• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • Anne Miller
  • paul wheaton
  • Joseph Lofthouse
stewards:
  • Mike Jay
  • Jocelyn Campbell
  • Devaka Cooray
garden masters:
  • Steve Thorn
  • Dave Burton
  • Dan Boone
gardeners:
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Mandy Launchbury-Rainey
  • Mike Barkley

Reducing power usage to convert to solar

 
Posts: 9
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My wife and I recently started buying parts and pieces to start going solar. We live in NW Ohio. The highest month of energy usage is January at almost 2500KW. The least would be April and October at just over 1600kw. We have a small farm and 3 boys; 17, 14, and 10. The cheapest way to go full solar is to reduce energy usage. We currently run 2 fridge/ freezers, 2 deep chest freezers and 1 stand up freezer. The fridge / freezers, one is 2 yrs old and the other just over 5 yrs old. The freezers are all over 20 yrs old. Our plan is to start canning and smoking our meat to reduce the need for the freezers. We just added the stand up freezer due to having a good deer season this past fall. We have a new washer and dryer, both vertical axis. Both are electric. We hope to eliminate the dryer usage by revamping the clothes line and installing clothes lines and racks in the wood stove room for the winter months. Our water heater is 50 gallons and is electric. It does have an energy star rating for what its worth. We just converted the stove top to propane and the oven is electric. We do have a propane furnace which is only used when the fire in the stove goes out or we are not at home during the day. Which is only a couple times a week. We also have an AC but only use it when the house reaches above 80 degrees. We also have a pond and a water line coming into the house from it. The majority of the bulbs we use is CFL. On average, there are lights on in 3 - 4 rooms during night time hrs. We run 5 laptops and no desktops. 4 cell phones on chargers at night. We also have a submersible well pump.

As for the small scale farming we do, We run a brooder box from March till Nov. We are looking at a hot plate (66W) to replace the 250w brooder light. During winter months we run 2 trough heaters. Our electric fencing is solar. Lights in the barns are only on during feeding and milking times. Most of our shop tools are battery or air driven.

In our business we maintain fleets of diesel trucks. Part of the services include oil changes. Currently I sell my waste oil. I accumulate around 75 - 100 gallons monthly. I would like to run a generator using waste oil. Haven't even starting looking at this yet.

Our plan is to buy a large stand up freezer to replace the 3 freezers and the older fridge/freezer. We are looking at either instant heat water heater or moving back to propane. I haven't really researched solar water heaters yet. The oven in the winter only gets used a couple times a week and normally at low heat but for longer periods. In the summer the oven gets more to cook pies with fruits from the property. Would it be worth switching to propane. What uses can our waste oil be used for and what benefit will come from that?

Lastly, I have given thought of building a methane pit and get off the propane kick all together. That needs much more research. We have rabbit, chicken and goat manure. Getting some cattle within 12 months. I have a friend that has 500 head dairy farme a couple miles down the road and could get as much free manure as I wanted.

My goal is to get down to 1250 kw monthly. Any input, advise and direction would be appreciated.

Thanks

Farmergary
 
pollinator
Posts: 1294
Location: RRV of da Nort
130
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
"Our water heater is 50 gallons and is electric...." ..... "I haven't really researched solar water heaters yet."

Have you considered propane or natural gas tankless water heating? Others may offer input on these (regarding energy efficiency and reliability) as I've been curious about them, but am still using the tank water heater (electricity hog) that was grandfathered in with the house. We do not have propane or natural gas at the moment. It may be possible, in consultation with a local solar engineer, to retrofit with a hybrid solar/fuel-based hot water system. Either way, a large traditional tanked electric water heater is likely a fairly large energy sink.

"We also have a submersible well pump." Do you know that wattage/horsepower of the pump? There may be some modifications you can do here if you have the budget to switch to a lower hp pump. Also, depending on the depth of your well, I really like the concept of the "Simple Pump" [ http://www.simplepump.com/ ] the piping of which can be installed directly parallel to your existing well-pump and can be a source of emergency water if power is down or pump is dead.

"Currently I sell my waste oil. I accumulate around 75 - 100 gallons monthly. I would like to run a generator using waste oil." I'm not familiar with generators that run on waste oil, but any desire/ability to see that oil be used for heating? -- [ https://www.cleanburn.com/clean-burn-products/?gclid=CP_guM-0ncsCFYMkhgod4D4A_A ] I've taken to using my waste tractor oil wrapped in newspaper to get the woodstove going at times, but I don't have enough wasted oil generated to justify the need for a full furnace. And speaking of heating, depending on your budget, have you looked into "combo" furnaces that have a woodburing side along with a petro (fuel oil/gas/propane) side? http://www.yukon-eagle.com/

"...stand up freezer to replace the 3 freezers and the older fridge/freezer."

Just remember that with each opening of the door, you lose a lot more cooling from a stand-up than you do from a chest freezer. This is cooling that will have to be reclaimed once the door is closed again and will take extra watts to get there.

"In the summer the oven gets more to cook pies with fruits from the property."

Our range/oven is electric as well....another watt hog. But we don't use the oven in the summer since we don't have AC in the house. I'll do some baking and cooking of beans and rice and other items in a solar oven [ http://www.solarovens.org/ ] for about 4 - 5 months out of the year (northern Minnesota), but wife and I have always wanted an outdoor shed-based wood-fired cookstove [ https://www.lehmans.com/p-3442-bakers-choice-wood-cookstoves-with-reservoir.aspx ] for canning and other activities during the warmer months of the year. Probably more rare now, but for a while, if you knew a lot of older rural folk, you could come by those old Monarch cookstoves that were left behind in many an abandoned farmstead. I suspect these have been cleaned through by now in most locations.
 
pollinator
Posts: 335
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
64
cat dog duck forest garden fungi trees food preservation solar
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'll chime in here since I'm a somewhat extreme example that got into it back in the early days of my RVing experience, 10-15 years ago. I only started on the solar somewhat recently (3 years), but because I had already learned of and implemented a myriad of energy saving techniques and technologies, I had a super easy transition.

My setup is 2x 100w panels and 2x 100 amp hour deep cycle agm batteries (12v system) with a 1500W pure sinewave inverter. Charge controller is a middle of the road but still fairly cheap 30amp model off ebay. I use a 1500w sportsman genny plus a B&D smart charger to charge the bank when it's been too cloudy for too long with too low of a sun angle. This is roughly every 2 or 3 days from November to February here, which is why I'm hoping to add one more panel.

I am super careful to not let my bank voltage drop below 12.3V - batteries are ridiculously expensive...the most expensive component in the system. Replacing them any time soon is not something I desire.

So, that means I use roughly 50ah/day @ 12V, or 600 Wh/day, 18 KWh/mo. Yes, 18 KWh per month. This is for myself and my retired mother who lives here as well.


Here are the tips I can give you based on how I was able to reduce my power usage over time:

#1 Heating anything with electricity is a HUGE energy waste. That's going to include your water heater and electric oven. Kill them. Solar is "inefficient" at pretty much everything, but the best practical application in modern technologies is always in heating. There's A LOT of infrared coming from the sun. Use it. Solar water heating and passive solar heating are quite efficient and very usable, especially where you are. Even solar cooking is an excellent use of the sun during the summer...far more efficient than storing up electricity from an inefficient PV panel in an inefficient battery and using that to inefficiently heat food or water.

#2 LED lights: 100W incandescent = 24W CFL = 16W LED. Read Paul's CFL article! LED, though not perfect, is less nasty and saves a lot of amp hours on solar.

#3 Photosynthesis is nature's solar power - fuel-wood, squash and potatoes, livestock, eggs and milk products are just some examples of nature's batteries. Use them. They're designed better than the man-made alternatives.

#4 Always look for ways to make a system more efficient. Burning cords of wood over the winter uses a lot of "nature's solar batteries" and it takes years for them to "charge back up". If you can reduce the amount you use while relying more heavily on it, that's good for everyone. Masonry heaters are better than woodstoves and the RMH, if you think it's a possibility, is better still. And always remember that multitasking is better than doing only one thing at a time. Boiling a bone broth on your woodstove, or baking a turkey on your RMH barrel, are examples of "getting shit done" where you use the same amount of energy while getting more out of it. This concept can be applied everywhere.

#5 Live seasonally, eat seasonally and freeze seasonally. Keeping food "cool" is a lot less expensive than keeping it frozen energy-wise. Lacto-fermentation, smoking, salting, canning, brewing, etc, can all be done to reduce the need for freezing. Winter often turns the great outdoors into a big chest freezer for free and a thinking man might find ways to take advantage of that. Keeping just one of those ice chests, but not the standing one, and turning it into a super-efficient refrigerator instead, will make a lot more sense if you're hoping to go 100% solar. Chunks of ice, frozen outside overnight in the winter, can keep that chest "running" during the lowest sun angle of the season.

#6 Passive solar "cooling" technologies do exists, like the "solar chimney" combined with "earth tubes". Swamp coolers are more efficient than air conditioners in many climates (maybe yours). A simple box fan is going to use a lot less power than either of those. A strategically placed hybrid poplar would be capable of shading your home during the hottest hours of the day, further reducing your cooling needs. Always try to think permaculture-style and look for the solutions inherent in the problems rather than silver bullet measures that only cover up symptoms.

#7 You don't need lights on all the time...get used to using them less and always turn them off when you leave the room. Likewise, you don't need the teevee on all the time (read more books?), or the computer/laptop (more time outdoors?), or your phones (more time with the family?). Learn to turn things OFF (it's truly harder than it sounds). Unplug everything when it's not in use. Get surge protector power strips with on/off switches to make this easier. Pull batteries from phones so there's no phantom power drain there. Basically, disconnect yourselves whenever you can - you'll be healthier and happier for it, even though it seems painful and a nuisance at first.

#8 Old fashion hand tools don't use battery packs or power cords. They're easy to use and easy to love once you learn to use them.

#9 Washing clothes need not be a home-based task at all times. Likewise, it need not cost you a fortune at the coin-op. Washing some clothes by hand is more effective at actually getting them clean and doesn't take as much work as many would think. You'll use less water, less energy and less soaps for a cleaner product. Underwear and socks are good examples. What you don't want to do at home by hand can be easily brought to your nearest local coin-op laundry once a month...it's a good excuse to go get Chinese Food or whatever it is your family enjoys. A washing machine is going to require huge batteries, huge inverter and huge wiring to carry the huge surges. It's something that might not be practical financially.

and finally, #10 Water is subject to gravity and falls naturally from the sky. Rainwater catchment and gravity fed systems use zero watts. Look into them and see if it's something that might be possible for you and your family.


Remember, it wont all happen at once and if you tried to make it happen all at once, your family will fight you every step of the way. The best thing you can do is to approach this in incremental steps, removing something that's an energy hog while adding a not-so-wasteful alternative in its place. Once you and your family have gotten used to it and are comfortable living with it, you start on the next great thing. Always lead by example and never get angry when everyone's frustrated by limitations. We're all spoiled in this modern world of light switches and microwaves and it's going to take some time to "toughen up" The amount of savings in electricity you can accomplish will depend entirely on what you and your family are willing to sacrifice and/or work for. It's the "no free lunch" thing and it applies everywhere you look. But being smart about where and when can make the whole thing much less painful than you'd think.

And that reminds me...kill your microwave if you have one. Kill it with fire. Same goes for "hair dryers", electric food processors, etc. Invite friends and have a night of it
 
Tristan Vitali
pollinator
Posts: 335
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
64
cat dog duck forest garden fungi trees food preservation solar
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Out of curiosity, if you compare your current average electricity bill to the hourly wages your family earns, how many hours of work do you perform to cover the cost of the electricity you use? How many hours of work to cover the cost of the system to replace your grid dependence? You don't have to share those figures but it's good to keep things in perspective. Always helps make more informed decisions

 
gardener
Posts: 1629
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
245
trees food preservation solar greening the desert
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I was a nerd and persecuted for it in elementary school, but I hope you'll forgive me better than my peers back then did, if I sound pedantic. You will find it much easier to quantify and compare how much power your various appliances consume, if you talk about the units correctly. Watts and kilowatts are rates of the use of electricity. There's no such thing as "25 kW per month." Do you mean "25 kilowatt hours (kWh) per month"?

It would help you to make a list of each machine and the wattage it draws, and estimate how many hours per month (or day or year) you expect it to run. Then multiply them to get the kWh per month (or day or year) for each machine. Then it will be obvious how to pick out the largest consumers that can be gotten rid of or substituted.

Okay, then some advice from my past 20 years living on off-grid solar. Tristran's numbered advice points above are essential. For example, since your oven and any other heat producing appliances use probably 2kW (2000W) at a minimum, there's really no way to run items like that for more than 3 or 4 minutes without consuming more than the whole of Tristran's house for a week. Though then again, at our school we have lots of panels and are careful to run high wattage items only before midday on very sunny days, and we have been able to occasionally run power tools for carpentry, a blender, a big inefficient washing machine, and even occasionally an iron or a soldering iron, though of course not all at once nor every day. But an oven? Hahaha! Meanwhile we use as many lights, netbook computers, phones, and one TV, as we like, but those 50 lights and 10 computers don't add up to 1 oven, by a long shot.

Getting electricity from the sun and then converting that to heat gives you a tiny fraction of the heat you'd have gotten for the same square footage of direct solar heat collection (such as a solar water heater or solar heated rooms).

Also, preserving food by freezing makes a day here and there of power cuts unacceptable, which is not great if you're off-grid. There are times of cloudy weather when it makes good sense to turn off the inverter all day in the hopes that the batteries will charge up a bit and give you a comfortably lit evening. Essential fridges and freezers cut that option off.

The exercise I mentioned above, of listing all your appliances, will help you wrap your head around it.
 
steward
Posts: 1191
Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
118
goat duck trees books chicken bee
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm looking at my power bill. Like you, we have electric water, stove and oven. Run two frig/freezers. Unlike you, we also heat with electric. My bill for 12/7 - 1/25 when it was below freezing for 3 weeks straight and hit -5 at one point was 1126 KWH. There are two of us, I've had to use the dryer some, 1000 sq ft and I've burned about quarter cord of wood last month. And I cooked a bunch for the holidays. But I have room-by-room zone heat, keep the bedroom really cool and use an electric mattress pad heater (one of the greatest luxuries ever invented) and am compulsive about shutting off what I'm not using. DH, not so much.

What Rebecca said, make a list or spreadsheet. Your heater blower may be a big draw as it cycles on and off even if you don't use it much. Get a Killsawatt or whatever it's called and figure it out. Get the boys involved. If they aren't on board now, you'll have a heck of time getting them to shut off lights when you need them to.

Also, if you really are filling that much freezer space, you might do better with a restaurant walk-in type freezer if you have the floor space. Something super well insulated that was built for people worried about the bottom line more than whether it matches the other appliances. I'd be looking on Craigslist for something used out of a restaurant to see if it could work. And/or a passive cooled root cellar, that doesn't really need to be below grade, if you are storing a lot of food that just needs to stay cool but not frozen. Like homemade ham and bacon

And since this is a big project, can you project what your needs will be after your boys are grown and moved out? Or are they moving in their families? You'll do way less laundry, cooking, grocery storage and dishes once they are out of the teenage years. Or way more if your family grows to a third generation.

Canning is energy intensive, and I'm not sure if anyone's done the math to see how long you can pay to freeze something before you exceed the cost of prepping the food, the running the canner, cleaning up. I'd like to know if someone has. It's also work intensive, and the start up investment on jars isn't cheap either. Forget finding used jars cheap around here.

Good luck on the project. I hope you'll keep this thread going or start a new one when you start to record your progress.

(BTW, the plan for this structure was never to live in it full time. The pad for the forever, aging-in-place eco-warrior house is set aside. Whenever it comes to pass that we can build it right, we will dial this place back in the coldest months, using the space for much lower energy uses to run our businesses. If I could have figure it out how to do it debt-free, they'd be swinging hammers right now. I'm pleased that the cost of living here full time has been so low, and if our plans change, we will change out systems to even more efficient ones, like a solar hot water assist, but it doesn't make a lot of sense if it isn't going to be used much later. I'll just shut off the water heater altogether.)
 
Gary Sowders
Posts: 9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks John, Tristan, Rebecca and Ann. I appreciate your replies and sharing of information. I have made a list of appliances and energy uses. That's why I started the thread. To see what others have done and to gain a better understanding of the sacrifices that will need to be made. I agree wholeheartedly that this transition will be a process. The family is on board with going off grid. They are starting to practice the"Turn the lights off if your not in the room". The boys do what they are told. They have daily chores before and after school and before bed. They help in the processing of the animals. They do more work each week than most adults do in this great welfare country we live in.

I have just started to look into gas tankless heaters. I'm still not sure about them. I need to look at what solar water heaters can do.

I never thought about the loss of energy in a stand up freezer. Good point. I'll definitely be looking at the links you sent John.

My wife has started to buy LED lights vs. the CFL. So that is in process. As far as the RMH, we have been putting it off. I was suppose to build one first in the barn to help keep the temps above freezing. Then progress to the house. Hopefully one will get built by the end of this year.

Passive solar cooling is a definite area I need to educate myself on. My wife has no problem going without an AC. The boys can camp in the basement on warm nights and as long as I have a fan, I'm good. Lighting is a challenge in the winter time. This year especially cuz we have had a very warm winter. We normally have snow on the ground for 3 to 4 months straight. This year I think we may have had 5 inches of snow and a foot or 2 of rain.

I'm stuck with a washing machine, especially since we have 3 boys. They are either in sports, doing chores or off in the woods. Our washing machine runs daily. Thank God my wife keeps on me about getting the clothes line repaired. The only time the washing machine doesn't run is the week they are at 4H camp!!! Even with overalls, the boys make a pile of laundry quick!

Water is the biggest area we have made strides in and continue to. We have spouting going into rain barrels for animal waterers and gardening. We have a couple natural springs that we want to encase. Unfortunately gravity does not exist in Ohio. It's F L A T.

Our average utility bill runs between $250 and $300 a month. Since I own my own business I can cover that cost in less than 3 hrs!

I have thought about a walk in freezer. But then again, once that compressor kicks in there goes that wattage. For canning, since it is energy intensive I am building a summer kitchen powered by wood and a solar oven.

If the boys were to move out today my utility bill would easily be cut in half if not more. That's why I'm more interested in cutting my usage than having 100 panels. They are more than welcome to build on the property but raising their family under my roof is unlikely. Luckily for them we have 75 acres.

Thanks for the input. Feel free to continue.

Gary
 
pollinator
Posts: 2389
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
126
forest garden solar
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Light= 10w LED
Fridge= it should have no prepared food in it, no juice/fruit/bread/cake/leftover/etc only veggies,milk,etc.
Freezer= it should be a chest and do you really need to STORE 2 cows, 1 deer, 3 sheep and 24 chicken on freeze. Make only enough icecream that you will eat in a day. Store your meat on the hoof, or smoke them for the winter.

Washer= keep it
Dryer= use a clothes line,
Electric water heater = use instantaneous water heating with no tank, otherwise use a heat pump coupled with a hot water tank.
AC = get rid of it, and if you can't tie it into your water heater tank.
Stove = use raw food, fermented food, smoked food, salad, fruits, roasted nuts, solar dehydrator, if you must use electric use induction cooktop and get 3 pressure cooker 'pots'

PC = Use 2N1 Tables/Laptop and may 1TV/Monitor with WiDi, get rid of all those computers.
Microwave/Toaster/CoffeeMaker/ = get rid of it, fresh/dehydrated fruits+nuts/seeds+veggie+meat. Keep away from the grass family seeds/nuts(wheat,rice,oats,barley). Get some rose/almond family nut, some walnut family, hazelnut family, chestnut family, pistachio family up to 0F winters, macadamia family nut, etc
 
pollinator
Posts: 942
Location: Victoria BC
93
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Gary,

Looks like you've got a lot of really great advice here already. I don't want to make things repetitive, so I'm just gonna throw in a couple details about the freezers that I'm enthusiastic about.


Gary Sowders wrote:My wife and I recently started buying parts and pieces to start going solar.



Are you able to fill us in a bit on the motivation? I might offer different advice to someone that says "I want to go solar to save money!" than someone who says "I want to go solar to save the world!" or "I want to go solar to be more self-sufficient!"



As already mentioned, chest freezers are more efficient than stand-up. Likewise, full freezers are more efficient than half-full since there is less cold air to escape; throw some milk-jugs full of water in the bottom to use up the empty space.

The bigger the freezer, in general, the more efficient it is. However, I'm not a fan of commercial walk-ins; unless you happen to be a an HVAC tech, or good friends with one, they can get expensive fast, as you end up with a pricey unit that you can expect to pay dearly to service when it needs it, in a hurry since it has thousands of dollars of food in it... naturally they only ever fail at 4PM Friday afternoon in late August on a 45C day... or when you're away from the unit.

With chest freezers, if they die and it's not a basic fix, the dead one can be repurposed as feed storage and replaced easily; plus, if you have two large chest freezers, you have a degree of redundancy, in that you won't lose ALL your food if one dies. Plus, there's a LOT of air in a walk-in freezer, and you're insulating enough space to not only hold your food, but the aisleways as well. Furthermore, since you're running one bigass compressor instead of several smaller ones, it would be harder to include one in a solar setup; the startup surge would require a REALLY serious inverter backed with similarly massive batteries. if you don't NEED one, IMO you're better off without!

When space isn't a problem, a spare chest freezer sitting ready to plug in for emergencies could be very useful someday; either a unit that's been replaced for efficeny reasons, or a craigslist special for $50... cheap insurance IMO.

Keeping the chest freezers somewhere naturally well cooled, like a basement, can help keep running costs down. You can also add more insulation, making sure that you don't accidentally insulate the hot portion.



Gary Sowders wrote:Lastly, I have given thought of building a methane pit and get off the propane kick all together. That needs much more research. We have rabbit, chicken and goat manure. Getting some cattle within 12 months. I have a friend that has 500 head dairy farme a couple miles down the road and could get as much free manure as I wanted.



My impression, from reading/2ndhand info only, is that there is enough hassle factor involved with this that it's not super practical for a one-family project, at least by my standards... but if your property is likely to become a multiple household setup down the line, this could work out very well... and unlimited free sh!t seems kinda too good to pass up!
 
Gary Sowders
Posts: 9
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I continue to appreciate the reply's. One reason for all the freezers is we used to sell rabbit and chicken meat off the farm and share alot with family. Since that has changed we now are culling some of our unneeded stock. Still being tied to the grid, its cheaper to freeze them than feed them.

Our motivation is self sufficiency. My wife and I both grew up in families that gardened and raised meat. 5 yrs ago we started our journey getting back to the land. Our oldest son was a typical ADHD poster child and after 1 yr of raising our own food he become an honor roll student and continues to get an academic excellence certificate each yr. After spending years as a stock broker, flipping real estate and trying to establish a nationwide fleet management company, I've come to be content with what the Lord has given me. I sacrificed family and friends for the almighty dollar. Enough was never enough. Money does not buy you happiness. It just makes you more greedy. I'm not against capitalism and I'm definitely not a socialist. I believe in community and taking care of those in need within that community.

I got the methane idea from a friend who works for DanaCorp. The US contractor that trains foreign governments and armies. He was telling me about how all these villages in the middle east and SE Asia all have centralized trash pits and cover them with tarps and run pipes from them into houses for cooking. It could be used to supply 3 families and several outbuildings. I like the idea of producing my own gas versus buying propane or adding solar panels to compensate for the needed energy. Plus, who knows what my boys will do when they get older. They plan to work in my business and will probably live close, maybe even build on the property.

Thanks
 
John Weiland
pollinator
Posts: 1294
Location: RRV of da Nort
130
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
@Gary S.: "Water is the biggest area we have made strides in and continue to. We have spouting going into rain barrels for animal waterers and gardening. We have a couple natural springs that we want to encase. Unfortunately gravity does not exist in Ohio. It's F L A T."

Just to add something here in case it hasn't been addressed. Yes, .....Ohio....it's flat and cold, but gravity can indeed help you if you wished to experiment with it.

For the gardening months, might you experiment with a large water tank that is held about 8-10 feet off the ground? Did you mention having a pond?....You could use a fairly simply windmill to pump water up into the tank where it could remain until needed for garden watering. Once the freezing weather arrives, drain it for use again the next year. Just a thought...

 
Gary Sowders
Posts: 9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Good thinking John! I've actually thought of getting a solar pump to pump out of the pond but never thought of windmill. I wonder if throwing an alternator on the end of the windmill would be beneficial?

We also have a creek which is becoming more of a stream. I would love to have a water wheel. But I doubt I'd get much constent movement without lots of rain.
 
Tristan Vitali
pollinator
Posts: 335
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
64
cat dog duck forest garden fungi trees food preservation solar
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
From my own research in the past, waterwheels come down to a pretty simple equation... gallons per hour multiplied by head (vertical drop) multiplied by efficiency (which is typically very low, around 40-50%...maybe 70% for high end professional stuff). Can't remember exactly what that works out to per hour in wattage but it's pretty small potatoes - the real impact comes when you can figure on 24/7 operation 6-12 months of the year. Overall, not so good for reliable power but might be nice for auxillary lighting, backup battery banks or trickle-charging. To me, not worth the $ investment yet...but maybe someday

For wind, check out the vertical axis designs. I've seen some really sweet ones on youtube done with blue tarps and pvc pipe on bicycle wheels. Again, though, there's efficiency issues. It seems like the greatest loss of efficiency when it comes to turning any of nature's forces into something else happens when we try for electricity. You'd need a pretty big windmill to drive a 12V car alternator, especially anything over 40 amps. Mechanical power, however, such as driving a small and simple piston-style water pump (such as the pvc ones you can see all over youtube), is very doable on a diy scale and would perform nicely. I wouldn't expect more than a 2gph flow rate in a strong, steady breeze out of something built in my backyard and pumping more than 15 feet high. Doesn't sound like much, but that would be over 40 gallons per day, or over 1200 gallons per month if the winds stayed up, being moved "for free"
 
Gary Sowders
Posts: 9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I completely forgot that there is a dormant gas well on the property. It stopped releasing enough propane to burn a wall mount heater in the barn about 10 yrs ago. We are going to see what our options are and have a driller come out and take a look at it.
 
Posts: 124
Location: Newfoundland, Canada
2
solar woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
1.) Methane Capture: you mentioned have manure and a large source of it close by. There are farms running of methane from manure. Basically you have enclosed composing rooms with a small chimney for gas escape. Capture the methane from there and use it to run a generator. The compost needn't be just manure, any compost will do.

"Harvest Power" in Richmond, BC, Canada has a commercial project going. They might give you some info.

The benefits of this? 1)free natural gas for electric generation 2) finished compost that can then be used for organic farming 3) extra compost can be sold 4)reducing CO2e emissions from agriculture 5) helping your country adhere to the Paris climate agreement.

2.) Get rid of the clothes dryer. I'm thinking a project room Which would be a room with high solar capacity but windows that can be insulated in winter. Said room can be used for clothes drying, plant starting, it can have solar food dehydrators attached to the outside of the sun facing wall with access from inside. With access to the project room from the house, the convenience lost from getting rid of the clothes dryer is mitigated.

3.) turn off the lights. lights should only be run when necessary. If you are watching TV, with the lights off, the brightness level of the TV can also be turned down, a double savings.

4.) You don't need a canning machine to "can". "Bottling" actually, as we use bottles and not cans. A cooking range, bottles with good sealing lids and a pot to cook in. Bottled foods with said equipment can last 4 years (personal experience)

5.) If you use wood to heat your home: 1.)a wood stove can be put in the kitchen to use for cooking. 2.) a water coil can be run by the stove to help with water heating.
 
Posts: 283
Location: SW Michigan
8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Frankly, you have industrial. Agri needs that a solar project will reduce but not eliminate your energy needs. You swap source for source. The pay off and self suficency is doabe.

I did a project for the parents family farm. Your energy usage is about the same I will assume. It was still a grid tie in system to our energy co-op. It would take 20+ years to pay off the investment. Now that was using tech from two years ago and also producing biofuel to power generation as it built up.

The cost saving came from two areas. Energy efficiency improvements and knowing that the majority of the power was "sold" back to the utility during the day. Of the three versions we did. One made the house and small shop with energy storage. This included heat from the sun used to heat in sunny winter days and a battery bank.

The big shop and barns were grid tie in only.

The third version was on site generation, storage and no grid tie in. A farm 120 years ago had no electricity. Life was very, very different. Your brooder would be powered by hens and candles. Just saying.

My mom vetoed them as she likes her clean electric heat and no wood stove. She is almost 80 and deserves her convenience. Think of your old age while doing your plans. Just saying again.

My suggestion is this. Start small. Work your way into it. Get new chest freezers and dump the uprights. They just consume too much energy. Go oil/wood and gas for heat. Biomass and Solar is not just for electricity. The well is tricky. I think everyone should have a windmill and hand pump if you can.

You can do it. Go in steps and be realistic. Start w the house and see how it goes.


 
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Farmer Gary,  you forgot to mention that you have a flowing creek. So, not actually flat ! With flowing water you can make a ram pump to pump water up to a tank and then use gravity. The ram pump uses no electricity and works 24/7 as long as the water flows. Utube has a number of videos. No sun, no wind, just flowing water. The volume may be low but over a period of time it amounts to a lot of water! And only two moving parts !!
 
pollinator
Posts: 214
Location: North central Ontario
21
kids dog books chicken earthworks cooking solar wood heat woodworking homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Gary, this is an older thread so if it's too late so be it.  I like to take one of these from time to time and problem solve of I can.  First off good job knowing your numbers most don't.   If I was thinking of spending so much I would invest some money in meters first to do a more detailed load analysis.  Right now you have some idea but not a very good one where all that juice is going.  I have suspicions but no data.  Invest in 2 kill a watt meters from amazon plug them in to your heaviest loads and leave them for a week.  I would start in three places based on past experience and in order of importance.
1) trough heaters.  As a given they bleed heat like crazy but you need to keep water going. Going forward insulating the sides and bottoms will save a lot next step your waste oils I would use to run a modified oil hot water heater and circulate heated water to the troughs.  Every gallon of oil has the energy of 40 kw of electricity.
2) any buried water line with a heat cable in it.  If it's more then 10 years old it might not have a thermostat in it or be insulated.  They can bleed of 5 kw a day easy. Again use a kill a watt and remember to unplug after winter.
3) old chest freezers.  I replaced a chest freezer for a client and cut 3 kw a day off usage.  The older compressors were horrible.  Kill a watt again and evaluate.  I prefer 2 medium freezers to one large because you can unplug one in less busy times of year.
Generally anything that heats up electrically will kill you on solar.  Most appliances less then 10 years old are ok.  Move bulk food processing off the electrics.  I don't like the tank less heaters myself because they work great for long bouts of hot water and horribly for small intermittent use.
Hope some of this help.
Best regards, David Baillie
 
Get out of my mind! Look! A tiny ad!
permaculture bootcamp - learn permaculture through a little hard work
https://permies.com/wiki/bootcamp
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!