Thursday, April 29, 2010

Electrical Work

Our power system here is in dire need of some changes. We still haven't gotten much of the interior hard-wiring done, and a lot of the DC loads are connected with alligator clips.  We're going to need to build a solar rack for our panels (our new panel is still probably a month away from arrival) but we're very close to getting our wind turbine up.  Below is a photo of our jin/gin pole, which provides stability and strength to the tower, which hinges up from the ground. 
We have connected our chest freezer, and are surprised how efficiently it operates. It seems to lose only 1-3 degrees per hour when off, depending on the contents and temperature differential. We have been manually cycling the compressor to use it as a refrigerator, but eventually we will replace the thermostat with one that will adjust automatically.
We have located most of the steel needed to build a pole-mounted solar rack.  I performed our first service call for someone with an RV that seems to have a faulty inverter.  We hope to be getting more service calls, as we have shared our contact info with Alpine Solar company and will be listed with them as installers for southern Brewster County.

Our satellite internet and phone has been both a blessing and a curse. When we found out after it was installed that it used 80 watts continuous and could not be shut down, we were ready to cancel. But we did figure out that it could be turned off (with difficulty) and that it may even be possible to update the power supply to a more efficient set up that can be remotely turned off.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Successful Shopping Trip

We are back from our trip to Odessa/Midland. We made the 240 mile trip a two-day affair, thanks to our good friends Sandy and Charlie who put us up for the night. They also have property and a cabin on the ranch, and Charlie has a nearly complete power system for his cabin. His setup up includes 3200 Amp hours of L-16 Trojan batteries, a PMA wind turbine, and a chest freezer as the first appliance.
We managed to get a sturdy (we hope) wheelbarrow, a chest freezer, a galvanized trough, a portable tent garage, food for the animals, and lots of other odds and ends.  We still don't have our wind turbine up, but hopefully we can borrow an oxyacetylene torch tomorrow for a few cuts, and dig the hole/set a jin-pole in concrete.
Last night we had a fun night out with some friends and enjoyed the Starlight's burger bogo, and woke up today to temps in the 60s and not much sunshine. We heard a few drops of rain on the roof last night but that was all, and we were relieved to find that our tent garage hadn't blown away in the night. We'll see how it holds up, but we were a bit disappointed with the build quality.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day!

The past few days have been sunny and clear so we were able to get some outdoor projects done. We raised our clothesline and for the first time we got some use out of the ranch facilities when we used the laundromat. The ranch started to slowly re-open about four weeks ago and I believe the pool should be open soon!
Also, after having some time living with the new satellite dish, we have decided that there needs to be an antithetical label to that of the Energy Star rating.  We think there should be a sticker on items (like our satellite) depicting an Energy Hog, to show the prospective buyer clearly that the item in question wastes electricity. To that end, we submit the following logo:
energyhog.jpgToday I was able to visit our local solar/wind energy salesperson, Ron, who is ordering a pallet of solar panels.  We are ordering a ~180 watt solar electric panel which will more than quadruple our current PV input. I also ran the Onan generator so I could get some extra power, which I needed to weld together the wind turbine mount.

We are planning to drive to Odessa/Midland this weekend and haul back some larger items. Once we dismantle the most of the gasifier and free up room on the trailer (the Onan itself is too heavy and cumbersome to remove, so it will stay on the trailer during the trip) we will drive it up and buy a chest freezer. The freezer we will leave on low and use more like a refrigerator; we are getting a little tired of living out of coolers and buying bag after bag of ice.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Satellite Success :)

We finally have our satellite up and running! Blake and Felix from Big Bend Telephone Co came out here this morning and worked on the connection for a third day, and now the unit is working.  It is still pointed directly at our house, which is a little disconcerting, but at least we have phone and internet (well, we'll have phone once we buy one, but we have a jack!).

There was some bad news though. The dish is a total energy hog, and the way it hooks up to our power system is grossly inefficient. Instead of taking DC power from our batteries directly and converting it from 12V to 24V, it has to be run on 120V AC.  This means that we have to run power from our batteries through our inverter (with some losses) to their battery chargers which then convert it back to DC (with more losses) and charge their on board batteries which then, finally, run the satellite dish transceiver, etc.

Making matters worse, absolutely NO ONE at BBT could tell us how much electricity the unit uses before we decided to get it, so today we found out that it uses between 1-2.5 kW per day just to run it (it uses even more when it is charging the on board batteries).  Perhaps worst of all, the unit MUST be on 24/7 or they'll have to come back out and reprogram it.

So basically, this dish uses more power than we though possible, and way more than we use in a day. Luckily, we have two wind turbines to put up soon (the Shinn Fu treadmill motor is so close to being ready -- we just need to weld some pieces) and the Wood Gas Generator to charge up the batteries for now.  We need even more solar panels too, but our budget is super-tight right now.  We are focusing on getting as much work done on our house as possible before we start dividing our time between employment projects.

In other news, we have set a post in concrete for a clothesline, and I have been working on finishing priming the exterior of the house.  The white paint really makes a noticeable difference in how hot the house gets inside. Lately it's been pretty cool and wet, but summer is just around the corner.

Thanks for reading!

Pax et amor,

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Well we were certainly surprised this morning when instead of the UPS truck, the Big Bend Telephone Company showed up! A very happy surprise! Danny and his coworkers brought tools, cement, wire, and conduit, and dug a big hole in our yard with a tractor and a huge auger.  They laid down the wire and set the post for the satellite in cement. They were all really positive and nice people, and good workers -- it would have taken us two days to do all that by hand, and we wouldn't have been able to bore into the bedrock like the auger did.

UPS carrier with our mattress is still a no-show, but if Manny doesn't make it today we may pick up the shipment in Alpine ourselves.  We'll see. 

I'll post pictures of the satellite installation as soon as the camera, computer, and internet are all in the same place at the same time.  Hopefully our next blog will come from inside our house!


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Back at our new home

Yes we are still here blogging!

After a few weeks in Florida, we headed back to Texas fully loaded. We picked up some very good stuff at my friend Arick's house in Ocala: a kitchen sink, a bathroom sink, two 6 volt batteries, wind turbine blades, and a permanent magnet alternator for wind power. We were also able to diagnose and fix Arick's neighbors car. It needed a cam sensor, and we did the diagnosis with just a multi-meter. On the trip back I drove our truck with the gasifier trailer on back and Sara drove her recently acquired Suzuki Aerio, I hope that's the last time we will drive two vehicles in the same direction. The truck should be living in TX from now on and the Suzuki will provide good mpg's on paved road trips.

Our house was just as we left it and we have been busy unpacking and continuing building since we got back. We got the insulation and wall covering up on the bedroom side of the house and should be getting our mattress today via UPS. The house stays amazingly cool during the heat of the day, lots of natural air flow and shade from the overhangs are responsible for this. We still don't have our phone and internet hooked up yet but the deadline is next week so hopefully we'll be online by then. For now we our using internet when we can, today that's at a local diner in town -- a 30 mile trip but we needed some supplies also.

Much to do on our homestead; thanks for following.