Powering a house with renewable sources of electricity

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Powering a house with renewable sources of electricity

Postby caters on September 2nd, 2015, 11:32 am 

If I were to build a house I would have the electricity come from wind turbines, water, and the sun. This would lead to batteries that when combined are 48V. I would then have this small circuit. It would go from the battery to this AC/DC switch(Also called an inverter), some of the electricity would go through all the house circuits as 200V AC, Most of it would go back through to the battery. This is to prevent power surges which are just as bad if not worse than power outages.

I mean if you have a power surge then that means that you have too many amps and watts for anything to work right. So nothing works just like in a power outage. But all the electricity in the wires gets turned into heat as it passes through. Eventually the wires break and you have electrical fires.


But would this small circuit work to prevent these power surges?
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Re: Powering a house with renewable sources of electricity

Postby gerardo0410 on July 16th, 2016, 9:21 pm 

Not really sure about the use of wind and solar to power up a house. To my knowledge there is a ton of different ways to power up a house and truly make it renewable.
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Re: Powering a house with renewable sources of electricity

Postby Serpent on July 17th, 2016, 1:35 am 

You need to plan it properly. Figure out how much electricity you need - and especially, what you don't need. We generally operate on very few kw/hr, which our solar array has no trouble supplying. In summer, any excess goes into the water-heater; in winter, we use an on-demand propane one. The batteries live in a storage room just off the back porch, in a decommissioned freezer; the inverter is mounted on the wall above; an indicator gauge is just inside the back door, so we know whether it's charging and how much power we have. No problem, ever, with wires or batteries.
The trick is to get rid of the superfluous greedy appliances, like clothes dryer and space heater; replace the necessary ones with the most efficient you can afford, and keep them on power-bars you switch on only when using the appliance, so they don't waste power. You'd be surprised how much drains away while devices are sitting idle. We cook mostly with propane (already had the stove) but have a microwave and kettle on the solar circuit - have to be careful to run only one at a time. Heat with wood; cool with open windows; do laundry only on sunny days.

Get a kill-a-watt and make a comprehensive study of you pattern of electricity use. Might have to decide on some changes. Then consult somebody who really knows his stuff before designing a system. We know people who paid twice what we did for the same amount of solar power: the frills and custom devices can really add up; improvising and doing your own scut-work can save a lot of money.
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Re: Powering a house with renewable sources of electricity

Postby zetreque on July 17th, 2016, 1:57 am 

Serpent,
Ever used a solar cooker? I imagine they are somewhat challenging but a proper meal plan would make it a lot easier.

It is incredible to me that Juno space craft has only 75 square meters of solar arrays which produce 14kw when a standard house (or one I would imagine) uses 1kw. I don't know if that's 14kw if the array is in space or from the surface of Earth though.
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Re: Powering a house with renewable sources of electricity

Postby Serpent on July 17th, 2016, 11:01 am 

I'm not up to much challenge anymore. (Haven't even looked at the manual for the new digital camera that's been sitting in my In-box for three days. The very idea of learning makes my head droop.) Anyway, we're two old codgers with health issues: don't cook all that much - and in summer, some of it already happens on the fire-pit (when there's no burning ban in effect, like now). One pan of roasted mixed veg and tofu cubes can last four days. Winter, I make my soup and tea on the wood-stove. I realize that propane is a dirty compromise and try to keep its use to a minimum, without giving up too much creature comfort.
I have seen a very basic solar oven in operation - admirable!

I suppose you would catch a lot more rays in space. My very favourite solar thing at the moment, though, is this guy http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-33383521 They landed in Cairo on Wednesday, and should be on the last leg now. (Not a peep on regular tv news, of course - guess they're too busy with 'oo killed 'oo.) You got to love old Sol!
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Re: Powering a house with renewable sources of electricity

Postby vivian maxine on July 17th, 2016, 11:20 am 

Serpent, how do you fix those tofu cubes? I tried some once and threw them out. No taste at all. Probably my fault as I, too, am not a cook. "Heat and eat" is my motto. If it doesn't come with a can opener, forget it.
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Re: Powering a house with renewable sources of electricity

Postby Serpent on July 17th, 2016, 12:19 pm 

vivian maxine » July 17th, 2016, 10:20 am wrote:Serpent, how do you fix those tofu cubes? I tried some once and threw them out. No taste at all. Probably my fault as I, too, am not a cook. "Heat and eat" is my motto. If it doesn't come with a can opener, forget it.

That's what the cats say! I accidentally bought cooked rice in a can last week, with a little packet of spice on the side .... I mean, rice?

Tofu cubes. Get the extra firm. It's a good idea to keep some in the freezer, coz when the brick is thawed, you can squeeze out a lot more water, which leaves a kind of spongy texture, which takes up marinade much better than fresh tofu. I make either 1/4" thick slices (from the small end; try to do it longways or horizontally, they'll break) or cubes of a size depending on how they'll be used. Marinate for an hour or so, making sure all surfaces get a good soak. Marinades vary; the basic one is dark soy sauce, black pepper, a splash of vegetable oil and water, but you can make it as fancy as you like. If the oil is already in there, you can toss the whole lot into a deep frying pan or wok and cook over moderate heat, agitating often, until the liquid has evaporated - a bit longer, to crisp up a batch of small cubes for soup. For vegetable roast, I cube it fairly large and marinate in the basic dark sauce, then throw them in with onion, mushroom, peppers, sweet potatoes, parsnips, zucchini, or whatever - the more kinds the better.

I just realized, this may not be an appropriate place for recipes.
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Re: Powering a house with renewable sources of electricity

Postby vivian maxine on July 17th, 2016, 1:08 pm 

Great. We wandered a bit, yes, but I've wanted to know for a while. Thanks. I'll try it.

Back to solar power. Doesn't it depend a lot on location? What works well in Arizona might not - probably would not - work in Kansas or, worse, Vermont.
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Re: Powering a house with renewable sources of electricity

Postby Serpent on July 17th, 2016, 2:33 pm 

There is sun everywhere - just not all the time.
We're in Ontario: most of the summer is very good, but we do okay in fall, spring and winter. The array is mounted on a frame on a pole, so it can rotate east to west (automatically, with a tracker) and we can (manually) change the angle for optimal exposure each season, plus lay it down flat when a wind-storm is expected, or stand it upright for snow to slide off. (To make that function automatic would have cost an extra $1000; commercial systems have it.)

Being able to make those adjustments gains us up to 30% efficacy over a roof-mounted rigid array. Even the little two-panel one we had before got a big advantage when we put it on a rotatable post. Most people are able to do something like that: it doesn't take up much room and can have a normal garden underneath. Put it on your deck and use it as a big parasol. For somebody in a row-house, or without any private back yard, a south or west - better yet S-W - facing roof would have to do, but you can get frames that still allow some angular movement. The rigid wall-mounts are least efficient. You also lose power through transmission (just like they do in the grid) so the less wire, the more efficient your system. (Plus, it's very expensive wire.)

Panels are getting so versatile and cheap now, so many devices come with their own collectors and batteries, that even apartment-dwellers can take some advantage of solar power.
I'm holding out for a car wrapped in solar-skin; refuse to die until i get one - or at least cadge a ride in one.
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Re: Powering a house with renewable sources of electricity

Postby zetreque on July 17th, 2016, 2:40 pm 

Serpent » Sun Jul 17, 2016 11:33 am wrote:I'm holding out for a car wrapped in solar-skin; refuse to die until i get one - or at least cadge a ride in one.


The Fisker Karma was a huge disappointment! Greedy executives, and the usual made them bankrupt. They were in competition with Tesla and I was rooting for Fisker instead. They even won a court case against Tesla who ridiculously tried to say they stole their technology. The people at Tesla were also incredibly rude and dealing with really bad corporations for their funding. I also thought the Karma's looked a lot sexier. Anyway, the solar roof supposedly only gave enough power to keep the batteries cool and add a little air conditioning to the interior. But I believe it can do so much more with a real solar wrap like you mentioned.

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Re: Powering a house with renewable sources of electricity

Postby vivian maxine on July 17th, 2016, 2:51 pm 

Serpent » July 17th, 2016, 1:33 pm wrote:There is sun everywhere - just not all the time.
We're in Ontario: most of the summer is very good, but we do okay in fall, spring and winter. The array is mounted on a frame on a pole, so it can rotate east to west (automatically, with a tracker) and we can (manually) change the angle for optimal exposure each season, plus lay it down flat when a wind-storm is expected, or stand it upright for snow to slide off. (To make that function automatic would have cost an extra $1000; commercial systems have it.)

Being able to make those adjustments gains us up to 30% efficacy over a roof-mounted rigid array. Even the little two-panel one we had before got a big advantage when we put it on a rotatable post. Most people are able to do something like that: it doesn't take up much room and can have a normal garden underneath. Put it on your deck and use it as a big parasol. For somebody in a row-house, or without any private back yard, a south or west - better yet S-W - facing roof would have to do, but you can get frames that still allow some angular movement. The rigid wall-mounts are least efficient. You also lose power through transmission (just like they do in the grid) so the less wire, the more efficient your system. (Plus, it's very expensive wire.)

Panels are getting so versatile and cheap now, so many devices come with their own collectors and batteries, that even apartment-dwellers can take some advantage of solar power.
I'm holding out for a car wrapped in solar-skin; refuse to die until i get one - or at least cadge a ride in one.



Now that sounds grand. Which just proves again that technology is moving too fast for us mere mortals to keep up with it.

I was thinking of a (furnace/heater?) that is used in the Southwest but does not work well in Kansas winters. I cannot recall what it is called. It does not work well in steady below-freezing temperatures. For a couple of years I lived in a Kansas apartment complex that had decided to use those. The apartment never did heat up well in winter months.

Now, you'll likely tell me that's been improved also. :-)
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Re: Powering a house with renewable sources of electricity

Postby Serpent on July 17th, 2016, 3:38 pm 

It probably has! And so, probably, has that - admittedly, very attractive - automobile. The clever geeks are working away, day and night, like beavers who finally got their braces off. They'll get it done!
I have no problem adjusting to improvement, to things that make more sense than the things they replace. Capitalism does tend to make a mess of progress. Still, progress is made. http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-product-design/taiwanese-center-has-high-tech-solar-powered-skin.html

I don't know what kind of furnace that is; I'm not the technical side of this partnership, I'm the artistic one. The other codger goes all gooey when talking about geothermal, which we can't have - not because of the climate though; because it's an old house and would be ridiculously difficult and expensive to refit. We also can't have a wind-turbine (or, alas, fast internet) because we're in a dip between two hills. But our well is terrific and we don't get much storm damage.

For every location, there is a just-right mix of building methods, materials and energy sources, and a just-right way of configuring them for maximum effect at minimum cost. I mean all kinds of cost, including wear and tear on the planet. The electric grid is one of the worst systems ever devised. It's wasteful, high maintenance, dangerous, failure-prone, ugly and expensive. It offends every one of my designer sensibilities! (Much like the standard architectural style of suburban subdivisions. Bleaghh!)
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Re: Powering a house with renewable sources of electricity

Postby vivian maxine on July 17th, 2016, 4:22 pm 

I am not so sure it is a problem of accepting the new. The problem is keeping up with what the new is. You go into a store to buy something and find it went out of fashion eons ago - "eons" being last year, or so it seems. We see a lot of that in computers where it takes a while to learn how to use certain programs only to find that by the time we've learned them there are new programs to replace them and the old are no longer supported. We put oodles of money into floppy disks to hold our records and then buy a new computer because the old one is passe only to find it does not accept floppy disks.

Your solar system? Last I knew, solar panels were in roofs. Will say this in passing. Good they make them so you can lower them to the ground in a wind storm. They would never have survived what blew through here a few nights ago. But they think of those things (usually) and provide for them which is good.

No, the improvements are fine. It's the speed that is frustrating people. Unless you are in that particular business or need something from that particular business, you just keep waking up to surprises. Then you have to stop, think, learn and adjust.
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Re: Powering a house with renewable sources of electricity

Postby zetreque on July 17th, 2016, 4:58 pm 

That's why we usually have to refer to "experts" who keep up with that particular industry and we have to put our trust into them which isn't that easy in this corrupt capitalistic world.

The technology to pivot solar panels or secure them from windstorms isn't that new that an expert would be up to date on easy. Also I find it at least somewhat comforting that even though I know the technology will improve fast to make whatever I purchase outdated, I am contributing to that progress. If it wasn't for people buying and testing the current line of products, they would not figure out ways to advance them. I accept that it will be outdated knowing that I am just participating in making them better. That's why what we spend out money on as consumers is so important. Our buying power goes toward improving what we buy. If people just paid large centralized power plants for their electricity instead of solar panels, then our buying power goes to improving these inefficient sources of electricity rather than what makes more sense. So even if buying a solar panel you know it will be outdated in a short time, you can feel better that your buying power is going to something worthy both in the long term, and short term.
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Re: Powering a house with renewable sources of electricity

Postby vivian maxine on July 17th, 2016, 5:25 pm 

That's fine if you have the buying power. Not everyone can afford planned obsolescence. Not everyone can have a new car and a new computer every other year. Some of us have a hard time accepting that. We - some of us, that is - will just say if you can't keep up, drop out. Planned obsolescence does not allow for those who cannot afford the new. There is nothing wrong with keeping the old in good working order. Some people do not mind at all buying second hand - if they can find it. And think how many unemployed could go back to work just keeping things in good repair.

I keep thinking of laundry machines because so many of my friends talk about them. Time was that, when your laundry machine conked out with a gasping last breath, it was the same machine that your mother and, in lucky cases, even your grandmother had used. Now you will likely buy at least two laundry machines in your own life time because the first (and maybe the second) conked out after twenty years if not sooner.

Planned obsolescence - the new way of forcing us to spend whether we can afford it or not - is, in my opinion, a bad idea. It hurts those of lesser means. and only benefits those who receive large dividend checks quarterly. My opinion anyway
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Re: Powering a house with renewable sources of electricity

Postby zetreque on July 17th, 2016, 5:51 pm 

I understand vivian maxine, but that wasn't my point. We have buying power for everything we purchase or don't purchase, be it something at a thrift store second or third hand (not buying into the new), or the local produce you buy. Of course we can't all afford new cars or a solar array and are stuck with the central power system, but when we can, it really counts where we put our money.
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Re: Powering a house with renewable sources of electricity

Postby Serpent on July 17th, 2016, 8:00 pm 

That's kind of what I mean about capitalism being a bad driver of progress.
Windows 7 was petty good - is still pretty good, actually. 8 was crap, XP was completely unnecessary and 10 has forced me to remove the battery from my lap-top, because I have to keep powering off and restarting every time the whole system freezes.
Nobody needs a new cellphone every six months. Most people don't need ninety percent of the features of the electronic devices the buy - that is, we're paying for a whole pile of stuff that complicates our tools and we never use. We just bought a new camera, because the one we've had since 2003 finally stopped working, and the new one has a dozen features besides taking pictures that I'll never use and don't want to learn.... but can go wrong. The high-efficiency washing machine we bought when we put in the solar is six years old now and three of its cycles have stopped responding to the controls. Since there is no manual override, we have no idea when it will stop working or whether those delicate sensors can be replaced or by-passed.

As for putting in a system for generating power, you really do need an expert. You find one through recommendations. Ours is an all-rounder; knows how to install, troubleshoot, repair, improvise, where to get parts cheaper, how to do things more simply. We were also lucky to have a neighbour with a machine shop who could make custom hardware. The post for the big 9-panel array used to hold one of those giant satellite dishes, but we had to move it and make a new cement anchor.
The two little panels, we've had for over 30 years, but had to recycle the batteries after about 20. That array lights the showroom and wood-working shop and runs a computer if we're using it there, maybe even the burr on sunny days.

You decide what you need, what you can afford, what you can make or do for yourself, how far you're willing to compromise. Design a modular system so that it can be added-to or changed if necessary. It might not be ideal, or everything you hoped for. But look after it, keep it going as long as it works, and never mind that somebody else has something newer, sleeker, sexier, more powerful.

Thank heaven we're not interested in sartorial fashion! Thrift stores are so much more interesting than department stores.
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Re: Powering a house with renewable sources of electricity

Postby Braininvat on July 17th, 2016, 8:36 pm 

I like the idea of using sat dish hardware to rotate PV panels. As one who has offgrid plans, I sort of want to thumb-up all your posts above, Serpent, so much useful advice there. I think battery tech will be the big game-changer in the coming years - cheaper and more durable storage of wind and solar for autonomous homes. And yes, grids are monstrosities and engineering dinosaurs that waste, what, something like 30% of their power on line loss? When the alien warlords descend on us, that vulnerable web will be the first thing to go.

As for tofu, yes, it's all in how you marinate. Not bad fried, but my gut can only take small doses of soy, alas.
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Re: Powering a house with renewable sources of electricity

Postby Braininvat on July 17th, 2016, 8:39 pm 

Without the hyphen, Offgrid looks like a Swedish name. That would mean our present house could be named "Ingrid," we being still in the grid.
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Re: Powering a house with renewable sources of electricity

Postby zetreque on July 17th, 2016, 9:03 pm 

Serpent » Sat Jul 16, 2016 10:35 pm wrote:You need to plan it properly.


I just wanted to add that part of that planning is insulation. Double stud walls, hay bail walls, that kind of thing. Heating or cooling are the biggest energy consumers and the less you have to do of those the better off you are. Aspect was already mentioned but I am often thinking about just how much energy the world would save if people just planned neighborhood street direction or houses in the right aspect/orientation.
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Re: Powering a house with renewable sources of electricity

Postby Serpent on July 17th, 2016, 11:51 pm 

Straw-bale would have been my second choice after earth-sheltered. Don't know whether you can do both, but some cleverboots will probably try, document in Treehuggers and then we'll all know. Stackwall, bottles, shipping containers, styrofoam block, 3D print in recycled plastic, sod, adobe.... My maternal gandmother's house in the old country was adobe. Walls two feet thick, deep window-ledges, wonderfully cool in summer and restfully dim; whitewashed to keep the flies down; the kitchen floor was clay studded with walnut shells.
And, yes, all the houses should be at different elevations and orientations. All different. I have a book - where? - called 'Places of the Soul" by Christopher Day, that has some wonderful ideas. There are so many wonderful ideas. Why are most people stuck paying half their income for a mass-produced, inefficient box they can hardly wait to leave for an even bigger, more expensive, more power-hungry mass-produced box?

Not Ingrid - Ungrid. That'd be a cool name for a house. Brain, if you want accurate information, I can probably get some. But the technology is evolving so fast, I'm already a dinosaur.
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Re: Powering a house with renewable sources of electricity

Postby vivian maxine on July 18th, 2016, 6:42 am 

serpent? Whitewashed to keep down flies? Is it the color or the whitewash itself? New one to me.
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Re: Powering a house with renewable sources of electricity

Postby Serpent on July 18th, 2016, 10:38 am 

http://fiascofarm.com/recipes/whitewash.html
It's the lime, I think, that's either toxic or merely unpleasant to insects. Smells antiseptic, too. They used it extensively in the country, especially on outbuildings and fences. Had to be repainted every spring. By the young boys, obviously, like Tom Sawyer.

It's funny how many old, long-discarded practices, skills and materials are being rediscovered lately. Almost makes me think there is hope for a future.... then I remember Cleveland.
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Re: Powering a house with renewable sources of electricity

Postby vivian maxine on July 18th, 2016, 11:12 am 

Serpent » July 18th, 2016, 9:38 am wrote:http://fiascofarm.com/recipes/whitewash.html
It's the lime, I think, that's either toxic or merely unpleasant to insects. Smells antiseptic, too. They used it extensively in the country, especially on outbuildings and fences. Had to be repainted every spring. By the young boys, obviously, like Tom Sawyer.

It's funny how many old, long-discarded practices, skills and materials are being rediscovered lately. Almost makes me think there is hope for a future.... then I remember Cleveland.


Thank you. I knew about repainting every year but did not realize that was why.
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Re: Powering a house with renewable sources of electricity

Postby zetreque on July 18th, 2016, 1:23 pm 

aha!
I took a road trip a couple weeks ago... and I thought they were all being smart painting things white to keep their buildings cooler!
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