Author Topic: Whole House Power  (Read 1496 times)

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Online Weisshaupt

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Whole House Power
« on: April 09, 2011, 11:40:03 PM »
Just thought I would share our findings on Alternate power sources

Wind: In short Avoid.  I was unable to find any manufacturers with proven reliability and track records- from the Skystream 3.7 which is reputed to not work anywhere, to  those that "suck the least" like a Belgey. A wind turbine in general  needs to be at least 3Kilowatts to be cost effective - and towers are often more expensive than the turbines themselves, and WTs require a lot of maintenance- so plan on climbing towers with tools or using a "GIN POLE" to lower the tower. Before doing anything you should buy a weather station, and try to figure your average  wind speed at the height you plan to put the turbine- you will need to know and predict the weather anyway, so this is not a bad purchase even if you don’t do wind in the long run . You need at least 8mph to even begin to generate power with most designs. There are two basic types, Horizontal Axis and Vertical Axis- The horizontal (HAWT) is the traditional design with airfoil blades - it needs to shift with wind direction, and variable winds cause wear and tear. The VAVT designs turn at the same speed as the wind, and require larger and heavier alternators. Both types will be $15-20K installed, which , IMO , is too much to pay for a high-maintenance, low reliability power source.  If you do have a wind source, and the time and patience, at this point your best solution looks to be a DYI using some ready made components like these and only for the purpose of augmenting a Photovoltaic System during windy or stormy periods.

Photovoltaic Solar:  We ended up purchasing a 4.4Kw system based on Solarworld 245 Mono Panels and a dual grid-tie Outback inverter with Battery backup capability from cosolar.com. Northern Arizona Sun and Wind and Wholesale Solar are two other reputable dealers with good technical support and staff.  To size the system you need to investigate what loads you MUST have running ( Fridge, Freezer, Lights, Well Pump ( watch that one- surge current can be huge – its why I have to have two inverters) etc)   - also check your solar irradiation so you know what you can expect.  There is a lot of good info here   – take a close look at the PVWatts tool on that link- I found it very helpful.  Also, you can use Google Sketchup to do shadow studies by modeling your site and looking at the shadows plotted--plus sketchup is a useful CAD tool for any project- well worth looking at. Batteries are a tricky subject all their own, but generally you get what you pay for.. golf cart batts last 1-2 years, and industrial, heavier than your car, batteries can last for 20.  Try to make sure you can loacte the inverter and battery shed as close to the array as possible - also try to make provision for keep ing the batteries warm..  Also check with your local utility to see what they offer in the way of “net-metering” and sell back rates, and possibly in assistance in subsidizing your system – also there is a 30% dollar for dollar credit on all INSTALLED systems on your taxes, even if they are installed at a second home- but that assumes your tax bill is greater than the credit you will get.  Netmetering allows you to use your utility as a “long term battery” – storing the extra energy you create in summer and getting it back from them in the winter when the system produces less.  Also consider Ground Mounting the panels – this allows you to re-position per season, and keep them cleaner and free of snow.

Solar Water Heating: There are a number of companies that make panels for heating water for home use.. some heat the water supply directly, and then feed it to the hot water tank, and others keep a secondary tank hot, and water for use is heated using a separate  heat transfer coil in that tank.  There are a number of fairly expensive panels for sale, but for this I recommend a DYI project as the most cost effective.  Lots of good info here – I will probably be building a couple of systems using plans from the first project on this page to augment both House water heating ( while keeping propane as a backup)  and to aid with Greenhouse heating/aquaponics  temps for the fish, and for heating a tank that can be used to keep the PV batteries warm on cold winter nights

Solar Air Heating: Again, there are reputable manufacturers for heating air [ulr=http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_200328805_200328805?cm_ven=Aggregates&cm_cat=Google&cm_pla=Alternative%20%2B%20Renewable%20Energy%3ESolar%20Panels%20%2B%20Accessories&cm_ite=456302?ci_src=14110944&ci_sku=456302] like this one [/url] – these basically work by convection- drawing cool air from the floor of your house and pushing it back in at the ceiling warmed to a nice temp.  This will augment a traditional heating system, or even a wood stove by raising temps into the 60s or so -  It doesn’t take a lot of propane tank fill- ups to pay off a single or two panel collector of this type.  However, again, there are cheaper DYI solutions to consider like this one – obviously this doesn’t nothing to store heat for later, so its only helping heat a structure during the day.

Conservation: Yeah, you have to reduce the power you use to make these technologies work for you.  That means good insulation for heating, and more energy efficient appliances.  One of the more fascinating things at the Self-reliance Expo was the mix of Greens and Conservatives. I am sure the greens were surprised  to see so many “Don’t Tread on Me” t-shirts.  It irks me somewhat to be pushed into doing exactly what they want me to do – by their deliberate sabotage of our currency and fuel production , but the hard economics of $120/barrel oil will do that to everyone.  #1 is the fridge.  It runs nearly constantly and is a huge energy draw.  There are Fridges especially made for solar applications, and they are good- good and ugly. If you have a wife, don’t even bother looking. Get an energy star top/bottom freezer/fridge WITHOUT Ice in the door. It’s a reasonable compromise.  Alternatively, you can  MAKE a very efficient  fridge from a Chest Freezer. if your wife will let you get away with that.  Second you need to deal with the “heat bulbs” – I tried these recently and I am pleased with them – a little directional however, and it is a different  color spectrum –more like a CCFL.  However, these LED bulbs should last a lot longer than the CCFLs (in my experience the CCFLs don’t last if they are turned on/off too often)    They are certainly bright enough- we usually dim them.

So that’s the basics.. if anyone has any questions or wants more detail just ask.. I might even know the answer at the point.  :>)
« Last Edit: April 11, 2011, 08:36:42 AM by Weisshaupt »

Online Pandora

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Re: Whole House Power
« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2011, 11:51:19 PM »
There's a lot to digest there, thank you for the information, and glad to "see" you here.
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Offline Dan

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Re: Whole House Power
« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2011, 09:55:49 PM »
Thanks for the great info.
Glad to see you made it here from IAF.
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Offline Libertas

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Re: Whole House Power
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2011, 06:49:32 AM »
Thanks Weisshaupt for the very worthy contribution to this thread!  If one wants to end their dependency on the common grid, this kind of info is a gold mine.   ;)
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Online Weisshaupt

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Re: Whole House Power
« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2011, 08:44:53 AM »
Hi All,  thanks for the warm welcome.

I have yet to install the PV System ( still learning how to navigate the State inspection system, the code book, and I am in need of a place to house the INverters and Batts still)  but I will post more learnings with that as I get to them, and time permitting,  the Solar Hot waten and Solar Hot air DYI..  of Course with silver at 41 and a dollar index drop last Friday I am questioning how much time we have left, and my fears of a sudden drop have been renewed ( I personally am hoping for long slow decline... )

Beleive it or not my first post is just an intro- the devil is in the details, so if anyone is working on similar projects and wants to pool knowlegde or just pick my brain its all good to me.


Offline Libertas

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Re: Whole House Power
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2011, 09:26:06 AM »
Yeah I'm just looking at rigging some solar cells and glow strips for emergency lighting right now, anything more elaborate will have to wait for financing to catch up.  Naturally all of my clans TEOTWAWKI prep's involve pushing many of the higher buck projects back.  But I am gathering info on many such projects just to keep planning/options up to date.
Irrumabo!  GOP? - Nope. No more. They made their bed, now let them die in it.*
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Online Weisshaupt

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Re: Whole House Power
« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2011, 10:35:43 AM »
Understood.. do what you can with what you got..

I am operating off the (possibly erroneous) assumption that default via inflation is the ultimate destination..
Under that assumption,  taking on additional debt now is good and savings is bad- since your dollars are depreciating.  Even if we don't see a genuine hyperinflation,  and more of a Japan style "lost decade", everything imported will be far more expensive ( which right now is nearly everything) and new loans will be over 10%  -- The debt of course is risky - you have to maintain it while things are good, and if things go depressionary ( the Fed raises rates instead of QE3) it will be harder to service your new debt.  However, if things turn hyperinlaitonary and you stay employed and your income at least partialy tracks inflation- your mortgage payments are equivalent to buying a loaf of bread. And if you can't make them, you will be in a flood of people in the same boat- the foreclosue system is already under a Denial of Service attack by the volume- and more will make it impossible. In the end your loan may just be forgiven because its cheaper han trying to take possession... Same will probably happen with taxes. 

Don't forget to put your hand out either -- there are all sorts of grants for "renewable energy"  and many power compaines have been strong armed into also paying part of the cost, plue your Federal Tax Credit - you may only have to pay for a small portion of a whole house system ( We got our system, installed,  here in Denver for an effective cost of $13K - retail being closer to $42K. )  I know, you don't want to be one of them.  Well they aren't giving you a choice that includes living as an honest man.  You can either be a chump and provide these things for others, or you can try to get some of your own money back (and maybe then some)  by taking advantage of them and yes, potentially looting others.

Also to keep in mind - 401Ks, IRAs and pension funds have been siezed by governments during "bank holidays"  during crisis periods in other countries the past,and congress has already heard testimony suggesting such actions.  It may make sense to pay the penalty and remove some of that money to get some of the basics covered.  I justify this by telling myself that Iam working on my retirement home. I just have it now rather than later.  Besides, if I am wrong,  and the socialism just creeps along, I can just pull the equivalent of a 60K salary by working 1 week a month at minimum wages, and with power, housing, heat paid, and some portion of food paid for, that will go a long way.  If I save maybe even a few European vacations. :>)

Offline Libertas

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Re: Whole House Power
« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2011, 10:48:54 AM »
I have definitely thought about that last one!  Right now I am bidding my time because I am 100% in commodities, I think I have time yet to act, but I have to guard against being to smart for my own good.
Irrumabo!  GOP? - Nope. No more. They made their bed, now let them die in it.*
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Online Weisshaupt

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Re: Whole House Power
« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2011, 12:17:49 PM »
I would sell the commodities/Savings  as you need them to prepare. Cost averaging works on the way in and on the way out.  You may not reap the maximum benefit, but then you don't loose all of your eggs in one basket either...

Even in a hyper inflation you may find the commodites don't keep pace with the inflation, as demand just plummets -even for things "people need" - so there will be a "top" and then possibly a very rapid sell off. A  bunch of paper saying you own oil, gold, silver,  or grain won't actully feed your family or power your home on a day they freeze the markets and call a bank holiday.  I don't think that will happen. However, I can't discount it at this point either.

One thing I have discovered is it takes way more time than you think to get things done, and spend the money wisely. There is a kind of Brewster's Millions effect- I don't have time with work, children, family etc to research products, find contractors & suppliers, deal with inspections and supply problems,  to even begin to spend the money quickly, even though I have made a list of what I think I will need, and already decided to spend the money to get it.

Point is, if you have decided that you want enough solar to power the home, and you think you will need to depend on it - get it now. When other people decide they also need it ( like KI pills)  it may be come unobtainable and certainly will become more expensive. ( I bought my familu's pills 3 years ago. It was a nice feeling not worrying about it - and no we didn't use them)   Even if it is available,  for a lot of this stuff you won't be able to just go out, buy it and start using it in short order.  It took 3 weeks just to fabricate the Racks the Solar panels went on, it will take me longer to construct a suitable insulated enclosure for the inverter and batts,dig trenches and get it inspected. If you need the power now, you are probably looking at 2 months before you have it under the best of conditions. Its the same with everything.  There is a huge learning curve to all of it, and you want to learn now when you can afford the mistakes, not later when it counts. There are degrees to all of it, I understand, and I may be more willing (or more scared ) than most  to do what  I feel is needed.  I would just make sure I was comfy with the level I was at..if something were to happen today.  I am not that comfy yet, but I am sure I am more intolerant to risk than most people. 

Offline Libertas

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Re: Whole House Power
« Reply #9 on: April 12, 2011, 06:58:48 AM »
Timing is important, that's for sure.  We've been on such a binge lately and have so many projects to pull together simultaneously...it's gonna be a busy summer!
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Online Weisshaupt

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Re: Whole House Power
« Reply #10 on: April 14, 2011, 04:29:55 PM »
Put your hand out:
http://www.dsireusa.org/

A database of all of the incentive, rebates and credits you can claim.  Its probably late inthe day, butthe Stimulus Bill put a bnuch of money out there - you just have to apply for it. Just remeber - its a way to get some of your own money back..