AuthorTopic: Meanwhile back at the 'stead  (Read 186870 times)

Offline Eddie

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Re:Uncle Bob's Excellent Solar Set-up
« Reply #30 on: October 10, 2013, 06:06:41 AM »
So weird to hear someone talking about turning their panels NORTH to get the sun. LOL.
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline Surly1

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Re:Uncle Bob's Excellent Solar Set-up
« Reply #31 on: October 10, 2013, 09:27:40 AM »
So weird to hear someone talking about turning their panels NORTH to get the sun. LOL.

INdeed!!
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline Eddie

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Re:Uncle Bob's Excellent Solar Set-up
« Reply #32 on: October 10, 2013, 10:07:55 AM »
I think I found your charge controller on eBay. All questions have been answered. Nice 60 amp MPPT units from Taiwan. Good score.



What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline Eddie

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Re: Meanwhile back at the 'stead
« Reply #33 on: October 15, 2013, 07:38:53 AM »
It's rained more than 10 inches in some nearby areas over the past four days. The second weekend of the much ballyhooed ACL Music Festival had to be cancelled due to near flood conditions in Zilker Park on Saturday night. Lake Travis is up a couple of feet already, and no doubt will be up more. More rain is possible today, but it looks like it's dying down. It was a beautiful weekend for sleeping in and eating comfort food.

I drove through light rain yesterday out to a rural feed store and picked up a couple of black, food-grade plastic barrels, with which I will be experimenting with building an outdoor solar shower at the 'stead. I drove out to the land afterward, mainly just to see if this round of rain showers had blessed my place. Unfortunately, although it was wet and some rain had definitely fallen overnight, the lion's share seems to have all come to the south and west. The creek is still far from full.

I did see my first Monarch butterfly of the season. They usually pass through this time of year, attracted to the gayfeathers  (Liatris mucronata) that grow in abundance in my bottom. Although I took the dogs on a quick reconnaissance of the pastures, no others were spotted. The bees were busy as hell flying out of their hive under the cabin roof. Someday I have to get around to relocating them back to a hive box...but for the moment they're fine where they are. I'm glad they're doing so well.

I spent some time making notes about repairs I need to do on the cabin and dreaming about where to put the new outdoor shower, trying to think about where it can go, somewhere close to the cabin but in fuller sun to heat the water. I'd like to put the future soaking tub up in the trees...but when the goal is to have everything heated by the sun, it helps to have some sun available.

In my even longer term dreams to build a climate appropriate house, the question of what's more important, shade or access to nearby solar and wind power is proving to be a key consideration. I have lots of sunny places to put PVs and flat plate collectors, but the best building sites are in the more shady areas.

Of course, it's possible to place the power generating equipment in a spot remote from the house, but it certainly adds cost and complexity, neither of which I want. Permies talk about planning in zones...zone zero being your abode...and how some things need to be close by, and for other things it's okay for them to be further out on the periphery.

We had two guys lecture to us on Saturday. One spoke on natural building...we made some cob. After fooling around with it and seeing some buildings he's built, I feel less likely to use it. The techniques involved look slow, labor intensive and easy to screw up.

The second guy talked about living off-grid. I didn't learn anything from him I didn't already know, but I did enjoy his story. He's a working farmer of the newer, organic kind, been living off-grid for thirty years, and walks the walk. But the rapid growth of his business has him living too much off the generator these days, something that seems to be a common thing with off-grid communities that start to have a lot of people on site.

I will probably build the shower next weekend. This project was inspired by the solar showers I saw at the Concordia eco-hotel at Ram's Head.  It's a relatively easy project, and the pay-off will be immediate. The shower in the trailer kinda sucks, although it's usable. I intend to remodel the bathrooms soon. One has been gutted already. I also plan to replace some windows, a job that the prior owner started but didn't finish. Likewise,  the deck awaits finishing. The list is endless.

As most self-employed people probably are aware, today is the last day to file a 2012 Federal income Tax return, without it being late...provided you filed an extension. As usual, it was down to the wire on getting the damn thing done. But it's done, and apparently I don't owe any more dollars for last year, which is a relief. Paying federal taxes and keeping up with them are the most difficult thing about running a small business, imho. That and insurance. I'm too small to be affected by Obamacare mandates  (I think), but we already pay for half our employees health insurance. For my family (four of us still covered) and the employees, we pay $4000/month. Other than payroll, it's the single biggest check I write every month.

This is the time of year that I have to decide about taking on any debt of any kind...not planning to, actually, but this is the only time of year I have a fresh tax return to show a lender, which they always want to see when you're self-employed. It's one reason why leasing equipment is so popular in my field. Leasing companies don't ask as many questions as regular banks...

Fall is my favorite time of year, and with the rain, it's an especially beautiful one here at the moment. Summer has hung on into October, with 90 degree temps last week until the rain cooled things off. I'd love to see a cold front, although the fall garden is just starting to look good. I have green tomatoes and eggplants on the way now, along with some beans that survived the summer. I'm planning to get some garden fabric to cover my raised beds if it frosts...which it didn't much last year.

Add "order fabric" to the to-do list.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2013, 09:55:41 AM by Eddie »
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline jdwheeler42

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Re: Meanwhile back at the 'stead
« Reply #34 on: October 15, 2013, 10:25:34 AM »
We had two guys lecture to us on Saturday. One spoke on natural building...we made some cob. After fooling around with it and seeing some buildings he's built, I feel less likely to use it. The techniques involved look slow, labor intensive and easy to screw up.
Nah, from what I've seen, it's fairly forgiving.... but slow and labor-intensive, definitely.  The biggest thing is that you don't want the previous layer to fully dry out and harden up before the next one goes on, so the building process should pretty much be every day once you start.

So, I think cob is a wonderful building technique... when appropriate.  Personally I would never use it for structural elements like walls or ceilings.  For the thermal mass part of a rocket mass heater, though, it is almost ideal.  And it is only cheap if you count the labor as free; someone calculated a cob house would cost several times as much as conventional home if you had to pay minimum wage.
Making pigs fly is easy... that is, of course, after you have built the catapult....

Offline Eddie

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Re: Meanwhile back at the 'stead
« Reply #35 on: October 15, 2013, 10:55:15 AM »
  Personally I would never use it for structural elements like walls or ceilings.  For the thermal mass part of a rocket mass heater, though, it is almost ideal.

Agree with you on the thermal mass rocket stove.  The expert guy was using it along with straw bales to build load bearing walls. I could build several houses in the time it took them to build one, using more conventional techniques. It does give a beautiful, functional building though, if done right.
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline jdwheeler42

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Re: Meanwhile back at the 'stead
« Reply #36 on: October 15, 2013, 08:11:03 PM »
It does give a beautiful, functional building though, if done right.
In the hands of an artist, nothing else comes close:










Making pigs fly is easy... that is, of course, after you have built the catapult....

Offline Eddie

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Re: Meanwhile back at the 'stead
« Reply #37 on: October 15, 2013, 08:29:23 PM »
I like this one, built by SunRay Kelley, up at Harbin.





But I don't see myself going that route.
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline Eddie

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Re: Meanwhile back at the 'stead
« Reply #38 on: October 18, 2013, 06:42:01 AM »
I've had my wind turbine sitting in the garage since May or June. The problem is figuring out the best way to get it up in the air.

I've looked at a variety of decent options...tilt-up pipe poles...which looks pretty easy to get up to maybe 40 feet. But I need to get at least a little higher to be 30 feet above the canopy..which is pretty low, fortunately on my chosen site, but still maybe 20-30 feet.

I've considered a farm windmill tower. Slightly more expensive and hard to erect. Most people bring in a crane. They are fucking expensive.

I'm finally settling in on the option that Roamer suggested, which is a re-purposed radio mast like the HAM operators put up. Sold in ten foot sections, they can be embedded in concrete and built one stage at a time using a gin pole technique. They can also be tilted up, although I don't know exactly how high you can go that way.

These sections go by the name of Rohn towers, and they  come in different sizes, with the bigger ones being sturdier and requiring fewer guy wires. The littlest one that looks like it might work is a Rohn 25G, which looks pretty flimsy, but can be raised to stupid heights. In excess of 100 feet, if you know how. But I'm told that a Rohn 55G can be built to 60 ft with no guy wires...and it looks much stiffer and solid to climb on...at about 2X the cost of the smaller stuff.

I've found a guy who will sell me a sixty foot tower for $1300. That's compared  to about $1800 for a 33 ft windmill tower. Cheaper, and more than 20 more feet....and best of all, it can be built MUCH taller in the future if it turns out to be beneficial. You just add more sections. Obviously, it's REAL important to get the bottom section, the one that's embedded in concrete, to be as perfectly plumb as you can. Otherwise you just get  more "off" as you go up.

I miss Roamer. I wish he was around to give me the skinny on this stuff. I could use his advice. Roamer, you out there?

BC2K? Where are you guys?

« Last Edit: October 18, 2013, 06:54:27 AM by Eddie »
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline Eddie

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Re: Meanwhile back at the 'stead
« Reply #39 on: October 18, 2013, 09:04:09 AM »
I got the new solar shower plumbing stuff in the mail this morning. I decided to use an industrial safety shower contraption for the shower head, for a couple of reasons.

For one thing, the typical shower plumbing runs in  half-inch pipe, which is fine for pressure systems, but not so good for gravity feed. The other consideration is the valve, and I got one from Speakman that is one inch pipe and has this huge industrial pull-handle that works to turn it on, and there is a chain to turn it off. I just hate those spring loaded ones they have in National Parks and the like. People always jury rig strings to keep them on, and eventually they usually break from abuse.

A survey of gravity feed shower projects on the net revealed that many people end up getting booster pumps to get enough water. Apparently these gravity feed showers are used to some degree in houses in the UK, from what I gather. Maybe somebody can comment on whether that's correct.

I'm not sure the actual shower head, which is designed to wash off industrial chemicals (they are called a "drenching head") will work great, so I ordered a head designed for gardening that is made to fit a 1 inch garden hose. One of them should do the trick, and if not, there are 10 dozen different shower heads at Home Depot. (Thing is, they are all half-inch, and all of them are choked down deliberately for low flow nowadays.)

Of course, since I want to get this up right away and enjoy the feeling of naturally heated water soothing my skin as I stand outside in my birthday suit, the weather has continued to be cool and cloudy, and we may get more rain tomorrow. Well, I'm in class tomorrow anyway, and if there is one thing I'm sure of, it's that we will continue to get plenty of sunshine here most of the time, and I expect to be able to use this shower at least 8 months of the year.

I have all the goodies sourced now except for lumber and some PVC or Pex to run the water from an outdoor tap to the shower.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2013, 01:08:41 PM by Eddie »
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline Eddie

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Re: Meanwhile back at the 'stead
« Reply #40 on: October 18, 2013, 09:45:35 AM »
I also got the Zena welder back from the factory yesterday.  They have the world's best customer service. The welder is made from a Delco 10si donor and it's made to turn one direction because of the fan. I found that it needed to be reversed to run off my gas Harbor Freight engine, so I sent it back to Tennessee, for a refit, expecting it to be a month or so. It was back in a few days. Wow!

The designer of this cool tech has spent a good bit of time explaining to me what kind of voltage regulator I'll need to use the welder as a back-up generator (it will give 12 or 24 volts for battery charging) and how to wire that to the welder control. A very nice guy, and an expert.

So I ended up down in the driveway after work, doing a mock-up build. I put the frame, which looks kinda like this



on the engine, and tried to line up the pulleys. I still need to work on maybe putting in some spacers, and the frame, which is cut out of quarter inch steel is too flexible and will need to be braced with a piece of angle iron.

I think it's gonna work though. Damn, I wanna weld somethin'!

Note: These pics are actually of one of Mike's (of Mike's Windmill Shop) quick charge PMA alternators..gratefully borrowed because theepicenter.com, where I got the frame, won't let people copy their images. The welder does look very similar, the way I've got it rigged.)
« Last Edit: October 18, 2013, 11:56:15 AM by Eddie »
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline Petty Tyrant

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Re: Meanwhile back at the 'stead
« Reply #41 on: October 18, 2013, 03:52:00 PM »
Nice progress, Ill just say re the shower, DONT bother buying a little 12v pump with little high pressure gas bottle hot water/shower. I got the "aqua cube" and the flow is too slow, just as good to heat up a bucket of water on the stove or fire and pour it over yourself with a pannikin waste of 350$ plus bottles. My pigwoman banker cousin lives in austin, I believe texas is a warm enough climate similar to where I last lived and black plastic pipes on ythe roof will warm up plenty hot most days. At my old house I made that just in case the gas was ever not available or couldnt pay the bill or something. It was HOT, but dangerous geting up there on roof to fill it up all the time. You do it everyday so you get careless and then slip. Of course the trick is to time your shower  so you have it in the afternoon. I had insulation from aircon duct to slip on and keep it warm for a later shower. can take pics of the things Im talking about if you like.

I brought the things with me here where its much colder, but so far its just too cold for the water to heat up anywhere near enough, maybe a few months in summer it can.

I have more wood than I could ever use, so best way when its cold is to just put a pot on top of wood heater until its warm and take it into the shower and pour it over yourself.
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Offline Eddie

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Re: Meanwhile back at the 'stead
« Reply #42 on: October 18, 2013, 04:29:43 PM »
I'm modeling this thing off my recollection of the ones I saw in St. John. Just a simple black water drum with water tapped to it, up under a clear roof panel. It has an overflow pipe, so you fill from a hose or feed-in pipe until you see overflow.

Turn off water. Wait for sun to heat. Stand under shower and hope it isn't too hot (no mixer). With one inch pipe I don't think I'll need a pump. That kind of defeats the purpose doesn't it? You got to design better so you don't need auxiliary power.

 I guess that sounds funny coming from me, the guy with a dozen or more internal combustion engines in his possession. They are my minions, those little fossil fuel orcs. Anyway, the one inch shower pipe should help with the flow, and the drum I got is a big one.

To me, being able to take a real shower in the event of a collapse has high morale value, and I'm hoping to lure a certain woman out to the farm more often if It's all civilized.
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline Petty Tyrant

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Re: Meanwhile back at the 'stead
« Reply #43 on: October 19, 2013, 04:36:54 AM »
Eddie,
Since you are the 12V gun or have contacts who know the all  the ins and outs, maybe you can help me select a low draw fridge freezer of around 90L (30 gallon).

Engel is a  very reputable brand but theres only one local dealer and price is very high compared to Mainland suppliers also only carry 50L. National Luna is meant to be the best, but about 1K more than others.

The Primus has a 90L dual zone fridge freezer thats 2 seperate lids with roughly same size compartment. Im thinking I need a fair size for freezing kangaroo, sheep, goat meat. That one is aluminium inside and outside and strong handles. Downside is meant to be weight, but that doesnt bother me bec it will stay put.

When I say I want to buy the right thing once for reliability Im advised to go german compressor not chinese, and thick insulation. Its just not easy to find what I want all in one package.

My worry with the Primus 90L is the compressor made in china, Secop. Im trying to get Danfoss but the info seems to date back to 2011 re Danfoss. Theres info re Tianjin co. changing name of Danfoss to Secop.

I have really sore eyes from trying to look into all this now for past 3 hrs. I dont mind spending a bit extra to get something reliable as I live remote and taking something back or sending something back for repair etc is big hassle. But Im not spending 1K extra for the danfoss in the National Luna.

I bought a fridge once that lasted about 3 yrs. So a 3 yr warranty doesnt really reassure. Basically do you know if the Primus with Secop is the same german Danfoss quality made under licence in china or is just chinese crap and stay away from it. If not WHAT IS recommended? It needs to LAST.

Been using ice in a cooler so far so good, but  moving into spring now and after all this isnt a fucking fishing trip.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2013, 04:42:24 AM by Uncle Bob »
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Offline Eddie

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Re: Meanwhile back at the 'stead
« Reply #44 on: October 19, 2013, 05:00:20 PM »
Uncle Bob

My friends in AZ who live off-grid suggested just getting a regular AC fridge that has an energy star rating, and running it off  a small dedicated inverter, one just for that one appliance (A 1000W pure sine wave inverter would be more than enough, probably). Their point was that the newer conventional refrigerators are quite efficient compared to the old days...and that spending the extra money for something like a SunFrost  (used to be considered the best 12V a few years back)  wasn't justified.

However, I was looking around myself and ran across these EcoSolar units, which get good reviews. I might consider one of these for myself. They aren't that much more than what the local big box stores charge for a regular fridge, and they will run on 12V or can run off an AC adapter. On their site they have a good video sent in by a guy who has one set up off-grid...shows the whole set-up he's got.

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/kHCfSH5mFio&fs=1" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/kHCfSH5mFio&fs=1</a>

http://www.ecosolarcool.com/



What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

 

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