The DIY World Store

Make your own solar panels for $1 per watt
Get the book
The Complete DIY Solar Panel Book

Help us keep posting valuable experiments.

Archive for July, 2012

PostHeaderIcon Full Time Off Grid Camper Living Is Peaceful And Satisfying

Living off the grid full time in a 32 foot camper, in the middle of the woods, is very relaxing. I look out the window and see nature. No cars, traffic, houses, music or parties, lawn mowers or other city noises. Just peace and quiet. And since I am off the grid, I do not even know when the whole town looses power, like yesterday.

We had a thunderstorm yesterday which dumped 30 gallons of water into my rain water collection tank in the first ten minutes. After that the rest was dumped out the overflow hose. It was a powerful storm, but nothing to worry about. I was working on the computer, had lights and fans running as usual. When I went into town I noticed that they had no power. A small tornado had torn through town and knocked down multiple power lines. I never even knew. That is two times in three days they all lost power.

Living off the grid is so satisfying knowing that you are not relying on others to bring electricity, water and heat to your door. You are so dependent on others when you have those umbilical cords attached to your life. I talked to some people and handed out some business cards for The Do It Yourself World and then went home to my off grid trailer with my solar power and self sufficient water supply.

Getting off the grid is easy and does not need to be done all at one time. I started out with one homemade 65 watt solar panel and a homemade solar charge controller. I am still working my way up to the level I want, but for now, I am fully off the grid at least.

You can make or buy one solar panel at a time. Build up your system slowly as your budget allows. Set up a rain water collection system. Install a composting toilet (no flushing needed). Grow a garden. Vertical gardens are getting popular now for tight spaces.

I live in a camper full time in the woods. My rent is $200 a month for the permission to stay on the 90 acre property in the mountains. The owner is in his 80s and cannot even walk without support anymore. So this 90 acres is pretty much my own playground. It is undisturbed by others. I have a lake with fish in it. A fast running stream with trout runs through the woods not far away. Deer, turkey, squirrels, chipmunks, coyotes and even a bear all live around me. This is as wild as you can get and still be able to drive to work every day.

If you are thinking about moving into an RV or camper full time, it is really quite easy. Find someone who has a large chunk of land and ask if you can rent some of it from them. Older people or farmers might be willing to have a bit of extra cash and they are usually too old to use the land themselves anymore. That is exactly what I did. It did not happen overnight. It actually took me about 6 months to find the right place. But I love it here.

This started out as an experiment to show people that you can get off the grid on a budget, but it is now growing on me more every day.

Having running water, power and a working toilet even after the town looses power sure feels good. They all get out their generators and unplug things while I keep on going with life as usual.

PostHeaderIcon Living in an RV full time with free solar power and rain water

I have been living in The Off Grid Project for a few months now full time. At first it started out a bit tough with very little power and hand carrying water. Every bit of energy and water had to be closely watched and sparingly used. Well, after many completed projects, life is getting a bit more comfortable. Actually, very nice.

A few days ago we had a powerful thunderstorm with damaging winds that dumped tons of rain on us. There were tree branches knocked down all over and power was out for a large area. I did not even know the power went out. That is one huge advantage of living off the grid on solar power. You never loose power.

And another nice advantage of the storm was that I got 40 gallons of water in my tanks. The first ten minutes brought 30 gallons of water. My rain water collectors are two 40 foot long sheets of metal on the roof of the trailer. They are 3 feet wide together. That gives me 120 square feet of rain water collection area. That is really very small. And to get 30 gallons in ten minutes is amazing. For my sparing life now, that equals about a month of water.

As I write this, another powerful thunderstorm is going over in full force. Normally I would have the computer turned off to protect it against power surges from lighting. Living off the grid that danger no longer exists. The water collection tank is filling up nicely again. I have the on board 40 gallon water tank and another 30 gallon tank outside. I got a spare water tank from an old camper I gutted out. That tank collects rain water outside. When it fills up, I transfer the water into the on board tank.

If it keeps raining like it is, I will need to get more storage tanks. I could live all year on the water coming down. Right now, when the outside tank fills up, the extra just pours off onto the ground. The tank has filled since I started writing this and is dumping on the ground even now.

I am doing just as well with solar power right now. I have five 65 watt solar panels collecting power from the sun. Even on cloudy days I get some energy from the panels. That does not sound like much, but after living for a while with only 65 watts, it is a huge amount of energy. My battery bank fills up every day by about mid afternoon.

Now I find myself trying to use up all the energy every night when I get home from work. I run two or three fans 24 hours a day when it is warm out. I have LED lighting throughout the camper. Those can be left on all night as well, if I want. I have an LED outdoor light I leave on all the time now to keep the chickens safe from predators. The trailer water pump keeps water pressure up at all times. It runs as needed as I use water. That is a 12 volt RV water pump. And of course, my laptop and cell phone are charged up with the solar energy. A Bedini SSG radiant energy generator is on 24-7 restoring old sulfated lead acid batteries. I have three of these and at least one is running all the time.

My battery operated power tools get charged up on solar power. This includes my vacuum cleaner, which is battery powered. And I have a car stereo that I can hook up to my computer to watch movies with an awesome sound.

All of these things are running and I have energy to spare. Sadly there is not yet enough for a fridge because that would require more batteries and more solar panels. You need at least 300 watts continuous solar power to run a fridge. And a pure sine wave power inverter is required or you will burn out the compressor pump soon. You can not run a fridge full time off a cheap power inverter. One day I will have enough, but for now, I am getting along just fine with no fridge.

And that is part of The Off Grid Project – to see how well one can get along when living off the grid in the middle of the forest.

PostHeaderIcon Making A Solar Powered Bedini SSG Radiant Energy Charger

I am working on a solar powered Bedini SSG charger using all scrap materials. The cost is absolutely nothing to make. Now that is what I call “free energy”. The system is running on solar powered batteries and is restoring an old, junk lead acid battery.

If you are not familiar with either radiant energy or the Bedini SSG, you can learn more Here.

I took a defective laserjet printer and scrapped out all useful parts. The solenoids from the printer were useful for this circuit. An old hard drive gave me the super fine bearings and platters to glue magnets on to. The only thing that did cost anything at all were the magnets. I have had them laying around for years. The label shows they are from Radio Shack and cost $1.99 a pack long ago. They have been collecting dust in a drawer until now.

I have been wanting to make a new Bedini charger, but had no money for the wire. Copper wire is getting expensive. I had been thinking about salvaging wire from old transformers, but that is a lot of work. Then I realized I had some solenoids laying around from that laser printer I had junked.

The base of the motor is an old hard drive spindle with its motor. I kept the hard drive plates in place and just hot glued six magnets around the outside and taped everything down well.

I screwed the hard drive motor to a part of the old hard drive case and then screwed that down to a piece of wood. I used a smaller solenoid as the trigger coil and two identical larger solenoids as the power coils. I ran the two power coils in parallel and used a single transistor.

Because the hard drive motor had some resistance, the motor would not stay spinning at first. But with each spin up of the motor by hand the charging battery was getting charged. The volt meter on the output went up every time I spun the motor by hand. So I knew I was getting radiant energy. I decided to try to take the hard drive motor apart and just use the bearings, but could not get it open. So I gave it a good, hard whack with a hammer and it broke up the magnets inside enough to allow the spindle to spin freely with no drag.

With only one power coil, you could tell the motor wanted to run, but it just did not have enough power to push the magnets around. So I added the second coil and the Bedini SSG spun right up and is currently restoring an old lead acid battery.

This “free energy generator” is using free solar power to run the motor and is restoring an old battery for free. I dont care how much current it uses on the input because the solar power is free. It does not cost me anything to run this generator. It was also very easy to assemble because I did not need to wind any coils or make a bearing support and spindle.

The new radiant energy generator seems to be putting out a lot of power. It is performing better than my old lawn mower wheel machine. I am not sure yet why it seems so powerful, but I will keep this one together exactly as it is and study it.

See the video here:

Here is the schematic that I used:

Radiant Energy Battery Charger Schematic

Here is the orginal article on The DIY World about the radiant energy charger:
Radiant Energy Charger Details

PostHeaderIcon Homemade Experimenters Power Supply Adjustable Output w/ Plexiglass Case & LEDs

Working with electronics all the time, you will need an adjustable power supply. Working off grid, means it should be able to handle anything from half a volt up to 30 volts, but be powered off of 12 Volts DC. This power supply project can house anything you want, but mine is run on solar power. The power supply case is made of clear plexiglass and has LED lighting effects, just for fun.

Homemade experimenters power supply with acrylic case and LEDs

Above is a photo taken after the LED effects were put in. I have been wanting to build a variable power supply for all my experiments. The Off Grid Project is a 32 foot camper running off solar power, so there is only a 12 volt power supply. I wanted to have a variable output power supply for testing new circuits such as my MPPT solar power controller. But do to that you need voltages ranging from 0 volts up to 30 volts DC. So I started to make a power supply and remembered that I had some acrylic sheets a friend gave me. Why not make the power supply look nice as well.

I just got some little buck inverter units from the internet so I used one to run the LEDs on the case. A dollar store neon tube meant for autos was hacked for its 12 volt cigarette lighter socket. Cheaper than buying a socket itself. This provides the power supply with all its power needs. I used two heavy bolts for the plus and minus terminals. Using ring connectors, this can then be expanded as needed easily. To add a new power supply circuit, simply screw the wires on to the bolts.

Right now this is just a pretty case with some LED lights. Later I will be adding a digital volt meter with a selector switch to show the voltage of any power unit I want to use. There will be various circuits installed into this box. A DC – DC boost circuit to provide anything above 12 volts up to 30 volts DC. Also a buck inverter will be used to supply from 12 volts down to 0 volts DC. I may add some AC circuits later as well.

As the project progresses, you can follow it here…..

PostHeaderIcon Convert RV or Camper To LED Lighting For Solar Power

When you are converting your RV or camper to go off the grid and run on solar power only, one thing you must do is install energy efficient lighting to save electricity. The standard light bulbs in an RV are usually 12 volts at around 15 watts each. That is just over 1 Amp of energy used every hour the light is on. In an off grid environment this can add up fast. Converting your RV or camper to LED lighting is a huge energy saving step you can make. It does not need to be expensive either.

Convert your camper or RV to LED lighting

The image above shows a light fixture in our off grid trailer with a high output LED light bulb installed. The LED lamp uses about 1.5 Watts of energy but puts out just about the same amount of light as the original 15 Watt incandescent bulb.

A few years ago LED lighting was way too expensive to be used in normal indoor lighting. But today that is no longer the case. You now have two choices. You can make LED light bulbs yourself See How. Or you can get them online at very affordable prices. The RV replacement LED light bulbs shown in this article cost less than $5 each with shipping included. Do a search on ebay under “automotive LED light” or “RV LED light bulb” and you can find very inexpensive LED lights.

Using LED light bulbs for solar powered RV

These light bulbs literally screw into the original RV light socket. They are the bayonet type of light bulbs. The most important thing is to make sure you get the correct lamp socket for your fixtures. You can see the LED light bulb hanging from its new home above. These bulbs came with a sticky tape on the back. You screw the socket in place and then tape the square LED lamp into the light fixture. Bend the wires out of sight and you are done.

Solar Powered LED Light Bulb in an RV

Now, before putting the light fixture cover back in place, test your new LED light bulb to make sure it is installed properly. There is a distinct plus and minus on an LED light. If they are installed in reverse, you will not get any light.

Test New Camper LED Light Bulb

Your LED light bulb may have two wires and a small adapter socket like ours did. If your LED light does not turn on, then you may need to turn the wires around and re-attach the adapter socket.

That’s it!

You are now on your way to energy savings. These LED light bulbs use so little energy that you can normally leave an outdoor light on all night with hardly any drain on your battery.