August 17 2009
Over the course of the year, many folks have asked for written materials about our systems. The request have become frequent enough that I’ve decided that it is a task that just has to be done. Our blog seems the perfect place for such and undertaking. Therefore, your intrepid captain and permi-preacher has taken computer in hand to partake in just such an endeavor. The Permibus contains quite a few Permaculture systems. When first one enters the bus, we see our solar system. That is then where we’ll begin.
All alternative energy systems, solar, wind, or hydro, have four components. These are: a way of catching energy which in our case is solar panels, a charge controller, an inverter, and a way of storing energy which is always batteries. We have two panels on the roof of the bus, a 120 and an 80-watt panel. These are wired into the charge controller that controls the flow of energy to the batteries. An important function of the charge controller is to stop sending signal when the batteries are full. Without a charge controller, it is very easy to overcharge batteries and ruin them. From the charge controller the system is connected to the batteries. The best batteries are deep cycle batteries. They are designed to be charged and drained repeatedly so they are more efficient and last longer than regular car or truck batteries. These can be used but wont last as long or work as well. They are cheaper and can often be picked up for free. From the batteries signal is sent to the inverter that changes DC electricity into AC electricity that is what household appliances, computers, stereos, and TV’s use. AC is house electricity. Throw a ground wire and the system is complete. If you are switching parts or your entire home to solar, your house is already grounded. Grounding is important because grounding keeps errant electricity, such as lightning, from floating throughout your system and therefore your home. This prevents accidents including death and fires.
If any of this sounds complicated, it is not. Our system is very simple. Really, it is a case of wiring all of the positives to each other then all of the negatives, and throwing in a ground. If you have an engineering or electrician background, it is even simpler. Anybody can do it however. Start small and take your time. There are tons of books out there. Most of them made solar appear extremely difficult. It is not.
In our bus we run our house lights, our kitchen appliances, we charge our cell phones and our computers. We also run our computers, their speakers, and a CD player. Our RV refrigerator is the only appliance we can’t run off our solar. We don’t have sufficient battery storage for the frig. With better batteries the frig would be on solar as well.
Because we are mobile, we don’t use house wiring. We use extension cord wiring, power strips with fuses, and extension cords. House wiring is not designed for the constant vibration and motion and presents a danger in a mobile function. Extension cords and wiring is also less expensive than house wiring and can often be successfully scrounged.
Living with solar, as the primary source of electricity can be a challenge. There are grey days when power is in short supply. In all, though it is far better than running generators and uses no fossil fuels therefore helping to combat global climatic change. Any independence from the heartless thieves who run the energy industry is a truly revolutionary step. In my mind, energy from the sun, or water, or wind, is a healthier, happier energy. I’ve seen coal strip mines first hand. They are ugly sights. Energy companies are little better than highway robbers. Actually, highway robbers are more honest. Alternative energy is our way out of the destructive cycle that is traditional energy. The sun, wind, and water are clean. Coal is not.
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150 Daly Ave.
Hamilton, MT. 59840
Captain, but not Leader,
“Small wheels turn by the
flywheel and rod, big wheel
turns by the grace of God(dess)…”