Tuesday, November 17, 2015

bob the builder 6 of 8


Now we are up to about $5k, for an underground bigger building, heated with solar and some cooking fuel, custom made layout with a “forever fridge”.  Now it is time to add more solar panels.  I had, at the old place, 75 watts and that was adequate as I used 30 watts a night in winter for lighting and 20 for a small 12v truckers TV hooked up to a rooftop antenna to get about 20 channels of commercial laden broadcast shows.  More panels means a bigger TV, plus an Internet connection ( I only had the Web at work, previously ) and more writing time.  I limit my TV viewing, knowing what a time sink and mind waster it is, but I still want some at night to turn off my brain after work, writing and reading all day.  And I think I’ll go oversize on the panels, just to give us peace of mind for an overcast week, plus a built in cushion as the unit starts degrading in twenty years.  Not counting what is needed for the fridge, I think a grand in panels and batteries would work wonderfully.  400 watts total in four 100 watt panels, set up separately with four batteries ( I like a decentralized set up for redundancy ) would cost a grand.  Now I can use a twenty two inch TV or bigger, regular floor lamps or ceiling bulbs in 110 AC rather than 12v LED’s, both of us could use their own laptops and in limited amounts we have a microwave and hair curler ( notice I’m making sure the Old Lady has her electronic toys ).


Another thing I’m thinking on is a removable battery set-up.  As it is now, the battery recharges and you then waste the remaining sunlight.  If you have several extra batteries to switch out you can double or triple the juice you capture some days ( another reason I prefer the one panel one battery set-up rather than multiple panels hooked up to a series of batteries ).  Some folks will bulk at the prospect of carrying that thirty pounds or whatever from one spot to another.  Or through the house ( have a nice wooden box or similar item to hide the battery from the spouse who wants a home which looks nice rather than that rigid wall tent ).  Yes, it is another $500 in batteries, but just like extra propane tanks it is extra energy on hand on demand.  If you have a central unit you have the potential failure rate much higher.  Decentralization is more expensive, but redundancy is peace of mind and safety and preparedness.  Now, frankly, this seems like way too much extra electricity to me now.  I lived on 50 watts a day for years.  But surplus energy is luxury and luxury is the way to lure the spouse off grid.  I used to be too frugal and now would be the time to loosen the purse strings ( living back off grid I’d save $250 a month rent and utilities, so the pay-back for all this is a mere two years or so ).

More Next Time

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  1. Where's the cistern /rain catchment ? I tells ya, women's love their water. Plus when ya hafta hunker down, it needs plumbed directly into the pit, so's ya don't need go upstairs. Gotta attach a septic system indoors for them women's too.
    All can be done cheaply and without the man being aware too.

  2. I don't mean to shit in your punch bowl, but I doubt that you can 'trick out' a hole in the ground to the level necessary for a woman to agree to take up residence there. Living like a mole wears on the psyche and, over time, would drive even the most well adjusted person to consider eating a bullet.

    Dig the hole, for your own peace of mind, but live in a small, well lit, well insulated unabomber shack that you construct over top of the hole. Best of both worlds.

    1. The berms would have openings for the windows, one every eight feet. I think that would go a long ways towards acceptance, although I hear what you are saying.

    2. I was looking at solar light tubes on Amazon as a way for you to avoid needing to use electricity to power an LED lamp during the day but they are IMO outrageously expensive for such simple technology.
      Have you considered the solar lights made from plastic soda bottles? - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPXjzsXJ1Y0 (Six minute video on how a fellow in the Philippines started that trend.)
      Don't know how well it would work in a climate where the water would freeze but it's cheap enough that you could try it and discard the idea if it was not practical for your situation.

  3. A suggestion. Put The lights on 1 battery with one panel. Put the kitchen and bath on 2 batteries and 1 panel. I would want TV and internet to have 2 or 3 batteries with 2 100 watt panels. If you place the 3 separate systems in a row you can use car jumper cables to swap power from one bank to the other without moving the batteries.

    1. Damn fine idea, jumper cables. I never would have thought of that.

    2. If you can afford it, this is a far safer (and better looking) option for switching between two battery banks: http://www.amazon.com/Blue-Sea-Systems-Series-Selector/dp/B015ZPBKQM

      While we're on the subject, I'd like to remind folks NOT to use an ordinary household 3-way or 4-way 125VAC-rated switch like you find at the hardware store for switching anything but very, very small direct current loads. A switch rated for 15 amps AC might only carry 1/4 amp DC (or less) safely. Even the special low voltage (24VDC) ones are generally not rated to switch more than about 3 amps of direct current (36 watts at 12VDC). Switching higher currents can destroy their electrical contacts in very short order, and might even result in a fire.
      I'm an electrical engineer who has worked with battery backup systems for many years and can assure you that DC-rated switches and circuit breakers have significant design differences from their AC-rated counterparts to accommodate the task.
      A video illustrating the issue:

    3. I use multiple strings of batteries on switches so I can power different inverters. Multiple strings of solar panels can charge different battery packs with switches. Basically, each battery pack gets it’s own charge controller and I can switch which panels go to which controller. Here in Missouri, we just had 3 days of almost no sunshine, so I put almost all of the 12k of panels on the large battery bank and today made 23 KWH with some sunshine finally. It was partly cloudy, but did top off the batteries. I store about $6.50 worth of usable electricity.

      Tonight my living quarters (175 sq ft.) was 52 degrees so I ran the electric heater for about 35 minutes, brought it up to 62 degrees, then switched over to a small electric heater. I will shut it off before I go to bed and all will be well with extra blankets.

      Not exactly Bison range, but no electric bill for over 27 months now and I have AC in summer and can make the room comfortable with electric heat or propane backup heat. The hot water is an on demand hot water heater. My water is fixed at $20 per month and I have rural water, but tap off a neighbors and just pay them that much. I could do rain catchment, but not enough time or money to set up the system. I do have some of the bigger components like a 6” gutter that is not installed on the barn yet and a 1,000 gallon water tank.

      I am luring a female out here this weekend, so we will see how it goes! Pooping in a bucket will separate the not-so-serious ones in a hurry too! I’ll report back on how it went.


    4. Any gal entertaining the notion of off-grid should be willing to kill for 12k watts of juice!