Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Storing Light

Coming from the city and being used to being able to flip on a light switch and have light appear, and having those things in our camper, we wanted to have electricity available; however, the plan for the land was to never be hooked up to the power grid. Also, at the time, we wanted to be more "agrarian" with things like utilities, and so solar and/or wind seemed promising. Michael found a fellow online who makes portable solar trailers, and so we decided to go that route and purchase one. Here is a picture of ours on the right:

The following might not make a lot of sense to some or most people reading it, and when we got the solar trailers this information didn't mean much to us either, but I'll explain the setup briefly: Each panel I believe is 110 watts; and there are 10 battery banks, each bank with 2 6 volt golf cart batteries hooked together in parallel, and each pair run in series to create a 12 volt system, which is the same voltage as our camper's and is typical of many direct current systems. There is also a charge controller to only allow a maximum of 14 volts into the system via solar so as to not overcharge the system. Lastly, attached to the system are 2 3000 watt continuous inverters, which turn the 12 volt direct current into 110 volt alternating current (AC) (which is what comes out of a normal wall plug). And voila! Electricity!

The setup works pretty well when it's sunny and we're not running a freezer, but needs external charging when it's not sunny or the freezer is being used. This we do with a generator and a battery charger, which can input 60 or more amps into the system when charging (which our battery bank can indeed handle).

We also tried our hand at adding a small wind generator, but it ended up not working very well as it really needed a pretty strong and constant wind to put out any real amount of current.

Now, having electricity is fine and dandy, but in the end this really isn't a long-term solution, nor does it fit into how we see ourselves living in the future. First, parts will perpetually need to be replaced; and second, we desire the old paths, which includes getting away from things like electricity and doing things in a more truly agrarian way. Light could be daylight, or candle (made from animal fat or bees wax) light; freezing meat could be replaced by cold smoking, or drying; etc. These things we hope to implement and are what we are working toward as we progress here in building our homestead, with God's help and provisions.

For further insight and discussion into off-grid living, including this area of electricity and food, please see Michael's "Off-Grid Living Series" located at his Center for Agrarian Homesteading Education site.

-- David


Anonymous said...

Propane works well for refridgeration and saves your batteries on cloudy days.

David & Susan Sifford said...


Thank you for the comment.

You are correct; and actually, we run our camper's refrigerator strictly that way.

-- David