The Charge Controller

solar panels
Growing our system
The charge controller is a part of all solar or wind energy sytems. A charge controller is needed for your system. It is connected to your batteries and the panels. Our charge controller was mounted on our wall. Now it is downstairs in the cellar There are many different brands and types and it can get complicated. I am not the most knowledgeable person on this subject. I just know what we use and how it works. We have had all together three different ones. 

First Charge Controller
First Charge Controller
The charge controller does just what the name says. It controls how much of a charge that goes into your batteries. It will stop the charge coming in from whatever power source you are using when your batteries are at full charge. It would ruin them to be overcharged. In the beginning with only two lead acid batteries and one 55 watt solar panel using this small charge controller was fine. At that time we used to charge the batteries with a car parked next to the window. I remember being able to do this myself. Using jumper cables.

charge controller
Our Charge Controller
As our system grew we added a better type of charge controller. It is made by Xantrex, which was a good quality brand. We used it for many years and still in fact, have it. This one was able to be used as our system grew. My husband always planned on adding a wind turbine so he kept that in mind when purchasing our various components. Each component is costly so you want to make sure that what you buy will be able to be used as you build your system larger.

wind turbine
Wind Max
Once we had the wind turbine up we had to make sure our charge controller could handle all the extra power. It took us a long time to get the turbine up. I will be posting about that on a future blog post. Once we got it up we had to do something with all that extra power. That brings us to our present charge controller which is a diversion charge controller. It does not mean it cuts off from the charging source when the batteries are at full charge. It keeps charging but will direct that energy somewhere else. It has a built in heater that turns on to use the power up so it won't over charge the batteries. 

Diversion Controller
Diversion Controller
It was on our wall while the batteries were up here. Now they are downstairs in the battery room with the new the batteries. This controller will be hooked up to eventually sending the diversion load into our water heater that will heat the water instead of turning the heater part on. We have a brand new water heater and a pressurized water tank in the water room just waiting to be hooked up. I can't wait for that myself! That means that we will have running water in the house. I am promising myself that we will get it in this summer for sure. I have a brand new washing machine all hooked up and ready to wash.

This is the charge controller on the wall in the battery room. Right now only the diversion load one is hooked up. The other charge controller on the right is not hooked up but will be in the future. Each piece of equipment makes up your alternative energy system and is an important part of what powers your house. It is good when you build it yourself and even better when you do it as we have. Little by little as you can afford it. That way you have no debt to pay back from it. Gives you free power. The other thing is that when you are the one building it, you should understand your own system. Then if you have something go wrong with it you can fix it yourself. No calling someone else in to take care of your repairs. Actually when we had someone help with our system is when we had the most problems with it. Know your own system!



katlupe
All Text and Photographs Copyright © 2018 Kathleen G. Lupole

Wasting Electric By Guests To Your Home

Solar Baby Energy System
Our alternative energy system.

Wasting electric by guests to your home is common if you have grown adult kids. Living with your own off the grid solar system, you soon learn that others coming to visit you or stay with you have no concept of how it works. They will be very wasteful with your power. It drives us crazy. We are used to being careful with how much power we use. I know for either of our sons, when they come here to stay overnight or more, they don’t understand if we don’t use lights all night long, we can be on our computers earlier the next morning. Or we can cook with the Instant Pot or use something else. I think when people pay an electric bill or as in the case of our sons, a landlord or someone else pays the bill, they think nothing of being wasteful. They think our power is free. It is. But if you use it up one night, you will have to wait for the batteries to recharge or the sun or wind to start  charging our system before we can use anything the next morning.

Instant Pot
Instant Pot can be used when we have enough power.

In the beginning here we had only one solar panel and two fork-lift truck batteries. So we were limited with power use. Very much so. We didn’t have many electric items at that time. We used a television that had a VCR built in and was DC powered as it was the one we used on an over the road truck. That was the very first thing we used. We changed to other things over the years as we added more equipment to our system. Now the main thing we used during all these years has been  a few lights, an electric mixer and our laptops and related to equipment like printer, digital scale and a labeler. Then we added chargers for cell phones, vacuum cleaner, lawn mower, garden cart, MP3 players and a usb fan and my Kindle. We conserve as you can see from all the those things.

Sun
Sunny day means power!

What makes people want to waste their power, or more to the point, their money? Or their landlord’s money? Or does it occur to them when their rent goes up, maybe it has to do with how much electric they use? Or don’t they care? In the case of either of our sons, I have to say they don’t care. I call them the “I don’t care generation”. That is a good name for them because they really don’t care. Yes, I am sure there are many who do care, but I don’t know them.

Electric Poles
Electric Poles

When someone like that shows up on your off the grid home, they try to take it over and change the way you do things. You have to stay strong. You have to be firm and say NO, it is MY home and we do it MY WAY here. On top of that, they don’t even have a clue on how to live this way. It is very technical and beyond the scope of either of them. Yes, I would have loved to teach them and have them follow us, but sadly, that is not to be. It is beyond either of them to learn this. For now, we will keep onto them every time they are here. Maybe they will learn.

 

katlupe

All Text and Photographs Copyright © 2018 Kathleen G. Lupole

 

 

 

1269E Logwood Wood Stove

1269E Logwood Wood Stove made by The United States Stove Company is the stove we bought this past year to replace our Jewel wood cook stove. Since we needed to replace the cook stove immediately because winter was coming, we chose to buy a cheaper model small stove just for this winter. At this time we could not afford to buy a good cook stove because we had just spent a lot of money replacing our old batteries. My husband ordered it online at Home Depot’s website so he could pick it up locally and not pay for shipping. It may not have been expensive but it was enough that it should at least have been a decent stove to get some heat from. Right? Sad to say, it is a piece of junk.

Smoking Stove
Smoking Stove

The U.S. Stove Company says “it is a modern EPA-certified stove providing a clean-burning heating solution”. I suppose the clean-burning heating solution is the fiberglass wool sheet that is installed in the top the stove where the smoke is supposed to pass through. What we find that does is to block the flue and the smoke comes out the door as soon as it is opened. It also makes it impossible to clean our chimney by dropping a chain down it as we always have done, due to this blanket. We are suffering from much smoke inhalation.

Door Handle
Door Handle

Another issue is the handle which is one of the worst designs I have ever seen. It has a handle that goes in the holder to the side of the door. I find that using a potholder is much easier and faster for me. I keep one nearby so I can add wood without messing with that silly handle.

Handle Holder
Handle Holder

The handle is awkward to say the least. It is not just me who does not like this thing. My husband finds it cumbersome to use also. I think he uses it anyway. Not me. I am always in a hurry when working in the kitchen. I am just thankful that this stove is just temporary until we can buy another cook stove.

Handle on Stove
Handle on Stove

Would I recommend this stove? Absolutely not! I myself, will never purchase any stove made by The United States Stove Company. If they made this one and had it built in China so it would be a cheap model then shame on them. They have ruined their good name by doing so. Nope, do not purchase this stove. We are stuck with it but it will be in an outbuilding in the future. My husband will be modifying it so it will be usable and not smoking every time you add wood. Removing the fiberglass blanket and metal plate (baffle) will be the first thing we do when it warms up. Now hoping for a warm day soon!

katlupe

 

Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole

Building Your Own Batteries

Batteries Being Sodered
Batteries Being Soldered

I explained in my last post, Replacing Lead Acid Batteries, that we had to replace the old lead acid batteries. It was time to upgrade our homestead alternative energy system to new technology. This is where the lithium-ion phosphate batteries come in. We bought two brand new ones and loved them. They were beyond our expectations. The downside is……..VERY expensive for most off the grid homesteaders. Yes, VERY! Approximately $900.00 apiece. YIKES!! I can hear you now!

Lead Acid Batteries
Lead Acid Batteries

My husband had been studying for a number of years now, the progress of the Tesla powerwall. Now instead of wasting money on the old fashion batteries he had started building a DIY Tesla Powerwall. I myself, cannot give you the technical information on how to do this. I plan to have a future post when he is all finished and we are actually using the first one to share his information. It appears quite complicated to me, but he assures me that he knows what he is doing. If you want to research it for yourself, go to YouTube and put the search term “DIY Tesla Powerwall” in. Some of those guys are powering whole modern houses using this system. It is amazing!

lithium ion phosphate batteries
Lithium-Ion Phosphate Batteries

Where did he get all these lithium-ion phosphate batteries? On eBay of course. He bought new ones. Other people doing this are buying used laptop batteries and taking them apart to build with. The reason he did not do that is because some of them will not be good and to find that out you have to test each one. He bought about 80 of them, I think. They are all good. He figured it will be less than half the cost of a new one and they will be bigger and give us more storage than the others we bought. They are good! Not saying they are not. If you have the money and can afford to buy them, then go ahead and do that. I am just telling you what we are doing. My husband always believes instead of paying more for convenience, he would rather save that money and do it himself. One reason is that now he can take that money and buy more cells (lithium-ion phosphate batteries) and build even more. His goal is to power our whole house, including heating and cooking. I am with him on this!

old 1850 house
Our house

Our house is old and needed a lot of repairs and remodeling when we moved here. Since we are not rich, we had to do it a little bit at a time. I think we have done pretty good considering. Now after eighteen years, next spring, maybe sooner, we will have running water in the house. It is connected and you can turn it on in the cellar but you would have to carry it upstairs. That is not happening! It is easier to carry it in from outside. I am really excited about being able to use my washing machine. Even if it will only have cold water in the beginning. I have a brand new unused washing machine waiting to do our first load of laundry. We bought a lot of equipment and other items to use in the future. Bought ahead and then wait until the day it can be used. Sometimes it doesn’t take that long and other times it can be waiting for a few years or more.

Pressure Water Tank
Pressure Water Tank

I will share the progress of the DIY Tesla Powerwall as soon as we are using it. I can’t wait because we have more solar panels than we can store their power coming in. It is wasted. It goes into a diversion and that is not good because it is just wasted. In the future the diversion will be heating our water in the water heater. That is not hooked up yet. Soon.

 

 

katlupe

Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole

Replacing Lead Acid Batteries

Vented Box For Batteries
Vented Box For Batteries

Replacing lead acid batteries is inevitable in all off the grid systems. Our battery bank of 24 lead acid batteries were used when we got them. In fact, they were used when the person we got them from bought them from the railroad. Even so, they were in excellent shape. Very clean with no build up inside at all. We depended on them for many years. At least ten or more. Last year they started failing. By the end of the winter we were running our generator daily and they still did not hold a charge.

Our Generator
Our Generator

My husband, Larry, started researching lithium ion phosphate batteries after hearing good things about them from our off the grid friends who had them. In particular, the LiFePO4, which I mentioned in a previous post here. That led him to Battle Born batteries. They were pricey. But so was constant gasoline usage for the generator. Not counting the smell, noise, the wear on the generator, as well as many times having to work on it when it would not start immediately (especially in cold freezing weather!).

Peaceful Forest Homestead
Peaceful Forest Homestead

We could only afford two unless we took out a loan to buy more. If we had replaced the lead acid batteries, they would have been expensive too, just not as much as the LiFePO4 ones. We would have had to replace all of them. So in the long run, this was the way to go. We knew that eventually we wanted to switch over to the lithium ion ones anyway, so why not do it now? See what happens. Life is a gamble anyway, isn’t it?

New window and wall
New window and wall

The batteries arrived very quickly. Battle Born contacted Larry back immediately after he placed the order. The best customer service of any company we had bought from! When they arrived, Larry was in the middle of replacing the window and wall along the hearth so he couldn’t install the new batteries immediately. When he finally got around to it, first he had to remove the lead acid ones and move them out of the battery box. Did I mention these batteries are VERY heavy? Very much so.

24 Lead Acid Batteries
24 Lead Acid Batteries

He had moved them from the living room to the cellar only recently, about a couple of months before. Yes, I do know they should have NEVER been in the living room to begin with. They were there for years and I was nervous about them being there, but it was beyond my control so I lived with it. Now in the cellar they were in a special vented battery box built especially for them. They were moved to a pallet for that time.

Solar Electric Cooking
Solar Electric Cooking

Just two lithium ion batteries changed our power use immediately. It was like having unlimited power, though we still turn our system off every evening. The only things we use once the power is shut off is the refrigerator and DC lights. We have a strip of blue lights around the top of the hearth that turn on automatically when it gets dark. Since then we have added more lights around the house and even in the shed. These batteries are powerful, considering we are only using two 100 amp hours, 12 volt deep cycle batteries now. I can even use electric for cooking which I never could before. Just wait until we add more to our system.

Pallet that held batteries
Pallet that held batteries now holds canning jars

Next I had to figure out what to do with those old 24 lead acid batteries. I wanted them out of the cellar quickly. They possibly could have been brought back by equalizing them with grid power. I thought about selling them, but didn’t know what they were worth since I didn’t know for sure if they could be brought back. I Googled “what to do with old lead acid batteries” and found they could be recycled and should be. In fact, they can  be sold to your local scrap yard. We sold them the next day! Probably got more than if I had tried to sell them on craigslist.

Solar and Wind Charging
Solar and Wind Charging batteries

So when a friend of mine implied lithium ion batteries were not powerful enough to run her home, I really had to laugh. These batteries are more powerful than she will ever know. These batteries are basically trouble free with nothing to do but hook them up. They have a built in battery management system (BMS) which controls the charge going in and going out to maintain their balance. Our new batteries can be discharged up to 100% with no damage. Charging so much faster than lead acid ones. I realize being new and expensive right now even solar installers may not be that knowledgeable about them. They will be though as they learn more about them. Did I mention they take up less room as well as being lightweight? These batteries are truly the way of the future!

 

katlupe

Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole

 

 

 

Cold Weather Preparations

 

April 7, 2017 Snow
April 7, 2017

Cold weather preparations are underway here at Peaceful Forest. Even though we are having an unusually hot late September, we are hurrying to be ready. Since early spring actually, we have been working on this. Our plans are to make this an easier life. As we get older, we find that is what we want. An easier life. Winter in New York can be brutal and most years it is. I don’t believe we ever really have had an easy winter. If it doesn’t snow in December or January, you can count on it for February. Last year, winter of 2017, we had snow right into April and it was cold right up to June.

Firewood
Firewood

Using two wood stoves for heat in our house means we need a supply of firewood. Chainsaw supplies such as extra chains, new files, fuel mix, etc. are a necessary part of the cold weather preparations. Making sure they are in tip top condition and running good is another important chore. As soon as all the leaves have dropped from the trees in our forest is the time to forage for dead wood that has fallen during the summer. I usually use my garden cart to scout for it but not sure about that this year since it seems to have a constant flat tire, even with a new tube.

New Window
New Window

This year we were finally able to put in one new window in the living room. All these years we have lived here we have badly needed new windows. These windows are probably the original ones that were put in this house when it was built. They have that wavy glass and are not energy efficient at all. I usually staple clear plastic over the whole window including the casing to keep it warmer. Not that it helps that much! I never realized I’d get so excited over a window, but I did and I still am. Next spring we hope to add two more in the living room and one in the bathroom.

New Door
Love the new door!

We were also able to replace our exterior door in the kitchen. How happy that has made me! We lost a lot of heat through that for years. Now it closes tight and I can even lock it! Nope, I could not lock it even when we left the house. I used to worry about it but now I am relieved of that worry. Now we stopped using the sliding glass door because it is not energy efficient to slide a door open and shut. As soon as my old cat, Patches learns that door is not the one to use to come in, we won’t use it at all.

Jewel Cook Stove
My old wood cook stove.

A sad note is that we had to remove our wood cook stove. I had always planned on replacing it with the Pioneer Maid. The Jewel though was falling apart and last spring it smoked horribly. I had always cooked on it even in the summer months years before because it didn’t really heat up the kitchen that much. Not this year. Then I thought we’d just keep it as a decorative item in a corner of the kitchen when it was finished being remodeled. I had the idea to store all my cast iron cookware collection on and in it. Well when my husband took it out, it just fell apart. It was ruined and there was nothing to save. So he loaded up on the truck and took it to the scrap metal place. I had cooked on it since 1997.

US Stove Logwood
New little stove

It was sad to see it go, but without it taking up the corner of the kitchen, now we had so much light coming in. I loved it! For this coming winter we bought a small wood stove just to get us through it. Once my husband had it all set up with a new brick hearth, I decided I don’t want to change it. I don’t want a big dark wood cook stove making it dark again. Since we started using electric for some of our cooking, I’d like to pursue that line of cooking instead. Easier and cleaner for both of us. I still have our monster of a wood stove in the living room that I can cook on. The little wood stove can be used for small cooking jobs, but its surface is very small. Our cold weather preparations here are an ongoing part of our life. Staying warm, having enough good food to sustain us, a dependable water supply and the determination to not let the cold weather bring us down is always our plan.

 

 

katlupe

 

Text and Photographs Copyright © Kathleen G. Lupole 2017

 

 

 

Solar Electric Cooking

barn solar panels
More solar panels coming!

Summer of 2017 wasn’t much of a summer for us really. Cool most of the time. Very wet and that makes for a very buggy season. Didn’t have much of a garden this year. Pretty busy with the projects on the house so not much time for anything else. Our lead acid batteries were failing fast and we had no way to equalize them and bring them back. I saw many YouTube videos on how to do that, but being off the grid, we had no power source to use to do the process. Finally we were able to purchase two Battle Born LiFePO4 deep cycle batteries. They are lithium iron phosphate batteries. With just TWO, we are able to run our whole house (granted our house is not the norm) with computers on all day with no generator. I was so happy not to hear the generator fired up every morning. Because that is what we had to do once the old lead acid batteries started failing and were not be able to hold a charge.

electric lawnmower
Our electric lawnmower

I will write more about these particular batteries in a future post. But for now, I want to just say they were worth every penny. Not having used the generator since the day they were hooked up has saved us close to $100. a month in gasoline. My husband mows our lawn with an electric lawn mower so no gasoline bought for that either. Now the only thing will be the chainsaw. Hopefully in the future, we will be buying an electric one for that also. Eliminating fuels is our top priority. Next one……..propane!

Solar Electric Cooking
Solar Electric Cooking

How to get rid of propane for cooking? Especially in the summer? We could cook on an outside fire and we did. Not as often as I’d like though. Now with more batteries and more solar panels, which are not all hooked up yet, we can use electrical cooking appliances. Not a big electric stove, but I am using an Instant Pot. Has been working great when we are charging from the sun. Actually I like it much better than the solar oven. The solar oven is awkward to set up. Carry outside and then keep moving it around. My thought on that is something I have seen online, setting up the solar oven in your kitchen, but so it is powered directly by the sun. You access it completely in your kitchen! Yes, that would work great for me. Would take a bit of remodeling in the kitchen to do it, but it could be done.

Cooking in the Dutch oven
Cooking in the Dutch oven

As we get ready for winter here, I will be using the wood stoves for most of the cooking. I don’t mind doing that since the firewood is burning for heat anyway. By next summer though, I figure we will have added more batteries and that will increase our cooking capabilities with electrical appliances. I have a brand new induction burner waiting to be experienced with. If we can use that, then I know we can get rid of the propane. It is just the oven in the summer that would be a problem. Just learning new ways of cooking foods that usually were cooked in the oven. I enjoy this new learning curve!

katlupe

Text and Photographs Copyright © Kathleen G. Lupole 2017

Powering Up Computers

Computer
Powering Up Computers

Powering up computers on your homestead is something you will eventually want or need to do. As I said in prior posts, at first we did not need it. We were busy trying to set this old house up for basic living. After awhile we felt like we were being left behind. Larry had been a computer person right from the start. He had worked at IBM in Endicott, NY, and had an early model IBM computer that used DOS (disk operating system) as the operating system. So he was missing it. He had taught me how to use that old system long before Windows ever appeared on the scene. I was soon doing my writing on it and I remember us accessing the old IBM bulletin boards in my old apartment.

town
Going to town

Before we moved here we had a desk top computer with a larger tower. That was when we had to use dial-up because that was all that was available at that time. It was packed away because we had to figure out what we were doing here first. At first we had no power and those type of computers take a lot of power. I know, I saw it in my electric bill and I was on the night rate at my old house. It didn’t take long to figure out that we really needed a computer. We needed it to make money. We needed a way to research what, why and how to do various projects we were working on. We had the little Backwoods Solar off the grid catalog, but we needed much more information than that. Driving to town to a library was not something you want to do when you are in the middle of something and need the answer now. Not to mention the fact that back then there was no internet at the library, just outdated books published before new technology in alternative energy systems took place.

Our First Solar Panel
Our First Solar Panel

Eventually we hooked up the computer after we got our small solar system operating. We had to run our generator much of the time, at first the generator being our old car or truck pulled up to the house window to connect it to the batteries in the system. I started selling on eBay and it wasn’t long before I bought a used desk top Compaq computer. I could not afford to share time on the computer with Larry and he wanted to be on it for long periods too. So we had two computers with two large towers and a printer and then I was in business. I was busy with eBay as it was back in its heyday.

Bike With InStep Cart
Bike With InStep Cart

It was also the time we were living without a motor vehicle, about a period of nine months. Instead of taking the packages to the post office we had to take them to our mailbox which was about a mile away on a desolate corner at the end of our dirt road. So they could not be left there to wait for the mailman. Larry bought a new mountain bicycle and an Instep bicycle cart for it to haul the packages to the mailbox every morning. Nikita, our dog, would get excited when she saw me start packaging my sales up because she loved going with Larry to the mailbox. It was good exercise for her and our neighbor’s dog would watch for her to come by. On their way back, sometimes they would stop there to visit. Larry would sit on a log to wait for the mailman to come by.

The Corner
The Corner

I know many people claim that technically you are not living off the grid if you have a computer, a phone, propane or buy your food and other supplies. Oh really? To tell you the truth, even the mountain men bought their supplies. That is why they trapped and hauled furs to trading posts. The Native Americans made items out of the animals they killed and other natural materials and traded them to each other, other tribes and white man too for other items they needed or wanted. Even Dick Proenneke (Alone In The Wilderness) had to have supplies flown in to him in the Alaskan wilderness.

Finger Lakes Trail
Finger Lakes Trail

People who go camping take a huge amount of stuff with them when they go. Some even take propane with them and generators. Now if you  can go camping without one thing, no matches, no knives, no tools or anything at all and make everything you need, food, cooking, shelter, bedding……….then go for it! You’ve got that covered if you can do that. I’d say that is about as off the grid as you can get. Most people cannot do that. I know I cannot and I have no desire to do that.

dirt road
Our Road

Most people will tell me they admire how we live but they couldn’t do it themselves. I am left wondering “why?” Maybe it has to do with not having a television? What they don’t realize when they come here is, that we choose not to have one. We could, if we wanted it. We are computer people and a television holds no interest for me. If I want to watch a television show I can see it online. Some people like the constant noise from one going all the time. I know quite a few people who do. I hate that and I find the noise unbearable. Sometimes I just leave someone’s house if that is something I am forced to listen to all the time. Now my mother was bedridden and she had a television going on all the time, but that was understandable.

rabbit
I enjoy quiet time with my pet “Rabbit.”

I love music and listen to it almost every day, but not nonstop all day and not extremely loud. Many nights I listen to my MP3 player or read books on my Kindle Fire. I am for the most part a quiet person and appreciate the sounds of the birds singing outside or my pet house rabbit chewing his hay. In fact, I keep my computer’s sound on mute all the time and only turn it on if I am watching a video.

sun on solar panels
More Panels

The main thing to know is that you can build your system to accommodate whatever you choose to have in electronics or appliances. Right now we are in the process of adding more panels so someone said to me, “Now you can have a television.” No, as I stated above, “I CHOOSE not to.” I choose to add a water pump so we can have running water in our house. I choose to be able to power our washing machine so I don’t have to do my laundry by hand. I choose to add electric cooking since that means I can get rid of the propane bill. Electric is free for me. I choose to add electric heating, but that will be awhile. Maybe we could change the gas chain saw to the electric one and not have to purchase the gas. Before we can do many of those things in the future we need to increase our batteries. We have changed from the lead acid ones but that is a future post.

katlupe

Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 201
7 Kathleen G. Lupole

Well To House Connection

Pitcher Pump
Pitcher Pump

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.

Ditch for Water Pipes
Ditch for water pipes

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.

Water Pipes Underground
Water Pipes are Underground

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.

Hand Dug Well Inside
Inside 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.

Water Connection
Water Connection

katlupe

Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 201
7 Kathleen G. Lupole

Batteries, The Heart Of A System

2 Volt Lead Acid Deep Cycle Batteries
2 Volt Lead Acid Deep Cycle Batteries

The most important part of any off the grid energy system is the battery bank. The energy (or power) comes from the sun (hydro, or wind, or wind and sun both, as in my case) through the solar panels or wind turbine then goes through the charge controller and then into the battery bank. The charge controller does just what the name says, it controls the charge going into your batteries so they do not over charge. If the batteries are already at full charge, our charge controller, which has a diversion load on it, that means it diverts the power to another element. This charge controller has heating coils on it so the extra power goes to that. Eventually it will be hooked up to the water heater and the extra power will heat our water. At present our water is not piped in the house yet. Hopefully that will be done soon. Our plan is to have water collectors on the roof of the house as well as the electric water heater in the cellar.

Solar Baby House 1999
Our house in 1999

Back in 1999 when we moved here lead acid batteries were the best option for off the grid home set up. We started out with two and added two more later, even though the experts say not to do that. They say it will cause your batteries to have a short life. Contrary to that advice, our batteries were great. Never had a problem with them and when we replaced them years later, they were still usable. We gave them to friends of ours who used them for their golf cart on their homestead. Those lead acid deep cycle batteries were 6 volt, which were sold for fork lift trucks at my husband’s place of employment at the time. So we got a good deal on them with his employee discount. I am sorry I don’t have any photos of those batteries but at that time I did not have my digital camera and I couldn’t afford to buy film then. Those were tough times getting started here.

24 :Lead Acid Deep Cycle Batteries
24 :Lead Acid Deep Cycle Batteries

A few years later my husband designed a website and I listed products for a friend, who was a solar installer. He paid us in giving us 24 lead acid 2 volt batteries that he was given by a customer who was switching over to being grid tied (connected to the electric company grid with no battery bank). These batteries were very clean. The plates had no build up on them at all. They originally had been used by the railroad and then the homeowner, of course. So we were the third owners of them and they worked flawlessly for over ten years.

Charge Controllers and Meter
Charge Controllers and Meter

It was just in this last year they started not holding the charge very well. They still didn’t look dirty inside, but they could have been. They needed to be equalized and we had no way to do that process. By putting each battery on an automotive battery charger and letting it trickle charge (very slowly charged) for a couple of days or however long it takes till they reach full charge. Then let it sit for a couple of hours with no load on it. After that it needs to be tested with a hydrometer. I imagine they can be sold to someone who is on the grid and has the power to do that. We could not carry out that process here.

Lead Acid Deep Cycle Battery
Lead Acid Deep Cycle Battery

When these batteries were charged, I would hear them bubbling all through the afternoon and night. That bubbling is what cleans the plates as it chips away at the sediment on the plates. Eventually the sediment will settle on the bottom of the battery and build up over the years. Someone can empty the battery out and clean the inside by hand. Then refill and charge. It is a lot of work, especially for 24 batteries, but can be done. We just couldn’t do it here, or knowing my husband, he’d have done it.

Solar Baby Generator
Our old generator

Since the batteries are the heart of our system, keeping them clean and filled with distilled water was essential battery care. Testing them, dusting them off and paying attention to them was important to keep our system running. These batteries served us well. I am proud to say we never abused them or misused them at any time. My husband is very critical of every element of our alternative energy system, especially including the battery bank. About a month ago we replaced those 24 lead acid batteries with 2 LifePo4 batteries from Battle Born Batteries. We were using our generator daily due to the batteries not holding the charge any longer. Using the generator is the last thing you want to be doing! I will be writing more about these batteries in a future post as I learn more about them. We plan on adding to the battery bank with more of these new batteries. The nice thing about them is you can add to them one by one if you need to. Yes, two of these batteries have replaced our 24 lead acid ones! If you are curious about how that works, keep an eye on this blog because I will be telling you about it soon.

 

katlupe

Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole
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