Finally Panels Are Installed

by Kathleen Lupole  

First Screw 

Finally panels are installed on top of the barn roof! It was quite an undertaking for someone to do this with no help. Having to carry the panels up the ladder along with whatever tools were needed. Sometimes I held the ladder. I could not imagine doing this job myself. My husband, Larry, will force himself to do any job no matter how intimidating it may be. Especially if it is standing in his way of moving on. This was an important job that needed to be finished. He did it. Little by little over time, but he got those panels on the roof pretty quickly once he started. I wouldn't recommend doing a job like this on your own, alone. It would have been nice to have help, but we had no one to ask. 

 

 Making the dreaded climb on top!

 

Larry made a little wood frame that was tied to a tree behind the barn. That is what he held onto when getting on the roof. I was as nervous as could be the whole time. He kept assuring me it was secure, but I figure he was just saying that so I would be quiet and not worry so much. The first thing that had to be done was to attach the roof racks to the barn roof. He put up more than we needed at this time with the future additional panels in mind. He had to be careful screwing the racks into the roof so that it didn't create leaks in the roof. As far as I know, it did not. 

 

The first roof rack in place!

 

Once the racks were in place, it was time to start adding the panels. These panels were bought at various times. The only two that were the same size were the last two we had purchased from the eStore (an online alternative energy store). The other three were bought as single panels from time to time whenever we could afford one. Back then, panels were a lot more money than they are presently. Two of them were bought on eBay. All of our equipment has been purchased online. It is much easier for us and we can usually get exactly what we want. Well almost........but that is a future post. 

 

Progress being made!
 

As each panel is brought up on the roof it has to be connected with MC4 connectors in the back then bolted in. Then they are set in place on the rack. So Larry had to spend some time up there. Now they are all in place and ready to generate more power. He spent a lot of time studying the pattern of the sun during all seasons, to find the right spot for the panels. It paid off. We do have some shading due to the large trees across the road. But that is what we have and we have to live with it. If you are in a more open spot, you would get more power coming in. Several times over the years, that forest has been logged, but sadly they never took down the trees closest to the road which is the ones shading our panels. I figure one of these days some of those trees may just fall over on their own. It is the price of living in the forest and I wouldn't want to give that up.

 

 All 5 panels on top!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Copyright © 2016 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2016 Kathleen G. Lupole

Well To House Connection

by Kathleen Lupole  

 

 Digging the ditch for the pipes

The well to house connection isn't as easy as it sounds. Especially when you are not talking about a modern drilled well. This well is a shallow hand dug well. About 25 feet. It is not far from the front door which is a good thing when you have to haul the water inside. Connecting it to the house is one of the next things on our agenda. It has been a long time coming. Now I can finally see it on the horizon. Can you tell I am excited about this? Since the work was being done to connect the electric wires to the barn underground, it seemed like the best time to do the work on the water too. Eventually that would be connected so this work is all done and ready for the next step.

 

Water Pipes are Underground

 The ditch was dug below the frost line which is 18 inches deep. Then it goes into the room that will have the water tank in it. It isn't very far. From there the pipe will be hooked to the other pipes that will go through out the house. The pipes are PVC that are sold in the plumbing section of Lowes. I don't know if there is a difference in what PVC pipes are made of, but this is what we used. If it is not safe to use, please don't bother telling me since I am stuck with it regardless.

 

Inside the well

 Once inside the well, the pipe from the house is connected into the pipe going down into the bottom of the well. There is an elbow connected to that pipe. Since our well has a cement slab on the top of it, I never saw the inside up close before. This was very interesting to me to see the inside and all the rocks that were piled up inside for the sides of the well. Putting a hole in the side of hand dug well is something that has to be done very carefully. Not wanting to cause your well to cave in is something to be aware of. Our well was very well built by whoever did it long ago. There was no problem doing this. The rest of the photos will show different views and you can see for yourself how the water from the well will come into the house. 

 

 A view of the layers of a hand dug well.

  

Electric Wire and Water Pipe

 

A view before the room was completed.

 

Copyright © 2016 Kathleen G. Lupole

All Photographs Copyright © 2016 Kathleen G. Lupole

Our Water Supply

by Kathleen Lupole  

Our Water Supply

Our water supply is the most important need we have here at Peaceful Forest. This house was built in 1850 and hadn't had many changes since that time until we move in. I have done research on our house and it most likely had some changes before the 1940's but not after that.  For many years before we bought it, this house had been a hunting camp. Owned by a bunch of hunters who lived to party, drink and trash this place. Garbage, mainly alcohol bottles and beer cans buried all over the place. We spent years cleaning it up. It did have its own water supply though - a hand dug shallow well with a pitcher pump, right outside the front door. I don't know if this is the original well that was put in when the house was built. It may have been, but the enclosure built around it may not have been added back then. I have no way of knowing that.

 

 Horses drink a lot of water! 
 
Our water supply has never let us down. Our well has never gone dry. Regardless of the weather, in hot dry summers, under drought conditions, such as current conditions in July 2016. It is a spring fed well and the water is always clear, cold and good. Our three horses drink a huge amount of water daily. They have two 5 gallon buckets in their barn at all times. Their buckets are refilled several times through out the day. Many times when you refill a bucket and carry it into the barn one of the horses will immediately drink the whole bucket down right then. Then do the same with another bucket. Or another horse will come in from outside for her bucket of water. You can make several trips pumping a new bucket of water each time. 

 

A pitcher pump works good in the winter too!
 
"How do we use a pitcher pump in the winter?" "Doesn't the pump freeze?" Yes, it certainly does freeze. As long as it is drained down when you are done using it, then the next time you need it, just pour a cup of warm water into the pump. Wait a few minutes and it should be primed. If not, repeat with another cup. It usually thaws it out with the first time. After hearing so many people complaining about frozen pipes and having to use heat tape on their pipes, it makes me thankful for our simple pitcher pump. 
 
 

 
 
 It is very important if you are using a pitcher pump on your well, to keep it clean. For some reason, visitors' male dogs always want to pee on it. Keep them away from it. Children always want to play with it. It is fine to teach a child to pup it properly but never let them bang it or hang onto it. Teach them to only pump it when water is really needed. Never waste your water. Never wash hands or anything else at the wall with the water running. Using soap or emptying dirty containers over your well with the water running is not a good idea. You need to keep the well clean. My father-in-law always told about his sister dropping their milk bucket into their well. They had to remove all the water, bucket by bucket, climbing up and down a ladder. He said it was a horrible job but they had to remove all the milk and clean it out. So we are super careful around our well.

 

Water buckets collecting rain water

Through out my gardening season, I keep empty buckets in different areas in the garden. When it rains, I collect the rain water for watering the garden on days when it doesn't rain.  Then I don't have to carry the water from the pump to the garden. Every morning we bring in two buckets of water that sit on the counter next to the sink. We dip from that through out the day. We have another larger bucket that sits on the floor. that we sue for things like cleaning, baths, showers, etc. Our water is heated on the wood stoves in the winter. Then we have a constant supply. In the warm weather, we heat it on the propane stove. During the summer, keeping a number of green 2 liter soda bottles in the sun gives you an instant shower anytime. I use them in my bath tub, just pouring the warm water over your hair and body. I know it sounds like it would be hard to do, but it is not. And uses no fuel. Figure on six bottles per person and I never use all six, even with very thick, long hair. Clear bottles will fill with algae very fast in the sun. The green ones (from 7-UP, Ginger ale and Mountain Dew), not so quickly. They will get it too, eventually. 

 

 

Copyright © 2016 Kathleen G. Lupole

All Photographs Copyright © 2016 Kathleen G. Lupole

Cooking and Refrigeration

by Kathleen Lupole  

 

The kitchen

Cooking and refrigeration on an off the grid home usually means using propane, kerosene or wood. Our house was all set up with propane for the cooking stove and refrigerator when we moved in. At that time instead of using the propane tanks that were here, we used the small gas grill size ones. We bought five of them and filled them all. When we hooked up the last one, we'd take the other four to the convenience store for refilling. There was a propane wall light in the kitchen over the stove, but we never used it. We had fourteen kerosene lamps and two lanterns so we were well lit. I remember in the evenings, we'd walk down to the road and look at our house. Every window with a kerosene lamp giving off a soft glow. We'd remark how it looked like an Amish house, and it did.

 

 Our stove that we didn't use till we moved here
 
The stove that came with the house was small, more like an apartment size gas stove. We already had an antique 1930 gas stove that we had bought before we moved here. So we installed that next to the other one. I cooked on that more than the other stove. I really liked the little oven on the side and it worked really well. The burner area though was rather small and the burners close together. It was hard to use more than one pan on it and no way could I use it when I was canning. The canner took up the whole top. 

 

 
The Servel gas refrigerator that came with the house was great. I loved it right from the start. It kept the food extra cold and didn't turn on and off like electric ones. Best of all, it was silent. I loved that.  The freezer though, was another story. As most people who have ever lived with or saw those older refrigerators know, they had little freezers that can barely hold anything. It was like a little cube with a shelf in the middle of it. It would frost up heavily and defrosting it took a bit of time. I would pack meat in it pretty tightly. Then I would have to pry it out with an ice pick. I would wrap each piece of meat or hamburger patties in plastic wrap separately or they would freeze together in one big block. For some reason these older models, and our model was manufactured in 1930, could not store ice cream. It would not freeze. The newer models do and in their advertising for them they always mention that fact. So we lived without ice cream for a number of years.

 

The road to my house through the forest

My biggest complaint about our set up with the propane was that when the propane ran out, unless I was cooking on it, I didn't know. Soon I'd have a big puddle on the floor in front of the refrigerator. This house being old and built in 1850 is not level. The water would run down the floor to the other side of the room. Sometimes during the night, I'd wake up smelling propane. Since I am very susceptible to odors and propane in particular, makes me physically sick (bad headaches and stomach aches). Out of bed I'd go, many times on cold snowy nights in the wee hours of the morning, grab a pipe wrench to go outside to switch the tanks. It wasn't easy on those cold nights to work on the connector to remove the empty tank. I'd get it done though, trying not to wake Larry when he was sleeping. Then I'd have to go in and mop up the floor and dry off some of the items in the refrigerator that had gotten all wet from the defrost. I'd check the food in the freezer to make sure it was okay and then go back to bed. Soon I came to recognize that telltale smell of propane before it had a chance to defrost the refrigerator. I'd wake up out of a sound sleep and hurry to change it. 

 

Our Stove 

In 2004, we purchased a new 36" Peerless Premier cooking stove from Backwoods Solar. It is much bigger than most stoves. It has four burners and a good sized grill in the center between the burners. I ordered it with no electronic options. No lights, no timer, no clock and most importantly no glow bar or electronic ignition. Most important is that it does not have the glow bar in the oven that runs red hot when the oven in on. A real power hog! That is why people cannot run their ovens during a power outage because that uses electric to run. Even if you are not off the grid as I am, buying a gas stove without the glow bar will allow you to use the oven without electricity. It was delivered to us one cold winter day by an 18 wheeler driving through the state forest on our little one lane dirt road. It has been great. I can easily use two canners at the same time and I do often. 

 

Outside Cooking

We cooked outside over an open fire in the summer many times. We'd get a fire going, and keep it going all week. In the morning we'd get the coffee perking.  Soon I'd be cooking bacon, eggs, home fries and biscuits over the open fire. So good! I remember my stepdaughter, Hollie and her baby, Angel, spending a few days here with us. My son Jeff was living with us at this time too. We'd be making memories, eating our breakfast very early in morning outside, surrounded by nature in the forest. In the winter of course, we'd be cooking on the wood stoves, but that is a future post. Stay tuned! 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2016 Kathleen G. Lupole

All Photographs Copyright © 2016 Kathleen G. Lupole

Wiring For Solar Panels

by Kathleen Lupole  

 Wiring for panels

Wiring is the most expensive part of our alternative energy system. The farther the panels (or turbine) are from the batteries and house, the more you need. We had purchased the various components needed by now, including the roof racks. Roof racks were needed to place them securely on the roof. We made sure to buy enough racks for future solar panels. The brand we purchased was Unirac, though the exact model we bought has probably been improved and changed since then. I will be honest though, it was very scary watching my husband climbing on top of our barn and installing the racks and later the panels. He had to do it alone with no assistance from anyone, because it is just the two of us here now.

 

Roof racks going up

2/0 cable gave use the ability to transfer 12 volt DC power with virtually no loss, saving us the need to add a converter at the barn that changes it to AC and a converter at the house to change it back to DC. Each converter would use energy to convert it. This set up would allow us to have less components. AC is a smaller and cheaper wire. It is really a preference thing. Whichever you want to do is up to you.

 

The ditch for the wires from the house

 

Once the wire was bought, work began on the installation of it. A ditch had to be dug from the house to the barn, from the spot where it would come into the house. In the middle of this project, it had to be interrupted to do the work on the water system that would eventually bring it into the house. But that is a future post. At the house the wire then ran through the new room and into the root cellar to the circuit breaker box. The wire underground was strung through conduit to protect it from the elements and rodents. It was all set and ready to be connected in the barn. 

 

Stringing the wires through the conduit

In the barn condit was fastened to the walls to enclose the wire. From the downstairs wall the wire goes upstairs and is connected to the combiner box (made by Midnight Solar). The circuit breakers are in this box and each panel has its own circuit breaker and are connected from the roof to it here. An AC wire is run to the barn from the house in the same conduit along with the DC wire. In the downstairs of the barn, the AC wire is wired to a light switch for a light downstairs. It runs upstairs also to be wired in to various wall plugs and light switches. A DC motion light was installed in the upstairs of the barn and works great. If you see that light on at night, you wonder what is going on up there. The equipment was purchased over time until we had all the parts needed to complete this project.

Conduit on the downstairs wall

 

Finally the day arrived for the solar panels to be installed on the barn roof. Each one had to be carried up the ladder and mounted to the roof rack. Once in place their wires were plugged into the MC4 connectors. A wire runs from the panels to the combiner box. That completed the installation of moving our first five panels to the barn roof and the process of wiring them in. To add more panels now, the roof racks are all set for them to be mounted in. Should be easier. 

Combiner Box with door open

 

 

 

Copyright © 2016 Kathleen G. Lupole

All Photographs Copyright © 2016 Kathleen G. Lupole

 

1 3 4