Sunday, February 10, 2008

Power Problem

Here's the problem.

When the cabin was broken into most of the power system was stolen. Now granted it was going to be replaced next month anyway but without the old power system the place will sit dark. I have decided not to install the new system till June when I move down there full time but that leaves several months where a temporary power source will be needed. I do not want to invest in something that will not be usable in June.

So here is what I am thinking.

I am going to purchase eight 115 amp hour deep cycle batteries. I will build two battery boxes that can be removed and stored here at the house. The batteries will be charged at home and taken down to the cabin on weekends. I am also getting a 2500 watt modified sine wave phase corrected inverter. At the cabin an extension cord will be ran from the truck to power lights, laptop and stuff, everything stays in the truck. When I get back here I just plug in the charger and top off the units.

This should give me plenty of power to comfortably stay down there without the theft risk involved with leaving the equipment in an unattended cabin. What do you think? Is there an easier way?


Future Farmer said...


Leaving all that stuff on the truck is what I would do ! Remember you will need a rather large T fuse (300 amps ?) between the batteries and the inverter.

Good luck. What kind of batteries are you getting ?

BigBear said...

Not sure about brand yet. Am going to Battery America tomorrow afternoon and see what options I have.

I probably will just leave it all in the truck, just to heavy to move.

Michael Hawkins said...

When shopping, remember:
Buy once, cry once!*

Don't cheap out on batteries, make sure they will last a lot of cycles at a decent power level.
See if you can get a good deal on some rubbermaid containers too.

*cry about spending a lot, else you'll cry twice, first when your cheapo craps out, then when you replace it with a decent (expensive) alternative

Oldman in the Boonies said...

I was going to mention that I would get biggest guage extension Cord(s) you can. I have seen 10 guage 50 footers at Farm and Fleet. They are expensive, but as Michael says now is not the time to go cheap.

Just a suggestion, but when I was selling Christmas Trees last Thanksgiving I saw a guy with a small generator perminantly mounted in the back of his Pickup, It was there for his 5th wheel camper. Specificly designed for campers. Perhaps you might consider something like that. If nothing else it would a back up.

judyofthewoods said...

My experience with batteries is limited, but I am very happy with my Trojan T105 batteries. Considering the amount of deep discharges they've received when the power situation was desperate, they have lasted very well. They are supposed to last 3-5 years, but my oldest are about 6-7 years old, and still going well. When I first went off-grid I used a couple of leisure batteries which I charged up in a neighbor's shed, and they lasted perhaps a year or two.
What do you actually need the power for? You won't need to run a fridge in the winter, and if you are working, you probably won't be running a computer all that much, or watching TV. How long will you be staying? The biggest drain is likely to be power tools, if you use them.
One of the principles of going off-grid, especially when you are long-term survival minded, I cannot stress enough: find ways of living with less rather than trying to find enough power for business as usual. Weigh up the pros and cons of every item. Can you do something by hand with only a little extra work? Can you do without xyz? Can you find a lower consuming version. For example, a small screen TV - just sit closer. TFT screens are safe at close range, and also use far less power.
There is also a big myth going about with renewables, its called payback period. Where else is payback a consideration? What is the payback period of a can of beer, a car, a vacation? You want the benefit? What are the hidden costs (including environmental and social) of some cheaper alternative? That determines the price you are willing to pay.

GeologyJoe said...

do you have to drive the truck around with the batteries in the bed during the week?

BigBear said...

Michael Hawkins,

Yea, I have learned to not skip on batteries. I used to use cheap marine batteries but they do need replacing every couple of years even with light weekend use.

BigBear said...


No, I have a jeep that I can use during the week.

BigBear said...

Oldman in the boonies,

I only use a generator to top off batteries during extended cloudy periods or run high amp power tools. The noise gets annoying and you eat up expensive gas. I do have to replace my generator but not till closer to June.

BigBear said...


The two biggest drains are the water pump and laptop charger. I also need lights, don't like living in the dark and am not ready to adjust my internal clock to go to sleep at sundown although it would save money.

I want a coffee maker (high amps but only for a few minutes) and a small efficient fridge (eggs and meat). Winter time fridge is not necessary but which is good cause you get less power from batteries in super cold conditions. I know I could make coffee on propane or wood stove. But in the summer it is not feasible.

I know I could get by without power but at this point don't really want too. Plus will probably be doing a little IT contracting on the side where laptop power will be necessary.

Anonymous said...

Myself, I would buy 2 top of the line batteries and leave them secured in the truck with the inverter. Then make a heavy gauge cable as suggested already but have two male ends on it. Plug one end into the inverter and the other into your existing wall socket (the end is hot so be careful). You don't have utility power but if you did trip the main breaker and you have your electricity. If you have a remote car starter then you can fire up your truck from the comfort of your bed if you need a charge.

I seem to remember that DC loses much more over distance than AC so keep the DC part short and heavy gauge. Convert to AC as close to the source as you can then do your long run using AC.

Or even better.. put the batteries and inverter in your daily driver.. they get charged when you run to the store and when you get back you run the cable to a wall outlet and your back on..

My plan is to use an old vw beetle 1300cc motor I have mounted to a stand. Use cheap car alternators from the "pick a part". The added bonus of the beetle engine is they are air cooled and I could pump the heated air into the house. Or into the greenhouse..where ever.

For things like this I agree that going cheap is not a good idea but I also like to think of other ideas as well. If I can get more than one use out of something then it is worth twice as much.. I.E. a vehicle I need anyway and it powers you house.. 2 for 1

Spend the money on good batteries and inverter.. then use what you have to feed them..

Its mobile and easy.. Add to the system once you get out there.. wind, solar.. or go with a diesel genny and make bio-diesel.

I am entirely not convinced with solar panels at this stage.. unless you get then cheap.. thats a lot of fuel for the same $$

BigBear said...


Thanks. It may be overkill on the batteries but I want to have enough reserve for a few days. It's strange that you can buy a 480 watt wind generator for around $500 but 480 watts of solar will run $2400. Granted the upfront cost is high but it is there for many years and no fuel cost. Wish I could just go with wind.

Michael Hawkins said...

Photovoltaic cells require a couple of expensive elements such as selenium or gallium , which also very hazardous to the health of people handling them improperly.
In addition to those costs, is the price of precise manufacture.

Even a sophisticated wind generator is much simpler to construct than a rudimentary solar cell.
Heck, I'm confident I could build a small wind generaror up from wire, wood and magnets.

Future Farmer said...


You might want to consider an Austrailan outback battery charger.
These are quite impressive battery chargers

Christie chargers
Generator Joe can sell these for $699. They are small and can be easily hidden when not being used.

This model features a premium Honda model GXH50, 2.5 HP, gasoline fueled, air cooled engine with recoil start.
accompanied by a Bosch 55 Amp, 12 VDC55 alternator. This alternator allow two stages of charging, low or high.
model runs at 3600 RPM and generates DC voltage only

You could skip all the solar expense but would need gasoline.
A diesel model is available for much much more.

Anonymous said...

Just found you today. What will you do for a living?

BigBear said...


The goal is to get to a point where you can live on next to nothing. I am in a unique situation in that I don't have any bills. I want to see if I can live and exist relatively comfortably without making money. Ideally I would like to get by on a hundred a month. Maybe so, maybe no we have to wait and see. But it will be an great adventure won't it.

BigBear said...

Ok, here is what I like about solar. I have been using it for a few years and it is always works without any thought. Once it is in place it just works period, it costs a lot more but it works.

Anonymous said...

Wow, $100 a month. I wish you the best. I have an interest in pulling the plug and going off the grid, but I think I would move onto my next career.
Will your location have internet or will you be isolated to radio? Very interesting blog, so I will continue to read and fire off questions.

judyofthewoods said...

Chris, I was thinking more for the temporary situation as far as the fridge was concerned, that is, until you set up your permanent power system in the summer. That way you can get away with less batteries. Lights are a fairly low drain (you can get 12 V compact flourescent, which at 5-11 Watt give loads of light), though the laptop will require a bit of juice, and so will the pump, if only briefly. If your laptop has a mobile processor, you may find it uses quite a bit less than the stated rating in normal use. From my own experience, the max. power consumption is only when it is charging and the hard drive and CD burner are running. My 65 Watt laptop probably only uses about half in average use. I also have a DC-DC converter for it, which is a lot more efficient than an inverter. Even a very efficient inverter will still be using several Watts, and that all the time.
11:09 I like the idea of the remote activation. You are right about using thicker cables, but its the low Voltage which requires thicker cables rather than the DC, which also goes for shorter runs, but any longer run will need even bigger cables. That is the downside of low voltage systems. Lower voltage means more amps squeezing through the cable and heating it up due to the higher resistance and also makes the transmission less efficient.

BlueSkye said...


Eight marine batteries seems like overkill for weekends when you have a generator to run the powertools. I can go 24 hrs on two on my boat, running the laptop, cell phone, frige, and a couple of small lights.

With a good cooler, you can go a couple of days on $2 worth of bought ice and skip the refrigerator.

Blue Skye

Anonymous said...


You might want to try something like this:

Smaller power pack/battery booster are available. Seems like a less expensive way to go. You can skip the solar panel since you want to charge it up at home.

The pack can be later used
for work around the cabin, boost your car or just as a backup system for your cabin. (In which case you migth want to get a panel and charge controler)

The stuff in this perticular site are all from/ made for Canadian Tire (Think WaltMart without the food and non-sport related clothing) so you wont find it in Colorado. But as I said theres other makers out there.


fallout11 said...

Most wind power setups do not work very well at all (see Lonewolf's experience over at Survival Acres), even in a windy desert region, hence part of the disparity in cost between those and PV arrays.

Anonymous said...

I tested this camera for a client. I didn’t have the light running for more than 15 minutes. The battery lasted approximately 6 hours before recharging. The LCD, however, had a few dead pixels - never saw this before. Tried returning for exchange and had to put up quite a fight. Anyone else seen this? laptop battery
Verizon is about the only place you can get the authentic RIM product and matching door. Most other sites are out of stock and even when they are in stock they have the black battery door which looks like crap. new battery

laptop battery said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mendel Potok said...

I don't know what your power needs will be, but I don't think you would need to have much more than what a good Diesel generator can put. That would be much easier to lug around than a bunch of batteries, and you can take the generator with you when you leave.