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.


  1. when the gen is on i think the inverter mite be in charge only so mite be you are getting maxed out on the Honda ass for the big gen is it pure wave generator or modified sine wave generator don't know but mite be worth looking at and are you going to be selling the old shack and solar setup ? good luck

    1. Ya it could be "Unknown". As long as the honda is plugged in, this takes place even if I'm not charging. When I check the voltage in the inverters control panel I seem to only have 60+ volts on each hot leg. I think it's just the way the inverter is desined. I'm pretty sure it would work well with a 240 volt generator. My only complaint, this situation should be known in the manual. The larger generator is just a cheap piece of crap with, I'm guessing, probably the worse square wave of power one could imagine. lol. I never thought much about selling the shack and power system just yet, but I guess anything is possible. The shack could use a little TLC, but it has served me quite well for the last 3 years. I'll have to think about some kind of price for it all. Any suggestions? The batteries are 3 years old, but have never been deep cycled past 50%. I have always tried to keep the voltage above 12.3 volts, although there have been times when they dropped to around 12.0.

  2. Your water will be fine, but while ice works for refridgeration, with your system and needs you can easly run a modified fridge.
    Pick yourself out a unit with a large freezer on top ( Im using one with a 5.5 cuft top freezer).
    Pick up a aftermarket temperature controler, run the sense bulb to the freezer compartment, the switching conrol wired to the power plug.Find the vents blowing cold air down to the fridge compartment, and just stuff a sponge in to block the air movement.
    mine is a old unit now, at the time it was rated at something like 400kwh/y, now you can get full size ones for 300-280 kwhrs/y, anyway by turning the freezer compartment into a fridge unit as described, the power consumption will be stunningly little.

    In my case its 266whs/day - 0r 97kwhs a year. Something like 6 or more years now using it this way, and no problems.
    You have likely come across those recomending converting a freezer this way, and I did try that at first, but found that I could not do better than 220-240 watthrs/day and it was not convienent, to be digging way down into it.
    I set up another fridge this way for a friend with 3 kids who offten need more than 5. cuft, they plug the fridge in normal, and use it as designed march, to mid Oct. Then plug it into the temp controler, and use just the frezzer part through the winter when solar power drops off.

  3. That is interesting information "analogmanca". I will look further into that one. I'm pretty sure my system would run a normal fridge quite comfortably in the summer with the odd exception of some real crappy weather. But ya, in the winter, I was thinking about keep freezing jugs of water and placing into the fridge all winter long, just to help it out, but your idea is something that could very well be worth experimenting with. Thanks for the info.

  4. Forgot to say in my above comment, but you mentioned you were researching stoves. I did that a few years back. I wanted a gas one (propane)and all I could find were newer type ones, often very fancy, with all kinds of bells and wistles, which would have been ok, but they all required 120 volts for power, to run timers, clocks, but also electric igniters for the burners, and if I remember right the damn things could draw 300 or more watts ( called glo bars or something), anyway I found only one manufacturer left that built the simple, no power required, plain jane style and that was Danby.
    A appliance store could likely order one for you if this is the type you want. I was quoted 800+ at the time for the full size 30 inch (or maybe36 inch one). This was 6 or so years back.
    Turns out I found a brand new Danby at the restore in Edmonton for a few hundred.
    It requires no power, works off a pilot light. easy to clean, and operate. Just what I wanted, and you would not believe how long a 20 pound tank lasts- months! (plural)
    Its a plane jane unit that I couldnt be happier with. Just something to consider in your search

    1. Thanks Analogmanca. I'm aware of the glow bar situation, and it is something I want to totally avoid. I have been researching 3 different brand names in stoves. Premier, Brown, and Unique. The Unique is probably the most expensive one, but it is totally meant for off gridders like myself. The burners are electronic ignition(9 volt battery), and the oven, may or may not have a gas pilot on at all times. I'm not real sure as everyone seems to hide all the facts in the manuals these days. I just wish one could look in the online manuals and find out exactly what I want to find out about all these things, but in my experience on my whole house project I find that you learn all the gory details after the things have been purchased. If I could change one thing in the world, that would be it, after world hunger, of course. I think the unique stove may have a gas pilot that is always lit in the oven, and electronic ignition on the top burners. I'll probably find out soon. I no it does have an electronic ignition for the oven, but I believe that as long as the gas is on, the pilot should remain lit, but I could be wrong. The unique does'nt have a power cord at all, so I guess that should rule out glow bar right there though.

  5. I had not heard of "unique" so I went to the web site to check it out, and I clicked on the pick of the all white ( no window in the oven door)range, and I was looking at my Danby, I would swear they came of the same assembly line.The high shoulders on the sides, the knob locations, even the sheet metal stamping of the front where the knobs go (it makes the knobs stick out a bit) The only differences were mine has black knobs, with stainless outer ring, the unique has white knobs with stainless outer ring. I have individual round burner grates, the unique a solid burner top grate, and the door pulls are different, in other words just cosmetic changes, even the burner rattings are the same (8000 on lp) hhhmmmmm....
    I remember when I got it I needed A little part to change the oven to lp, and I had to call some 800 number. I remember this call because I gave them the model number, and then they said they needed the name, and I said Danby and then they gave me the part number.I thought it odd that the model number would not have been sufficient, but now I am thinking these (unique and danby) may be coming off the same line with the name differenciating cosmetic changes? I may be wrong but from the pick I seen....thats my stove.

    1. It sure would'nt surprise me Analogman. That's just like my cheap diesel generator, I can't find that brand name anywhere on the web, but I see alot of generators almost identical to mine with different colors and brand names. And the range of prices are so different.

  6. Congrats on the move in Hermit. It's been a while but I'm happy for your progress.

  7. Thanks Jen. The house is working out pretty good so far, although there still is alot to do. I'm kinda taking a break from working on the house lately, but plan to start things again sometime soon. Hope all is well for you in Texas.