solarbum

A blog about energy conservation and such.

Archive for the category “Off The Grid”

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…

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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 ┬ábut 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?

 

Points Of Attack!

My wife had decided to take my son to dinner at her parents house. This was awesome. As a guy who works a lot and when I am not working my wife is so I am with my son and have very little time by myself to just veg out I decided I was going to read some online stuff and take a shower. Well, I have been turning the breaker to my hot water heater off so it doesn’t use energy while we are away or not needing our water hot. So I flipped the breaker on and watched my power monitor climb two (2) kWhs and figured that would be enough to get me through a shower. I was wrong. About three minutes into it the water went cold. Not only did this piss me off but it got me to thinking: if two kWhs only gets me three minutes of hot water, what does it take to keep water hot all the time for showers and dishes, etc.?

With that on my mind I started planning out a plan of attack against my power usage. So the way I figure it I have three areas that cost most of my power: HVAC, hot water and cooking on our electric stove. For a while I have been looking into an on demand, portable hot water heater that runs on propane and it costs less that $100. I think it’s time to try it. If I can get hot water to the shower then the only place I would really need it is the dishwasher, and that little sucker has a heating element built in to take care of that. Once hot water is taken care of all I have left is the stove part (read my previous posts to see what I have done about the HVAC…well the heating part anyway). So I was thinking it might be a good idea to get a sturdy coleman propane stove with the two eyes and that takes the little 1 gallon bottles of propane. I can also get one of those boxes that you use as an oven using the heat from the stove burners. All of this is just ideas until I get the wife’s approval, but she is a pretty supportive gal so stay tuned…

P.S. I know some of you are asking yourself “well what is the point of trading in electricity off of the grid for propane to suite your needs? Where is the renewable, sustainable part of this?” and you make a good point. That issue will be addressed soon. For now I am concentrating on using electricity derived from coal that was mined through mountaintop removal as little as possible, but have big plans on how to use the sun to do all of this…or at least help out a little.

New Panels

New Panels

These are my new 100 watt solar panels. I built the platform out of treated 2X4s and have that bolted to my deck. What is not in the picture is my battery bank (which I had to pull out to mount the platform). In that bank I have two deer cycle marine batteries running through a 10 amp charge controller and off of them I have a 400 watt inverter. Basically off of them I am currently running my TV, VCR, DVD Player, cable box, kitchen lights and charging our kindles and cell phones. Not much, but until I get a large inverter (I am saving up for a 10,000 watt inverter) then it will have to stay small. To be honest because of the lack of sun where I live (which I have bitched about numerous times on this blog) the panels cant really handle much more of a load. Some of the requirements for our next place (we rent but may buy soon) is that the place has, or that we can install, a wood burning stove, that it has propane or natural gas (or that we can run one of those) and that it has plenty of sun. I want a tiny house (700-1000 square feet). I have years of experience in construction and am currently in the HVAC industry so if we can get the land I can make the rest happen very cheap. Anyway, that’s that.

The Plan…

Ok, so I have my solar panels installed in a place that currently doesn’t get a lot of sun, but will once some of the leaves fall off the trees. This is one of the obstacles that I have run into being that I rent a condo I can’t just throw them up on the roof. Well, that and I am not down with permits. Anyway, I mounted them on my back deck and have a battery beside them. I currently only have a 45 watt system and plan to double that in the next couple of weeks as well as add two deep cycle batteries and a 1200 watt inverter. What I can do with that is take my coffee maker, toaster and microwave off of the grid. This won’t save me a substantial amount of energy but this thing is a marathon. The next thing I want to begin work on is a solar hot water heater. This is another thing that will be much better when some leaves go because I pretty much need to do everything on my back deck. So there you go: The Plan…for now.

How will you spend your 10 Kwh???

Every since I purchased my Black and Decker Power Monitor, which allows me to see exactly how much power my house is pulling off of the grid and keeps a running sum until you reset it again, I have been wanting to start some sort of limiting as far as the total amount of power we use and other options at hand when we do not want to pull from the grid. For example, if you only have a certain amount of Killowatt hours that you are allowing yourself then you might choose to hang those clothes out to dry instead of use the dryer so that way you can use that power for a hot shower later that day. My family uses on average about 1200 Kwh a month, but that is gonna change. We are going to attempt to use 10 Kwh a day which would be a quarter of what we normally use. Now I should say here that our lifestyle recently changed in a few ways that will help make this much easier. First of all my son started school and my wife has gone back to work, which lets us turn off everything when we are gone that day, also I have purchased a small 45w solar panel kit which I will talk more about in later posts, and I have also built a solar oven (which I am still tweaking). So right now I have potatoes in a pan inside my solar oven cooking slowly, I am running the washing machine but will be drying the clothes outside. My son and wife’s shower blew through a Kwh so now I have 9. Let’s see if I can do this…

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