Been posting a bit about my power set up around the homestead. Some of ya have been around the shop awhile enough to know what my set up at home is. Not just the power that I have been posting about, but the other things, like cooking and stuff.
Well, first up, if you have ever spent any time in a nice (read newer) RV, you wouldn’t feel too out of place in my house. All of my lighting is 12vdc, ALL of it. My system is a hybrid system, half DC and half Alternating current, pretty much the same as an RV would be set up. Instead of the DC to DC converter to run the 12v stuff while attached to shore power, I just go straight through my batteries. (well, the charge controller and a fuse box, but the point is moot.). My AC circuits are powered by either a 1500watt Pure Sine wave inverter (computers don’t really like the modified sine wave stuff) OR my Honda Genny. I have both ran into the breaker-box via the expedient but versatile means of a 30amp extension cord. Of course the Genny is outside on the porch or under the porch when in use, so the cord has to be able to reach it, otherwise it stays coiled up in the ‘battery shed’, which is a small enclosed room in my house. I chose to do that so I don’t have to worry about my batteries getting cold shock. (and since I am considering switching over to Lithium, even better. Lithium really doesn’t like weather like we have been seeing of late and has to be warmed up to be able to charge. And discharge rates get kind of funky when they fall below a certain temp. Inside will be perfect for them.)
Now, as for cooking, I have a propane fired stove/oven. Yup, one of those ‘dinky’ cooking stoves from an RV. It won’t bake a Large pizza, but it will cook a tin of biscuits just fine. And with a little planning, can cook everything a bachelor would want to cook. Due to power considerations, I don’t have a Microwave, and have learned to do without one. My popcorn intake has fallen to nothing over the last 6 years for obvious reasons. (and thats not a bad thing,,,,).
You already know I heat my house with a wood-burner, so I don’t need to go into that. My air movement is via a 12vdc ceiling fan, made for RV’s by no smaller than a normal house current model, and even has a remote control that lives near my desk. The motor in the fan is brushless so quiet as all get out. My house is set up with a vaulted ceiling so all the rooms are connected ‘up top’, making that fan perfect for getting the heat from the stove spread around. (my battery room has a ceiling, I didn’t want fumes from them getting around open flames. Just sayin’)
Hot water. I have a propane fired, on demand hot water heater. It uses 2 D-cell batteries for the igniter, no pilot light, and I get about 2 months of hot water on a single 10# tank of propane. The same type you get for your gas grill, and here local, I have a place that refills them at a much better rate than those kiosks at the local stores exchange them for. (my stove and fridge run on a 20# tank, more about that next). The only thing I don’t like about my water heater: it has a 20 minute timer built into it and there are days were I really want to soak up the heat of a hot shower. If I hit that 20 minute mark, oops, cold water coming straight your way,,,, grrrr. Other than that, its no different in performance to having a hot water tank. Turn the tap and a few seconds later you have steaming hot water. And it has a T-stat that I can adjust on the fly: higher in winter, lower in summer. (It doesn’t ‘fix’ a temp like a water tank does, it modulates it by whats incoming, and the water in winter is WAY colder.)
My fridge. This is one area where I need to bite the bullet this year. The poor thing has been having some issues lately of staying cold, or in rare instances, freezing everying in the bottom solid. More the first than the last. Its a Norcold 8 CuFt two door unit. the freezer area isn’t as large as I would like, but when it works, it works great. Its call a ‘three way’ unit since it can run on AC, DC or Gas. The gas seems to work the best, but the bugger will burn through a 20# tank in 10 days, not including the gas I use for cooking. The AC works pretty good to, and the DC, well, when the power starts getting like it is, I will just switch to straight gas and wing it. The lower the voltage on the batteries, the higher the wattage the fridge pulls to keep the heat up, so best to keep it from sucking things dry. If I know the day is going to be bright and cloud free, I will shut the gas off and run to the panels/batttery bank. If I am running the Genny, switch to AC. Yeah, it all has to be ‘keyed in’, but thats the price I pay for a unit that doesn’t need the grid to operate. (right now I am trying to find a place that will rebuild the poor thing, or exchange for a refurbished unit. She is definitely starting to show her age. NOTE: these fridges are NOT cheap. The list price on this unit new, is $2200.)
It sounds funny, but the most my system does, is charge batteries. Batteries for my phone, battery in my Mac, batteries for my Dewalt power tools, etc etc. I run some lights as needed, and the fridge to keep my perishables cold, but that is pretty much it.
If you have bought my book “Outside looking in” you already know my schpeal about ‘figuring out what lifestyle changes you need to make’ to go off grid. The biggest for me was losing a lot of the toys others take for granted. I have no TV, no Cable, no High powered stereo system (I do have a 400w sound system that plugs into my lappy or an Ipod for when I want to ‘let my hair down’.) nor do I have gaming systems, or oodles of kitchen appliances. (Yup, I use an old hand crank can opener. You know how hard it is to find those these days????). In many ways, I FEEL better off for it. Unplugging from the Mess of the World is as easy as putting my phone on the charger in the truck and leaving it there while I get on with my living in my world. Seems like I have been doing quite a bit of that the last two years, and still can’t get away from it enough. If I had a ‘news service’ IE cable, I would have probably gone postal before now.