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Developing Off-Grid SOP Manual For Power Conservation

PostPosted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 3:13 am
by jpf1030
Howdy All,
We are now finally realizing how vulnerable we yet are to an extended power outage and doing something about it. As of now, most of the immediate and extended family would have no idea how to fully switch over to our off-grid power system and maintain it. Likewise we are yet to complete testing of all system components though it has been in a couple of years and we have had to use it for a few short duration power outages. We are going to quickly correct this serious situation as you will read below in our teaching the system to all and developing an O-G SOP manual (off-grid standard operating procedures). If any of you have or are contemplating an off grid power system, we welcome your input for items to be included in the O-G SOP manual that is now underway toward being constructed. I've already received some excellent feedback tips from Mac which are included below in the letter I sent to the family today...jpf
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Howdy Mac,
Thanks a bunch for your excellent suggestions. Since your interest in being updated seems to indicate you think others can benefit from our developing O-G SOP manual, I will post this on the blog so others can offer their input as we work on putting it together. Though it will be specific to our system, it will have much valuable generic info to all O-Gpower users...jpf

Date: Sun, 13 Feb 2011 19:27:07 -0700
Subject: Re: Energy Conservation Plan

Jim & Starr ...

see below for my comments and suggestions in this color ...

On Sun, Feb 13, 2011 at 3:33 PM, J.P. Farley <jpf1030@hotmail.com> wrote:

Hey Starrley,

Thanks for once again writing to prompt us about the very important and even more expansive a subject than addressed. We are woefully ill prepared for a sudden required necessary dependence upon our off-grid power capabilities. I've received a strong prompting to respond in detail to areas we need to address, NOW!

After getting into writing the below, I realized we may not be the only ones guilty of failing to become prepared as possible because we have failed to maximize the productivity and capability of all we have already done toward being able to just survive off-grid, when the foundation is in place that we could thrive if suddenly forced off grid. In this context, survive means stay alive with minimal comforts, whereas thrive means to additionally be able to continue being productive with what we have already initiated. Therefore, I'm cc'ing this to the other three ESO's, Mac, Ron and Bill. Maybe they will get some little benefit from our sharing this project info. They may have some suggestions that would find their way into the final O-G SOP manual.

In regard to your question on the computers, there is a quite simple solution for that. We could put a UPS back-up power system on the desk top computers. I think we have at least one, possibly two of these. They are not expensive. We only have three desk top computers, yours and Kristen's in ya'lls office and this one in our office

..I have gone to laptop computer only because they use a fraction of the power of a desktop units. Next to the freezer and frig ... desk top computers are a big user in our house. We also got rid or our old TV and purchased a new flat screen and were careful to check the back for watts required to operate.


You bring up a multi-faceted concern with the power bill in not only the excessive cost, but the excessive dependency in using that much grid power. If the house was $374, what was the house...double that or more? You have been bringing up using the the off-grid system a number of times and rightfully so, like a lone voice in the wilderness!

..If you want to see what you are really using ... check your bill for the KWH (kilowatt hours used). Keep in mind that 1KWh is 1,000 watts usage for one hour. Compare this to the capability of your "off grid" system ... it is a real eye opener of reality. Your idea of doing a survey with the Watts UP meter will also present some surprises.

It is high time to get together, first in the family, to develop an Energy Conservation Plan (ECP). Then we can implement it with the crew. It is needful for each person in the family to contribute their thoughts to an ECP, so I will start it off. After each of you contribute your suggestions, we can formalize the plan and put it into action. Here are some starter thoughts:

..As I have mentioned before ... we have our system designed in a two layer plan.

Layer one ... living like we do with frig, freezer, TV, lights, well pump, etc.

Things go to pot ....

Layer 2 .... can everything in the freezer and stop using it. Convert to a different method for keeping our food cool and stop using the electric frig. Thermal mass frig might be an option or solar ice maker. (freezer and frig are large power users)

Severely limit TV time. Use headlamps more using rechargeable batteries. Be super careful using lights. Have backup light source such as Britelyt lanterns... have fuel and spare parts on hand.

Everyone in the household must be in agreement and conserve. .


1) Run at least one section of our facilities on off-grid continuously. This means having the generator ready
and functioning in auto start mode to charge the batteries when the solar does not keep up.
2) Have an off-grid training class by Jeff and I to teach Starr, Kristen, Russell, Jeff, Jenica, Reagan how to
operate the system. We should take photos and notes in the class to be made into our family O-G SOP
manual. That is the industry term for Standard Operating Procedures manual.
3) Assign a couple of people to complete the "Watts-Up" check of every power consumption item and circuit
to include in the O-G SOP manual.

..You might want to log the results on a spread sheet to get a real picture of your usage and get a good idea where to conserve or eliminate during a phase 2 situation

4) Label the service and location for every transfer switch and which electrical panel it operates.
5) Label each breaker in every electrical panel on the place. This will enable all to quickly recognize any
breakers that should be flipped off in the event we have to go to 100% O-G operation. Those would be
any breakers that operate any resistance heat type fixture or appliance. We could even paint those
breakers red so all would know to flip them off when we go off-grid.
6) Schedule monthly inspection and any needed servicing of the battery bank, panel array and generator.
Have each family member assist in doing this the first time. The battery service will entail checking the
water level and any corrosion on terminals. The panel arrays will involve visual inspection to see if they
need to be cleaned of dust and dirt accumulation as well as snow if applicable. The generator inspection
will entail checking the oil and coolant levels. It will also include checking the fuel level on the tank. We
may need to make a sight gauge to ease of conducting this fuel level check. Operation of intake air fan
should be checked.
7) We should have a section of our O-G SOP dedicated to manual start-up and online switching for the
generator as there will most likely be times when this procedure could become necessary.
8) Many areas of the shop and some in the house tend to have the lights left on, even when no one is working
in those areas. This is a huge waste of energy. We should consider wiring in timers on all areas where
lights tend to be on regularly. These timers could be very simple ones either pre-set or manually set to
one hour increments. It would not be a big issue to flip it back on once an hour, thus assuring a bunch of
lights would never be left on needlessly over an hour.
9) Search out and eliminate any and all cold air leaks around windows, doors, wall base plates, etc. Though
we heat with wood, the more the hot water heat circulations run to overcome needless cold leaks, the
more electrical energy is wasted in running those pumps. We have come up with some effective methods
of sealing off those leaks as we find them, but many are still to be found.
10) We need to finish replacing higher use area incandescent bulbs with LED, including those small ones
around bathroom mirrors.
11) I spent a lot of time over the last year or so researching wholesale suppliers of replacement LED tubes for
fluorescent tube bulbs, but the pricing was very expensive. Like all other new technologies, the pricing
on those is starting to now come down. Some in the family would do well to resume this best price
research. We could dramatically reduce our energy consumption with these LED's in all our fluorescent
tube fixtures.
12) We should develop as part of our O-G SOP manual, a multi-layer spreadsheet for data accumulation and
periodic review to ascertain the effect of each conservation measure we undertake.
13) We need to finish putting together the O-G power system

The above list of 12 elements to consider in our Energy Conservation Plan actually include areas with multiple items, so it is a pretty good start. There is no way I have even come close to covering everything for a maximum efficiency ECP, but with the input of all of you, we will have a great start. These 12 items along with all each of you submit will already be a copy and paste jump start on writing our O-G SOP manual.

..During your family meeting you might want to agree on what electrical needs are essential such as ... security, communications, etc. as a bare bones minimum that must operate in an all out emergency situation.


Please respond ASAP. It is urgent that we get this done quickly. We are wasting funds everyday that it is not done, as well as putting ourselves at great and unnecessary risk if we suddenly have no grid power.

..When everyone is brought up to speed and you have a plan and your SOP manual completed ... without notice to family members ... pull the main power for a couple of days and see how your plan works.

.. Good luck .... and please keep all of us updated on how you are progressing.

..Mac


Happy Preparedness Trails,

jpf

"In the beginning of a change the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot." -- Mark Twain

"While the timid patriot fears men those with courage trust God" - Mac

Re: Developing Off-Grid SOP Manual For Power Conservation

PostPosted: Mon Feb 14, 2011 7:15 am
by wesurvive
For those with no real knowledge of figuring watts, volts and amps to make an alternative power system here is a quick tip.

First, you don't want to find out in an emergency or power outage what will run your most essential appliances or lights, so test those items before hand with a good battery.

Yes, not everyone can go out and buy those expensive large batteries that hold a lot of amps, so there is some alternatives. The batteries used in RV (deep cell) cost about $70 dollars or if you can find some used deep cell batteries for cheap, that will help. You don't have to use these and in fact you can use any auto battery, which I did when I first built my system because money just wasn't there to buy expensive batteries. I slowly built up my system over time.

If you do have a few bucks you can buy some nice batteries that are used in solar systems or for backup systems. However, that is up to you and there are many to choose from.

If using auto batteries, get a 2000 watt inverter or larger (cheap ones can be found at Harbor Freight, but they may break down so test them out). Or buy one off ebay or ask on this blog which ones to get and what size you want. JPF, Mac or I will surely help you find something to fit your needs with the best price. Now, what size refrigerator do you have? Sometimes I can find how many amps it uses just by the size of it, some differ, but cubic feet will help in determining that. Unless it is an extremely old one and uses more amps, but we can figure that in. (It will say on the back of your refrigerator as well.)

From my testing with common auto batteries, One standard 450 amp auto battery will run my refrigerator for about 12 hours. I have a mid sized refrigerator that uses 4 amps. There is the lost power from the extension cord and the inverter so when you are using auto batteries you have to actually test the setup to see how long it will run your refrigerator. So if the power was out for several days, you would want a good battery pack to keep it up and running for that amount of time. Lights, well we discussed Christmas lights, which most have and if you have LED lights that is much better. I can run several strings of LED Christmas lights (still use them on the same battery) at night time for several hours a night for several weeks. A small 100 watt inverter hooked to the battery and the lights plugged into it (120 outlet on the inverter) is all that is done. The battery sits in the house next to the entertainment center and I have run my laptop and my DVD player with monitor on it as well, but not all at once. The laptop uses 75 watts, the DVD player and monitor uses 75 watts and the lights I can run with the units but will heat up the inverter (tiny inverter) so I only use one at a time. But if I want lights, I can see perfectly like having a lamp on in my living room with the LED Christmas lights. Now you can find those 100 watt inverters on Ebay for less than 10 bucks, but shipping will bring it to a little over 10 bucks. Good to have several on hand, even one or two in the EMP Proof room.

So really if you have a fireplace for heat and cooking, you only need to have lights, run your electric shaver a few minutes in the morning, keep the refrigerator going for keeping your food from spoiling and maybe run a computer for a while so you can go online.

Now what I did was I had two inverters that were over 2000 watts. One I had on standby and the other I had hooked to 10 auto batteries. If you can afford the nice batteries, then do so.
I could go a week on those 10 auto batteries and kept watch on the power I used. During the day the only thing running was the refrigerator. During night I had the lights and I had my laptop charged in my car from the 100 watt inverter so I had a few hours use of my laptop before I went to bed each night. If I wanted to watch a movie I hooked up the DVD player/monitor to the 100 watt inverter and battery inside. I can also watch movies on my Laptop, so I had both options. The inverter on standby was ready to go to the car and could be hooked to the battery if needed and a long extension cord was sitting by ready to use.
I never let the inverter be used on the car without the car first being started and running the whole time. But also I ran an extension cord to my battery charger and had hooked my battery charger up to my other battery pack so it would also charge them at the same time as I ran the vehicle to get power. So this worked out nicely, but it won;t top off the battery pack with a ful charge, in fact it takes about a tank of gas in a generator (I had a 3500 watt one with a 5 gallon tank) that ran for about 8 hours on the 15 amp charge to get the batteries close to being topped off. Sometimes I ran it for a few more hours. But I only had the refrigerator hooked up and the rest of the power from the generator went to charging the battery pack.

As for the battery inside I would take it out once a week and top it off by hooking up jumper cables from the car battery and start the car, which I can then run most of what I wanted in the house as well from the car and inverter in the car since it was replacing its own power being used by me with the alternator. I could even fire up the microwave if needed (small one) and nuke a bowl of something to eat. (Not healthy, but done it.) So, basically having two large inverters and two small inverters is what it took for me to survive with some luxuries and if I wanted to watch movies all day if it was raining I had the choice of using the car for a few hours (used a 1/4 tank -roughly 5 gallons- in 9 hours idling) and had the charger charging my battery pack the whole time as well. Every time I used the vehicle for power I always charged the batteries too. Every time I used the generator it was also charging batteries as well.
If I had company over, I would run the car and use its power with the inverter I had hooked to its battery.

So what I found is that if you want the most basic system to power your basic appliances such as a refrigerator and computer or TV you will need:

10 batteries (auto or any type you want) -- or as many as you can afford or find used.
(NAPA or Carquest might sell you their bad batteries for 10 bucks each).
2 larger 2000 watt inverters or larger (size if your preference)
2 small 100 or 150 watt inverters (the ones that you can plug into your car lighter socket)
2 long extention cords (25 or 50 feet you decide how long you will need it)
1 battery charger
1 generator (at least 1500 watt) They sell these at Sears, Costco, Harbor Freight that are over 2000 watts for around $200 bucks. Some have sales on them for cheaper.

1 extra battery for inside the home for if you want to have that extra pleasure of running your laptop or lights and you won't have to go outside to unhook anything before bed. Lazy mans battery? haha. No really, it was simple and easy to do and I just hooked up my inverter (100 watt) to it and plugged in my Christmas lights (which I have them still up for the past few weeks) and they are still running on the same battery with the same charge. (This is new and was not part of my old setup, but I find it is very useful.)

I keep the batteries inside a box next to the shed that is water proof. The inverter is hooked up from inside the shed going to the little shed where the batteries are, I never keep them in the same room because of any sparks. Do not let your inverters get wet, they will burn up. The shed with the batteries should be ventilated as well and if you don't ventilate it will be really bad.

I tried to keep all the technical terms out so everyone can understand this easily. Seems I am getting better at speaking in layman's terms lately.

Good luck and be prepared.