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Archive for the ‘Off Grid Living’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Homemade Potting Bench Using Reclaimed Barn Wood

I made a rustic looking potting bench for our off grid greenhouse using all reclaimed lumber from an old barn that was demolished. The wood was left here for us to use as needed. The potting bench is built to a convenient height for my wife Melanie so that she can work in comfort in our winter greenhouse.

DIY barn wood potting bench

I first took a tape measure into our off grid tiny house on wheels and asked Melanie to walk up to our counter and table top to get a feel for the height that she wanted the potting table to be built at. We came up with about 32 to 34 inches for her comfort.

I hauled out a mess of old barn wood from the barn wood pile and cut the framing to size. I made the back legs of the potting bench 48 inches high. Then I cut the front legs at 34 inches high.

Next I cut the boards for the bench itself and then the top shelf. I used two pieces of 2×10 barn wood at 36 inches wide for the table top. A piece of 2×6 lumber formed the top shelf above the work bench.

I used scrap 2×3 lumber under the bench top for added strength to support the heavy pots and soil that will be used on the work bench.

I used 3 inch deck screws to hold it all together.

When I had the main part of the potting table together, I took the entire thing into the greenhouse for final assembly. Otherwise it would get way too heavy to carry myself.

I cut some treated lumber for the battery bank table down under the work bench. This potting bench will double as a battery rack to keep the off grid solar greenhouse batteries off the ground. I used recycled treated lumber that I had on hand for the battery bench. I figured it would resist any chemicals from the batteries better if anything ever spilled.

I ran out of screws so I had to fire up the generator and air compressor and use the framing nailer to finish the project. I figured that screws and nails give the table extra strength anyway. The screws give pulling strength to keep the wood together and the nails give sheer strength to keep the shelfs from ripping apart under load.

When I had it all finished I put it into its final home and leveled it off with treated lumber scraps. This both keeps the potting table off the ground and keeps the legs from rotting with time.

When I had it all finished I brought in some old Alpha Cell solar batteries and put them on the bottom table of the potting bench. I connected them in parallel to increase the total usable current of the greenhouse battery bank.

Next I connected a solar charge controller and a set of solar panels to complete the greenhouse solar power system. I then connected the aquaponics air pump which provides air for the fish in the large 275 gallon IBC tank. I will soon be connecting water pumps and finish assembly of the aquaponics system.

You can watch the videos of the assembly of the greenhouse potting table here:
Part 1 – Awesome Solar Power & Building Potting Bench
Part 2 – Finishing Potting Table & Set Up Greenhouse Solar Power

While you are over there please subscribe and follow our daily videos as we strive to become self sufficient and off the grid on a budget.

PostHeaderIcon BYB E430 LED Desk Lamp I Use In My Off Grid Tiny House Study

I was sent the BYB E430 LED desk lamp to try out and review. I was impressed the moment I opened the package. This is made of aircraft grade aluminum and has touch controls, 4 LED color modes and 6 brightness settings. Plus it has a memory so it always turns on in your favorite setting.

The BYB E430 desk lamp stays put where you place it. This is absolutely the best desk lamp I have ever used, hands down. Not to mention that it is an LED desk lamp and only uses 8 watts of power. This lamp comes with tools to adjust the hinge points. When you set it, it stays. The clamp is the best one I have ever seen on any clamp on desk lamp to date. I put it on my 1/2 inch wide space on the edge of my antique writing desk and it is still there months later. This light has seen bumps, spills and even cats running around. It never budged once. Not one bit.

I am sure you have all seen those clamp on desk lamps that keep falling off or swinging around. The hinges do not stay in place and the lamp never stays on. But this LED desk lamp from BYB will stay where you put it. I am very impressed.

I mentioned it above but this light only uses 8 watts although it is super bright. This light is the perfect match for my off grid tiny home because of the high LED brightness but the low power consumption. For off grid homes and energy conscious people this is perfect.

One cool feature on this lamp is that it has touch controls. There is a physical power button as well. You plug in the power pack to the wall and then turn on the physical inline switch. Now you see some subdued LED lights on top of the desk lamp which show you the way. When you touch the power on button the light turns on. Touch it again to turn off.

byb-led-desk-lamp-off

There is another touch button which cycles through the 4 color modes. This has four LED color settings ranging from cold white light to warm white. This means that it is perfect for everyone because you are sure to find the color setting that you prefer.

Another feature that I love on this LED desk lamp is the touch slider dimmer switch. By sliding your finger on the dimmer, you can make the light brighter or dimmer. There are six brightness settings built into this LED desk lamp. This is another great feature for energy savings or off grid living. I keep it on the lower setting most of the time because it is super bright and lights up my tiny house study just fine on low. On bright I can light up the entire tiny home upstairs loft. By using it on the low setting I am saving even more energy.

byb-led-desk-lamp-on-dim
BYB E430 LED Desk Lamp On Dim Setting

byb-e430-led-lamp-on-high
BYB E430 LED Desk Lamp On Bright

One more thing to note is that this BYB LED desk lamp is powered by 12 volts DC. I have not yet tried it but I plan to plug it into 12 volts DC directly and save even more energy. I will ask the manufacturer first to be certain that there is no current control in the wall pack before I just plug it into DC directly.

Thank you guys for a super awesome light that is also fit for off grid living.

You can get yours here: BYB E430 LED Desk Lamp

Watch my full video review here: BYB LED Desk Lamp In My Tiny House Study

While you are over there please subscribe to my YouTube channel and follow my daily videos as my wife and I strive to become self sufficient and off the grid on a budget.

PostHeaderIcon Connecting Solar Panels ~ Melanie’s DIY Curtains ~ Off Grid Water Supply

After hooking up some more solar panels on the roof of the tiny house battery shed (see previous posts) I connected the new solar panels to the off grid battery bank. We are working on improving our off grid rain water supply. Melanie made some curtains using scrap materials that she got for free.

Chris and I built a new frame for some more solar panels the other day. We mounted this adjustable solar panel frame to the side of the off grid battery bank shed. The solar panels are raised up above the roof of the shed and can be adjusted for the seasons to reach the most sunlight.

I then mounted the Renogy MPPT solar charge controller on the wall of the off grid battery shed. I got this charge controller recently from Preppernurse1 during our visit up north.

I first connected all the solar panels in series to increase the total voltage and reduce losses in the lines. You can only do this with an MPPT solar charge controller which can handle higher voltages. I ran these wires into the off grid battery shed.

Off Grid Solar Panels

Next I ran the battery wires to the MPPT solar charge controller. ALWAYS do this first!!! You can damage your solar charge controller if you do not connect the batteries first.

Then I connected the solar panels into the Renogy MPPT solar charge controller and got a green light. This means that I am charging my off grid battery bank.

I should be getting up to 1,200 watts of solar power in peak sunlight now. But sadly due to the trees around the meadow, I only get about two hours of peak sunlight per day. I am cutting trees to increase solar power though so one day I will have much more power at the off grid homestead.

Chris helped me get the solar panels angled into the sunlight a bit better. We cut some 2×4 lumber to fit under the solar panel frame. This holds the frame up angled into the air to give us a better angle into the sun. We set these in place and let gravity hold them for now. Later we are going to fashion some adjustable arms so that we can adjust the angle of the sun by simply removing a couple wing nuts and pins. For now we screwed another 2×4 in place to prevent the wind from blowing the solar panels around.

Adjusting Roof Mount Solar Panels

Chris and I are working on improving the off grid rain water supply system for the tiny house on wheels. I had ordered two fittings from Amazon that claimed to fit all IBC water tanks. Sadly, after ordering and paying, I saw that the package is coming from China. So I waited a month for delivery only to find that these fittings do not fit anything I have out of 50 IBC totes.

So I searched around and discovered that I have two types of fittings on the tanks. One has a larger opening and the other is smaller. I only have two of the tanks with the smaller opening. And these are the ones that I can find hardware for in the local hardware store. I sort of got lucky here.

IBC Tote For Rain Water Harvesting

We now have to get the glue out of the water tanks before we can use them on the off grid tiny house on wheels. This was organic glue and we do not drink the water so it should be no problem once we get the tanks cleaned out and bleached.

Melanie got some free fabric from a local barn sale a couple weeks ago and she spent about two days sewing by hand to make some beautiful curtains. She cut the fabric down the center to make a divider. Then she sewed on seams to prevent the threads from unraveling. She made and sewed her own loops for the curtain rod as well.

Melanies Homemade Curtains

And to top it all off – she even made little button on bows with ribbons to hold the curtains open during the daytime. She is quite amazing and talented.

I put up some curtain rods in the off grid tiny house living room and hung her curtains right away.

You can see the video of today’s work here: Connecting Solar Panels ~ Melanie’s DIY Curtains ~ Off Grid Water

While you are over there please subscribe to my YouTube channel and watch our daily videos as we strive to become self sufficient and off the grid.

PostHeaderIcon Mounting Solar Panels On Homemade Adjustable Roof Mounts

It took all three of us but we managed to get the homemade adjustable solar panel mounts onto the side of the off grid battery shed. Then we mounted the solar panels into their new frames. It sure felt good to have such a nice looking project finished in a single day.

Please see the previous article to see how we made the frames out of recycled barn wood here: Building Adjustable Solar Panel Brackets For My Off Grid Tiny House

Using two ladders, Chris and I pulled the solar panel frames up onto the side of the off grid battery storage shed while Melanie helped push it up from below. We managed to get it aligned into its place properly and I screwed it onto the wall to hold it in place.

Mouting solar panel brackets

Next I spent a considerable amount of time cutting the leg mounts where the lag bolts should go through. For each lag bolt I had to cut the wood about halfway through. Then I had to use a spade bit to cut a hole large enough for the head of the lag bolt plus the socket driver. Next I had to predrill the hole for each lag bolt so the wood would not split.

Then I was able to put in a lag bolt using my Ryobi impact driver. I really love this tool. It has saved me many hours of labor and makes driving in screws and bolts fast and easy.

Securing Solar Panel Mounts To Wall

I also had to mount another two legs onto the solar panel framing. I did not put them on beforehand in order to keep the weight of the overall framing down so we could mount it easier onto the wall of the battery shed.

Eventually we had all the legs and bolts in place and now we were ready to mount the solar panels into their new adjustable mounts.

Chris held up a solar panel to me as I stood on the ladder. I then raised up each solar panel into its resting place. I had put a piece of 2×2 lumber onto the frame for each solar panel as a lip to rest the panel on as we mounted them. This made our work so much easier.

Mounting Solar Panels On Frames

After getting a solar panel into its position, I had to climb up onto the roof of the off grid battery shed and then secure the solar panel to its mounting brackets.

This we did three times, once for each solar panel.

After we were finished with our work, Chris and I pulled up lawn chairs and rested a while, admiring our work. It felt really good to have accomplished such a task in a single day. And it looks very good and professional up there.

Solar Panels On Adjustable Frames

Stay tuned. We are going to install the MPPT solar charge controller and wire up the solar panels next and see how much more power we can get into the off grid tiny house on wheels.

You can watch the video of today’s work here: Finishing Adjustable Solar Panel Frames & Mounting Solar Panels

While you are over there, please subscribe to my YouTube channel and follow our daily videos as we strive to become self sufficient and off the grid.

PostHeaderIcon Lumsing Grand A1 Plus 13400 mAh Power Bank

Lumsing was kind enough to send me another one of their fine products. I have always been impressed with Lumsing product quality and price. This is their largest capacity power bank in the smallest package. This is smaller than most of the power banks on the market in this mAh range.

The A1 Grand Plus power bank has a huage 13,400 mAh capacity and two USB output ports to allow you to charge two devices at the same time. It has a mini USB port for charging the power bank. There are 4 pretty little blue LED lights to tell you the status of charge of the battery pack.

Lumsing Grand 13400 mAh Power Bank

I have always kept this power bank charged with a portable solar panel to keep it separate from my off grid tiny house power supply. This reduces the load on my main power bank. I use a USB LED light inside my tiny house office in the evenings plugged into this power bank. It lasts for days on end before I have to recharge it again.

I have often charged my cell phone at the same time as running an LED light with the Grand A1 Plus power bank. It can charge an average cell phone between 3 to 6 times. It can also charge most tablets at least one time.

This is truly a compact power bank measuring about 3.8 x 3.1 x 0.8 inches, and is very convenient for tossing in your pocket or backpack. I have used this many times out in the field camping or hiking. This power bank helps keep my emergency cell phone charged while in the woods while powering my USB LED light at night. Weighing just over 9 ounces makes this light enough for me to take in my backpack as well. This is lighter than carrying around a mess of batteries for each of your devices.

Lumsing Grand A1 Plus Power Bank

This Lumsing power pack comes nicely packaged and includes an instruction manual and a USB charging cable.

The Lumsing Grand power bank has a 3 amp output at 5 volts DC so it can charge most USB devices with no problem and in a hurry. My power hungry Samsung Galaxy Note 4 charges up very quickly with this power bank.

You can get your Lumsing Grand A1 Plus 13400 mAh Power Bank here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0147YIXLM

Watch my video review here: Lumsing Grand A1 Plus 13400 mAh Power Bank

While you are there, please subscribe and watch our daily videos as we strive to become self sufficient while living off the grid in a tiny house on wheels.