Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Winter Test, Loving the House.

It is obviously winter again at the mansion. Usually my winter pics have been from the shack looking at the house, but now it is different as I am living full time in the new house. (Which is not complete yet). I shut the shack heat down and life is tremendously good. The winter weather has been putting my heat system to the test, and so far things check real good. All I'm running for heat so far are the two propane heaters and the furnace. I have been waiting for a chunk of chimney for my woodstove to come in the mail,  as I was too cheap to pay the large price  for the only one I know of in town. It is now in town, I just have to go and get it. I saved myself $75.00 doing it this way. 75 is 75. The temperatures last night and a good part of today were at minus -28 Celcius or minus -19 on the farenheit scale. I went visiting last night, so I turned down the furnace and let the two propane space heaters take over until I got home. So far they don't seem to have a problem keeping up at these temps. While I am at home, I usually run the forced air furnace, and my power system and the furnace are getting along pretty good so far, although I do think I may add another 6 solar panels next summer, just to help out on the cloudy days, and also so a real live fridge can be brought into the system. When my furnace is on duty full time in these temps, the battery bank is usually brought down to around 92-90% State of Charge, which means that I am only using about 10% of my total battery capacity each day. In that figure is my furnace use, lights, water pump, septic pump, and occasional use of the microwave and the toaster once per day. So I have a lot of battery power, but it still takes alot of charging to bring that back up to full. For about a week or more, we have been having a lot of snow and cloudy skys, so the solar charging was kinda limited. My honda 2000 generator can usually bring me right up to a full charge again in 3.5 hours each day without any sunlight, but most days show a little bit of sun. When I did my calculations, I planned on a larger generator probably running about 1 hour per day. In yucky weather, I believe this to be true yet. If it is sunny all day, the panels would get the job done all through out the winter as is, but with the occasional cloudy periods, eventually a generator will have to be started to catch up. When the sun is shining, things don't start charging  fully until about 12:30 pm. This could be rectified by cutting the tops off of three pine trees. (I have researched that, and apparently not real good for the trees). I will decide on this soon. lol. Then I start getting the afternoon shading at about 3:30 pm, so gradually the panels get shaded out again. This one could be easily improved on also. Or I could simply put up more panels, which I'll probably end up doing anyway.
   BUT! All the above calculations can rest. Once the wood stove is hooked up, I will more than likely be running it and the furnace will be on a rather large holiday, for the most part, if things go as planned. So, I guess I'll decide on things more once that baby is on duty. If the furnace were not running, I could go for quite some time without charging the batteries, even in real snowy conditions. That is my goal, is to almost eliminate the generator usage altogether.
The wood stove, just waiting to be put to use. I had the piece I needed at one time, but it ended up going into the main chimney section outside.
The above picture is my makeshift kitchen. I have done a few things once I moved in the house, such as finishing up on some wiring,  installing the ceiling fan, fire alarms, installing some more heat registers, and other little miscellaneous things. A lot of researching lately also. Stove, washing machines, dryers etc.

I guess I'll call this my fridge for now. When I was in the shack, I did'nt need a cooler as the floor of the shack was plenty cold to preserve foods. That plastic jug in there is my block of ice.

This is my ice making factory, just outside the back door of the house. I don't know why those last two pics are sideways, but they are.

    So things are going good, but there is one little flaw I must mention. While charging my system with the honda 2000 generator, the larger loads don't seem to want to run. And even the smaller loads don't run right, such as lights running dim, or the bathroom fan barely turning. I'm not sure if it is something with my wiring that needs corrected or if it is the combination of honda generator and magnum inverter. I do think it has a lot to do with the 120/240 volt inverter system. It charges the batteries good, but it seems to only run half the voltage from the generator to each hot leg in the inverter. I'm thinking that to get the best use out of the system, a 120/240 volt generator should probably be utilized, unless of course it is simply some setting or wiring secret that I am missing out on. The larger diesel generator won't even start the system charging, (when using just a 120 volt source), but I hav'nt yet tried that with a 240 volt cable. Some day I will build a cable and try it on a warmer day. That generator is a bit of cheapy and might not work so well for me in the cold winter months. lol.
    One thing that I DO know, however, is that this tiny little house of mine has got a real mansion like feel to it, as I compare it to where I just came from awhile back. I'm loving it.

 Oh ya, I also thought I should mention, it has been -28 celcius and so far the water system in the cistern has'nt froze up on me. I do have a thermometer down there that I meant to have a look at, but that did'nt happen today, but so far so good. The water still comes in when I hit the pump, so I guess that's a good sign so far.


This is a personal blog, mainly for my own use. I am building a house with my own two hands, but I am learning alot of things as I go. I do not claim to know what I am doing, or if anything I do is even close to being done correctly or safely. So please, if you are planning on using any of my ideas or methods for your own use, please get professional advice before actually following through with your actions. I will not be held responsible for any injuries or damages of any kind caused by information or comments from this blog.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Have Power and I'm Moved In.

In my last post I kind of left off whining a little about the price of little tiny chunks of steal solar panel mount brackets. So I decided to build my own. In the vice is a 4 foot piece of stainless steel that I had a local metal shop bend for me. It has a plastic coating on it in this picture if it looks so dull. First I drilled all the holes-2 on one side and one on the side to be attached to the panels. Then I cut it up into 24  2inch pieces. Enough for 6 panels. The total cost for the steal $30.00. That will mount all 6 panels. Probably cost me about $50-60.00 total with all the bolts and nuts etc. But that is for all the hardware. I saved over $100.00 doing this myself. It would have cost me $30+ for enough of these to do one panel if I bought them. Probably about 3 hours of my time went into it and about 4 drill bits and 3 cheap 4" cut off disks for the grinder.
The finished product in the above picture.
For the next bunch of stuff going on, I had some help from an old friend that I hav'nt seen in years. I used to associate with her alot in my younger days. In my rodeo days. She was a big help with things. Anyway, we assembled half the panels on a skid system. The two botton panels are hooked together in series for an open voltage of around 72 volts dc. The other skid will be the same, then the top two panels will be wired together the same. So there is 3 strings of 2 panels in my system.
We got the ladders set up as a ramp on the panel side of the house. I actually had to purchase another ladder for this stunt. It will come in handy for future stuff anyway, I am sure.

Then we got the panels all set up and ready for the pull.

Up they go, I had to steal the winch line off my quad and run it through a snatch block on the panel mount(pulley). I pulled the panels up from the peak of the house as Jo-Anne was holding the panels there from the ground on the other side of the house with the rope that was tied on,  every time I took another grab. It was actually pretty heavy, but we made it. Then I bolted the panel skid down at the top and the bottom. I did'nt even have to move my roof ladder to the panel side of the roof to do this.

And there are all six panels up. They are Sharp 240 watt panels for a total of 1440 watts.  It did take the two of us about 4 days in total to get the whole job done, but we did'nt over work ourselves too much. By the time we got one rigged up on the skid system, it was just a little too late to start putting them up, as who knows what could go wrong. The second time did actually go much better than the first lift. The first lift did take alot of doing and rigging up etc.
Here is where alot of my money went on this project. Roughly $4500.00 batteries with all the cables.
The specs. These are 12   6 volt   L16 type batteries. These particular ones are 420 Amp hours @ 20 hour rate. According to the label. That's a lot of power storage.
It is a beautiful battery bank. Lots of power storage here. Just as I was hoping and thought I had planned, these babys keep up to my forced air furnace beatifully this time of the year. The evenings get down to around freezing, but the forced air furnace runs all night off and on of course. I have yet to bring my batteries down to less than 95% state of charge. I'll see in the morning though. They should be a little less tomorrow because today was gloomy all  day and the panels wer'nt doing a whole lot, and it has been cold and dreary. I hav'nt been holding back on my power usage. Sort of putting it to the test a bit, just for my own knowledge. Normally, I will be conserving energy, but I need to see. I've been running a larger microwave frequently, pumping water, and the furnace has been running all day and will be all night tonight.
Here is the charge controller in action yesterday. It's first full day on the job. (Oct 15 2012).
Here is the Outback Flexmax 60 charge controller pulling 1300 watts from the six panels on the roof. That is a lot of power. I ended up bringing in 3.1 kw/hrs that first day and there was actually a lot of cloudy periods through out the day. I also need to top a few trees. 3 on each side of the house to be exact. Once that is done things should start charging a lot earlier in the morning and later in the afternoon. I'll see how the six panels work out for me this winter. If not really well, I will maybe put six more up there next summer. lol. I'm sure I can get by with what I have though, just have to keep the wood stove burning more and the furnace running less.
This is the control center in the kitchen area. The remote for the inverter, thermostat, water pressure gauge, switches for the water pump, septic pump, heat recovery ventilator(future), outdoor plugs, on demand water heater, and one extra for probably something. This area will look much more pretty in the near future.
I guess one could say that I am actually moved into the house now. I know I have a lot to do yet, before the house is complete, but winter is a coming, and I do not plan on heating the shack for much longer, let alone run the generator just to keep those batteries warm. I do periodically visit the shack to sometimes use the stove, and maybe wash the dishes, but I have gradually been moving things such as my clothes and other things over to the house all the time. I have been sleeping in the loft of my house for awhile now. Things are going good. Slowly but surely. Oh, and expensively.

I just checked the battery data. At this moment, my batteries are sitting at 94% State of Charge, which is 24.95 volts. (Oct 16 2012 @ 11:00pm). That is the lowest I've seen the system so far, but pretty understandable given the usage and lack of incoming charge today. I'll see what things are looking like in the morning after using the furnace all night. 

UPDATE:OCT 17 2012 @ 7:45 am. 
Voltage when I checked this morning was at 24.93 and the SOC was at 91%. 

Guess I forgot to mention the inverter in this post. It is a Magnum MS4024PAE. (4000 watt and 24 volt system). 

This is a personal blog, mainly for my own use. I am building a house with my own two hands, but I am learning alot of things as I go. I do not claim to know what I am doing, or if anything I do is even close to being done correctly or safely. So please, if you are planning on using any of my ideas or methods for your own use, please get professional advice before actually following through with your actions. I will not be held responsible for any injuries or damages of any kind caused by information or comments from this blog.