work on that

      Delete
    2. No hair, no praise !
      Or should we praise your pubic hair instead (assuming you have some, we'll need proof on that) ?

      Another anon minion

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    3. Sigh. People everywhere always reply, "what hair", as if they are witty and wise ( I get that at work all the time ). Short hair is still hair, or you'd see a shiny dome of skin. Respect The Hair!

      Delete
  3. A couple of things:

    First, this topic is one where all of us would be well advised to get a book on the subject (the 12 Volt Bible is a good one). It will explain why having two 6 volt batteries strung together is very, very, very much worth it. To not have that set-up is like riding a bike with the tires half way deflated. In short, a decent book on 12 volt power could double your power, double your system's life, and prevent a whole multitude of inefficiencies and outright mistakes.

    Second, a great place to get 12 volt appliances that you never even knew existed is at a large truck stop. Anything from a pizza oven to a thermos that will boil water in just a few minutes can be found. All with the cigarette lighter plug-in for your convenience.

    Thank you for your attention, and please carry on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Okay, I put the Bible on my Wish List. The reviews said it was 30 years old, so theory only, not modern equipment how-to.

      Delete
  4. I read somewhere that car batteries were just fine and that the marine one were just a way to charge you more. Did you try them ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is NOT my understanding at all-you can test a $50 car batt and tell me how it worked out for you. I'll just go with paying 20% more for a marine and assume that is correct.

      Delete
    2. You should check your source, Anon at 11:44pm. That is the first time I've ever heard someone say car batteries work just fine in a solar set-up. If anything, you are better off using a marine battery in your car rather than a car battery in your solar set-up. Unless you live in the frozen tundra with extreme lows, the marine battery will crank your car, last longer, and work as an emergency power source better. You can charge your marine battery to and from work, and then use some sips of the power overnight with an inverter for your car battery. I live in the deep South and replace my car batteries when they wear out on their own with a marine-type. Not that much of a cost difference and more versatile.

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    3. It was pretty funny when I first moved off grid. The first few weeks I'd be bent over an idling truck with my inverter clamped on the battery, trying to clip my hair

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  5. Car batteries are designed for a rather large amperage draw, like a starter, then get charged backup. If you try to use them for a deep cycle application, they will generally not live long. It is the way the plates and paste are constructed. A marine "deep cycle" battery is sort of a hybred. Sort of a compromise between a starting battery and a deep cycle. A true deep cycle battery is designed to go to 50% depth of discharge on a regular basis. These include golf cart type batteries and larger L-16 types. I have been using junk batteries that I paid just over scrap for and living off-grid for over 18 months. How many people do you know who heat with batteries?

    The laptop chargers are a form of an inverter to get the 12 volts to charge at 19.5 volts. No way to use 12 volts directly.

    I did an article several years ago about solar for you Jim, and now am living the solar dream!!!

    MOFreedom

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Solar GOOD. Even just passive solar has made all the difference for me, but PV makes camping luxurious.

      Delete

I must moderate-trust me. You don't want to see what happens otherwise. Sometimes it takes awhile to respond as I only check two or three times a day. No N-Bombs, nothing to get me libeled. Otherwise, have at it. If you criticize me, make sure to praise my hair first.