Monday 17 December 2012

Off Topic. Advice for off the grid solar power users.

Most people who follow this blog have realised by now the connection between 18th century living history/historical trekking and survival. So the other posts I make on here are not so far off the track in that respect. My wife and I have been living off the grid for over 30 years now, and we were living up in Elm Cottage without any electricity for at least 20 years. Hence once in a while I like to share some of my learnt knowledge with you, in the hope that it may improve your standard of living, or at least help prepare you for hard times.

Many people when going off the grid think that only the power source changes, not their lives. This is NOT the case. When living off the grid you need to change the way you used to think back in town, your lifestyle needs to change. You do not have to live without comforts, but you do need to adapt to your new way of living.
You can't use an electric stove, it will drain and kill your batteries. You can not leave the television turned on all day when not actually watching something and you may need to limit your viewing hours depending on the solar system you have, and the weather conditions.

If you have any questions or suggestions I have missed, please contact me.

For Solar Power Users Off The Grid.

·         Really hot weather here in Australia, so check the water/acid level on your batteries frequently. Hot weather and high charging rates will deplete the level of distilled water in your battery cells.

·         Only use distilled water in your batteries.

·         Do not overload your batteries regardless of weather conditions; only use items that your solar system was built to handle.

Items Not To Use.

·         Electric stoves and ovens.

·         Electric grills.

·         Electric irons.

·         Electric hot water systems.

·         Electric toasters.

·         Electric lawn mowers (other than those with self battery power).

·         Electric jugs.

·         Electric kettles.

·         Clothes dryers.

·         Electric heating appliances.

·         Air conditioners.

·         Flood lights.

·         Electric welders.

·         Compressors.

·         240 Volt water pumps.

·         Anything that uses a lot of power.

Do Use.

·         The highest star rating appliances you can get in Television monitors, washing machines and fridges.

·         LED lighting.

·         Wood burning stoves and heaters.

·         Outdoor washing lines and indoor washing racks.

·         Large windows and fly screens.

·         Curtains to shut out the sun on very hot days and keep the heat in on cold days.

·         Security screen doors so you can leave the doors open on a hot day.

·         Solar powered battery operated security lights that run on their own separate solar panels.

·         A back-up generator that will charge your batteries and power the house at the same time.

Do Not:

·         Leave lights on.

·         Leave appliances tuned on when not in use.

·         Leave the fridge door open for any longer than necessary.

·         Use the washing machine or any other high power usage appliances on overcast days.

·         Run your batteries down below the recommended levels. If you do, use your generator to charge the batteries until they are back up to the recommended specific gravity and voltage levels.

·         Use power tools for any longer than necessary. Consider alternatives for these electric tools, such as foot powered or hand powered.

·         Allow trades people to use your power. Inform them before hand that you run your house on solar power and they need to supply their own power generator for power tools and other electric appliances.



·         Check your batteries specific gravity, amps input, and volts frequently in winter. Record these levels along with the date, weather conditions, and what type of appliances you were using the day before.

·         Keep your batteries up off the cold ground. Batteries work more efficiently when hot, solar panels work more efficiently when cold.

·         Clear the snow off your solar panels as soon as possible in winter.

·         Place your solar panels so you can reach them without going onto your roof if you live in snow country.

·         Make sure trees and bushes are not shading your solar panels at any time of the day.

·         If you need to, use high power usage appliances during sunny days whilst the sun is shining, e.g. washing machine, electric drills etc.

·         Close your wood burning stove down when not in use. This will save you wood and will not add to the heat in summer.


Gorges Smythe said...

Looks like a lot of good advice!

Ramana Rajgopaul said...

This is a timely post Keith. Thank you.

Lux said...

For those who are sitting on the fence on this issue of Having a solar set up, you can start small. I have a total of 3 micro-solar set ups. The largest one is only 20 watts and provides me with some LED lighting 24/7 and it can run a small 10” fan 24/7 during the summer. The cost was under $100 including the car battery.



Dazza said...

Hi Keith thanks for the post and I thought I would quickly add my current bush stand alone setup which is small but adequate as long as the sun is out for most of the day.

2x 200watt 12v solar panels (ebay) '13 $250ech
1x 80Watt 12v solar panel (ebay) '09 $250
20amp regulator (ebay) '09 $130
1x 200amp hour battery '13 $360
Bosch 190HN52 (N200 truck style maintenance free sealed)
600/1200watt Inverter (ebay) '13 $130?
I run:
Bar fridge (240v)
Energy saving bulbs 7watts
40inch LED smart internet TV
Sony Playstation 3
Sony surround system CD/DVD/USB + 17inch LCD control-monitor
Dell Latitude Core i5 Laptop
External hard disk drive
Small water pump
other low power appliances

all but the bar fridge I run for probably at least 3hrs a day but would definitely get more out of it.

Back up is a 4.0kva Sinewave inverter generator (ebay)
running a 10amp non pulse battery charger as well as in the event of need: Microwave, toaster and Air conditioning.

Heating is taken care of by LPG until I finishing building my outside wood-fired water circulating radiant heater, if it wasn't for the internal space of my house (40x10 foot demount-able) I'd just have a normal inside fire.

Water 2x 1000ltr IB Containers car trailer mounted.

I think the next step for me will be a 1.5kw wind turbine and couple more 200ah batteries to cover those dreaded overcast days and maybe a bigger fridge.

Thanks for listening to my little spew...