Monday, August 13, 2012

the last day off grid

THE LAST DAY OFF GRID
At long last, overdue by several days, the last in the series of a day in the life off-grid at the Bison Compound.  Our intrepid off-gridder has now arrived at nighttime, and it is time to describe the most feared aspect of living without the grid ( outside of that yucky human waste problem- hey, look at the bright side.  You could have it much worse and be forced to crap on your crops in some malarial hellhole in the Third World ).  Being forced to survive without a firehose blast of AC power, enough to heat up a pizza bagel, crank the stereo,  watch a fifty-three inch TV and surf porn on broadband all at the same time.  You poor, poor fool.  How did the human race ever survive up to this point?  Look, if you think off grid alternate energy is ever going to provide much more than lighting ( this assumes you are on a budget and can’t afford the Ol Remus power generation plan ) you are sadly deluded.  I only started watching TV again when a buddy gave me a solar panel ( to double my wattage ) and I was able to afford a new appliance and a roof antennae ( you can now buy a seven inch travel TV for $50.  When I got it, it was $150.  The wife thinks I’m abusing her living out here.  You heard me right- $150 so the wife wasn’t as bored.  I’m a friggin saint ).
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Shortly after I moved up here, the combination of only one solar panel and an energy pig auto bulb for light drained my set of batteries.  We lived two weeks on weak LED flashlights ( and I’m talking very weak- several generations old already, they were outdated in about the year 2000 ) and candles.  Candles suck the largest, hairiest mule member you can imagine.  Which is why I stockpile a lot of LED lights for after permanent grid down.  Candles blow for light.  Nowadays, if you buy the newest LED’s ( they are just like computers, they get better and better ) and don’t get suckered into buying crap that was marked down because it is obsolete, you have very good light that draws almost no power.  If you have a travel trailer, replace all your incandescent auto light bulbs with “bayonet blade” type white light LED auto bulbs.  For instance, an Amazon search would be something like “1138 bayonet bulb LED” ( the 1138 is the auto bulb size ).  Make sure it is white light.  They draw about four watts and are brighter than the conventional auto bulb that draws 18.  The old bulbs are fifty cents, the LED bulbs are $12.  And well worth the money. 
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Things are just as easy if you don’t have a trailer with a 12v system.  Just use the round ( about hockey puke size ) sticky back push on LED lights.  They take three AA batteries and if you buy the newest ( avoid Wal-Mart.  Their $5 LED lantern is still the same crappy low light design I bought six years ago ) design the light is bright enough to read a book by ( a loyal minion sent me two packages.  They will be gracing the Pit shelter, they are that good ).  Even if you only just want them for area lighting, you can buy a LED goose neck lamp for placing next to your easy chair for reading.  The lamp costs about $8, and the push-on’s cost about half that ( they come two to a pack and cost $8-$12 typically ).  If you want more than light, you don’t even have to wire up your battery to your shelter.  Take a solar panel, hook it up to a battery ( through a regulator of course so it doesn’t drain back at night ) with clamps.  After it is full, switch batteries and carry the charged one inside ( marine, not car batteries.  Much better life ).  Clamp a duel cigarette lighter socket to it and plug in whatever you want.  TV, cell phone charger, inverter to run a DVD player or hair clippers.  It is easy enough to wire up your dwelling for 12v, but the above will be enough to get you started.  Now, a word on how much juice to use.
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A rough and easy guide to available wattage is such.  If your battery is 800 amps, you have about 800 watts to use before you have drained the battery down to half its capacity.  If you run a light for four hours ( a four watt LED ) you’ve used 16 watts.  If you run your twelve watt TV for four hours, add 48 watts.  You’ve used 64 watts last night.  You could do that for almost two weeks of clouds.  Now, if you only have sixty watts of panels, it will take more than a day to recharge the battery.  The rated wattage?  Reduce it by 15% to get a real world rating, then reduce it again by about ten percent as a “charging cost”.  So that 60 watts is really charging the battery about 45 watts an hour ( give or take ).  If I were you, I’d have stopped watching TV at the end of the first week to save on the battery discharge.  Anyway, as you can see, having off grid electric ain’t as expensive or complicated as it is made out to be.  I’d wager most authors painting a different picture want to sell you something expensive.  Just buy your Chinese panels now, with spares.  They are abnormally low cost right now, so take advantage.  The first oil or currency disruption and overseas trade is no longer affordable.
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7 comments:

  1. oh lord of western desert; thank you for these pearls of wisdom. that suck up enough to get me a higher rank? thanks delr

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  2. Dude, you must praise the hair for higher rank or preceeding any negative comments ( to soften the blow to my fragile ego ). These have been the rules all along.

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  3. 4 wheel bike ambulance/pickup
    We discussed the survival problems of the elderly.
    http://bisonsurvivalblog.blogspot.com/2010/04/grandpa-survivalist.html
    The 4 wheel bike consists of two bikes bolted together side by side. A feeble elder, or sick person on one bike, and a stronger person on the other is feasible.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZzUT8serQA

    In Walmart I pressed a tennis ball. It feels much like an inflated bike tire. Is it feasible to put tennis balls inside bike tires for flat-free riding?

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    Replies
    1. That tennis ball idea is a good thought Vlad. If it doesn't work, it ought to - save a lot of people some troubles of flats keeping your bike at home. The 4 wheel bike - maybe adding a rack to that bracket would be good way to carry a heavy load like 5 gallon water tanks - far easier to balance.

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  4. Those puck lights I sent you are from lowes. Utilitech item# 163154, model# 72435. They are about 25-30$ for the 2 pucks. Glad to hear they are pit-worthy.

    -dieselSnowmobile

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  5. Don't forget that free solar light using a 2 liter water bottle with small amount of bleach cut into roof (or domicile side wall) - that was brilliant in my opinion. Here is quick link to idea if you have no idea what I'm talking about.

    http://tinyurl.com/3tfctg

    I thought about using LED Christmas light string for interior use at night. Green doesn't cause you to lose your night vision and does not carry far - could be mistaken for fire flys in fact if seen at a distance. The same string can be used for indoor / outdoor use simultaneously and would be extinguished at same time when plug is pulled. And they are cheap, especially when bought AFTER Christmas sales occur. Just a thought.

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  6. Just saw this item at the Home On The Range blog site - looks awesome! I'm linking the product (UVMatlite) to this thread, it appears like a GREAT purchase!

    http://tinyurl.com/8dgz6ko

    Please delete if again' the rulz - just passing on a pretty cool tool for off grid lighting.

    ReplyDelete