1. stevefarmboy

    stevefarmboy Junior Member

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    Yer , I understand what you are saying Kimbo ...

    I think to sum up my fears and aspirations as far as stand alone off the grid power goes , is ......

    I do know for a fact that anyone with a very deep pocket can " BUY in any number of varying solutions with little trouble or chance of getting it wrong ..

    But ,I spose people like me that have a main aim of reducing there lifestyle down to a minimum power requirement for many reasons , and getting it to a point where we are as least reliant on power as possible , are searching for far more specific and definitely more accurate answers to many questions that concern all the components of power minimization and usage...

    * Some people buy in the biggest and best solution ... to fit there lifestyle...
    * I prefer to think out the smallest most economical best solution ... to fit my lifestyle...

    I checked the cable sizing out ... and yer , om a bit surprised that the cable does need to be larger ... " nice link " :)
     
  2. kerrip

    kerrip Junior Member

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    Yep, it certainly seems like there is no perfect answer to the power question when living off grid. Everyone seems to be doing different things. It seems to me that the hybrid system of solar/wind/generator with a good set or two or batteries for storage, along with the awareness of where your power is going seems to be the go. Until we are living it we probably won't know exactly how it will all pan out.

    We are planning on simplifying our power needs and not really wanting to have enough to power up a suburb, so the simple ideas are the ones I like best. Especially if they don't cost a fortune to set up.

    Thanks everyone for your input. And we'll let you know how it all goes. If you have any more suggestions, please let us know. This is a really important conversation to have, not just for us, but for other people who are thinking of doing the same thing.

    Kerri
     
  3. hardworkinghippy

    hardworkinghippy Junior Member

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    Kerri,

    I totally agree with you comments above.

    I think the main problem for people is knowing where to start and I'm sure there are enough people in the forum who will give advice for anyone who wants to know more about how to to that.

    Irene
     
  4. kimbo.parker

    kimbo.parker Junior Member

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    Solar power coming of age in the bush

    Solar power coming of age in the bush.....fresh from the "Farm Weekly"

    SOLAR power generation is coming of age, and it is a moment that should have anyone with acreage sitting up and taking notice.

    For most of the past 30 years, household solar power was associated with dim 12-volt lightbulbs. All that has changed in the past few years, and a lot more besides.

    The basic technology has grown up. Solar power can now run a 240-volt house, and all the gadgetry of modern living, with no changes needed on wiring or lightbulbs, and only minimal changes in habits.

    Some other important technology has emerged. Today’s household solar power systems can plug straight into the mains electricity grid. That has a couple of important implications:

    * the grid becomes a giant battery. Solar power trickled onto the grid during the day can be pulled off during peak usage periods at night, along with any top-up mains power that might be needed.

    * solar power trickled onto the grid can be bought by a power company, subsidising a household’s power use.

    The latter scenario opens up new income possibilities for farms with some spare sunny ground or north-facing shed roofs.

    How big? Angus Gemmell, managing director of solar energy broker Solar Choice, says in NSW and ACT, which have recently introduced generous policies on renewable energy, the sums can add up very well indeed.

    A landholder choosing to install a 10 kilowatt solar array will currently spend $43,000-$55,000, depending on the installation.

    Under current NSW/ACT rules, an array this size will generate nearly $10,000 in electricity a year on current prices, Mr Gemmel said, ensuring a constant return on investment and a pay-back period of four to five years.

    The standard household system of 1.5 kW has a payback period of about two years.

    After payback, the array is delivering free electricity to the owner, and additional income if there is a surplus.

    Most solar panels come with a 20-25 year guarantee. Dr Muriel Watt of the Australian Photo Voltaic Association reports that some 40-year-old panels are still going strong.

    https://fw.farmonline.com.au/news/n...oming-of-age-in-the-bush/1753899.aspx?src=rss

    [​IMG]
     
  5. greenfarmers

    greenfarmers Junior Member

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    Hi Kerri,

    Sorry for the delay in getting back to you - having a few issues with my computer internet browser crashing.

    In answer to your questions, we live near Boonah, about 80 k's south west of Brisbane. We run an "old style" 240v tv off a little 150w inverter. The small inverter minimises the amount of power used to push the voltage up to 240 ... a big inverter, left on 24 hours a day to power a house with 240v can use quite a sizable amount of power -- not good if you do not have enough panels!

    H.w hippy - I'm with you. I love the simplicity of a 12v system, with the occasional 240v item on an inverter. That said we don't live in a huge complicated space and yes, once we upgrade our battery system, we have considered upgrading to 24v for lights because it is more efficient to store power that way. We will then have a mix of 12v (phones, charging radio with internal battery and printer, also with internal battery, kids "ds" players) and 240 v outlets, with a larger inverter for occasional use when required (blender, washing machine etc). We'll also still use the smaller inverter because it works brilliantly for tv, good sized stereo and to charge up to three laptops at a time.

    A few months back there was a very informative piece in "renew" magazine (worth subscribing to if you're interested in this sort of thing) about a guy who did his own pool filtration using 12v pumps. He had been planning to apply for the then available 50% government rebate on stand alone remote power systems. However eligibility relied on installation by a registered installer ... I can't remember the figures, but he did it for a fraction of the price quoted and what stood out for me was him saying that by sticking with 12v (so being able to install himself), he kept down his labour costs and the required number of panels (because of not having inverter losses) ... and he ended up with a system he could maintain himself.

    In the end it's each to their own -- we love knowing our system intimately. But I also hear what you say Kimbo about car fuses -- we regularly check ours because they do just melt down and fail. Very important -- we need to find the time and money to upgrade to something a little better, she says having already lost one house to fire (unrelated to solar)

    With regards to fridges, Rainbow Power Company recently had a good overview and lots of model comparisons in their news letter -- it should be on their website (google will find it - sorry not on my computer to give you a link). Again, with our limited power the 12/24v Trailblaza (Qld made) was the best option because we were damned if we were going to buy gas. They make all the World Health Organisation vaccine fridges and so seem to have a good reputation and it's a great family run business. It is a top loading fridge (can also be run as a freezer) which takes a little getting used to, but now we find it actually takes more than a conventional fridge, so we find 140L fine for our family of 4. Not sure on the fridge power usage, but because it has such thick walls (125mm I think), we find it can go two days with no power and still stay cold if there is a real shortage because of a run of cloudy days -- bearing in mind we have next to no battery storage, so not really a "normal" situation -- more just getting by at this stage. Sometimes,if power is low, you also learn to ride the thermostat - charging in the day and turning it down at night, so the fridge motor does not come on in the night. Generally, when left to its own devices, it only runs for a few hours a day though.

    Our existing "system" cost about $2000 -- bear in mind it is minimal, but it does serve us and the fridge.

    Marko - we also seem to have a few issues with a plasmatronics inverter, which floats and forgets to go back into boost mode, so we miss valuable power. We often find ourselves flicking it to boost manually to overcome this.

    One last thing -- another good idea is a "kill" switch by the front door, to shut down all non-essential power points which could still be using power - eliminates the so-called "phantom load".
    Anyway, enough -- time to try to fix that darned computer!

    Take care,

    Heidi
     
  6. kerrip

    kerrip Junior Member

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    Hi Heidi

    Thank you so much for all that great information.

    Can I ask another question? Do you run your computer, tv, washing machine etc on a pure sine wave invertor or a modified wave invertor?

    Kerri
     
  7. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    I'm not following the car fuse issue. Are you saying that the fuses are unreliable even if you have the appropriate fuse to load? If the fuse melts and fails, doesn't that cut the circuit? Isn't that what it's supposed to do? I've not had a car fuse melt in any vehicle I've owned, nor in the solar set up in my truck, but am curious what you are meaning.
     
  8. greenfarmers

    greenfarmers Junior Member

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    Morning Kerri,

    Pure sine is the only way to go for computers and most washing machines (which are now run by computer). Modified sine can put out "dirty" power - ie the wave is uneven. Generators can also do this so beware. We use a good quality surge protector from our genie, but I still worry about the laptops (which by the way use significantly less power than most desktops). Our Tv, vaccum, blender etc can handle modified because of not having a computer.

    Morning Pebble,

    With fuses, it was explained to me that car ones are not really the ideal application because they are not designed to be under load 24 hours a day. Ours get warm/hot under load sometimes or if there is a dodgy connection nearby I think (speaking from what we have found, not from being an expert). They just seem to "melt down", mostly without blowing the fuse first, so power still gets through. Will put a pic into my album for you as I cannot seem to find a way to put it here. We have tried varying the size of the fuse, with no change. Am in the process of looking at options because this appens every few months. For now I keep an eye on the fuses every couple of days.

    We also use gel batteries because they do not gas in the same way as normal batteries, and so house our batteries close by. Not sure if they are totally "clean" of fumes though -- maybe someone else knows this?

    Heidi
     
  9. stevefarmboy

    stevefarmboy Junior Member

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    This is a dam good thread guys ... I for one thank everyone for the help ...
    Another question though that has me a bit bothered ...lol

    This question of generators .. ????
    I am looking at a 6KVA diesel ATM , but most seem to be non Sine ... unless you spend about a million bucks on them ...
    Is it possible or is it normal to run a non sine generator and put the charge through the Sine inverter to enable the use of my normal modern equipment and appliances off it ..

    OR is the best way to just charge the batteries with a non sine generator ... ?
    OR should I be only looking for a Sine wave compliant generator ... ?
    OR should I change my appliances over to older simpler non computerized ones ... ?

    Sorry to be a pain , but I am trying to sort the best system and hopefully the simplest one that does not cause me to have to change all our appliances over as well as the spend required to setup the power ...

    My thoughts are ATM along the lines of just maintaining 240V into the house for simplicity and to enable the use of our existing appliances where our stored and generated power permits ...
     
  10. greenfarmers

    greenfarmers Junior Member

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    Hi Steve ..

    Will give you my experience and why -- but that is not to say it is the right way - it is what works for us.

    We have a 6.5kva genie we use for "building" (mostly welding) and we have a 2 or 1.5k gen (it's off being fixed at the mo so can't check) which we use occasionally for things our current minimal system can't run like the blender, minor circular saws etc. The little genie came about for two reasons - 1. the big one is expensive to run - chews lots of fuel, 2. it's not good to run a genie so big with just a small load over a period - ie the washing machine cycle. 3. the big one is very noisy.

    Both are non sine and yes i have wondered if this is what blew up our washing machine. Apparently you can get a "box" which you can put in line to clean the power from the genie. Others may know more about this -- we have friends who use one in their normal grid power supply after a spike blew up their computer.

    We do charge lappies off the gennie and take the risk - and we charge the battery whenever it is on, mainly because we can. I try to charge as many things as possible when we run the gen - mainly for washing machine after it stoppped working on our little inverter for some reason - or if we have a run of cloudy weather because we have too little battery storage.

    When you talk of changing your appliances, it might be worth an audit to see how many you actually have and what you actually need to run, especially all at once. We find it comes down to lap tops (apple was clever with the mag connector, so I am not aware of a 12v charger that has come onto the market for these yet, but most lappies can be charged off 12v through a small upgrader thing); tv - again doesn't take much and nothing else much runs at night, so the little inverter does this, stereo (might be on when tv is not, so small inverter again), radio (tivoli pal/ipod music speakers with built in battery - 12v) washing machine - used to work off inverter also. Things we use genie for - blender, dehydrator (at a push when no sun), building equipment,

    We do not use a toaster - you learn the knack of doing it on the stove, electric kettle, iron, hair dryer etc.

    All easily do able for us with no real re-purchasing of equipment, but then we enjoy living simply.

    Heidi
     
  11. stevefarmboy

    stevefarmboy Junior Member

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    Thanks Heidi !! ... it is great to know a few details about what people are actually using and doing ...
    We also are trying to setup a life style that cuts all unnecessary electrical appliances out of our life ...
    I personally am so sick of the reliance on power that I am hell bent on setting up the most minimal power setup that we can stand ...

    We have on the property that we will be moving onto , a small solar setup that I will re arrange and improve as much as the budget will stand and we have a small non Sine Gen as well .....

    but...
    I will tell you guys what my latest info gathered just this afternoon from a guy that is an electrician , sells wind mills , solar panels and inverters batteries ect has said ...
    CONSIDERING THAT I am looking to setup in Gippsland quite near the coast) and setups will differ in different areas of Australia...

    1/ He chit canned solar ..as an absolutely last resort (because of the cost and the unreliability of the sun) but suggested it as a great back up .. and did suggest that it still was a good idea to keep it and maintain as well as the wind ...

    2/ He canned generators as a total waste of money in fuel and the fact that unless you spend a ton of money on a real good Diesel Sine one , they were a total loss ..due too.(possible equipment loss and exorbitant fuel cost)

    3/ He absolutely canned 12 Volt as an in-efficient waste of time and money , due to the fact that 12 volt uses and takes more batteries to store enough power for long durations ..

    4/ He suggests 48 Volt minimum for charging (solar / wind / batteries ect ) as the most efficient way to store and charge everything ...

    5/ He advocates wind in a 1 KW form as the best way to have any chance of a reasonable percentage of hrs of achieving charging over any 24 hr period... As he said ..1 KW of wind can cost 1 - 2,000 ...1KW of solar setup will cost 10,000 ... So he suggests that I treat the solar as back up and the wind as the main , and only in a 48 volt format ...

    He also said that the battery myths were mostly just that , myths ... ?? and that way too many people go and buy a ton of expensive 12 volt batteries that don't hold enough storage anyways and that even though they are expensive , they still fail ??
    He suggested that we go for 12 volt or preferably 24 volt in series to obtain 48 volt to feed the inverter ... and that the wind gen be 3 phase 48 volt .. (very economical to setup too) ...

    So ... it looks like I will be re configuring/wiring our 12 volt solar panels into series to create 48 volt and adding the wind gen that I have had my eye on for quite some time ...rather than running twin 12 and 48 volt systems ...

    All in all it was a very informative talk I had today with this electrician that has been selling and installing all these types of systems for years ...

    any more thoughts on this are still quite welcome though ... I am still very open minded ...lol , as well as taking heaps of panadol for my new found migraines that have started over the last few weeks with all this talk of std alone power generation ....lol
     
  12. springtide

    springtide Junior Member

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    Sounds good, one thing - with wind turbines have a look at their wind speed to power graph before you buy, the 1kw you need might only happen at 30-40 km/hr winds and if your normal wind speed is about 15km/hr then the 1kw might only generate 100-200 watts. Smaller turbines - say 600w or so might generate 300w at these speeds so you might be better off with 2 smaller turbines rather than one big sucker. The smaller ones are easier to put up and maintain too.
    10 grand for solar does sound a bit expensive though - you can buy sharp solar panels for about the $5 per watt so check out ebay and a few other online places first.
     
  13. stevefarmboy

    stevefarmboy Junior Member

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    Yep springtide , you are dead right about the startup and run speeds as being very important
    I originally checked the difference between the two sized wind generators that I was looking at and came to the same conclusion that 2 smaller ones was the safer bet ...
    The difference was not that much between them , but at the end of the day , I think 2 running at the more likely slower speeds would be just as good as the 1KW running at the higher speed..

    That cost of $10,000+ for solar was for a complete setup electronics included ...
    The wind gens at even 500W each with electronics woulds still run a minimum of around $4000

    I think the advice that the guy gave me today was sound , but a touch extreme ...LOL
    I truly believe that a hybrid mix using both medium sized wind and mid level solar is going to be the best ...

    The voltage issues was a bit of news to me ... I was not aware that the voltage stored when inverted was so different in as far as the effective storage hrs that can be gained with the use of less batteries and more voltage incoming from the equipment ,be it solar or wind or both..

    The way he described it was quite a revelation to me , to think that you need not spend quite as much on batteries if you just up the voltage of them ...which increases the conversion ratio when inverted to 48V - 240V...up from 12V - 240V ...
    The actual technical cause is still all a bit fuzzy to me though ...LOL
     
  14. ppp

    ppp Junior Member

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    the same amount of power is stored in batteries whether they are hooked up to be 12V or 48V, of that I am certain.
    The power could possibly be better utilised by having less losses if there is a long run to where it is being used, however by using say 48v rathe than 12v.
     
  15. stevefarmboy

    stevefarmboy Junior Member

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    The way it was described to me was that apparently the way the inverter needs to use the available voltage causes the power to be drawn off slower , meaning that the battery bank need not be as large ... something about the ratio of inversion ...
    As I said in my last post ...
    Not that the 48 volt was able to store more ... so yup , I agree with you on that score ...
     
  16. greenfarmers

    greenfarmers Junior Member

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    Steve, I believe you are quite correct with storage at a higher voltage and wind. I think what I was trying to say is, yes all that is what we would love to do, but for lack of funds.

    We also set out as you are, heads boggling with info and I'm glad we did not have the money to make big purchases at that stage - how much we have learned since about what works for us, what's out there and also more to the point just how little we actually need.

    Might I suggest, if possible, you make no changes or decisions until you move there. Learn from solar using what you already have and reconfigure it using your new found skills ... then make decisions once you have lived it.

    Life has a funny way of making all these decisions for us - they simply fall into place - if we stop spending so much time worrying and stressing.

    All will be fine and you can do away with the migraine ...

    H
     
  17. stevefarmboy

    stevefarmboy Junior Member

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    Yep H ... we do intend to follow your advice mate ... not necessarily because I am smart ..LOL ..., but more because we cant really spend jack chit till we settle on the property we are selling and move onto the farm ... so I spose most of that decision has been made for us ...

    The thing that set me off on this crusade for info was not so much that I did not understand the whole power issue , but more that everywhere I turned , the advice seemed to be conflicting and a ;little dis jointed ...
    This forum has been prolly the best source that I have found for real world actual advice and suggestions from peeps that are doing it ...and for that I do again thank all the members that are helping us ...
    I can only hope that at the end of this , threads like this will somehow make choosing and assembling systems a little easier for others reading it ...

    I took a look at the guy in Victoria that has those chest freezer conversion kits as an alternative to spending a million buck on a new low power usage one ...
    Very interesting and at this stage it is where om heading ...
    A good used chest freezer and one of his kits that use next to no power is a ripper way to take load off our grid ...
    ( Cost ? a fraction of the alternatives)

    Anyone ever tried this sort of system / kit ...

    Take a peek here ..if you have not seen it
     
  18. frosty

    frosty Junior Member

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    I would be very interested to know more about this "box" ? anyone ???

    frosty
     
  19. stevefarmboy

    stevefarmboy Junior Member

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    Hey Frosty ....from what I was told by an electrician in this field ...the generators can be hooked up to a good controller that will pick the wind / solar panel / or generator as the source of the incoming power to be fed to the batteries ...

    The power then just gets drawn off the batteries by the inverter as normal ...

    but ...I am still also on the trail of this whole generator setup too ATM ...

    I am not real happy with the thought that we need to spend a ton of money on a 3 cyl diesel gen that produces Sine wave from its own source.. there must be a better more cost efficient way to use a fairly normal single cylinder diesel ( still around the 1500 - 2000 bucks!! ) that can be added too with something that clean or converts modified wave to Sine ....
    Rather than spending up to what can be 10 grand on a new Sine Diesel ...
     
  20. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Thanks Heidi. I get it now. I'm using a fuse that looks like this: https://i302.photobucket.com/albums/nn97/atds/automotive/carfuses.jpg

    It's a 10amp fuse, and I've had it blow once or twice I think in 2 years. I don't have continuous load though. I might run lights for several hours, or have the laptop going for 4 or 5 but I don't have anything drawing 24/7.

    One of the reasons I don't want a system that draws 24/7 is because I think it shortens battery life. Has anyone done an analysis of this? I'm wondering with something like a freezer if it's cheaper to run it on lpg rather than solar because of the battery wear.
     

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