Skip to comments.DIY electricity
Posted on 12/06/2012 5:20:29 PM PST by Kartographer
The Dallas Observer published a report1 recently that Texas has worst electric grid in the nation. This was based on a North American Electric Reliability Corp report2. Thats not very encouraging. They are also reporting that there is the possibility of rolling blackouts in 2013.
For a couple of years I have had the interest in setting up a backup power system for home use. There is a mobile system that provides power for work a couple of times per month, and is a backup system when at home. It provided power for 2 freezers, a refrigerator and a fan during 3 days of outage one summer several years ago. But we really want a system that has the specific purpose of supporting the house.
When looking for a mobile 120 volt (V) system I did talk to an expert who wanted to sell the best system that they had. He wanted to get me excited about selling power back to the electric company. After redirecting the talk with the expert to a mobile plan, and taking some of his advice, it proved to be an exercise in frustration.
(Excerpt) Read more at thesurvivalistblog.net ...
The bad part is that it can set fires.
I've done the off grid thing up in the mountains for over a year, so I've had all the seasons.
It's expensive, depending on what you want to run.
E=I*R and P=I*E. Those things never change. AC adds an element of .707 spice to things.
I’ve had a thought, although it probably won’t work due to some of the features of Natural Gas. We have a surplus of Natural Gas in this country, how about if a house that has gas already hooked up were to install a generator powered by Natural Gas, ready to power up as soon as the power goes out. Would that work? If not an internal combustion engine, how about a gas fired steam engine run off of Natural Gas, would this be feasible?
Part of Texas’ problem was the major push by ERCOT to build lots and lots of windmills, though I don’t know to what degree you can blame T. Boone Pickens for this. So we get hundreds of thousands of new people moving in PLUS population growth from a high birth rate, and most of the new power generation is unreliable wind. Then you get the shut-downs of a few coal fire plants and a continual hold-up on the nuclear plant expansions in Commanche Peak (east Texas) and South Texas Project (near Houston), and we see reliable power stalled while unreliable power expands.
Then last winter, they learned that their new wind turbines could FREEZE at low temperatures and high winds, triggering winter blackouts.
You forgot P=I2R:). Sorry don’t know how to do subset or superset on the 2.
Generac is a widely available unit and have nat gas or propane versions.
Natural gas fired generators are quite common....you can buy them at any Home Depot...Propane as well.
Home Depot will even install them for you with the proper automatic transfer switching so power is never interrupted...
Natural gas lines require electricity to run the compressors that ‘push’ the gas through the lines. For many situations natural gas generators are ideal, but not all, for instance in earthquake zone a serve earthquake will rupture gas lines and so the gas will be shut off.
I would go with a hybrid system of DYI solar and an outside generator that runs on LP gas. I wouldn’t even think about selling back to the electric company as I don’t believe it really works (educate me if it does).
If you had gas to the home I would use a dual system of city gas, and a 100 gallon LP gas tank. I don’t know if you can resevoir the city gas or if you even want to safety wise.
But a combo of solar and LP gas ... if you have the sunlight for it could last 3 months.
If you’re really wealthy, throw in a backup packet switched ham radio internet connection.
One thing people need to think about is “How much power do I actually use, actually?”
Here in the PNW, PSE (Puget Sound Energy) has these nifty little charts that they print on your power bill. I have, over the last few years, significantly reduced my usage/bills by simply watching what’s on or off. For instance this last November, my usage was down about a quarter from the November last year. This resulted in about a third decrease in my bill, because you get a certain number of KWH at a cheap rate, then the rates zoom for KWH over a certain amount.
So LOOK AT YOUR BILL!!
My bill shows me using, pretty consistently, about 34-36KWH per day, wintertime.
Any plans for household generation capacity needs to target having that much capacity.
I have more than enough capacity for that using generators and/or inverters, but that depends entirely on the fuel supply.
My house is not set up for natural gas, so I bought a gasoline fired generator and converted it to propane. Propane is much safer to store and does not go bad.
I then bought the necessary equipment to plug the generator into the house. This equipment takes the house wiring completely off the grid, so I do not have to be concerned with electocuting a lineman.
Awww Come on! Texas has their "own" seperate grid. I have lived in TX, NM and OK. And I see NO difference in the reliability of them. They are all good. Even the Rural Electrical systems are not that bad, and they offer cheap electricity.
And we have 2 gasoline AC Generator/Welders. One of them is a very large unit.
If EVER I've felt STUPID, it was after reading that. Oy!
Now if you figure out how to make producer gas aka syngas, and have a woodlot, you’ll be all set.
Never fails any good idea I have is always is use already:)
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Thanks but after I posted I looked it up. It has been a while since I did web pages and that particular tag slipped my mind. Thanks again, I appreciate it.
Here is what I posted a while back, still works great, completely off grid.::
Do it yourself, I did
Magnum ms4024pae 24 volt 4000 Watt/240 volt pure sine inverter $2000
6 175 watt 24 volt Solar Panels, Craigs List $175 each
8 Trojan T105 Batteries $100 each
miscellaneous wire,boxes,breakers... $500
Runs my Well, any lights and TV I want, refrigerator....as is will provide basics plus a little extra. All is needed is to add panels and batteries and will run a modest home,(in progress) add another inverter and more panels and batteries and will run an average size home.
Xantrex C60 Charge controller $100
This is a pretty basic and small system that with upgrades is a real powerhouse for those times in need. total cost about $6000. no credits,incentives, all out of pocket and nobody but you and your family know about your preparedness, especially your Power company which by the way has RIGHTS to your SOLAR ELECTRICITY if you pursue Government Incentives to offset costs, which also doubles initial out of pocket costs.
Purchase the items I listed and you will be pretty well off to start. The guy on craigs list has an endless supply of panels but he is in Long Beach, Ca.
If you plan on running any kind of electronics, you better get a Pure Sine inverter. Inverter is The MOST IMPORTANT part of your System, this one is a Grid Tie or Stand Alone, Have Generator back up also, 105 amp built in charger fully charges batteries in 2 hours with 6000 watt generator, also with control module add-on and generator auto start option, it will start generator for those times needed. Also I needed 220 to run my Well Pump. I did a lot of research and searching to put together a system for about half the price of a 1000 watt system, and this system will run 2 computers FOREVER, All the Water I want as well as TV,lights,basic cheap fridge(nothing fancy) FOREVER, limited use coffee maker, microwave, ,... Am going to add 8 more Batteries and 4 more Panels next week, then I wont need generator very often. Microwaves and coffee makers use the most power,as does the Well Pump, but the rest is NEGLIGIBLE.
all from this thread:
.707? Thats just for theoretical power calculations, You’ll also need to know about PF and efficiency to make your calculations actually correct.
The Main Interconnections of the U.S. Electric Power Grid and the 10 North American Electric Reliability Council Regions
ECAR - East Central Area Reliability Coordination Agreement
ERCOT - Electric Reliability Council of Texas
FRCC - Florida Reliability Coordinating Council
MAAC - Mid-Atlantic Area Council
MAIN - Mid-America Interconnected Network
MAPP - Mid-Continent Area Power Pool
NPCC - Northeast Power Coordinating Council
SERC - Southeastern Electric Reliability Council
SPP - Southwest Power Pool
WSCC - Western Systems Coordinating Council
Note: The Alaska Systems Coordinating Council (ASCC) is an affiliate NERC member.
Source: North American Electric Reliability Council.
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I think someone could make a lot of money selling a cheap, safe, wood/coal powered steam turbine engine, suitibale for hooking up to a 12v car generator.
Solar costs vs return. Got to see the figures for a solar system to effectively change your home to zero energy. Panels alone cost $70K, plus switch gear, etc, more like $85K. Based on the size of the home and average electric rate, savings was apprx $2500 per year. Given the probable life of the system, changes in technology, etc, probable life is less than 15 years.
Given that blackouts are very seldom, unless it really gets to be a problem, just live with them as they generally last for only a few hours. An inexpensive gas generator ($500 used) will do the job for some lights, refrigerator, etc. Get an UPS for the computer if not running a laptop.
If you are a survivalist, then that’s another story, but make your own solar generating system from the parts as opposed to buying one.
Buy a used genset from a junked motor home. Most of them don’t have high hours and they operate at 1800 RPM which means they last forever. You can buy them pretty cheap.
Most can also be converted to propane or n. gas.
I’m thinking hydro power for my place. I’ve got a stream that you can’t stand up in, even in the widest spot where it’s only 3 feet deep! Perfect for a zero-head system.
Texas has had a population explosion between the illegals from the south and the loony toons from the north. The last census showed us at an extra 25% and we got 4 more electoral votes this time. There’s no way the electric companies can keep up. Yes, we had one of those winter brownouts where they “forgot” to turn ours back on and after a lot of phone calls they managed to flip the switch which caused their old equipment to blow.
I paid a LOT less than that for my grid tied system.
I bought it years ago, and it’s pert near paid for itself by now.
Where did you get your numbers?
One step at a time.
Besides... it's good enough for rough order of magnitude SWAG calculations.
I am a cook. What do I know? ;)
It is bad here. We have an ongoing joke about every time a squirrel runs on a wire or a bird lands on it, the power goes out. I just posted above how during the winter brownout last year, they blew everything trying to turn it back on. I have a decades old argument with them over a tree limb that will one day zap out the neighborhood. At least once a month one service goes out be it the power, the cable, internet or the phone so we have the public utilites’ number posted on the fridge.
Most children survive that training method.
I can teach Ohm's law in about an hour where local laws don't prohibit it.
Gold or silver comes at the end to indicate +/- % accuracy.
It's a color code indicating a value.
Cost depends on how much power you want and how much sun you get.
You can get a system which will run a few lights, and perhaps a small fridge for $4-5k.
It’s messy and you have to be careful about storing and handling your feedstock but it’s only moderately challenging to convert an old six cylinder truck engine to wood gas. My folks were back to the earth sorts in the seventies and subscribed to Mother Earth News, I recall their wood gas truck plans clearly, smokestack in the bed and all. An acquaintance of theirs with a small sawmill operation actually converted an engine to power his equipment, since he had sawdust coming out his ears and not much else to do with it at that time, lol. It was not uncommon in England during WWII either, but I think they may have used peat.
Big Bad ROY gave Buena Vista Great Weight.
Of course I also remember your version.
Bypass all the mechanical complexity and just scale up one of these:
I’ve debared the utility and usefulness of these things with several people, who just don’t appear to recognize that it’s a wood-fired generator with very few moving parts, only a fan to aid convection, improve the burn and perhaps keep certain parts of the unit from getting too hot.
It produces enough electricity to charge personal electronic devices from a fire built of sticks and twigs, more or less, with enogh heat and flame out the top to cook or boil water in one pot or pan.
Very small, couple of pounds, no larger than a water bottle. Scale it up, capture all heat for generation of electricity. Maybe a woodstove with this thermoelectric scheme adapted to it would work.
Somebody make a go of it. Sounds eminently doable to me. It would sell if the price was within reason.
ELI the ICE man?
Once upon a time, in a land right here under my feet, young boys no taller than ducks learned about stuff like that, and how to use a punch to make tube socket holes in aluminum box chassis.
Which eventually became radios, or amplifiers or televisions.
The good old days, when children could learn, parents could teach, and devil take the hindmost because they couldn't manage to put one hand in a back pocket.
If you’re going to buy a whole house generator, look at the warranty before you buy. Do yourself another favor and google the brand name along with “problems”. At least one of the well known brands sold at a lot of big box stores has Chinese engines in some if not all models.
Familiarize yourself with the terms standby and prime. Most whole house units are not built for long continuous running. In fact running more than a specific number of hours within a period voids the warranty.
There’s at least one brand with a diesel converted to run on naturals gas that can be run for 2,000 hours before requiring maintenance. Typical life of the unit before rebuild is in excess of 30,000 hours.
Like anything else you get what to pay for. READ THE WARRANTY BEFORE YOU BUY. There are some gotchas out there.
Need to check how loud the unit is, too. Having the equivalent of a large riding mower running just outside your window gets obnoxious, and it’s a magnet for thieves, too. Noise cancelling in the exhaust would be a good thing to have, for your own comfort as well as safety.
Gold or silver comes at the end to indicate +/- % accuracy.
Gold Silver None: GSN Get Some Now 5% 10% 20%
Don’t attempt to confuse the Dallas Observer with trivial things like reality and facts.
They had a good line to write about Texas having the worst power distribution (even though California and the NE have been having rolling brown-outs for DECADES)!
Funny thing... I'm sorta half-assed color blind.
In bright sunlight, maybe I can read the colors, or close enough. If I'm going to use a resistor in a circuit, I measure it. Used to be with a VOM that used vacuum tubes, but today, the digital ones work as well or better.
I got into the military on a waiver for the color-blind thing. Both times.
There is no way I understand this well enough to do anything. I would like to say goodbye to the electric bill though. And I would like to be able to run my well pump when the grid is down.