Letter Re: Backup Generator Purchase Recommendations

Jim Here is a link for an American company from West Virginia: http://www.propane-generators.com/    They make conversion kits for all sizes of generators, etc. to propane and natural gas. (I have yet to order mine, so I was hesitant to share this.) It has been proven that the gases burn much cleaner, and engine life is greatly extended, because the small amount of ash left behind with gasoline that contaminates the oil, etc, is not introduced every time it fires. Carbon build-up is history!  I have been procrastinating on ordering a kit for mine, guess I should get moving. Right …




Letter Re: Backup Generator Purchase Recommendations

Jim, Our power here on the North Coast has gone out twice in as many weeks. This time it was out all day Saturday and Sunday, for a total of 40 hours. (Some are still without power, and may be for days.) I intend to be ready for the next one. In a few weeks I plan on purchasing the Northstar 5500 Watt professional. http://www.northerntool.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?storeId=6970&productId=448&R=448  That is unless you raise a red flag. But I thought the topic of emergency power might be a good one at this time, since so many are without power. BTW, I might add that …




The Army Aviator on Deep Cycle Batteries and Inverters

About batteries: Since 1996 doing my [seasonal] RV living, I’ve been using 16 golf cart batteries: 12 on the back bumper and 4 on the front bumper. They have been adequate for my RV requirements. BTW, beyond the normal stuff, my RV utilizes two networked servers, two workstations, two satellite uplinks as well as three satellite downlinks and my ham radios, all on a 24/7 basis. The inverter is a Trace SW-4024. Then in 1998, I bought the ranch and it, now, uses 16 of the venerable L-16 batteries, purchased from a dealer who wished to rotate his stock. The …




Letter Re: Solar and Off Grid Power – an Additional Contact

Mr. Rawles In your [list of] resources for solar and off grid contacts you must not have been aware of Kenny G. at www.armadillosolar.net, who is most likely the most respected install team leader in the U.S. and one of the most sought after consultants in the industry. In many cases he has come in to fix systems installed by less than honest installers, particularly in the Texas. In the local area of Austin, Texas I know of none of his customers who are less than enthusiastic about his products and advice. Austin hosts the largest aggregation of residential off …




Letter Re: Deep Cycle Batteries–Resources for Going Off-Grid

James: What would be the best choice for batteries for a backup solar system, a marine deep cycle, or golf cart batteries? The marine deep cycle batteries I have looked at are “maintenance free.” This provides no way to add water. Would this be a problem, or do the batteries have to have a way to add water even if they are maintenance free?   Thank you,  – HP JWR Replies: The terms “marine battery ” and “golf cart battery” are used almost interchangeably by some manufacturers,. Both generally refer to deep cycle lead acid batteries with extra thick plates. Technically, a marine battery …




Resources for Going Off-Grid

One of the most important steps that you can take toward self-reliance is developing the ability to produce your own electricity. Alternatives for off-grid power include: Photovoltaics Wind Power Micro-Hydro Systems Photovoltaic (“PV“) power generation systems use large panels that generate DC voltage. The most durable panels use monocrystaline solar cells in large arrays in weather-sealed panels with glass covers and metal frames. These are designed to last a lifetime with just minimal care, and do not suffer any significant degradation in output over time. They are made with outputs from 5 to 100 watts. They are easily wired in …




Off-Grid Power Basics, by “James Dernier”

Electricity 101: Electricity is fundamental to our first world every day life. We know electricity mostly in one of two forms in the home, from the wall, and in a battery. The electricity that comes out of the wall is high voltage (~110-120 volts [JWR adds: alternating current (AC), in North America–except Mexico, which uses a more macho 127  volts] AC), relatively low amperage, and alternating current. The electricity that is stored in batteries comes in a variety of voltages and amperages but is always direct current (DC). Size AA batteries are 1.5 volts, along with most other battery types, …




Letter Re: How Vulnerable are Alternative Energy Systems to EMP?

Jim: As usual, excellent comments about [making] a clean cut from the grid. As for me, I am fully self contained in the country with a Trace Inverter/Charger in a Genverter setup. My day to day electricity is from a dual fuel generator which is powered by propane stored in six 1000 gallon surplus tanks. I also have a windmill, windmill tower and solar cells pre wired. HOWEVER, the windmill and solar cells are stored in a well grounded CONEX. ( and BTW the windmill is heavy as he*l on the alternator end and takes a heavy gin pole to …




Letter Re: How Vulnerable are Alternative Energy Systems to EMP?

Sir: With all the talk recently on EMP issues, I wonder if a solar system or wind generator less vulnerable or just as vulnerable to EMP to the grid. What type of additional protection could/should be incorporated in to alternative energy designed systems? Keep up the terrific work on the blog. It’s the first thing I read every morning. – D. JWR Replies:  All modern circuitry that employs microchips is at risk.  However, the greatest risk is to systems that are connected to grid power. This is because the power grid will work like a giant antenna to collect EMP. …




Letter from “Fred the Valmet Meister” Re: Low Compression / Low RPM Stationary Engines

Jim: I just discovered these cool “Hit and Miss” gas engines made in the 1920s and 1930s by Maytag. They were used to power washing machines. Very simple engine; maybe one horsepower. You start it with a foot pedal that leverages a gear to spin the crankshaft to get it going. What a wonderful little engine for a remote location.  These could be used to power the washing machine or even run a small generator to charge up a bank of 12 volt batteries. I noticed that there are currently several for sale on eBay and they even have leather …




Letter Re: Power Outage Alarms

Jim, Thanks for keeping up the good work. I have inadvertently discovered a great power outage alarm. We were bought a carbon monoxide detector a while back. Whenever the power is cut, or the unit is un-plugged, it WILL wake you up!   I don’t know how long it continues to go off because it is so loud, I get it stopped right away. This is an item we should all have, too, just to detect the carbon monoxide. – Sid




CIA’s “Q” Department Invests in Mobile Solar Power Project

This story is fairly novel, and serves as food for thought and grounds for further research (FFTAGFFR.) If the CIA finds such technology appropriate for Third World living conditions, shouldn’t we also, as individuals–for the event that the U.S. economy is somehow, someday plunged to that level? See: http://news.yahoo.com/s/csm/20051018/ts_csm/aplugandplay_1




Flexible (Amorphous) PV Panels

I just heard that Global Solar flexible amorphous photovoltaic (PV) power panels (See: http://www.308systems.com/) are now available through Ready Made Resources. Amorphous PV panels are superior to he monocrystaline for many applications. Their greatest advantage is that they allow “graceful degradation.” A bullet hole through a monocrystaline panel usually means that it is history. A comparable hole through an amorphous panel (depending on how its individual cells are wired) usually means just a 5% loss in power. Be advised, however, that monocrystaline panels have an almost indefinite useful life, whereas amorphous panels lose some of their efficiency over time.




Lister Low RPM Engines Still Made in India!

I have been a fan of one and two cylinder engines for many years. I grew up seeing these old timers putt-putting away at the county fair. Stationary engines still have a surprisingly large hobbyist following in the U.S. and Australia. Steam engines dominated from the 1860s to 1890s. Then came several different styles of one and two cylinder gas or diesel engines. They were eventually supplanted by higher compression (Briggs and Stratton style) high RPM gasoline engines. Because of their simplicity, low compression/low RPM engines still have considerable utility for grid-down survival use. They were common on most American …




Letter Re: The Importance of Practice Weekend

Jim, We are living on our “retreat” now in the Quachita area of Arkansas. After a terrible storm yesterday and a power outage that is still going because Entergy [the local power utility company] has so much going on with the hurricanes, I can wholeheartedly recommend that everyone turn off their power for a weekend and make a list of things they haven’t thought of. Hubby and I have decided on more things that we should get. The generator is getting a good workout and we now know how much gas it consumes per hour and can plan accordingly. A …