My "off-grid" playground experiment!

Anything off grid. Energy, waste management, water supply, housing, whatever.
The_Amateur
Posts: 56
Joined: Sat Nov 02, 2013 9:17 pm
Location: NW Atlanta

Re: My "off-grid" playground experiment!

Post by The_Amateur » Tue Mar 31, 2015 6:17 pm

Since my last post, not too much big work has gone on, but a lot of little work has. A lot of my big work is complete now. I only have a little bit of wall left to cover and all the insulation is done besides in one spot I'll tackle later.

Most of the stuff listed is done in chronological order from the 8th onto today:

Since the 8th, I have ran the A/C a few times now and the heater once or twice, but most of the days are nice between 65 and 75 with humidity pretty low. Pollen, while invisible yet, is in the air and is making my allergies very bad. The trees are greening and everything has some form of budding on it. There are a lot of flying insects out now, such as bees, carpenter bees, wasps, yellow jackets, etc. I haven't seen any mosquitoes yet but it's not too humid yet since the trees aren't fully green. The humidity is beginning to rise.

Temperatures are really nice now, with the playground being in the low-mid 60s when I get home from school, eliminating my need to use the A/C most of the time. I brought a portable LCD flat screen out and put picture frame velcro things to "mount" it to the wall, and it's holding up fine now. I can watch 5 channels with it along with the car radio for music. I plan on having water storage out here again soon so I don't keep bringing out drinks I may forget out.

I put some Thompson's water sealer on the playground's bridge and a second coat of it on the floor above me. It darkened the bridge a lot but it's very well sealed, I believe. No more moss is on it, which will hopefully prolong its life. I plan on cutting a little area of the bridge off right before it would reach the playground to greatly reduce the amount of water flowing over to my area. For now, I use trash bags to cover the area that the leaks are entering. Even without them, the amount of water entering is not even 20% of what it was at the start of the year.

I then got new lighting for the playground's interior. A while ago, my LED light strip I had got a tear in one of the wires because of the way I hung it, and about half of the lights just died. So for a while, I just had a lamp illuminating the place. It's now back to LED bar lights which are more solid and light the place up about as well. They're also DC powered, so that I won't need to run the inverter to have lighting. The total wattage of it is around 15 watts total.

My new DIY window now has a little sun shade over it to block the peak sunlight from coming in and allowing the late day sun once its rays aren't strong enough to heat much, if any. I did this to stop any potential heating in summer from occurring while still letting me be able to have some natural light come through instead of last year where the place became very dark during summer. The wood I put on it to keep the sun out had some of the water seal on it and it was slightly warped, so it'll help run the rain off well.

I then got some new supplies from Home Depot:
-40 feet of 2 gauge wire (20 for positive, 20 for negative) to replace 10 feet of 6 gauge wire for less loss,
-A new corded Ryobi drill from Home Depot. It works great!
They are already helping me immensely. With the longer wire, I can move the solar panels to areas that the sun will reach early in the morning or right before sunset instead of losing all sun at 7:30 when it goes behind the house in summer. The drill has now let me work on some things that I never did simply because I didn't want to wait for the cordless one to charge or I forgot about it.

I made a new "extension cord" and a new outlet/extension cord to plug into the playground. I've already used the cords to use the drill outside. I made a video on how I made it to be linked below:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWqTkODVUqQ

Finally, I just today rewired my electric heater to have the cord on the right side instead of the left, simply because with the wire/ground on the right side, I don't use as much wire and the grounding wire doesn't go across the middle of the floor anymore.

Things here in general are going well, and I'm glad there's still stuff to do out here. I wouldn't know what to do with not any work since it keeps me occupied and I have something worthy of uploading to YouTube.

As a side note, I found a dehumidifier at Home Depot, but I don't think it is for big spaces: http://www.homedepot.com/p/Perfect-Home ... /202261882
I may buy this for summer, but who knows. I'll just wait and see how bad it is.

techman
Site Admin
Posts: 1323
Joined: Thu Dec 22, 2011 11:49 am

Re: My "off-grid" playground experiment!

Post by techman » Wed Apr 08, 2015 9:28 am

Sounds good. I still want to do a video featuring your channel. I will do that soon. Been pretty crazy here with spring coming on and the animals constantly attacking my chickens. Most of the work I do off video but I am trying to repair everything that was damaged in the winter. There was a lot of damage, mostly due to high winds but some from heavy snow loads on the chicken fences. I did not foresee that happening when I built it.

I have to catch up on your videos soon. Been missing out for a while.

Keep up the good work :)

The_Amateur
Posts: 56
Joined: Sat Nov 02, 2013 9:17 pm
Location: NW Atlanta

Re: My "off-grid" playground experiment!

Post by The_Amateur » Wed Apr 08, 2015 4:18 pm

No rush on the video; I understand your situation completely!

Today got up to 91.2 degrees, the first day above 90 degrees this year. Fortunately, it wasn't humid at all, only at 41%. This morning felt worse at 75% at 75 degrees. I'm slowly getting more and more used to the higher water concentration in the air, though. Summer will easily be 80% or so at 90 degrees for weeks.

Trees' leaves here all are almost fully grown now and we've been getting extreme amounts of pollen. I began removing pollen of the solar panels this week with the high concentrations reducing my power by almost 50%. I resorted to pouring about 5 gallons of water from the top of the solar panels to let it slide down and take the pollen with it, then dry very quickly to a state of completely clean, pollen-free solar panels. I did that 3-4 times a day. Today, once again, was so far the worst day for it. I have refilled my bucket 2x so far and used about 8 gallons so far just to keep my power production up.

Since my last post, a few things have gone on:

I did a lot of preparation for my power setup because this week was supposed to be bad mostly with severe weather. It all ended up dying before it hit here, but now, it's all going to hit at once on Friday with an expected tornado outbreak. That'll be fun. To prepare for all the rains to come, I did a drill scenario to see how long it would take to get everything brought inside our house to at least save the solar panels and a battery. Doing just one battery and the solar panels would take 5 minutes, and with advance warning and with cooperation of the entire family, I could get everything from the playground necessary to have a functioning power setup into our safe room in about 10. Alone, 20 minutes tops.

I got a new redneck air purifier for the playground. It's simply a 20x20 inch Lasko box fan and a 20x20x1 air filter attached to the back. It seems to be working well. I would recommend you do the same thing with a good quality filter to get rid of anything that may have come from outside. And for your window air conditioner that you will need to eventually be using, you will definitely need to clean its filter out if you haven't. Last year I ran mine without cleaning it and when I cleaned it a few days ago for the first time, it was disgusting, although it didn't look dirty one bit.

I have been using a lot more of my produced power since March began. My power meter that reads all of my DC power from the solar panels that I use is now reading over 6,000 watts. Just a week or two ago, it hit 4,000. The air conditioner is surely taking up a lot of power but with my battery bank, it's holding it well, only going down to 12.05-12.25 under load. Once it turns off, it goes right back up to 12.6 or 12.7 after running for an hour.

Thinking about air conditioners, you might want to invest in getting a higher BTU air conditioner for the place and try running it solely on battery power the first few times. It'll get your batteries' juices flowing. You'll also likely need a higher than 5,000 BTU air conditioner like I believe you have. With your house getting a good bit of sun, you'll probably want to get a 8k to 10k BTU air conditioner.
http://www.homedepot.com/p/LG-Electroni ... o5oZ2bcqfk
is what I would recommend.

The_Amateur
Posts: 56
Joined: Sat Nov 02, 2013 9:17 pm
Location: NW Atlanta

Re: My "off-grid" playground experiment!

Post by The_Amateur » Wed Apr 08, 2015 7:18 pm

I also just installed two Insignia speakers to replace my one speaker that was connected to the car radio mounted on the ceiling. It sounds superb and can actually get ear piercingly loud without "cracking up." They may be installed inside or outside, so I can unhook these speakers, put them on some longer speaker wire ran through my window screen, and play to the whole yard. I just uploaded a video of it as well as today's video if you would like to check them out.

techman
Site Admin
Posts: 1323
Joined: Thu Dec 22, 2011 11:49 am

Re: My "off-grid" playground experiment!

Post by techman » Mon Apr 20, 2015 1:06 pm

Awesome. Love the fact that you are doing emergency drills and have a plan in place.

My air conditioner is perfect for the smaller space I have to cool off. It is also perfect for my battery bank and solar panel sizes. Anything larger would be tougher to power and need bigger wires on the inverter to power it.

The trees are only just budding out here right now. Had about 80 degrees two days ago. Was nice. Not humid to it felt quite good.

The_Amateur
Posts: 56
Joined: Sat Nov 02, 2013 9:17 pm
Location: NW Atlanta

Re: My "off-grid" playground experiment!

Post by The_Amateur » Wed Apr 29, 2015 5:34 pm

Since my last post, I have gotten a third solar panel. It's really helping with my power production and should work great with the air conditioner and heater when needed. I planned on having them turned landscape and stacked. It turns out that having them wide is working a lot better than I thought since the sun's angle is very high in the sky. My longer solar panel wires are also enabling me to use 5 hours of full sunlight and around 7 hours of at least 75 watts assuming no clouds are blocking the sun. In winter, I may have some struggles with not full sunlight, but I think I'd be fine.

We ended up having a tornado hit two miles away from the house and hail and wind from the developing tornado hit the playground before the tornado developed. This all happened just days after the third solar panel arrived. Forecasts called for only a 20% chance of rain so I didn't put my hail covers on them that day, nor was I home to bring the panels or anything inside. We got hail the size of golfballs pounding the solar panels (which are in the summer position where the panels are almost parallel to the ground for the high sun angle) and they stood up like champs. I am very glad I got these WindyNation solar panels.

I've been working a lot on my leak situation and a separate storm hit making it look like I didn't even try. I was so fed up it that I decided to take part of the bridge out as I planned on doing it a while ago. The cut is right by where the bridge meets where my part of the playground is. I intended for it to only have a 1" gap for rain to stop flowing and go through the hole, but I decided to remove the extra 3" of wood that connected to my section. I am glad I did. It revealed another ant colony, not as big or threatening as the first one I found back when I redid the second floor. But that's not what I was glad to find. I found an area with basically a wide open hole that any flowing rainwater from the bridge would easily go through and getting to other parts of the playground. I brought out a fan and let it dry the newly exposed area for hours. It was obviously soaking wet and probably beginning to rot for having no sun and constant water flow. Once it was dry, it looked like it was never even wet. I put spray foam in the area to fill the gap.

I also redid the silicone that was filling the gap between my only two boards covering my ceiling and any others gaps that were covered solely by aluminum tape. I then covered them it with aluminum tape and siliconed around it to keep rain from entering. The very good news is that no water managed to get inside the playground at all. I really hope this is the end of dealing with major leaks of rain after dealing with it for almost a year and a half since I've occupied this area of the playground.

Not too much work is being done to the playground now because I am frankly running out of things to do in such a confined area. Fortunately, it looks like nothing else will need to be done to fix any leaks or anything in the realm of bad things. Once I move out in a year, it'll all begin again where I get my own property and either build my own tiny house or what. I'm still not yet fully decided on what I want to do.

The_Amateur
Posts: 56
Joined: Sat Nov 02, 2013 9:17 pm
Location: NW Atlanta

Re: My "off-grid" playground experiment!

Post by The_Amateur » Wed May 20, 2015 2:43 pm

Just an update to what's been going on since the 29th: not much!

I have been doing a lot of small work with the place since most of the big stuff needed to be worked on is all done. The leaks are almost fine, as well. It's now warm and humid enough daily for popup storms to be of concern here, as well. Just a day or two ago, a bad storm hit where the top of the chimney blew off and the chimney itself may be damaged to where we need a whole new chimney put on.

The air conditioner has been put to good use now that it's been warm a lot and the lows are barely getting below 70 if at all.

I am going to be doing a lot of upgrades to my YouTube video production very soon so we'll see how well it looks!

techman
Site Admin
Posts: 1323
Joined: Thu Dec 22, 2011 11:49 am

Re: My "off-grid" playground experiment!

Post by techman » Thu May 21, 2015 9:29 am

Happy to hear your solar panels survived the storm. That is scary stuff with hail hitting your solar panels.

It was good talking to you yesterday on skype. Thanks for taking the time to do that.

I would start experimenting with the limits of the battery bank. Take it in the house and see how much you can run on it and for how long. See how long you can run your lights / AC / heater and other things. Use a volt meter and take constant readings. These are things that people like to know about.

Go out there and watch TV for a while. Play a video game. Do whatever you enjoy but do it out there and take readings of your battery voltage. See how long they can last down to 50% discharge.

These are real World experiments that people want to know. And these are cool experiments to show us what your system really can do.

Dragon93
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Feb 10, 2015 9:27 am
Location: Maine for now

Re: My "off-grid" playground experiment!

Post by Dragon93 » Tue Jun 02, 2015 12:09 pm

Just wanted to say that I sat down and watched all of your videos since Troy did a video with you. I want to thank him for doing that. It game me something else to watch. :D
I just watched your latest video. Sorry to hear about your mom. My hart goes out to you.

techman
Site Admin
Posts: 1323
Joined: Thu Dec 22, 2011 11:49 am

Re: My "off-grid" playground experiment!

Post by techman » Thu Jun 11, 2015 9:43 am

Dragon93 wrote:Just wanted to say that I sat down and watched all of your videos since Troy did a video with you. I want to thank him for doing that. It game me something else to watch. :D
I just watched your latest video. Sorry to hear about your mom. My hart goes out to you.
I think he is doing a great job and deserves to have more subs. Thanks for watching us both :)

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