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Cyndi, saw your blog and the heartbreaking things you went through to finally get your farm house and small farm running. Perhaps you could start a thread about living off grid without electric, running water, or plumbing. Seeing there are some areas that allow that type of living.
Congratulations on your upcoming October wedding!!!
Here is another new type of panel that will increase the latitude range of solar power use;April 28, 2011 at 12:00 am in reply to: #65144
Sounds cool!! Solar powered turbo-generators, I would like to see it in action!
Woodworker took exception to my saying “Living off grid with clean electricity is easy”. I think it is, red positive, black negative, and don’t let them touch!!!
He said he self built a secluded cabin grid connected. I wonder how much it cost to bring in grid electricity…. With me, the power company, from coal fired plants, wanted $4,975 to bring grid electricity to my house. The rules were such that anyone spending less than $5K to get power could not share the cost with a tap fee to others building nearby. I was a “hard corps” Real Goods member and wanted to walk the talk, and this cinched the deal. I spent $9,300 for a full tracking glass panel array, charge controller, twin DR2424s com linked for 232VAC for my deep well pump, and 8- L16 batteries in two 24VDC banks. Subtracting what I would have spent left $4,325, with average area electric bills at $100+ per month, the break even point was 43 months, and another 24 months for energy of manufacture. People with the illusion that solar power was expensive and necessary, devalued the lot next door from 18K to 3.5K which I bought it for. Getting absolute water rights meant that anyone within 600 feet had to use a cistern with bought water. So, in reality, going solar and getting water rights paid for both the well and the rest of the solar from day one in savings on the lot I later bought and annexed. The initial loans were high interest until I got refinanced. The low mortgage payments (from sweat equity, too) and no electric bill allowed savings to build up and lump sum big payments to get rid of the mortgage 8 years after we moved in. Sure, being a carpenter foreman and remodeling multi-tradesman helped a lot. Sweat equity buildup is variable with each person’s strengths and learning ability. Initial loans are dependent on a person’s history of financial responsibility. Note that I got no government help at all. This area just did not have incentives at the time I built.
The initial small frame house was followed by a rammed earth tire retaining/bearing wall for a garage/BR/Bath addition. This was concurrent with more rammed earth/tire/soil cement retaining walls and the Earthship outbuilding. What took me 15 minutes of envisioning while looking at the initial lot became a reality after 3 years of working weekends and after work. I worked smarter, not harder, when I could, but it was a ball buster. I felt it was God’s Will for me. My wife and young son were my helpers, along with a little labor trade, and the all important spiritual help.
Being a former flight instructor/combat aviator, whose initial career was ruined by affirmative action’s reverse discrimination, and the fallacy of the promise of veteran’s preference, lead this combat disabled (from being shot down flying unarmed medical evacuation, with compressed back and broken lower 2 lumbar cartilages) to my first job as a carpentry slave at 15, and A++ drafting student who drew the plans used for a 5 bldg. 60 unit project at 17.
I was in a great deal of pain, starting this place two years after I quit drinking (which I used to kill the pain for many years).
Do God’s Will, as long as it is not delusion. Find out the local laws and conditions (like radon in the rocks, real water availability, etc). If you want to live without electricity, go ahead(and don’t poison yourself with lamps that give off carcinogens/CO). If the state allows personal use of rainwater, or your local stream—it is sure cheaper than a well, as long as you know your water(no pesticides, mercury, septic organisms, etc). Compost toilets work great and don’t require electricity as long as they are at room temperature. For outhouses, understand your soil’s characteristics for subsurface effluent flow. If you are really poor, work hard and save. Learn as fast as you can, use the public library. Ask for help. Many places have active orgs to help build for the poor. As far as alternative energy systems, shop around to avoid the rip-offs, and remember that about half the cost is “professional” installers when the laws may allow the owner/builder to do it.
Living off grid with clean electricity is easy, anyway. It is nice to find out the weather forecasts and be in touch on the internet, and use LED or CFLs for reading and seeing at night. Food storage requires either a Sun Frost or other super efficient electrical refrigerator or a propane one that only uses 1.1 pound of propane daily. Cooking with a solar oven is nice on days we can, but on other days a gas range works efficiently and well. The self heating and cooling of an Earthship is much more preferable than a frame house or tent. Using a compost toilet and composters does not use electricity and rebuilds the soil which has been 2/3rds depleted or more by human flush and forget overpopulation. Low water use and gray water use help a lot, too.
Backpacking trips are one thing: it is great to be away from people and live primitive for a while. Usually “permanent campers” pollute terribly with trash and excrement/urine buildup, and depletion of wood in the area. That is why Indian tribes were nomadic. By the time they got back to the area, the game had multiplied back and all their trash and excrement had biodegraded. Trees and vegetation had grown back.
That nomadic camping out permantly type life is no longer possible in this overpopulated world of property rights, and the concept of land ownership, even in common. Permanent camping is not allowed in Nationally owned land, state lands, and on private land in every county,or other local government area that I know of, there are usually two week limits.April 11, 2011 at 12:00 am in reply to: Air Conditioning and Off-grid : a possible solution? #65113
Lead acid can last a lot longer with desulfators;
Nickel-iron batteries last 25 years;
Generally, if you need air conditioning, the best thing to do is have a building that is at least partially buried and tends to go toward ground temperature.
Off grid buildings should not have constant heavy loads from continuous pumps or other devices.
Check out the Earthship type designs where semi-buried walls and non-solar heated walls in summer help moderate interior temperatures to lower than outside on hot days.
I agree….March 11, 2011 at 12:00 am in reply to: Passive Solar or Active Solar better for your home? #65058
Our roof is at a 45* angle to south and has limited room. Our calculations showed that we needed 11 75 watt panels in a seasonally adjustable fixed mounting, or 8 panels with a full tracking array. We did not have the room to mount the panels on the roof, so went with the 40% more efficient full tracking array.
So, initially it cost an extra 2,500 to mount, over the cost of seasonally adjustable fixed mounts. The 3 less panels saved 1,200, for a net extra cost of 1,300 for a 100Ah/day @ 24VDC system. Our minimum winter sun was affected by a mountain on one side and trees on the other.
Bringing in grid power would have cost 5,000 and our monthly bill would have been 100, so our 9,300 self installed full tracking system paid for itself in 43 months (9,300-5,000=4,300/100=43mos.) It must be noted that, installed by someone else, it would have been 17,100 (on bid), so then would have taken 121 months to pay for itself.
The geodesic dome is costly and spamming. The cob is doubtful for bldg. regs and eng. req. The best of all is a do it yourself Earthship if you have compactable soil w/o bentonite, and a source of free tires nearby.
The tips on off grid living are good except for the cob building part. Check your local bldg. codes first. Location is everything. Sub-soil type is important. Doing all trades yourself is important for affordability, which takes some muscle power, brain power, and research, along with a lot of gumption.
I found that most people tend to be lazy, and lacking in the ability to do much for themselves. The old pioneering spirit and abilities have stagnated, except in us few.
Do you have a septic tank and leech field?March 9, 2011 at 12:00 am in reply to: Nickel Iron vs. Lead Acid — Off-Grid Battery Showdown #65056
2400 W-hr/day @ 24VDC=100AH. 3 days=41% discharge from 2 banks of 410 AH (720 Ah). 82% of max repeated discharge of 50%. Re500; 300/500=60%, or ~71% of max repeated discharge of 85%. RE400; 300/400=75%, or 88% of max repeated discharge.
So the closest without going under (in performance) is the RE500x20 for 24VDC.
Cost of 8-L16S w/desulfators and exchange is ~$2,100 using existing connectors. 2 sets, with new connectors and price increase= ~ $4,600 for roughly 32 years total or more. Bought in town 36 miles away and self transported.
Cost of RE500 system w/ connectors and shpg. $9,251 (or double+), and with 30% tax write-off for those with taxable income, $6,475.70 (or 71% more).
Footprint for 8-L16S= <2.5′ X <2′ X 18″ high. Footprint for 20 RE500s in 5 X 4 = 3.622′ X 2.264′ X 19″ high.February 18, 2011 at 12:00 am in reply to: Nickel Iron vs. Lead Acid — Off-Grid Battery Showdown #65007
Here is the Infinitum battery desulfator store;
I got a price list for 20 1.2VDC nickel iron batteries for my 24VDC system;
300Ah is $5,100 before the cost of heavy wire connections and before the 40% Federal Tax Credit–if you qualify in income.(I don’t qualify)
The price goes to $14,000 before wires for a 700 Ah total set for 24VDC.
My 8 L-16S with two desulfators for two banks of 24VDC, 820Ah total. For a lower discharge figure (max discharge 30%) this is equivalent to the nickel iron 300 AH @ 85% discharge.
Total for my battery change with new desulfators was $2K, using the old cables. So if the desulfators double my battery life to 16 years, I am coming out well ahead of nickel iron with lead acid. Plus, I remember my book on lead acid batteries, that if I limit discharge to 20%, it triples battery life, too. Something to consider when designing systems is keeping the discharge at 20% instead of 50% as usual with system sizing for lead acid. And of course, the desulfators and equalization once a month and keeping distilled water fluid level well above the plates and near full all the time.
The nickel iron is advantageous if you qualify for the 40% tax write off, and if they are lower maintenance.
It sounds like a great deal! Just find out the well and septic system requirements. Usually the septic system will have to be at least 200′ (preferably more) from any running water or well head. Probably limits to fencing for wildlife movement, too. There would certainly be well over adequate dead wood for a wood stove, but most places do not count that (or solar) as a primary heat source and require gas or electric heat, even if you don’t use it!!!
I built my Earthship over 10 years ago. I designed and did most of the heavy work with the help from my young son and wife. Mostly on weekends and after work. It was as my back was giving out from being shot down 30 years before. So I am no longer any good for help, except tech advice. We had stayed at the first Earthship in Taos before deciding to build one. Before that, I had my own construction company promoting Earthship/straw bale independent homes with variable owner involvement. Went broke, not enough interest in Grand junction, CO. Most of the Earthship projects I visited were done in bad locations and sloppily. Plus, the assessor counts square footage from the outside, even though the walls are 2 1/2 feet thick! Interior gardens are not subtracted either, and do cause some humidity problems. I used the course/pour vertical rebar reinforced method I developed to keep it stable, weatherproof, and nearly finished on the way up. I also used variable tires for niches and a compound radius for a straight concrete bond beam system. My front was done timber-frame notched style. My roof is acrylic rainwater catchment, with wood stove back up heat, and composting toilet. I unfortunately used older dual pane recycled windows that are losing their seals. All solar powered.
Hiring help and going with expensive systems like geothermal really increase the cost, but if you can afford it, go for it. Sounds like it will be a dream house.February 17, 2011 at 12:00 am in reply to: Nickel Iron vs. Lead Acid — Off-Grid Battery Showdown #65004
I had a friend who helped with my system who had good 25 year old L-16s! I have been off grid for 12.5 years and have changed my batteries once, mainly because I had given the responsibility of refilling the batteries and checking them to my son, who lied and only did one out of 24 cells! The fluid level got too low. They were 350 Ah each and I replaced them with 410 Ah ones in 2005. I also added Infinitum battery desulfators. I found that keeping them up above 75% charge by using my generator a little more often, vastly increases lead acid battery life. That is how his batteries lasted so long, he had 50 of them and charged them with generators often. I added a 12VDC system of 4 L-16Ss when I did my addition/garage. Now that my son has moved out, that system was not used enough. I now run my house heater and sometimes this computer with a cord from the addition. That system also has two Infinitum desulfators. My Earthship has 4 golf cart 220 Ah batteries. I wouldn’t mind changing one of these systems over to nickel-iron, if the price is right and they would fit. I see they come in 1.2 volt units which would need a lot of connections for 12 or 24 volts. Dimensions and maintenance requirements would be nice to know, along with cost and shipping.
I remember from Real Goods that the sodium batteries were in 2VDC sections, expensive, large, and lasted 25+ years.
My 4WD Mariner Hybrid has a substantial nickel metal hydride battery (about 10″ x 40″ x 50″ under the back floor) and the usual 12VDC battery. We use NiMH rechargeables for household batteries for flashlights and other devices.
When I turned in my L-16s, they were recycled. You needed the old batteries to get a good deal on the new ones. Infinitum advertises that their battery desulfators increase battery life up to three times.