Archive for February, 2012
The new homemade radiator heater system for my off grid trailer is working quite well. It takes the temperature up to the 70s within half an hour now with the water pump and fans running and good fire burning in the fireplace. There is a blower fan pointed at the Passive Fireplace Heat Exchanger as well to increase heat output even faster. It acts like a ceiling fan to bring hot air down from the ceiling and send it to the floor.
Tonight I added a second blower fan to the homemade radiator blower unit to get more heat out of the water. I was not happy with how hot the water was getting with just a single fan blowing on the radiator, so I wanted to increase the air flow and also cool down the water more. If my blower is working well enough, the return water line should feel noticeably cooler than the hot water line going to the radiator. And hot water returning to the fireplace equals wasted heat that could be pumped into the room.
Again, these are just 150mm computer cooling fans out of an old server that got water damaged. I saved the fans for the heater because they blow a lot of air and only use .3 amps each. On a 200 Amp hour battery bank, that barely puts a dent in the power available.
With both fans blowing on the radiator, the heat output is increased considerably and the trailer warms up very fast. And there is a noticeable temperature difference between the hot water line and the return water line. The fireplace uses much less wood now. Actually if the fire gets too hot, so does the water, which is not a good thing. Now I can burn about twice as long on a load of wood and get the same heat output. This fireplace was made to be used as a boiler and it shows.
This camper is totally off the grid, with lights, fans and water pump all running on solar power.
To heat up the whole 32 foot trailer in winter within a half hour, there are three fans and a water pump running. The total energy consumed is only about 1.2 Amps from all four devices. That is nothing compared to the original propane heating unit that this trailer was built with, which would kill a battery in a single day.
Overall the DIY wood stove boiler heating system was a complete success.
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Well, the trial run of my off grid camper heating system was a success. Using an antique wood stove with built in boiler and some cheap fittings and parts, I have a fully functional wood powered boiler heating system. It is a completely off grid construction using salvaged or inexpensive parts.
After assembling it about a week ago, I decided to add a few more parts to make it more reliable and safe. The water pump was the most expensive single part at $18 off the internet. It is a 12 volt water pump that claims over 26,000 hours continuous life span at only a third of an amp. The only other expense was the PEX tubing and all the fittings for the whole system. I used a salvaged house heating system expansion tank to prevent explosion from high water pressure in the pipes.
The tubes run to a car heater core, which has a 12 volt computer server fan attached to it to blow air throughout the camper.
Before, when I fired up the old wood stove, it took at least an hour for the stove to heat up. Then the camper started to get warm. Now, with the water boiler working, it only takes about ten minutes before nice, cozy warm air is blowing through the camper.
It is amazing to go into the bathroom of my 32 foot long trailer and feel hot air blowing from the duct on the floor, on the opposite end of the trailer from the fireplace.
Here is a photo of the expansion tank and water pump:
If you click on the image, you can see a larger blow up view. In the foreground is a drain valve in case I want to empty the system. Later I will run a pipe through the floor from this fitting. On the far right of the photo you can see the rubber hoses connect to the copper tubing of the car heater core. The large red tank on the left is the heater expansion tank. You pump 12 psi of air into the tank on the bottom and it controls the internal water pressure of the whole system. This is necessary to prevent explosion from high pressures built up when the water gets hot and expands. Using a car heater core, the 12 psi is perfect for the whole system as well.
The water pump is a tiny little thing but it gets the job done. And with such low power consumption at only 300 mA, it can run for days off my battery bank with no trouble. The clear tubing was used so I could be sure water was flowing in the system while setting it up. And it looks cool. I have a 50/50 water and antifreeze mix running through the system. About two gallons of solution were needed to fill it up.
I do not have a pressure release valve yet for safety. The small clear tube will easily blow if pressure ever gets out of hand. Not a neat, clean solution, but it will work for now. Retail pressure release valves run at about 150 psi, which is way too high for my little system. My hoses will blow long before that would ever open up. I need to make something up one day.
Future expansion to the system will be a large hot water holding tank and a valve to lead water to it. When the wood stove boiler gets hot, then I can route water to a holding tank, which can be used for heating later, after the wood fire goes out.
I will also add either a second computer fan or a larger, more powerful fan. The water gets pretty hot and that means I have much more heat I can be pumping through the trailer.
In the case of a complete economic collapse, large natural disaster, nuclear war, or other major breakdown, certain skills will become very valuable. In today’s modern society, people have become specialized. Each person learns a certain skill for the performance of their job. After a major disaster, many old school skills will once again become necessary for survival.
Imagine the stoppage of oil which eliminates large scale farming. Gas stations are out of fuel. Hospitals and doctors offices will be closed. Grocery stores will not be restocked. The military will be off fighting foreign wars. The tailor and dry cleaners are gone. Your local carpenter, plumber, welder are all gone. The electricity is out, leaving you with no running water, no washing machine, no heat, no air conditioning, no light. The city utilities are all gone and the toilet will not flush anymore. Imagine trying to survive without all these modern conveniences. Well, people did for thousands of years. Sure, we build up society and then start to specialize. But the families of the old wild West were multi-talented and self sufficient.
To survive a large scale disaster we will once again need to become self sufficient. It is nearly impossible for any one person to learn every skill needed for survival. But you can be as prepared as possible now to help out later on.
We will be getting back into herbal and plant based medicine. Local, family based farming and gardening will be necessary. You will need to repair or make your own tools and equipment. Cutting wood for heat without a chain saw alone is a full time job. Your clothing and shoes will start to wear out. You will need to learn to hunt and gather wild edibles. Repair and maintenance of your shelter will be on your own shoulders. Defense from predators will be necessary.
If you are reading this blog post, then you, like myself, are interested in survival. Most likely you will not have many people in your family or circle of friends who are like minded. If you do, then you are very lucky. More likely, many people will be counting on your for their own survival when the time comes.
Do not panic, but just start to prepare as well as you can now. Pick a skill that interests you the most and learn it. Study it in your free time and practice it. Research the internet for the best books on the other skills. Stock up on books that specialize in those skills where you are lacking. Spend time browsing those books in your free time to become familiar with them. You cannot become proficient in every skill overnight. But you can become familiar with your new survival library. When a need arises, you will know where to turn for the answer.
I will list a few of the most important skills we will need.
- Natural medicine and herbal medicine
- Gardening and harvesting of foods
- Food preservation and storage
- Clothing repair and sewing
- Foraging and identification of wild edibles
- Hunting, trapping and Fishing
- Working with hand tools and woodworking
- Building and shelter setup and maintenance
- Defense and protection
- Producing your own power
There are others, but the ones listed above will greatly help you. The old Readers Digest book “Back to Basics” is one of the best all time old school skills books on the market. It can still be found online today. Look for books about old Indian skills. Study how they hunted, trapped, preserved food, prepared shelter and clothing. Find books about setting traps, finding water, wild edibles. Look for good, quality books on the subject. There are many theoretical books with a lot of words, but no hands on skills are taught. Books with lots of drawings and photos seem to be better. Older books from the 70s and 80s are full of quality knowledge. I found a book at a used book store one day labeled “stocking up” for two dollars. It is from the 70s and loaded with practical information about what foods you need to survive, what quantities, how to store the food, and how to prepare the food. This book is one of the most valuable in my collection. I have an old book about Indian medicinal herbs and plants that is great when I need a cure for some ailment. I have an old book about survival with practical information about trapping fish and animals, stalking, walking silently, building a shelter and much more.
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The bottom line is that many people will probably be counting on you for their own survival. When you form a small group of survivors, the books you have collected will become very valuable. People can specialize their skills based on what needs the group has. Individuals can study the knowledge gleaned from books to learn old school skills that we have lost in the last century.
Today I completed my fireplace water boiler heating system for the off grid camper. The wood stove heats up water, which is routed through PEX tubing to a car heater core. A homemade heater blower box pushes heat through the camper.
Below you can see my antique fireplace with the water fittings hooked up to it. It has a built in water boiler around the burning chamber. If you do not have a built in water heater, you can make one. By placing a closed container of water on top of the wood stove and attaching water fittings, you can get the same result. Or you can make a water boiler that hangs on the side of the fireplace. The form and shape of your particular wood stove will affect where you place the water boiler. Some people drill holes into the side of the fireplace itself and put an expensive commercial stainless steel water heat exchanger right inside the fireplace. You can also use copper coils around the chimney pipe to get the same results.
The wood stove alone heats up the camper ok, but the floor is normally quite cold. By using a car heater core as a radiator heat exchanger and the original duct work in the camper to push heat through, the floor can also be heated up even in the furthest room from the stove. The wood stove has a built in water boiler, which was connected using pipe fittings to bring the water away from the hot sides of the fireplace. Then PEX tubing was used to carry the hot water to the original heater box in the middle of the camper. The trailer came with no heater, so this area was empty. By building a new heater blower box around the car heater core, the heat can be conducted to the bedroom and bathroom floors where it is needed the most.
Below you can see the car heater core being assembled into a homemade heater blower box for my DIY camper heating system.
Below you can see the finished heater blower box. Plywood was used to make a box that perfectly fit the car heater core. Then the original duct work from the camper was attached on one side of the box and a computer fan on the other side to blow the heat throughout the camper.
Just for info, to keep this project fully off grid, only battery operated power tools were used in the construction of the homemade heater system. Here is a photo of my battery powered jig saw. (Of course, there is no other power available anyway out there).
PEX tubing was used to connect the fireplace water fittings to the car heater core. The PEX tubing was routed through the camper where the original heater duct brought heat from the propane heater in the middle of the camper to the living room. Since there is now a fireplace in the living room, that duct will no longer be needed. The PEX tubing passes underneath the dining room benches and table area, and into the original heater compartment of the camper.
The original RV heater was about 18 inches cubed and now there is a lot of space freed up for storage. The new heater blower unit goes underneath that where the wiring of the original propane heater went.
The new heater blower box was assembled into the small space underneath the original heater compartment and the original duct work that went to the bathroom and bedroom areas were attached to the new blower unit. Also there is a tube that blows heat into the fresh water storage tank to keep it from freezing. This will now allow me to have fresh water without the fear of freezing. Soon there will be an end to living out of one gallon jugs of water for washing and drinking.
In the image above you can see the storage space underneath the dining room bench seat. This is where the PEX tubing was attached to rubber car radiator hoses, which are connected to the car heater core, off to the right, inside the cabinet. In the foreground of the image you can see the duct that goes underneath the floor to the fresh water storage tank. This was later connected to the new blower box.
Time to get some more firewood cut and see how this new homemade water boiler system works in the off grid camper.
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