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Archive for April, 2012

PostHeaderIcon Should You Choose Solar Or Wind Energy – or both?

There is a lot of talk on the net about either solar energy or wind energy. Many homes decide to use one or the other. Most choose solar energy for their home. But have you ever considered using both? If they could both be installed affordably, for the average family, then why not? Here are some of the advantages of having both solar and wind energy to power your home.

You can now make your own solar panels for about a dollar per watt. Even cheaper if you buy in bulk. I recently bought 600 watts worth of solar cells for $50 on the internet. They were broken in half. But some tape and soldering and they produce every bit as much power as new, whole solar cells do. 65 watts worth of B grade chipped or broken solar cells cost about $15. Then you need to make the frame and glass or plexiglas cover for the solar panel. But it is now very affordable and easy to make your own solar panels at home.

Some auto parts stores now sell high powered golf cart batteries at a very affordable price. Add in some electronics and you have a very affordable solar power system that anyone can make at home.

But you only get maximum solar energy output when the sun is shining. When it is cloudy or raining, you are not charging your batteries very much. So you need to have more solar panels and more batteries to be able to make it through three to five days of clouds or rain. That adds a lot to the overall price of your energy system.

What about a windmill? Usually when the sun is not shining much, we have higher winds. Cloudy or stormy weather usually brings wind with it. When the sun is not shining and your solar panels are not producing much power, a windmill can take up the slack.

What about at night when the sun is not shining at all? In some northern states in the US, in winter we get a maximum of about 5 hours of usable sunlight per day for solar panels. That is not much. That leaves 19 hours with no energy output. With a windmill to supplement your energy supply, you should have a lot more usable energy, year round.

DIY windmills are also becoming more affordable. And if you do not want to make one yourself, look on the internet. You can often find very low priced windmills. Factory made windmills are now running about 50 cents to a dollar per watt online. Check ebay for some of the best prices on the internet.

You can make your own windmill at home as well. See our article here: How to make a windmill from a table fan. Of course, you can apply this article to larger motors and get much more energy output. The theory is the same. Open up an AC motor, add some magnets to the rotor, put it all back together and you have a wind turbine or generator. Add some windmill blades and you have a windmill. That simple.

So, the bottom line is that you can power your home cheaper with a combination of both DIY solar panels and wind turbine energy. And you can have power output during most hours year round.

PostHeaderIcon Going Solar – Gutting out the electrical junk from my off grid trailer

I have been converting my off grid trailer to solar for the last few months now. The last step in the process was to remove that old, bulky power converter and the 115 volt power cable that was normally used to plug into the grid at campgrounds. I am installing a simple fuse box instead of that unit.

If you want to go off the grid and go fully solar with your camper, RV or trailer, you will not need that bulky, heavy power converter anymore. All it does anyway is convert the 115 volt AC power from the campground to 12 volt DC for your light bulbs and water pump inside the camper. For a solar powered trailer, that is useless. Pull it out and get a power inverter that converts 12 volt DC to 115 volt AC if you want to run any appliances.

Below is the photo of the power converter with the cover off and the 120 volt cables pulled out already.

Old Trailer Power Converter

Below, you can see the box with all the fuses and wires removed. Instead of labeling them, I removed them each one at a time and fastened them to my new fuse box. I kept them in the same order as they were in the converter box. Later I can label them on a piece of paper and keep it by my new fuse box.

Removal of camper power converter unit

Now I have freed up about 3 cubic foot of space where the converter was. That space will be nice to have for storage as anyone with an RV or camper knows. Storage space is valuable.

Here is a view of my new fuse box.

My solar fuse panel

The new fuse box is from the local auto parts store (napa, they have a lot of options) and has 6 fuses, which is exactly what the power converter had for my 12 volt devices. I kept the original fuses as well. Made converting the camper easy.

Later I will screw the new fuse box onto the side wall permanently.

I got a few meters off ebay, coming in the mail in a few weeks. I cant wait to get them installed. They are all digital and each a different color. One will be for battery voltage, one for current coming from the solar panels and the other for voltage from the solar panels. Later I will add wind energy as well and the meters can help monitor the voltage and current.

PostHeaderIcon Fully Off Grid On Earth Day 2012

I guess I did my part on Earth Day 2012 by staying out in the Off Grid Trailer. I have no connections to any utilities. Everything is fully off the grid. I must provide my own water, heat, electricity and waste management.

Using the old wood stove with homemade water boiler made it a cozy 75 degrees inside while it was 45 outside. The stove barely needs to be burning to keep it toasty in here. Actually, if the stove burns too hot, the water can get quite hot and I dont want to damage the heat exchanger or the pipes.

Solar energy powers the 4 fans and water pump for the heating system.

I am typing this on a laptop which gets charged up on solar power. A cell phone provides internet connection.

Off the grid does not mean leaving behind all of your comforts. I have music, video, movies, internet, light and anything else I want. But the main point is that this old trailer is out in the middle of the forest with no wires from the utilities.

That is what I call Off The Grid.

PostHeaderIcon Living In The Off Grid Camper

I am staying in the Off Grid Camper full time now. I am still improving the trailer every day, making it comfortable for long term living. There are a lot of life changes to be made when moving off the grid, but it is a satisfying feeling when you sit back and look at all of your accomplishments.

I am writing this blog post, fully off the grid. My cell phone provides an internet connection for my laptop. A pair of golf cart batteries are kept charged by a homemade solar panel. Later a second solar panel will be added. Then I can run a small fridge in here. For now, it is all canned food or small quantities of fresh food. Just enough that I can eat in a couple days so it does not go bad on me. No milk or dairy products for now. Not without a fridge.

Except for the rain outside right now, it is totally silent and peaceful out here. I am far from any other houses or neighbors out here on 90 acres of wild, wooded land.

Just got the bathroom closet finished today. It was totally ruined from water damage. My clothes are hanging up in there now. I will post an article about it later.

It was raining hard a little bit ago. Reminds me of my childhood, staying in the tiny little camper we had. When it rained, it meant a long, sleepless night. It is not so bad in a 32 footer, but you can sure hear the rain pounding on the metal roof. Much louder than in a house. Wish I had the rain water collection system built already. It would be nice to have the water tanks full. Tomorrow I will probably fill up from the creek. I have a spare trailer water tank I will fill up and then hook up to the trailer for a fresh water supply. For drinking I will filter it well first. It is torture to hear all of that fresh water pouring down and no way to catch it yet. Soon….

I will keep you all posted on updates and improvements to the Off Grid Camper.

PostHeaderIcon The Best Survival Fire Starters – Cheap And Simple

Here are two survival fire starting methods that require no work or effort and together can provide a lifetime of fires. There are many tools, ideas and techniques out there that claim to help you start a fire. But some of them are too expensive. Some are too fragile. And some are just too much work. If you are ever caught in a survival situation, be sure to take these two items with you.

No rubbing sticks together for me. I will never be sitting around in the cold with blisters on my hands while trying to make a fire.

On a sunny day, use a magnifying glass to start a fire. Even the cheapest dollar store childs toy will start a fire. Simply hold the glass over your tinder and direct it into the sun. Concentrate the focal point on the tinder while gently blowing on the smoking point. Within seconds, you will have a nice roaring fire going.

Keep your magnifying glass in its original case, if it came with one. Or keep it wrapped in a soft cloth or material to prevent scratches. Project it from being broken in your backpack or survival kit. Keep it clean and free of sand and grit when not in use and it will last a lifetime.

A magnifying glass can even work on partly sunny or cloudy days. It depends on the strength of the sun and the magnifying glass and tinder quality.

On rainy days, use a cheap cigarette lighter. Yes, a cigarette lighter for survival. Forget about one time use expensive water proof matches. A single cigarette lighter can light between 2,000 and 3,000 fires before the fluid runs out. That equals about 6 – 9 years of rainy days folks. If you use your one, single cigarette lighter for rainy days only and your magnifying glass for sunny days, you have a lifetime of fire for two bucks. The dollar store often sells cigarette lighters in 6 or 8 packs. That equals multiple lifetimes of fire, if used sparingly.

You often find lighters laying by the roadside or lost along forest trails. I always pick them up. You can repair lighters and keep them going for many years. Often either they run out of fuel, (it takes years), or the flint gets damaged or broken. Sometimes just the wheel comes loose from its mountings. No matter the case, you can usually make a good lighter out of two bad ones.

If a lighter gets wet, simply take the top apart and dry off the flint and the striker. Put it all back together again and it works.

After your lighter runs out of fuel, keep it for fire starting. The flint and striker will still ignite fires. No bruised, bloody knuckles while trying to smash two rocks together in the hope that a spark will fly.

I highly recommend adding these two survival fire starters to your survival kit right away. It may save your life.

Or you can rub sticks together for hours if you get bored.

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