New Battery Day!


Pictured – the power control center of the house. The long white rectangle with the green strip is the power inverter – it takes the DC power stored in our batteries behind the wall, and coverts it to AC power for most of our appliances. Next is the small black square to the left of the inverter, this is a Trimetric battery monitor, kind of not necessary for us at this point, as all the info we need is in the charge controller. The big white square is the charge controller for the 1000w windmill. Finally, the black rectangle is our Outback solar power charge controller. The toggle switch below the inverter adjusts our 1200w solar array. Vertical for winter months, and nearly horizontal for summer months. And adjusted as needed between seasons.

In an off-Grid solar/wind power house the battery bank is the heart of the operation. They require monitoring for daily voltage levels, and in our case, the water in the batteries needs to be checked and filled as necessary.

For the past several months I had been noticing that our battery bank wasn’t holding the charge it once had. I was needing to run our backup generator more often, mainly on little or no sun days.

As I have mentioned, we have been in our off-Grid home for 21 years. This past Monday we had our third set of 8 6v deep cycle batteries installed. We are averaging about 10 years with each set of batteries – about their expected life for this application.

We have always used Trojan T105 6v deep cycle batteries. But this time our go to solar guy recommended Crown CR 235 deep cycle batteries. I took his advise. Time will tell, but he has had good results in other systems, so I am not expecting any issues.

The CR 235’s cost about $160 per-battery. Although I know how to do the install, time, once again, is a factor for me – so installation adds to the overall cost.

Solar and wind systems are not the cheap alternative to life on the grid. It’s a lifestyle choice and you do pay for it. The nice aspect of it is that it’s modular – you can add to a basic system as need and money allow – and that’s exactly what we have always done.

Planning is always good. And setting aside a little bit of money each month will help tremendously when you need to update part of your system or have something repaired. You know your budget, but think of a small amount per-month: $50 – $100.

What do we power? I’ll write more on this in the weeks ahead, but: lights, TV’s, computers, cellphones, other USB devices, well-pump, and a refrigerator. We are all so used to this lifestyle that it’s second nature, but we are still attentive about usage.

A change in habit and lifestyle is key to off-Grid, solar powered success – Turn off the lights when not using them! Don’t leave things running! Become familiar with the power requirements for every day items. Plan to charge devices when the sun is shining if possible! You get the picture. Comment below if you have specific questions.

New battery day is part of this lifestyle, and it is a welcomed day when the low voltage alarm has been going off at 6:00am as of late!

The Homestead – Firewood Storage

We heat our cordwood home with wood, ironic yes, and have done so for twenty-one years. For many years I cut, blocked and split our firewood myself; mainly supplied from blowdowns and standing deadwood on our property. Seasons in life change, and I no longer have the necessary time to do the bulk of this work – except the stacking. We now buy our firewood from a local supplier.

Storage and drying of firewood can be tricky. You want enough space, obviously; but you also want plenty of airflow. For years I did the tarp and pallet thing, and then the “upgrade” to the instant tarp garage thing – which actually lasted ten years – so well worth the $300 I paid for it. Then, after a windstorm finished the tarp garage off, I decided to build a structure that suited my needs.

The wood storage building pictured above measures 8’x16’, 6’ high on the backside and 8’ high at the front. I settled on this dimension based on the usual footprint of stacked firewood in years past.

It is a very simple building, and anyone could put it up.

Foundation: the gravel pad was put in twelve years ago, and only settled 1/2 inch over 20 feet. Excellent. I used 6 deck blocks as the foundation, as I had little concern with settling at this point. With a level grade, it only took a few minutes to square the blocks.

Timber framing: I used three 4x4x8 pressure treated posts for the front wall, and three 4x4x6 pressure treated posts for the back wall. These were “tied” together by 1x6x8 and 1x6x16 pressure treated boards. On three sides, between each 8’ section is a 2x4x8, hammered in at an angle, to give the walls rigidity, that worked great and locked the entire structure together. The roof is 2x6x10’ lumber, with 4×8 plywood sheathing, roofing felt and shingles.

Time: it took about 7 hours to build. By using dimensional lumber in full lengths, cutting was kept to a minimum, which also saved time.

Cost: using all new materials, about $600. If someone had time to find recycled materials that price point would drop considerably.

What to do differently? I would have used 2x6x12 for the roof and given myself more overhang in the front. As it is, even with two extra rows of firewood in front, the wood is covered well enough.

The rows: the wood is stacked on repurposed 2×4’s, nothing fancy. But they keep the wood off the ground.

How has it worked? Great. From time to time snow blows in during a storm, but that hasn’t caused any problems. The wood is very dry, and stays clean.

I used this same idea for a four wheeler, utility shed which I will share later on, after I dress it up a bit. That has worked great for keeping ice/snow/rain off the vehicle, as I use it for plowing, and my utility trailer is accessible. Plenty of room for the snowblower as well.

Simple design, easy to build, strong and functional. Not winning any design awards, but does the job!