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June 13, 2012 at 5:48 pm #37105
I began living off-grid on my boat in Toronto Harbour back in 1971. Used propane.
The most significant detail is you must vent all appliances outdoors. This includes stoves which normally does not vent outside.
Find a way to install a range hood and if possible ventilate it with a fan of some kind. Use 12V DC if nothing else.
Fridges with a vent at the back should also have a vent duct leading directly outdoors. Installing it RV style is not sufficient in Canadian winters.
For every pound of propane you burn you create 1.5 pounds of vater vapour. In a cabin or boat this will soon create a wet muggy atmosphere and fog up windows. Even a normal sized house will see the effects.
Even if you heat with wood the moisture will condense in cooler spots so be sure to ventilate.
If you have one of the big outdoor propane tanks be aware that as it cools the propane is harder to vaporize and this will cause problems in maintaining a clean flame. At -34F the propane will not vaporize and you cannot light the flame. I have encountered this problem both in Ontario and BC. My suggestion is to find a way to add a heat blanket to tank and use insulation if your locality is likely to encounter such low temperatures outdoors.
Solar powered homes may also have difficulty in cloudy winter month(s). For that I recommend a gasoline fuelled generator not a diesel or propane fuel type. I had problems starting a diesel genset at -15F outdoor temperatures.
Gasoline will start at much colder temps than diesel or propane.
You can also use the Genset to power a heat blanket around the outdoor propane tank on those extremely cold days. We had to do without water for a month one time because I could not get propane to volatize and fire.
If you are using an outdoor boiler and hydronic heat, plan to divert a bit of heat to propane tank storage area. It sure saves some effort in getting propane tank to flow in cold weather..June 13, 2012 at 8:25 pm #42708
Great reply Elnav, unfortunately the original poster is a spammer, I’ll leave your reply because it’s so informative, but the original post is gone.
WrethaJune 14, 2012 at 12:52 am #42710
Oh you mean the OP worked for the store in Oakville. (smile)
I live at Latitude 57 north so photovoltaic doesn’t work so good in winter.
This week I am supposed to do a science presentation for some grade school kids on PV panels. Guess what? weather forecast calls for cloudy and rain all week. Just can’t win! Have to find another demonstration subject.
Some people say I am politically incorrect because I promote use of generator sets. But what other choices do we have? There is a distributor locally who sells wood gasification equipment but the reality is this region is rapidly running out of wood feedstock for any sort of bio-energy alternative. Meanwhile the gas companies have capped almost half the gas wells because they feel they are not getting enough money.
What a cockeyed world we live in.June 14, 2012 at 4:11 pm #42713
I use the Servel, now Dometic, ~8 cu. ft. refrigerator/freezer($1400 now, $1,150 then). Little 1.1 cu. ft. freezer would be nice to have bigger, but it has served us well for 14 years. We use coolers outside for extra food storage in winter (ones with lock down lids). Of major appliances that we use, the Staber 2000 Washing Machine ($1K shpd, then, unknown now)is a miracle. It really does only use 135 watt hours of electricity and 15 gallons max per load. We used to use just 1 oz. of liquid detergent per load, but now got a great deal on three Green Balls which work even better.
Other stuff like this computer are Energy Star. LED monitor and TV. We fill up a number of buckets in the tub so that we can flush at night without tripping the well pump. Unless I take a soothing bath, then we use the bath water next to the toilet. We also can use the compost toilet, a Biolet NE (cost $1K shpd). However, my wife doesn’t like “making compost”!June 14, 2012 at 6:33 pm #42714
One of my clients lives about 800 miles south of here and had a propane installation. Safety reasons prompted him to change. Propane is heavier than air so sinks to floor (or bilge in boat) wher it accumulates forming an explosive hazard. He purchased a small fridge that only uses 30 watts running. His boat already has a pair of 40 watt solar panels so we figure this will keep his milk and other perishables fresh and have something left over for charging the battery for over night. The fridge does not run continuously during the cooler nights in the PNW. Keeping the door closed also help reduce the number of running cycles. A health inspector taught me that a propane fridge (Dometic) simply did not meet the Health DEpartment requirements for keeping food cold enough in the heat of the summer. I did not believe him but a careful test with recording thermometers proved the point.June 14, 2012 at 11:24 pm #42716
Well, for 12volt appliances let me recommend the truck stop’s smart pot(heating water) and lunch box oven. I used the water heaters only for heating water and not warming up soups or liquids. Too much of a mess to clean. Use the lunch box oven for warming soups. Use a camp stove to warm up coffee.
The lunch box oven does a great job in cooking of rice, such as Lipton rice packs etc. It does not so good a job at noodles, seems to cook them too soft. But it works on noodles as well. It gets hot, like 300 degrees, but is very safe. Beware of steam though when you open the oven up. I usually put a small amount of water in the bottom anyway to keep it from burning. I cooked everything in aluminum bread pans, or in the tin cans. You can set soup cans in it directly for warming and other types that are made from plastic for microwave, though I always have a bit of water below the plastic stuff.June 14, 2012 at 11:32 pm #42717
Truck stops also sell other 12v appliances for cooking and such. Electric skillets, hot sandwich makers, toaster ovens, microwaves, coolers. In my experience 12v appliances burn out quickly and have to be totally replaced. Its always a crap shoot as to how long they will last, though I must say the lunch box ovens are very durable and long lasting. I may have burned one out in 10 years, though I didn’t always use them daily.June 15, 2012 at 1:39 pm #42720
I can’t forget our two Global Sun Ovens we bought for $170 each. They have been serving us well mainly in the summers, or any sunny day over 40*F outside. One of the few 12VDC appliances we use is a tire pump. In the Earthship, I have a ShurFlo pump 12VDC on a switch for use with the rainwater catchment tank going through a filter in the little vanity or the front garden drip irrigation system, which can be disconnected and a regular garden hose screwed on. I have a counter top 110VAC refrigerator/freezer that I occasionally use (on a timer outlet)when there is extra power and I need to cool or freeze something. However, it uses a substantial amount of power.June 15, 2012 at 5:02 pm #42721
Refrigerators do use a lot of power, and when you are off grid, every watt counts. We used a small dorm sized fridge, not all the time though, mainly when we had company staying over. Now we use a freezer to fridge conversion, it’s simple, you take a chest freezer and attached it to an external thermostat, you set the thermostat at the temp you want, we have ours set on 35 degrees F. When the freezer hits the set temp, the thermostat cuts off the power. When we first turned it on, it ran for about half an hour, then cycled off, after a while when the temps settled, it runs about once an hour for 5 minutes (+/-). The good thing is when you open the door, since it opens from the top, the cold air stays inside the box, when you open a regular fridge, the cold air falls out to the floor then the fridge has to cycle on to cool back down.
We have a fairly small solar system, and this doesn’t tax our system much at all. During the rare times when we do run out of power, usually in winter when the days are shorter, I have had to turn off the system and the food stayed plenty cold over night, the following morning, when the sun came out and the system was able to be turned on, no problems…
I would highly recommend this as a good way to keep foods cold, it does lack a freezer, which is fine with me, but might not be for other people…
WrethaJune 20, 2012 at 11:09 pm #42722
I inherited my Mom’s chest freezer in 2003 and threw it away in 2010. Outside on the lower patio, it was used to freeze 12 one gallon milk carton type containers (which sometimes split). Then a piece of OSB on top with an inch around and more at the motor end. During winter it was a real freezer, while in spring and fall it was a refrigerator on manual plug in. It rusted out several times and had to be primer coated and painted white inside. A mouse made a nest several times in the motor compartment underneath. I had to install a locking latch after a bear took out a great half salmon fillet, loaf of English Muffin Bread and pound of uncooked bratwurst. It was about 12 cu. ft. and used over 700 watts for 13 hours to freeze 12 gallons, so with our 600 watt system, we had to use the generator to get the water to freeze. After that, it could be intermittent.July 6, 2012 at 7:54 pm #42750
I have some vids on my 12 volt appliances and propane hook up for anyone interested:
LaMarJuly 6, 2012 at 11:27 pm #42752
One of my customers paid $300 to a refrigeration guy to replace the old power hog compressor with a new modern Danfoss compressor. These are renowned as being energy efficient and available as either 12V DC or 120V AC models.
It irks me to see people get ripped off with exorbitant prices for something I know is available thru the trade for reasonable prices. There is nothing exceptional in the ‘off-grid’ or DC models. Its just the compressor motor that runs on a different voltage. Unfortunately the specialty market retailers see them coming and hike the prices accordingly.
Quite often a freezer will quit while the cabinet is still in good shape. Good candidate for a Danfoss replacement. If the refrigeration guy you are talking to don’t know how look for someone with better knowledge.
Freezers often have thicker insulation than what a fridge has. Chest models are better than upright versions. Treasuregift has it right. When you open a chest model the cold air does not spill ouit.
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