Letter: E-85 and Generators



I didn’t have any luck searching for this on your website. May be something you consider for a future article.

How well/poorly do portable generators function using “ethanol gas” (E-10 ‘the normal mix”, and E-15 [or higher] which various lobbies seem to want to foist on us)? How about going all the way to E-85 if you can’t obtain/forage/swap for “the good stuff”? Even with stabilizers, the ethanol is very hygroscopic so goes bad fast, but what about a post-hurricane/tornado/etc. scenario where it hasn’t had to sit long in the tank?

I got to thinking in the post-Maria coverage that I didn’t know how well generators tolerated ethanol? Because it reduces the “energy density” of the fuel, would the power generated make it past the controller? Screw up your system?

Letter Re: Plan “B” Power

Solar set up


I got a little solar set up. I put most of the panels in a cabinet, leaving one up to “trickle charge” the batteries and keep them up. It did not work. In trying to save the batteries, I employed a Honda EU2000 with the dc charging feature. That EU2000 was how I was going to smooth over charging issues during consecutive cloudy days. The problem is, the measured voltage range between full capacity and the minimum you should tolerate is very small. The EU2000 does not have a charge controller. “Keeping an eye on the process” does not work. Personally, I bounce from project to project between work and family life. Does anyone out there have a suggestion for a charge controller that would work well with the EU2000? – RV

Sol-Ark Review, by James in Florida


Over the course of the last year, I have bought my Sol-Ark system in increments as funds became available. First, I bought the Sol-Ark “brains” followed six months later by 15 solar panels. Then, last month, I purchased 16 AGM deep storage batteries.

Placement of the Sol-Ark Unit

I’m the kind of guy who likes to carefully think through a project before starting it. Having read the Sol-Ark installation instructions, which are very straight-forward and uncomplicated, I decided to mount the Sol-Ark unit in my garage utilities closet. I’m fortunate that my homebuilder actually made a mistake when building my house; my HVAC unit and water heater are in a closet with a wide door instead of being out in the open garage and subject to the heat and humidity. There is enough “leakage”, for lack of a better word, from my five year-old HVAC system that it keeps the … Continue reading

Ten Tips for Going Off-Grid, by A.U.

Off grid living

My husband and I recently bought a piece of property with some family members in the hope of transitioning to off-grid living. For those who might not be familiar with the concept, going off-grid means creating a lifestyle that does not rely on public utilities (water, electricity, et cetera).

There are many different reasons people choose to go off-grid. Some of the most popular reasons are:

  • to decrease environmental impact,
  • to prepare for disaster, or
  • a desire to be independent and self-sustained.

We jumped into our endeavor with almost no knowledge or experience. We have had to learn some things the hard way. While I would not trade the experience for anything, there are some things that I wish we had known from the start. Here is a list of tips I can offer to help make the transition to off-grid living a bit easier.

Letter Re: Does EMP Affect Solar Panel Systems?

EMP Solar panel

EMP Solar Panel

Good day sir. The talk of EMP has greatly increased recently for many reasons you are well aware of. What would happen to either grid tied or non grid tied solar systems in this instance? What would happen to generators as well? – R.C.

HJL’s Comment:

Two of our Writing Contest sponsors, Portable Solar LLC and Quantum Harvest, LLC, both specialize in EMP hardened systems. You should check their sites out and also the videos that they have on YouTube. We have several other advertisers that sell Solar equipment and it would be worth your time to check with them as well, though they don’t specifically advertise EMP hardened systems. Generators are more robust (except perhaps for the modern inverter units), but if they are grid tied they are … Continue reading

Hurricane Matthew–Some Lessons Learned

Dear Editor:
Although I shouldn’t have been, I was once again amazed at the panic and last minute attempts to prepare, as Hurricane Matthew approached Florida. Florida’s geography dictates that there is only one way to travel to get out of the state, and that is north, unless you own a boat or plane.  The interstate freeways and highways get a lot of traffic and the stores get cleaned out, by hurricane refugees.  The parking lot of the Walmart that I visited was full of recreational vehicles (RVs).  Many of their owners were standing around with nowhere to go.  When a nearby gas station had what looked like a fuel resupply truck pull in there was a stampede of people on foot with empty gas cans lining up at the pump and blocking cars from getting in.

Be prepared and top off as soon as you hear the … Continue reading

Letter: Circling Back on My Preps

Dear Editor,
My preps are in five areas, per the “group think” of SurvivalBlog. I have worked from area to area starting with what is easiest and cheapest up the ladder in each area. As I circle back I am working my way up but also looking back and questioning myself: Where did I store the extra ammo? Exactly what is in that unmarked box on my closet shelf and how might I better package to grab and go should we have to hastily migrate?

Electrical items are on the agenda today. It started up with recharging the AAA-size batteries for some of my flashlights. I noticed that many of my stock of batteries have been raided by my children seeking to power different toys. Next, I checked my inventory of batteries and chargers. I learned: “So that is what the stray seemingly orphaned wall wart goes to!” … Continue reading

A Micro Solar Power System With Maximum Utility, by B.C.

Necessity being the mother of invention, I recently stumbled backwards onto an inexpensive and truly totable way to power two-way radios, shortwave, and other receivers; charge smart phones and iPads; provide lighting; quickly purify water on the go; keep night vision functional; enable electronic security systems; and pump rainwater to a gravity tank, while protecting all these functions from EMP in the interim.

I will quietly be turning 50 next month. I joined the survivalist movement in the early 1980’s, at the tail end of that upswing of interest in such things. Vietnam was still fresh in our minds, and the cold war in full gear. There were movies, magazines, and books but not the saturation made possible by the Internet today. I still have issues of Mother Earth News that I saved from the seventies and a survival book copyrighted in 1978. Having endured the Blizzard of ’78 in … Continue reading

Letter: Generator Tips


Good morning, Hugh,

I thought I might pass along a tip or two about generators. I have several, the most used being one of a pair of Honda EU2000i, which does constant duty as an “unlimited length extension cord” around the property. The other is a much less portable 6500 watt unit, which lives in “hurry up and wait” mode in case power fails and the well pump is needed. I’ve got a homemade kit to couple the 2000s together to double the output, if I find I need some more “portable watts” for a power tool.

The second EU2000 is left oil-filled with the fuel tank empty, and it’s run quarterly; the 6500 watt unit is in the same condition but run monthly. (The two 2000s are swapped semi-annually to equalize wear.) To run them without putting fuel in the tanks, which will eventually go stale, I use a … Continue reading

Our Solar System Experience, by F. in TX

Back in 2014, my wife and I installed a 9 KW solar system. The system is an off-grid with battery backup. After about 18 months of use we do like the system, despite the cost and complexity of installation.

I spent about a year doing research on which type of system best met our needs and settled on a grid tied system with battery backup, since it would give us the ability to use grid or off-grid power. With most grid tied-only systems, you will be outta luck once SHTF; grid-tied-only systems shut down as a safety precaution. The off grid capability is really valuable. One lesson we learned the hard way with anything grid-tied is to investigate which type of insurance your power company requires and how much (if any) tariff will be charged. Our homeowner’s insurance does not offer the liability protection required by our utility, so we … Continue reading

Letter Re: Backup Electric Power Design Considerations


The largest draw on your power is for the refrigeration of both you and your food. These guys have some interesting solutions that are direct connect DC. They seem to be fine folks, but the solutions are pricey. Danzer makes an interesting refrigerator that runs on 24 volt. I get the idea from numerous articles that you really should not have just one solar system in your house. I have bought components and run my Ham radio off a panel and a couple of deep cycle batteries, but I have a long way to go.

www.wholesalesolar.com has some great products and great prices if your “puzzler” needs something to study. Ready Made Resources, a SurvivalBlog advertiser, has well-priced, quality, turn-key solutions if your “puzzler” is otherwise occupied. – RV

Letter Re: Backup Electric Power Design Considerations


I found KK’s recent letter interesting in that he, as an experienced solar installer, recommends DC coupled systems. In particular, I would like him to expand on how his clients cope with using DC rather than AC on their properties and how and where they buy DC appliances, tools, pumps, et cetera. I understand that battery-powered electronics and tools are ubiquitous and well tested, but in general the batteries have voltages from 1.5 to 18 volts or so and the chargers accommodate that by plugging into 110 volt AC. Do his clients use small point load inverters for this? Where can you easily buy DC-powered clothes washers and other household appliances, for instance? Would they not have different voltage requirements? My understanding is you cannot take power (different voltages) off of different points in a battery bank as that creates long-term difficulties. Do not lower DC voltage systems require … Continue reading

Letter Re: Backup Electric Power Design Considerations

HJL, I believe R.V. and Expat are referring to AC Coupled inverters. I’ve installed hundreds of offgrid solar systems from 300 to 30,000 watts and I have never used an AC coupled system for an offgrid install. Mainly because it requires more fancy equipment and customization. I don’t feel it gives my customers a good value; it is more complex and less durable. That’s not to say there are not scenarios where it may be the better choice, especially if you are grid tied and net metering. If your readers are interested in the technology, search for “AC Coupled Battery Backup” on the Internet. If I had to go AC coupled with batteries, I would choose a combination of Outback, SMA, or Enphase. If you are looking for a durable offgrid system, 99% of the time, DC coupled is the better choice…for now. – … Continue reading

Letter Re: Mechanically Interlocked Panel


I’ve had a “prepper” mindset for most of my life (I’m in my late 40’s) and find the information contained in your blog to be some of the best on the web. I try to read the blog often but have never submitted a piece based on my experiences. Today I was perusing SurvivalBlog when I realized that I have some information that may be helpful to your readers. It will definitely save anyone considering wiring their home for a back-up genset considerable money as well as simplify its operation. One who is considering this project typically will read that the only safe way to wire a back-up generator to your service is through a transfer switch. There is another way that I contend is safer, much less expensive, and simpler.panelContinue reading

Letter Re: Backup Electric Power Design Considerations, Expat and Other Thoughts


Welding cable is a fine way to cut amperage loss in your line. However, since it is intended by the manufacturer to be used for welding and not solar system, it is labeled for welding and not labeled for building installation. Code inspectors want to see a certain label. They will not accept deviation. After all, an abundance of engineering went into what is in that code. Welding cable use would make pulling a system when bugging out much easier. (I am assuming there are a range of “bugging out” versions with regard to situational haste.)

Since you cannot defend a fixed position, my preps are done with an eye to rapid transportation. Supplies do not sit on shelves. They sit in bins, buckets, or ammunition cans that sit on shelves.

The introduction to Enphase’s products is very enlightening. I encourage Expat to go read. I found the technological … Continue reading