solarbum

A blog about energy conservation and such.

Outdoor Shower Piping

so I ran the hard pipe to the 12v solar powered pump and into the water heater. She works but she ain’t pretty…yet! Stay tuned. 

    
 

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Outdoor Shower

my outdoor, on demand, rainwater shower. The solar panels moubted on the side of the shed charge a battery bank inside the shed that run the pump.

my outdoor, on demand, rainwater shower. The solar panels moubted on the side of the shed charge a battery bank inside the shed that run the pump.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on here and in the meantime some things have changed, mainly that we bought a house, have a huge garden and chickens (all things that I will dive into in later posts). What has not changed is that we are still dedicated to weening ourselves off of non-renewable energy, one small step at a time. So at our old place we had a very temporary on demand shower that used captured rain water but now I am doing the same thing in a much more permanent way by creating an outdoor shower that we can use all year long. As you can see I have the platform and curtain railings almost done and now it’s time for the piping. Stay tuned…

Safety First!

Last week I ordered a 3 DVD (4 hour) program on off-grid PV installation and maintenance (I will be doing a review and recommendation soon) and one thing it reminded me of (although I already knew, but was sucessfully ignoring) is the need for disconnects and fuses between my PV array, charge controller, battery bank and inverter(s). What these do is not only allow me to isolate certain parts of the system, but it also provides a barrier of protection in the form of fuses that will blow in case of a large burst of current going through the system, stopping it before it gets anywhere else.  So this morning, in 21 degree weather (wanted to do this while the panels were getting no power) I installed the first of my safety upgrades: a disconnect between the PV array and and charge controller.

Since I was mounting the disconnect to a 3.5″ surface I had two holes at the bottom of the box that are typically used for screws when mounting to the side of a house. Using those holes I ran the positive from one panel and the negative from the other (the other + and – I tied together to run the panels in series and double the voltage to my battery bank) through the holes like this

I think it looks great this way, though there is nothing to protect the wire insulation from rubbing against the metal so I will need to rig something up to give it more protection. Inside the box I customized it, taking out the ground bar since I am dealing with DC electricity and that gave me more room to run the thick panel wires to my line lugs. This line runs through two 35 amp fuses to get to the load lugs. I ran a piece of Romex through a piece of Carflex (that I had recycled from a job a while back) and after tying the Romex into the load lugs I ran it with two water tight connection to my battery box. Here is the inside of the disconnect

and here is how it connects to the battery box through the Carflex

and this is how it looks when it’s all closed up

OK, that’s that. Until next time…

Why A Better Economy Scares Me…

So the newest unemployment numbers were positive in that we added almost a quarter million jobs in January and as someone who knows the value of work and of a paycheck I am really happy that so many people once again have that security that is so precious to me and mine. I have to be honest, however, that a “healthy” economy scares me and I will tell you why. Like so many others my family had been interested in the idea of conservation and self sufficiency for quite some time, but had remained neutral in our actions due to a life that was just too damn convenient to make too many changes to. As a result we let the dryer dry our clothes and the hot water heater heat our water and…well, you get the point. It wasn’t until The Great Recession that we started seriously looking at our life and how we effect and are effected by nature and really started questioning the value of relying on an unreliable grid and clever machinery to do all the inconvenient things that have to be done to make a household run smoothly. As a result we have made some changes and have much bigger changes on the way. Changes that make our lives more in tune with our environment and make us much more self sufficient. I feel that many, many others have moved in much the same direction that we have and have made changes that help not only our earth but also the lives of themselves and their children. What I am afraid of is that some of those people that have made these changes have done so because of surplus time or anemic funds and when hiring ramps back up and consumerism once again regains the godlike hold on us we will simply go back to work and forget all about environmentalism and self sufficiency, too comforted by the warm arms of consumerism once again. We will go to work and save and dream of all the things that money can buy, forgetting all the things that money can’t buy. As for me and mine we have made a conscious decision to stay on this ship until it sinks and I just wonder when the water is calm and oh so inviting will you jump ship?

The Fridge Problem…

So before I write about the fridge thing I want to report that it rained last night and I got off of work early today and, noticing a full rain barrel and knowing that it is going to rain more this weekend, I cranked up the on demand water heater and took an insanely long shower. It was awesome, but used a ton of energy from my battery bank which shortened my son’s TV time. Sorry dude.

OK, now onto the fridge issue. With our budget we cannot really go off grid and have a fridge anytime soon. I mean really. It would take tons of power to keep that guy running all day and night and we do not have a large solar array or a huge battery bank to store the energy even if we did, so in reality it’s time to break ourselves of the fridge. The plan is that we are going to get a large cooler and keep our milk and meats in it while buying only enough fruits and veggies to last a few days. Now, we have a few advantages: my wife works next to both a farmers market and a supermarket and can get things by walking across a parking lot AND she also works behind a bar that “burns” ice off every night (meaning they take scalding hot water and pour it on the ice to melt it) so we are going to get our hands on that ice and keep our cooler nice and cold. Sound cool? We’ll see. Until next time…

Rainwater Harvested, Solar Powered Hot Shower Setup

So when I bought our On Demand hot water heater (see previous post) I did so with the intention of running it on harvested rainwater and today I finished the setup.

First things first which is the rain barrel that we had in our front yard we moved to the back deck and put it on blocks so as to have gravity feed to the pump, like so

Next we rearranged the gutter to drain into the top of the barrel. Next we connected to 10′ “washer hose” to the spigot at the bottom of the barrel and ran it to a 12 volt marine water pump like so

The pump is mounted on a post just above my battery bank box so that I can connect it to my batteries when I want to take a shower. I do need to find some kind of enclosed box in which to enclose this little guy because he is small but loud.

Anyway, from there I attached another washer hose to the On Demand hot water heater that is now mounted on the outside wall at the back of our house. This is close enough to hook propane to it and also close enough to run the shower hose through that window in our bathroom making the actual shower process possible. Some people may not want a hose running through their window, but our neighbors already think we’re pretty odd so what the hell. The water heater looks like so

So anyway that’s it. A little rain and a little sun and we don’t need either the power company or the water company. Until next time…

Prepare to Power Down…

So the wife and I are planning something that we have been wanting to do for a long time: Pull The Plug. You know, go off the grid. We have wanted to do this  but have only recently realized the possibilities to actually do so. Basically since we got the kerosene heater that has pretty much taken care of the heat except in the wee hours of the morn when the heat pump has kicked in for a few minutes. After we pull the plug I will be getting up to turn the heater on and stay up and watch it. That’s OK, I don’t sleep a lot anyway.

As far as hot water goes I will be installing the new on demand propane hot water heater this week and will be doing a post on it. So we have heat and hot water and we have been cooking exclusively with our propane stove so that’s taken care of. The next big challenge is the fridge. What we are going to try is basically putting everything in a large cooler and getting a lot of those refreeze cubes and will freeze some at night and replace them with ones that need to be refrozen in the morning. When it gets warmer she will simply take the ones that need to be frozen to work, throw them in the freezer and switch them out when she gets home. With all of that taken care of we simply have to worry about thing like lighting, TV and computer use and with our new Kindles and a subscription to Netflix the solar panels should be able to handle that load. So yeah, I will do posts about the lead up to this and will be posting like crazy to document the good and the bad about going off the grid. Anyway, that is the plan. Until next time…

The Hard Math.

OK, so part of the reason I am trying to reduce my energy use and do more for the environment is to save money, but to be brutally honest the most joy I get out of this is screwing the power companies that blow the tops off of mountains to mine coal, leaving the residents at the bottoms of those mountains decimated as well as the habitats in the area. With that being said I did a little math today and am pretty happy with the results. Let’s see how easy I can make this:

Electrical usage for 2010: 14,245 kWh

Electrical usage for 2011: 10,057 kWh

Electricity saved: 3,354 kWh

Money saved: $316.22

Those are pretty good looking numbers in my book, but let’s be real about what I have spent to save that energy.

Power Monitor: $32

Solar Panels: $554.00

Charge Controller: $18.00

2 deep cycle batteries: $196.00

Inverter: $59.00

Kerosene Heater: $139.00

Total: $998.00

Difference after subtracting money saved: $681.78

Well, these are the hard numbers. What do you think about them?

 

Do Tell…

Do Tell…

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