Showing posts with label solar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label solar. Show all posts

Monday, April 15, 2013

What Did You Do To Prepare This Week?

I'm still working on cleaning up a gun. Slowly but surely just soaking with WD-40, wiping and repeating every day or so is getting the last couple rough spots cleaned up. Ordered a more robust solar setup which is something that has been on the list for awhile now. Will write more about it down the road sometime. Put some seedlings into containers in the garden. The beans seem to be thriving, unsure about the lettuce and spinach as of now.

Other than that not a ton going on here. What did you do to prepare this week?

Friday, March 15, 2013

New Years Resolutions- Finalized a bit late



I dropped some draft goals awhile back and was recently reminded of them. It is high time I solidify them.

Physical:

Maintain a consistent weight lifting program.

Run a half marathon (I changed to this because it's March and I haven't tracked mileage which was a big fat fail)



Continue working on barefoot running towards the goal of running on a  variety of terrain up to 5k barefoot

Transition to running fully in minimalist shoes

Ruck at least 1x a week

Eat reasonably with decent consistency so I don't gain and lose the same weight 2-3 times over the year.

Skills/ Training:

Attend a defensive handgun course.

Work on developing a variety of other skills as they come up by doing as much myself as possible.

Guns and Gun Junk:

Pick up a couple holsters and assorted other stuff to get squared away for what we have. (Specifically a nice Bravo or Raven concealment kydex holster for the Glock with TLR-1, a good OWB holster for the J frame, and an ankle holster.)

Purchase a DBAL and free float the barrel on project AR.  (The DBAL is almost funded I just need to do a bit more research then pull the trigger.)


Finally complete Project 870. At least the tube extension and sling. The light angle I've got to do some thinking on.

Get more spare parts. Beef up on core stuff (AR's and Glocks) and get some basic stuff (firing pin, extractor, ejector, springs, pins, etc) for other guns.

Finally get my (already sporterized) 1903 30'06 tapped and mount a scope on it.

If things work out and decent deals come along I would like to get a single shot 12 gauge and another .22 rifle. 

Subcategory Ammo: I am only doing this if prices get back to normalish. Would take my best whack at it and if I get half done be happy.
5k .22lr
1k 9mm
1k 12 gauge (mixed about 400 buck, 100 slug and 500 mixed small game loads)
2k .223


Food:

Build up to a 1 year supply of food for 4 people.

Can something

Continue with my garden this year.

Pursue fishing/ hunting as it fits with our environment and life. 

 Energy/ Other:

Get a better solar setup. A bigger panel with a power supply and a few small lights is the answer. Goal 0 makes what I am looking for. It will cost about $400. Probably 500 once I get the lights. This would have gotten purchased late in 2012 but the whole ban madness shifted my priorities elsewhere.

Get licensed to drive a motorcycle. Maybe purchase a used enduro/ adventure touring motorcycle.

Continue putting together and refining our systems. Firm up the bug out bags and the heavy (vehicle) bug out setup.

Re look and improve our cache situation.

Financial:

Continue being debt free and saving. Along these lines continue not doing stupid things. 

If we reach our food storage goal get back to putting away some silver and gold.

Long Shots:


Start on the AR Pistol.

Buy some land (this mostly depends on some other things).

As always input is welcome. It would be fairly useful now before these resolutions are solidified. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Reader Question: Goal 0 Yetti 150 Solar Charger

Anybody have personal experience with Goal 0 equipment? What about the new Yetti 150 Solar charger? If so please chine in with your thoughts. Thanks,
R

Monday, November 12, 2012

What Did You Do To Prepare This Week?

It was a pretty solid week here. Exercise was solidly on pace with 3 runs, 2 lifts and 1 body weight/  lame Army PT session before getting sick. I fiddled with some gear which was good. Did some dry fire drills which are always a positive thing. Did some testing of the solar charger which turned out pretty good. Oh yeah and I purchased 2 BBQ sized propane bottles.

Between getting sick and recovering we pretty much lost the whole weekend which kinda hurt some efforts. However we are pretty much back to normal so that is good.

In terms of material stuff it was a great week. Ordered a year's worth (x1 pax or 4 mos x3) of grains and lentils, 40 pounds of rice and sugar as well as some oatmeal. Project AR Upgrade got some love too with a VTAC Surefire light and mount combo and a VTAC sling to go along with it.

Survivalist Charlie got me now I'm broke so next weeks plans include the usual dry fire and PT (3 lifts, 3 runs, 2 rucks and at least 2 APFT oriented body weight sessions) as well as a contest brought to you by our new but good friends at Camping Survival. If things work out I will look over our kits again and go through the 'go food' as well as testing out some cooking options. We *should* have the right connectors to run our Coleman propane stuff off the big BBQ bottles from the stuff we got from the in laws but well that is why we test things. Also I am still fiddling with the Sun Oven and Solo Stove.

Some good stuff if I do say coming up  so myself. What did you do to prepare this week?


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Doomsday Preppers and Solar Charger Test

Today we caught a couple episodes of Doomsday Preppers on the tv. We hadn't seen that show before as it was not available in Germany so it was pretty interesting. Some things definitely jumped out at me.

First the amount of people who were very prepared but seriously overweight amazed me. I'm not talking could stand to lose a few pounds or a bit of a belly but strait up obese. I just don't get it. The odds they will have to walk more than a couple miles, maybe carrying a moderate load like a get home bag, face a physical confrontation or pull their body over an obstacle are far higher than that they will need a year's worth of food, a Faraday cage or whatever. Also even if they have the discrete skills to survive a gunfight their fat body might not be able to move fast enough and their already taxed heart might give out due to the stress. I talk physical fitness a lot here. Running, lifting heavy things, ruck marching and generally how to be a modern day guerrilla or whatever else you wanna call it. You do not have to do what I do exactly but for goodness sake do something.

Other than that rather obvious note the biggest thing that jumped out at me were gaping holes in peoples preps. Mostly it was people with otherwise great setups that had no serious security plans. Some were seemingly intimidated by the subject and others were back to nature gardening types that are rather naive to the ways of the world.

I decided to do some testing with our little Bruton solar charger. It did a great job charging 2 AA batteries (holds 4 but I only had 2 dead ones) in about 2 hours. I tried charging a device via the USB port some time ago and it failed for undiagnosed reasons. However it did just fine with the batteries and they are what is really important so that is good. Looking at getting a bigger setup. Something large enough to charge a few devices and run some lights. Goal 0 makes some pretty nice stuff.

Anyway I hope you all have a great Sunday


Saturday, September 29, 2012

RE: Southern Prepper 1 Video Thoughts, What Would I Do..

I posted a video from Southern Prepper 1 a couple weeks back. It has been in the back of my head since then. The things I would do if I KNEW an economic collapse was coming in say 6 months are as follows in no particular order:

1) Secure 6 months of all medications we use.
2) Get a new bike for me (mine was stolen) and ensure the wife's is ready and functional. Stash extra tubes, tires and chains and such.
3) Sell the SUV we shipped from Germany and purchase a small commuter car. Depending on how bad things might get fuel may still be available but more expensive. A little car would let us do things that are not easily walkable at the lowest possible cost.
4) Stash lots of food.
5) Buy a better small solar setup.
6) Finish off a variety of loose ends. Just small stuff really.
7) Have more of my available liquid cash on hand than in the bank.
8) Have developed and refined a couple more systems for light and heavy (vehicle) bug outs.
9) Purchase a small (5X8 or 9ish) enclosed trailer.
10) Store some gasoline.
and one more for the bonus
11) Ensure we had the next 2 sized of clothes and shoes for the kid(s).

Of course I would also pull out everything we have in the bank and stocks and convert it into PM's or readily barter able stuff but that is kind of gaming the scenario. 

Anyway most of this stuff is what we should be doing anyway. Might not be a bad little list to work on.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Winning and Losing: Eating Well, Couch to 5k, Berkey Water Filter and Solar Power

We have been making some changes lately. We have started eating a lot better. More fresh fruit and veggies, lean protien and better carbs. Less eating out, just plain junk and carbtastic blah meals. Most of it is pretty intuitive. If there are not chips in the house you won't eat chips. Having some discipline and not going out to eat every time we feel like it and that sort of thing. The carb thing is kind of a grey area with lots of folks taking different views. We have both tried the super low/ no carb thing before and it doesn't work for us. She just hates it and I am tired and weak all the time. Instead we are trying to eat more reasonable portions of wheat bread or tortillas and brown rice. Just avoiding the huge bowl of white rice or plate of pasta kind of meals. We both feel a lot better and are getting healthier.
Wifey has been doing Couch to 5k. She is midway through week 6 right now. While she, like many people, does not currently and probably never will like running it is working for her. She noticed that dragging the kid up stairs has gotten easier. I would say this is a real good program for lots of people to seriously look at. If you are a fairly healthy person who is of a reasonable (like not morbidly obese) body weight but have not been very physically active this is a great way to get back to it. Toss in some sort of weight training program and you will be good to go. If you are seriously overweight or woefully out of shape it might be wise to do some sort of build up to this program, like eating reasonably and walking 1-2 times a day several days a week for a month or two to build up some conditioning and drop some fat. As always everybody should consult a general practice doctor, a dietitian, a cardiologist and a physical therapist before any sort of change to their diet or beginning any exercise program.

Personally I am cutting back to 2 times at the weight pile a week and upping my conditioning. Still doing the big lifts, just a bit more geared toward holding what I've got while conditioning gets tightened up. The human body only has so much work capacity and most of us only have so much time so there is a sort of push/ pull relationship. If you add or up the intensity in one thing you are going to almost inevitably lose ground in some other. Also inherantly between weight training and running/ cardio/ conditioning there is an inherant trade off. It isn't a bad thing really, especially for someone without many sport specific goals. Unless you plan to be a competitive marathoner or powerlifter it really isn't an issue.

On the downside our Berkey water filter is currently deadlined. I couldn't get it to seal and pass the dye test then (maybe while slightly frusterated;) I broke one of the white plastic nut/ bolt combo's that seal up the holes without an element in it while putting it back on. So I am not sure what exactly was wrong but now there is a new problem to deal with. Talk about not moving in the right direction!

This happened about three weeks ago and I put it away in frustration. I am going to get a replacement nut/ bolt and some more elements (either to replace the faulty ones or as spares) then go from there. On the bright side the good folks at Directive 21 have been great in helping me trouble shoot things and have just been a huge help with this. If I weren't such a slacking procrastinator this problem would likely already be fixed. Had I bought our Berkey from some no name fly by night folks who knows where I would be.  There are no problems that money (hopefully not very much, I really want it to be just the washer, not the element(s)!) and time can't fix. It hasn't been a huge concern because we have another water filter. Maybe there is a lesson there.

On a nice sunny day recently I busted out my little solar charger. I fiddled with it until I had a decent idea how it was supposed to work and then plugged in my kindle. After several hours in direct sunlight nothing happened and my dead kindle was still dead. This lead to a good amount of not very nice language.

 I realised a few things from this. First of all I do not know anywhere near enough about electricity. Second since we have added all sort of stuff, some pure entertainment and some useful since picking this charger up we may have already outgrown it. Third I need to test it at it's primary purpose which will be charging AA and AAA sized batteries. I am waiting for a sunny day when I have time to mess with it. Another more substantial (probably 15-26 watts) portable solar charger and maybe some sort of battery bank could be in order. However I have to do some more testing and become a more educated consumer before putting something else onto the wish list. If anybody has good resources to check out on this front I would be interested. Specifically good primers on electricity in general and a good breakdown of what watt/ size pannels can charge what sort of stuff and in how long would be great.

These two events were pretty frusterating for me. Nothing like having to go back to the drawing board or adding something else to the shopping list in an area where you thought things were good. Then again testing stuff is a good thing, even if you don't get the answers that you would like. Far better to have issues now, with the worst case being spending a little bit of money (water filter) or adjusting my expectations and maybe searching for a new piece of gear (solar charger), then some time down the road during an emergency when I need this stuff to work.

I guess the closing point is to look at eating healthier, getting into better shape plus alsp really start testing and retesting your equipment. Odds are something that should work might not.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Quote of the Day

"The issue as I see it is that American liberals are anti energy or at least any functional and viable forms of energy. They don't like coal or oil and I can kind of get that. However they also do not like nuclear energy. Electric cars are ...just about the stupidest thing out there because most electricity comes from coal or diesel powered generators. I would be for some kind of policy that would lead to enviornmentally friendly energy independence if it is a serious conversation. Wind and solar are great but they can only meet a tiny percentage of our total energy use. One might as well say that homes will be powered by rainbows and gum drops."
 
-Me

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Small Solar Setups

I got an email about this today. It mentioned those solar yard lights as an idea. In my personal experience and from what I have read they are not an impressive product. They are a great idea but it just doesn't seem to work. Personally for a budget alternative energy setup I got some rechargeable batteries and a solar charger for them. I think the cost was somewhere around $200-250. For lighting I would use them to feed a couple of LED lanterns and some flashlights. In a couple years when I upgrade I will get a couple solar panels, some deep cycle batteries and a few LED lights.

Anyway those are my .02 cents on that.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

What Did You Do To Prepare This Week?

I am just not sure when it comes to precious metals these days. I see definite shades of 1980 in the charts and buying at the top of the market is bad. On the other hand it may be different because of our insane monetary policy and other factors. Prices could continue to climb and stay high for many years so I may start getting priced out of the market entirely. Right now I see the up side for silver being better than gold. I am still buying but am not going to increase my contributions any. This week silver dipped some and I was able to pick up a roll of 90% quarters and another of dimes. It was money from last year so I guess I was a bit closer to last years PM goal then I thought. Or we could say this year is getting off to a great start.

We also picked up a snow shovel to keep in our vehicle. Wifey got a lightly used Helly Hansen waterproof shell type coat at the used stuff store for like 18 bucks. She needed a waterproof coat with a hood and even if she had 3 that was too good of a deal to pass up.

I also got started using my Kindle. Downloaded a bunch of public domain books. Got the Gibbons I plan to read as well as some Shirlock Holmes and The Count of Monte Cristo. Next I am going to get military manuals and survival type PDF's. A solar charger would greatly aid in its prep utility and is worth at least looking into.

It has been a pretty crazy week here with getting back home from the holidays and me jumping back into work. We are probably still feeling the after effects of jet lag and all that. I cooked dinner yesterday and incorporated a bunch of cans of stuff we have had lying around. There were some substitutions but it turned out well.

Next week I am going to try and get through more of The Bear Went Over The Mountain. It is very interesting if dry at times. Also I am going to get some more stuff to put on the Kindle.

Got emergency seeds? If you don't you probably should.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

What Did You Do To Prepare This Week?

It was a good week for preparedness here. I was finally able to make time to go to the bank here and get my card fixed (for the secondary account).That let me clear up a log jam of stuff. Ordered a 4 tray Excalibur dehydrator. Excalibur seems like the company to go with and this one cost about $100 so wasn't too much more expensive than most of the competition. Also got a bunch of those eneloop batteries, a normal charger and a solar charger. A few books also.

Read a pretty long and interesting article. Got some good stuff out of it.

Went through the primary first aid kit. Replaced everything that was expired and added a few more items like neosporin, crazy glue and an Israeli bandage. I mentally added going through the medicine cabinet (actually its a closet) to my list of stuff to get around to. I need to organize what we have, tossing long expired stuff and filling any gaps that become apparent. 

Next week I am going to be away for a few days. Posts are scheduled so there will be no interruptions for you folks. I don't think much is going to happen in terms of preps but that is just fine. Some weeks you do a ton and some little to nothing.

What did you do to prepare this week?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Plan

Awhile back I walked about plans. Have been tracking my New Years Resolutions for awhile now. We have been talking about mid range and long term plans here at the TOR house. Codifying them onto the blog is however problematic. So much stuff depends on how long I stay on Active Duty and where we are stationed. A plan that would be practical if we lived at Ft Rilley, KS would not work in Ft Drum, NY let alone overseas. Aside from generic stuff like: working on our food storage, trying to grow some stuff, saving money, squirreling away precious metals, kit, weapons and ammo it would be difficult to make meaningful plans.

There is a plan that has been forming in our minds. This plan doesn't have a definite start point. It starts when I leave Active Duty. Not even going to get into when, how or why I might do that as there are so many factors involved including: job satisfaction, Op Tempo, family happiness, life conditions, and the economy. In any case this could be called the 'I get out' plan.

Here are a few things which shape this plan.

First a long time ago Wifey and I made an agreement that we will not live more than 45 minutes from a reasonable sized town (our definition for this is pretty modest). This was defined as something big enough to get basic services. Realistically we are going to need to live relatively close to a town of this size anyway.

That brings us to the second point. In order to live the kind of lifestyle we want and pursue our various desires we will need a decent income. Yeah yeah yeah multiple streams of income from small home businesses, etc, etc. I have read the same stuff you have. Not going to say that I don't think that idea works, just that I don't think it will work for us. We have and or will acquire the skills (still not entirely sure what we want to be when we grow up;) necessary to make a decent living in a fairly rural area.

Third it is true that some well paying gigs can be found in very rural areas. Moving out to Timbuktu, WY population 57 for a great job is a nice idea. The concern I have about a lot of them is what happens if that gig ends? You need a place where you could realistically get another comparable job. These days most workers change jobs or even careers a few times in their working life. Also while I am not sure the world is going to radically change because of 'peak oil' I do think that whatever form of energy we are using to power vehicles broadly speaking the price is going to go up, not down. The days of 75 mile one way commutes will likely be over in the not that distant future.

Also I have some serious concerns about the idea that you just telecommute to the 'good job' back in the city and can live in Timbuktu, WY. Simply put if you can do it via phone, fax and the net some guy in China or India could do the same thing for a small fraction of the cost. In general it is somewhat egotistical to think that nobody else could do what you do but in some cases it might be true. For those cases my previously mentioned concern about finding a new job still comes up. Maybe the firm of Anderson and Sullivan is perfectly happy paying you the same wage to work from home because you do good work and the boss likes you. What happens when Anderson & Sullivan closes or the boss who always looked out for you retires? Trying to convince Jenkins & Collins you are super awesome and they should hire you and let you telecommute might be difficult or impossible.

Fourth I am not fundamentally convinced that even if money wasn't an issue I would want to live in a super remote place. I don't need to be able to get pizza delivered or anything but it would be nice to be able to decide to go get pizza/ Chinese/ Mexican at 5 o'clock and eat before 7:30. Being able to go catch a movie on a weekend night when you are bored is enjoyable.

One of the parts I really like about the Inland Pacific Northwest is that while there are some reasonably sized towns there is little to no 'urban sprawl'. If you are say 30 minutes outside of Colville, WA or Lewiston, ID or Bend, OR you are out in the sticks. Admittedly finding a place that is relatively isolated but big enough to offer basic services and a big enough economy to make the 2-3 job changes that are normal is an act of compromise. It is however the best answer I can come up with.

Anyway now that those beliefs and observations are out of the way, here is the plan.

We are going to move to the Inland Pacific Northwest, probably Idaho but won't rule out the some parts of WA or OR. [Time for a tangent. Lots of folks talk about how Idaho or Montana or whatever are the best place to be. While in general I agree these places offer some real benefits there isn't a magical line of freedom and safety that matches up with any state boundaries. A guy two miles west of the Idaho state line doesn't have a fundamentally different reality than one two miles east of it. Ditto for Montana or any other state. End tangent.] We plan to purchase a reasonable fixer upper style home on a few acres. Most likely somewhat near a little town that is not too far from the kind of midsized town I talked about above. It would be off of any major highways and distinctly outside of whatever little town we are near. I would say 3-5 as a minimum, maybe a but more depending on what is available and prices. A wood stove is essential and a basement would be a big plus. We have been doing some looking and enough homes in that region have basements that finding a home which suits our needs and has one is realistic.

I would not say this is a picture perfect retreat plan. Then again a rural home in an area with a generally sparse population on enough land to have a huge garden, some chickens and pigs plus maybe a milk cow is a far better setup than most other options. I would rather have a comfortably sized place that we can easily afford and pay off at an accelerated rate than a bigger piece of land which we have to reach a bit to pay off at the scheduled rate. Maybe in a few years or a decade we would upgrade to a bigger chunk of land (if your income grows) but then again maybe we would just stay put.

Between an office/ guest room and a couple sets of bunk beds in the basement the place will be set up to comfortably house several more people. If they are not already present outbuildings will be constructed to suit our needs. In time we will set up a decent alternate power system and if it isn't already so retrofit the place to have the heat and kitchen stove to propane. This would allow us to function in a fairly normal manner during the couple of power outages a year that are the norm. My dream setup would have a spring but that is probably pushing it and would make our search much more difficult. Having a shallow enough well to run on Solar Power with a big retaining tank is a reasonable alternative that would not break the bank.

Also about the time this plan gets seriously underway the LMI and I will start changing some plans from talk into action. My co author Ryan and I have talked about this and he plans to move to the same area. We don't plan to live together like hippies in a commune but being in the same area would be nice. Chad will likely gravitate toward the same area also. We will likely have some other LMI involved who may or may not make the move. A plan of stocking up on fuel and well varied bug out routes will be figured out, probably as a group project since we tend to have interests in the same areas. Establishing some caches along said routes is likely to mitigate the issues of distance.

I am interested in any feedback or thoughts you folks have. Think part of my plan is unrealistic? Got a part you think can be improved on?

END

Monday, January 25, 2010

Solar Ambitions

One of the few benefits of my current work situation is that I have a lot of time to think about stuff. Solar power has been on my list for awhile now and since it is #12 on my New Years Resolution list and I am looking at it in late Jan the odds it will get done are very high. Anyway here are my thoughts.

In some ways my current situation is not ideal. Heck, in a few ways it is not ideal. Then again I have a well compensated stable job in the middle of the worst depression in 80 years so it isn't all bad. I sort of try to strike a balance between getting stuff I can use now and getting stuff that is on my longer term lists. Stashing a case of ammo or a gun or some gold is an easy decision because this stuff is long term durable and nice to have around. For some other stuff I lean more towards what I could really use NOW. I think my immediate solar ambitions need to lean more towards NOW then stashing in the warehouse for the future. 

The right setup for me right now might just be a solar battery charger and a bunch of rechargeable batteries. My goals for a small solar setup are rather modest. I would like to be able to have some lights and run the Grundig radio. If I could charge AA and D (ideally AAA also) batteries that would meet my goal.

Part of this was thinking about what I could really use now. I do not have the ability to mount stuff on the roof nor do I have a private yard at this time. If I recall correctly Conservative Scalawag mentioned having a similar dilemma. We have a big South facing window so I am sure I could set a small charger (or one per battery size as may be necessary) in a place where it would be able to do its job. Also the eccentricities of shipping my stuff back to the US mean I would likely need to either ship the marine style deep cell batteries which are the core of most small solar systems USPS or leave them behind. I learned an expensive lesson about shipping big heavy stuff last move and do not want to do that again. However a shoe box or two worth of AAA, AA and D batteries would go a long way towards meeting my immediate self sufficient power goals and would be easy to ship back home.

I have been meaning to make the move to rechargeable batteries anyway. Picking up a normal battery charger also would be easy to do.

In a few years when our housing situation is more compatible with solar and we are back in the US a couple of solar panels with an inverter and a couple big batteries will be purchased. I will pick up some LED lights that will be situated around the house and run off of the big batteries. Eventually when we are permanently (or at least relatively so) settled getting a half dozen big panels and a corresponding amount of batteries to run a whole slew of low power stuff. At that point I will stash the small and medium size setups for a rainy day, probably in a Faraday cage just in case of a One Second After scenario.

Do you have experience with any products that would fill my current need? Thoughts on the plan in general?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Basic Overview of a Simple Solar Electric System

 TOR here: Our good friends at Idaho Preps were kind enough to write a guest post on the topic of simple solar systems. They sell some solar items but really just wrote this because they had done some research already on a topic I was talking about and wanted to help out. They called this a basic overview but it seems pretty comprehensive to me. That might speak more to my minimal knowledge on the subject than anything else. Anyway, enjoy.

The premise of a solar electric system is using the sun's energy through solar panels to charge batteries, then using the energy stored in the batteries to power needed electric devices.

This will be a very generalized, very basic overview.  You can use this as a rough guide to calculate costs and gain a basic understanding of the setup of a solar electric system. But before you jump into building a system, please gather more information.  At the end of the article, I've listed three books I found on Amazon that have very good reviews.  I have not personally read any of these, but the reviews of these books make me confident that they contain worthwhile information.

We will create an example system to help illustrate how much power you need for various devices.  Our example system is an emergency backup system, only used when the power is out for whatever reason.  This system will be substantially smaller than an off-grid setup for a cabin or retreat.

With any project the first step is planning.  Ask yourself some questions:
-What devices do you want to power?
-How long do you want to power the devices?
-How quickly do you want to recharge your battery bank?
-How much money can you throw at this project (a solar project can be stages to avoid large cost upfront)?
-Where will you put the panels and the battery bank?

Let's go through each of these.

What devices do you want to power?
In our example, we would like to power a laptop, cell phone charger, small battery charger (AA, AAA, etc), a few lights, and a few other small miscellaneous devices. When you are calculating devices, try to overestimate, of course it is better to have too much power than not enough. This is your basic figure used to calculate your inverter size and to a lesser extent how many panels and batteries you need to start out.

How long do you want to power the devices?
In our example our power emergency will last two days. Your goals will be different and this will mostly effect the size of your battery bank. Again, more is better so overestimate this as well.

How quickly do you want to recharge your batteries?
In our example, we only have a two day power emergency and this is a very infrequent event, so charge time is not that big of a concern to us. If you were living off grid, charge time would probably be your most important factor.  This effects the size of your solar array or how many watts worth of panels you will install.  One other thing to keep in mind here is that depending on where you live and the amount of usable sun you receive at your location you charge time may be dramatically different than the example.  There are charts on the internet that will give you a rough estimate of how much power you can expect from your solar panels at your location during different times of the year.  Here is a map of the US and it's solar irradiation http://lib.store.yahoo.net/lib/yhst-21796510175022/Irradiation.pdf

How much money can you throw at this project?
The nice thing with solar systems is that they can grow over time. Once you have a single panel, charge controller, batteries and inverter, you can simply grow the system.  Add more panels, add more batteries, at a certain point of solar output you will split the batteries and add a second charge controller.  If you get a large enough install you might look into a second inverter.  At that point you would have essentially two complete systems which have the benefit of failure protection as well as power capacity.

Where will you put the panels and the battery bank?
This can be a tough decision.  The panels will need a good view of the sun, the exact angle and cardinal direction of the panels will vary depending on your location on the planet, but essentially you want the panels in full sun as long as possible per day.  Panels are fragile, so they need to be protected from falling tree limbs, kids throwing baseballs, etc.  Your batteries need to be protected from the elements as much as possible.  I've seen quite a few different installation methods for batteries from small sheds, to underground root cellar type vaults.  Cold greatly effects batteries and if possible having the batteries in a controlled temperature would be the best.  Some batteries emit gases when charged, you need to research this and be aware of the potential hazards.

Our example system
For our example we only need to power a few devices for a few hours each for two days and again, we're not really concerned with the recharge time. 

First we need to calculate the wattage and usage of the devices.
Laptop - 50W for two hours each day
Cell phone charger - 25W for one hour each day
Small battery charger - 10W for four hours each day
Lights - 25W for four hours each day
Misc - 25W for two hours each day

Now we do some simple math to come up with watt hours, which is a key number in battery sizing calculations.

50W * 2 hours = 100Whr
25W * 1 hour = 25Whr
10W * 4 hour = 40Whr
25W * 4 hours = 100Whr
25W * 2 hours = 50Whr

So our total watt hours for one day is 315Whr
Multiple this times 2 days 315* 2 days = 630Whr
We want to be able to supply 630Whr of power from our battery bank.
A handy page for doing these types of calculations (and for system design in general) is here:
http://www.advancepower.net/advcalc.htm

Parts
In general these are the parts we will need.
-Solar panels
-Charge controller
-Batteries
-Inverter
-Misc cables and connectors

Let's go through each of these.

Solar panels
There are three types of materials that panels are made from:

Monocrystalline Silicon Panels
Monocrystalline panels use crystalline silicon, a basic semiconductor material.   The way to identify whether a panel is Mono or Poly is simple. A Mono panel has individual cells. A Poly type panel is solid with what looks like flakes of silicon pressed together. . Monocrystalline panels are typically 15-18% efficient, meaning that for every unit of solar energy that hits the cell, the panel can convert 15-18% of this energy into electricity. These panels are usually more expensive.

Polycrystalline Silicon Panels
Polycrystalline, or multicrystalline, photovoltaics use a series of cells in place of the single large cell used in monocrystalline panels. These panels are the least expensive pv panel available today. The drawback to these panels is that they have lower efficiency rates at 12-14% efficiency.

Amorphous Silicon or Thin Film Panels
Thin-film panels are the lowest efficiency of any current photovoltaic technology at 5-6%. The primary advantage of thin-film panels lies in flexibility.

Each type of panel has its purpose.  The Monocrystalline are more expensive, but with higher output. The polycrystalline are easier to make and therefore cheaper, but with lower output.  The thin film panels are pretty new, and are great for portable use, their output is very low, but the ability to roll them up and take them with out more than makes up for the low output. For our experiment we are going to pony up the cash and go for the good stuff, monocrystalline panels.

Using the system calculator I mentioned above (http://www.advancepower.net/advcalc.htm), our example system requires only one panel.  The calculator was pre-configured with the data for a Kyocera KD135GX-LP solar panel, so we will go with that one.  There may be others with better output, better warranties, etc.  Your research can determine the right panel for your situation.

Charge controller
The charge controller not only keeps your batteries charged, it lets you know the status of your battery bank (charge level), and it prevents over charging of the batteries, which is a critical function. Over charging will shorten battery life and can lead to batteries overheating, bursting, spilling acid everywhere, and other nasty things.  I have used the Xantrex brand in the past, so we will go with the Xantrex C35.  This charge controller can support up to 35 amps at one time.  Our single panel can only reach a max of 7.6 amps, so this is more than capable of handling our system with room for expansion.

Batteries
Our calculator was pre-configured with the battery data for an Interstate L-16.  This battery is very popular for solar and wind power applications and is a great choice. It is fairly expensive and for this type of backup system (vs an off-grid system) I would probably not recommend this battery simply due to cost.  You can find the "golf cart" type batteries for half the price per Ah (amp hour) as the L-16.  The downside of the golf cart type battery is that they take up more space (L-16 is very space efficient), and their lifespan is shorter (3 to 5 years for golf cart, 5 to 7 years for the L-16).  You can use any battery for your system in a pinch, but for longevity you must use a deep-cycle battery and if you are spending money, you are better off to pony up for a good quality battery.  Do a little research on the battery and you can save quite a bit of money over the life of your system.  One other note on batteries, there are many places that use battery backup systems for computers, telcom gear, etc.  Some of the places have strict rules on the life of the batteries.  If you play your cards right you might be able to swing free batteries of excellent quality.  They may be near the end of their stated life, but will still have plenty of capacity and if they are free you can double or triple your needed capacity and be confident that you still have the power storage you desire.  Some places to check for batteries are hospitals, telco companies, cable companies, and any company with large computer systems. For our example I am going to use a generic gel-cell 12V battery I found via a quick google search.  One of these batteries will have just enough capacity to run our system to our requirements. Deka MK Battery Sealed Gel, 12V, 86.4Ah, Group 27 8G27DT-DEKA

Inverter
You have a choice when designing the system, depending on how many and what type of batteries you buy, your system can be 12V or 24V.  24V is more efficient especially at longer cable runs.  I personally like 12V systems because you can take advantage of the 12V in your system to directly power devices that require 12VDC, in this way there is no power loss from the conversion of 12VDC to 120AC. Many small electronic devices run off transformers that convert 120VAC to 12VDC. You want to bypass this transformer and go straight to your bank of batteries if you can.  If you don't bypass the transformer this is the flow of power, 12VDC batteries run to an inverter to make 120VAC then into a transformer to go back to 12VDC to power your device.  This is extremely inefficient.  When shopping for electronics, take into consideration what voltage the device actually uses.  You can see on the transformer itself what the output voltage is.  Also, when experimenting with plugging devices directly into your bank of batteries, you need to come up with a way to safely connect those devices and distribute power.  I like the idea of using car cigarette lighter adapters wired to plugs that connect to the device.  Also you need to be very mindful of polarity, you can destroy electronics if + is connected to - .

Beyond that however there will be devices you want to use that are 120VAC, for this you need an inverter.  As with the charge controller, you get what you pay for here and spending more money will gain more efficiency (to a point).  Again, Xantrex is a respected company in this field and I have used their products with success in the past.  Inverters are measured in Watts, so you will use the number you came up with during the planning stage to determine how many Watts of 120VAC you need to supply. One other note, be sure that you use high quality, large gauge cords if you need to run extension cords off of the inverter, use the largest gauge cords you can so as to avoid voltage drop (and inefficiency) through the cable. For our example we will go with the Xantrex XPower Inverter 1000, it's simple, has good reviews, and has more that enough capacity to power our simple system.

Misc
There are many ways you can connect your system and just as many ways to physically lay out your system.  Cable runs will vary, depending on your charge controller or inverter you may or may not need additional circuit breakers or fuses.  There is always an unseen part that is needed.

Costs
Let's add up our various parts and see what we come up with.
Charge controller - Xantrex C35 - $125
Battery - Deka 8G27DT - $250
Inverter - Xantrex XPower Inverter 1000 - $125
Misc - cables, fuses, terminals, panel mounting supplies, etc - $150
Total cost - $650

So for around $650 (those prices include shipping) you can have a single solar panel setup with a single battery that can power quite a few devices for several hours over two days. Where I live in southern Idaho, it would take about three days to charge the battery from completely empty.  That's not too bad.  If you built the system in the right way, this system could even be portable.

Books
Here are three books that I found on solar electric systems that have favorable reviews on Amazon.
http://www.amazon.com/Got-Sun-Solar-Renewable-Grid-Tied/dp/0965809870/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1261622983&sr=8-7
http://www.amazon.com/Easy-Guide-Solar-Electric-second/dp/096718911X/ref=sr_1_33?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1261623057&sr=8-33
http://www.amazon.com/Solar-Electricity-Handbook-2009-Photovoltaic/dp/1907215018/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1261622983&sr=8-1

-Idaho Preps

Sunday, December 27, 2009

New Years Resolutions

Thinking about my goals for next year.

Personal:
1. Be a good husband. I was a pretty good one last year but a few days really drug down my average. I am looking to not do that or at least drop it to a couple days.
2. Travel a lot.

Personal Stuff:
3. We can use a few smaller things like a new TV and another laptop. The main push however is to get a reliable second car which we pay cash for.

Financial:
4. Stash some more Euro's. Say E400 or so.
5. Contribute 10% of our total take home to retirement.
6. Continue to not make stupid choices.

Skills:
7. Take an automotive class.  They offer them on base and I need to know more about car repair.
8. Be able to setup and trouble shoot a small solar setup. 

Preparedness Stuff :
9. A good radio that can pick up everything. Probably a Grundig.
10. Maybe a Berkey water filter and maybe some spare elements for it and the portable filter.
11. A basic solar setup. 

Gun Stuff:
12. Case of .223
13. Half cases of 7.62x39, 9mm and just maybe .38. Full ones if I am feeling rich.
14. Some M1a mags. At least 10 and ideally closer to 20.
15. Glock 9mm mags. At least 10 and ideally closer to 20.
16. A few more spare parts and at least one AR15 full bolt carrier group.

I would say my goals start at the top in terms of priority and work more or less downward from there. I put more small stuff on here than last time. That is mostly because I am trying to purchase stuff in a more dispassionate manner and plan ahead.

Still got a few days before New Years to make any final changes. I should probably add some food stuff. Thoughts?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Reviewing New Years Resolutions

About a year ago I made my New Years Resolutions. Figure this is about the time to look over them. It isn't quite the end of the year yet but if it hasn't been done it probably isn't going to be.  I will comment in italics.

Fitness:
1. Stop gaining and loosing the same ten pounds, get to and stay at my goal weight of 175lbs.
Fail. I seem to be 'sticking' at 177-180. The good news is I can eat and drink just about whatever I want and stay there. The bad news is that it is really hard for me to get below there no matter what I do. Decided I am happy enough here.
2. Run two miles in 13:30 or less. Might not be maxing the APFT but being within spitting distance is good enough for me. Fail. I am running faster than I was this time last year but not that much.

Financial:
3. Rebuild our emergency fund and increase it to three months wages.
Almost Complete. We are 3 paydays away from this being complete so since it was an annual goal I will call it complete. Saving 3 months take home pay in a year is pretty awesome. For the sake of full disclosure we were able to stash about a grand we got from the move. I can honestly say I am really proud of this one. It has taken a lot of dedication and stick to it ness. The peace of mind which is coming from having a good emergency fund is pretty darn nice.

4. Add a little bit of money to the stash.

Complete. We added some cash to the stash. Since it wasn't specific I will call it complete.

Food:
5. Cook with more whole foods (meat, eggs, flour, rice, etc) and stop eating so much ready made frozen stuff.
Complete. We eat real food now and frozen and pre prepared stuff is for rare occasions. We might go get some feel good frozen stuff once a month or so.

6. Going along with #5 I want to eat more canned and shelf stable stuff regularly.
Complete.
7. Add some serious long term storage freeze dried type food to the pantry. Maybe a months worth of Mountain House? Fail. Not sure I am that concerned with it at this point.

Firearms:
8. Start working with a purpose on a stash of spare parts.
Complete.

Falls into no good category:
9. Start working on grid down power solutions. Some sort of compact solar panel setup to charge batteries and power some lights would be good.
Fail. Looking to address this one soon.
10. Get some LED lights and stuff.
Complete.
11. Be a better husband to my wonderful wife.
Complete. Of course you can always be a better spouse but in general I have made improvement in this area. 

7/11 isn't too bad. I would rather aim high and not get everything done than have stupid goals I could all knock out in a weekend. Got to think about next years goals. Think the categories may be different.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Priorities and Solar Power

Yesterday on facebook I said this:

So much junk I can use. Think I will probably get some more 9mm glock mags just to be safe. After that I can use a case of .223 and a half case of 7.62x39 plus another half case of 9mm and some shotgun. Then I can be done with ammo at least for what I have now. After that some sort of compact solar power type setup would be nice. What are your thoughts on this and what can you use? 

Today I have been rethinking my priorities. It is just too easy to get gun centric. I would like more Glock mags and some ammo to get to the ratios which will make me happy. Really I already have a decent amount of both, at least enough so they can slide back a bit in terms of priority. I am thinking about a compact solar power setup as my next major purchase. Somewhere after that a nice Berkey water filter would be good to have. I've got a pretty nice water filter (and another somewhere in the warehouse from my backpacking days) now so this isn't an immediate need but a nice at home setup would be cool to have. After that another dozen Glock mags (plus a few onesies and twosies for other guns) and a few cases of ammo will be purchased for my long term paranoid gun owner happiness. 

Not sure why the font changes.

 The Sunforce 50044 60-Watt Solar Charging Kit seems like a nice place to start when it comes to producing my own energy. I checked my preparedness wad of cash today and it would allow the purchase of this setup. Being able to run some sort of lights and charge small electronics/ batteries would be spifferiffic. 

Do you guys think this would be a good purchase? If not what sort of alternative energy setup would you suggest to meet limited emergency goals on a budget? Any sort of help would be appreciated as I am not knowlegable in this area. 

-Merry Christmas.

 

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I Can Haz Solar?

The other day someone mentioned Solar and it sort of got me thinking. I like the idea but my options in that area seem to be pretty limited. I can not mount anything outside or on the roof. I can not set stuff up outside or on the roof. Our windows are on the Nnw and Sse sides and the ones on the Sse are pretty big.

What options do I have for solar? Maybe a battery charger and a big stack of batteries?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Colony

I haven't been able to keep up on this show as much as I wanted but it is on right now. Kind of interesting. Got me thinking more about Solar Panels. When we have a semi permenant residence I will get a few of these with a battery bank to support them.

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