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An idea for power after grid down and some questions

Discussion in 'Preparedness & Survival' started by Joe13, Dec 30, 2015.

  1. Joe13

    Joe13 NW of Vancouver Opinionated & Blunt Bronze Supporter 2015 Volunteer 2016 Volunteer

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    I have been thinking on and off about how important or not electricity is for my sustainability in the suburbs (pertains to Rural or City areas).

    I would appreciate some input from y'all on my thinking.

    Generators are out because of the noise and need for a large tank of fuel to power it (plus cost).

    I do get a fair amount of wind, my back yard is in a wind tunnel of some kind and almost always has some breeze in the evenings, but cost of installing a windmill (even with me doing the labor), risk of damage during one of the many large wind storms and it would stand out like a sore thumb in my neighborhood keep that from being a good option for me.

    I will toss out my idea in the next paragraph, but all I can think of needing power for would be: Flashlights, 2-way radios, maybe some 12v water pumps and honestly having access to the data stored in my laptop would be invaluable (even without the internet) as I keep a number of books that I have bought and a lot of free non copyrighted information saved from the internet etc (as well as a movie night on the laptop here and there would help my city girl ladies adjust to instant camping maybe?). My skills are better then the average bear, but not living in the boonies has dulled me some. What else would I want?

    So my first option would be throw away batteries and just keep a bunch, but they are only good for so many years so I would have to rotate my stash and I just don't use that many batteries in a year. We do keep a decent stock of every style we would use so that would keep us for awhile.


    My idea isn't revolutionary and might not be a good one (so maybe someone has a better idea that is cost efficient) but was inspired by some things I saw on a show about Columbia and how they have had to repurpose almost every thing because of being cut off from most of the world and a hillbilly documentary of some kind I watched at one point where they used a water wheel to run a car alternator for power.

    I do not have access to running water so I was pondering taking a bicycle and taking the tube off the back tire, then raise and support the bike so that the back wheel would run an automotive serpentine belt or something of the like. Take that belt and run it to a high output auto alternator (ones used for people who have too much money into car stereo systems), which could then be connected to as many 12v deep cycle batteries as would be reasonable or used straight direct current. I could always convert the 12v to 120v for charging the laptop and recharging batteries that do not have a 12v option.

    I carp bike would be close to free for most people. The alternator would cost a little bit, maybe $40-$100 depending on a few things. The deep cycle batteries would be the largest investment, but some of the commercially available ones will last for quite a few years (again I have the problem of keeping fresh ones in stock so most likely it would be direct current to a regulator). As a side note, I could yank the 2 batteries out of my car and truck which would give me 2 to work with minimum.

    As a side bonus, it would warm someone up to get on the bike and get the batteries charged (but also burn calories so I guess that could be a negative). Good exercise If you were hunkered in for months I suppose but I hate bike seats - good thing I have a teenager:p:rolleyes:.


    ok, critique time...:D
     
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  2. Sgt Nambu

    Sgt Nambu Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    What your describing is perfectly feasible. I've seen and read about a number of variations! A few in Survival Guide and, IIRC, Mother Earth News.

    BTW, Duracell has been guaranteeing their alkaline batterys for ten years, for some time now.
     
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  3. bolus

    bolus Portland Gold Supporter Gold Supporter 2015 Volunteer 2016 Volunteer

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    not great for Oregon, but I got a solar charger for 12 volt battery for the 3rd wheel. It does a surprisingly good job charging the battery. There are tons of 12 volt accessories (coffee makers, radios, etc) that run 12 volt.

    http://gpelectric.com/products/portable-solar-kits
     
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  4. ThePhonMan

    ThePhonMan Spokanistan Gold Supporter Gold Supporter

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    I would always use a battery between your generation equipment (bike and alternator) and any load (chargers, lights, pumps, etc.). The battery will act as a capacitive buffer to even out load spikes due to startup current while the bike-driven alternator will provide the steady charging power.

    2 things to consider:
    1. You'll need to find out what RPM produces the most efficient output from the alternator and match it as closely as you can with your setup. Alternators have very little spin resistance so you shouldn't have to worry about getting up to speed, just keeping peak speed/efficiency without peddling to death is your desired target
    2. Don't let a lead-acid battery battery drop below 1 volt per cell for any extended period of time. Deep Cycles can recover (usually) but a standard car battery will eat itself quickly. It may come back for a while but damage has been done and you'll never get max capacity out of it again
    Good luck.
     
  5. Koda

    Koda Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter 2016 Volunteer

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    if all you need to keep charged is a few battery powered devices then I would get a simple solar powered battery charger.
     
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  6. Koda

    Koda Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter 2016 Volunteer

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    I wouldnt rule out a generator....

    if your out of power that long you wont be the only one running a generator in your neighborhood so noise isnt an issue besides it wouldnt take long to charge a few batteries. You should already have a zpare gas can for the car and lawnmower....

    but the biggest reason to own a generator is to keep your refridgerator and spare freezer running. And I know your a hunter, you must have a spare freezer....

    ;)
     
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  7. Certaindeaf

    Certaindeaf SE Portland Well-Known Member

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    So many words for such low voltage draw.
    A couple solar panels topping up batteries will run a 1200watt microwave is probably what you're looking for.
    "It/that" technology is getting better day by day.. on the order of "doubling" every two years. code for exponential
     
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  8. Garg

    Garg east of portland metro Hold my beer..... watch this Bronze Supporter

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    Moores law
     
  9. albin25

    albin25 Lewiston Idaho Well-Known Member

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    A few things to consider;
    1) Buy your deep cycle 12v batteries "dry" and they'll last in storage for years, and you can store them indoors where wet cells would be a fire hazard (hydrogen gas-off). Store the electrolyte outside unless you expect temps below -50.

    2) Change the bike's rear wheel to a flywheel or buy a very old exercise bike with a flywheel 40-60 lb (bonus! they usually have more comfortable seats, especially the recumbent types)

    3) OR... Just go to Harbor Freight and buy some solar panels.
    If the SreallyHTF, you're going to be getting more than enough exercise splitting firewood, gardening, carrying water, fighting zombies...
     
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  10. mjbskwim

    mjbskwim Salmon,Idaho Well-Known Member

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    So what do you really need electricity for?
    Freezer? Be ready to can everything when the grid goes down
    Hahaha,coffee? I was walking at the camp grounds in Sequim talking to a guy who had to go make coffee cause it was late enough to start the generator.He didn't know how to make coffee without electricity?
    Lights? I'm gearing up with both propane and white gas lanterns
    Heat? Really? The other thing to do if you don't have access to wood heat is get as big a propane supply as possible. Either 1 big tank or several 10-100 gallon tanks for cooking heating lights etc
    Cooking would be the same as heat or lights.
    Then get the solar or wind generators you might need to fill in for what will be 'luxuries'
    Hey generators can be run off gas or propane.
    Can't really rely on Nat gas if the power grid goes down.I would guess the valving is probably taking some electricity by now and things may shut off without power
     
  11. mjbskwim

    mjbskwim Salmon,Idaho Well-Known Member

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    Oh yeah,there is a couple,well family on you tube that uses a bicycle to run their washing machine.
    It's connected to the washer,not generating electricity
     
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  12. powersbj

    powersbj Seattle Area Active Member

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    You need an old school auto generator, not an alternator. I could attempt to explain why but this whiskey is making me not care, Google it. :D
     
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  13. CoastRange57

    CoastRange57 Western Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Should be fairly easy to set up the gearing on this to where you might only have to pedal minimally in order to bring your voltages up.
     
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  14. EZLivin

    EZLivin SW of PDX Well-Known Member

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    I think your hillbilly generator (bike/alternator/batteries) should be looked at as a last resort for when/if other more effective power producing means (which you should have in place too) fail. If you are going to put a setup like that together then at least tuck away a gasoline engine (Harbor Freight Predator engines are inexpensive and reliable) that is set up to run your system when you don't feel like peddling. That is the type of gas powered system that was supplying power to our off-grid cabin when we first bought the property. When the alternator and batteries wore out I switched over to a couple of small generators to run tools and appliances, plus a 100w solar panel, deep cycle battery, and pure sine inverter to run satellite internet and electronics. The key for us is to limit power use to 2-3 hours per day, mostly in the evening when additional light is desired.
     
  15. Brutus57

    Brutus57 Skagit County Well-Known Member

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    A still to make alcohol is your friend, then figure out a small engine that will run on alcohol...or even better take a small engine and modify it to run on wood gas aka gasifier and you can generate volts as long as you have wood to keep it stoked. Any 15 watt solar panels aren't worth the money and cheap ones may only work a couple of years. Go with some redundancy on your systems but solar rechargeable batteries and a solar charger are a good ideas for Usb items. Other good ideas posted above as well.

    Brutus Out
     
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  16. etrain16

    etrain16 Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Both solar panels and wind turbines have come down in price and size. Since you live where you get some regular wind, a small turbine would be a good option. You can get a complete setup at places like Home Depot (do research and shop around) for under $1,000. And these models are pretty darn compact - the one below has a rotor diameter of only 3 1/2'. Since you have a concern for wind storms, just be certain the blades can be feathered to shut down the turbine in high winds, or that it has a max wind speed rating that is sufficient for your location. The solar option is good too. Both can be used for charging batteries or running live loads.

    Here is one: http://www.homedepot.com/p/Sunforce-400-Watt-12-Volt-Wind-Turbine-44444/100658295?cm_mmc=Shopping|THD|G|0|G-BASE-PLA-D27E-Electrical|&gclid=CITY65emisoCFUWVfgodF1wBBA&gclsrc=aw.ds

    10f24b9b-940a-465e-b209-585ecaf654c4_1000.jpg

    10f24b9b-940a-465e-b209-585ecaf654c4_1000.jpg
     
  17. PaulB47

    PaulB47 Hillsboro Well-Known Member

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    I don't get the point of throw-away batteries. A SHTF event is exactly what rechargables are good for. Just need any old 12v solar panel and any old battery charger (most seem to take a 12v input). You might have to experiment with a charge controller or an intermediate 12v lead-acid battery.

    Solar panels are getting cheap these days. It would make sense to use them any way you can. Not for a freezer though.

    I think a generator is OK for intermittent use; to run a well pump into a tank for example. Better to have your well set up for direct solar pumping though. Well pumping is one of the very best solar applications there is (do as I say, not as I do...). Generators make too much noise...
     
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  18. Certaindeaf

    Certaindeaf SE Portland Well-Known Member

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    There's one old guy that moved to Texas that's totally off grid. Youtuber. Had some snazzy turbines destroyed by winds.. uses 100% solar now. Has a fair size chest freezer that works well with his fairly humble system.
    anyway
     
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  19. Barefoot African

    Barefoot African Saint Helens Oregon Active Member

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    Got a lot of years doing sustainable off grid on boats etc.
    Solar is the way to go, even in Oregon in winter - see chart. I have owned 6 increasingly sophisticated wind chargers and will not bother ever again. None performed to advertised.

    Solar panels - US made Solarworld from Platt Electric. Performance has been way better than advertised. Volume discounts can be significant.

    Batteries- don't waste time and money on lead acid batteries. Lead acid/AGM/Gel are for last century vehicles with gas caps. They are what gave off-grid a bad name. Even special types like Rolls suck!

    Here is the thing. The only dificult part in "grid-down" power is to learn "care and feeding lithium batteries" with LiFePo chemistry. The rest is easy.

    I have found these CALB CA series to be the easiest batteries to deal with. Check out the relevant videos at EVTV Nominal voltage is 3.2V. 4 will give you 12V nominal. As you will see in the Vids over-charge and over-discharge are the only things that are "dangerous" to them. Everything you think you know about batteries (lead acid type) is a liability.

    Learn about what Calb LiFePO needs, with a clear mind and you will be squared away for 20-30 years.

    I recommend Outback inverters to provide 120/240VAC output.
    Outback is probably the most used. Battery charging on Outback charging will require non-standard programming parameters.

    chart-2.jpg chart-3.jpg



    chart-2.jpg

    chart-3.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2016
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  20. Joe13

    Joe13 NW of Vancouver Opinionated & Blunt Bronze Supporter 2015 Volunteer 2016 Volunteer

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    Awesome - great info everyone, thanks for saving me some fumbling and work:)