Building ideas for off grid

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Kevin L

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Actually, I plan to use a Clivus Multram inside a shed for septic needs if I can swing it.

They are waterless, odor-free, have no moving parts, are almost maintenence-free, and don't contribute to disease and parasites if they are properly set up.


They supposedly meet or exceed all zoning requirements . . . I just get concerned about our home-owners' association approving of such things . . . and my other half (maybe my soon-to-be ex-other half) giving me a hard time about it.
 

Arcticdude

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Sounds very expensive. I've been trying to find a slow speed Lister diesel engine generator, which has a reputation of beening able to last for 25 years if it's maintained properly . . . but it seems like they've stopped making them.
Sounds very expensive.
Yes, everything has been very expensive. I've got probably $100k in snow removal equipment, $25k in generators, $50k in our solar electrical system, $5k in buried water lines, $6k for the septic system, $50k in the barn, $50k for the shop, $40k for the fur shed, $45k for the well, $300k for the house, $35k for the corrals and probably another $150k in miscellaneous buildings and equipment. This doesn't even come close to what the land, fencing and road cost. We built this place in 5 years, much by myself and all out of pocket from 40 years of saving.
There is nothing cheap about building a self sufficient homestead. Especially if one wants to live off grid in a sparsely populated area.
 

Arcticdude

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Good advice. From the Eastener side of my name, depends on the type of your snow, a tractor with 3pt plow or bucket may better than a blower. The eskimos have 27 names for snow and there are 27 types of snow At least.
We get so much drifting snow that I have to use a blower. There are times and areas where I use the tractor with a 10 foot blade, until the snow gets too deep. I have a 6 foot Bercomac blower mounted my CanAm side by side, which is equipped with tracks. Problem is I have problems driving up the steep parts of our road with the tracks. I'm going to install studs on the rubber tracks this winter.
 

EastenerWesterner

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I would get one storm dumping 3 ft and blower would work fine. The next would be 2ft ft of heavy wet stuff. So wet you could squeeze water out making a snow ball. My blower (old JD lawn tractor) wouldn’t work on that.
Thats why I made the 27 kind of snow comment.
 

Digout

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I agree with Dave 2001, your battery room/storage should be well ventilated and ideally separate from the house.
Lead Acid batteries generate hydrogen when they are charging and it goes off with quite bang if it is ignited.

A cleaner wiping down a charging battery using a Chux wipe, generated enough static electricity, along with faulty explosion proof vents, to caused an explosion in a telephone exchange battery room in Western Australia in the 1990's.
 
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Frostbite

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If you want to grow a lot of your own food, consider putting any machinery or equipment sheds adjacent to the veggie garden (bot not to shade them), so that you can collect rainwater from the shed roof and gravity feed it to your garden. You will need lots of water to grow enough food to sustain your family. I chose my off grid property because it has good river frontage for growing food.
 

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If I were building for off-grid, I would wire my house with low voltage wiring so that my batteries could power lights and other items directly. (I would of course also wire it for normal AC power, too.)

But rectifying and inverting the solar/wind/etc power wastes a lot of power during the conversions. It could easily be 25%.

RVs and other applications use 12V or 24V lighting, for example. There are many devices which can be run off DC directly (even refrigerators). Lots of electronics can take 12V, 24V and 48V directly. Using common switching power supplies, you can also prevent the waste/heat of DC step-downs via linear regulation.

Because 48VDC and below are harmless (generally speaking), county codes have relaxed requirements for low voltage wiring. Alarm systems, garage doors, under-cabinet lighting, speakers, and LANs are examples of low voltage already common in homes.

Using a single 100AH AGM battery, you could light your house up all night (with 12V lamps). (Use as much LED lighting as possible -- and power it directly.)

I didn't exactly research it, but a quick search shows many people are discussing this: How Long Will A 100Ah Battery Run An Appliance That Requires 400W? – Solar Website

(Use only AGM batteries. Some people cheap-out with deep-cycles, but they don't have anywhere near the resilience of AGM. To prove this point, when discussing deep-cycle batteries, it's usually qualified as a 50% discharge, whereas an AGM is happy to drain way more than that and bounce-back without damage. AGMs last more than twice as long, off-gas less, and are not damaged by either fast or total discharge.)

The batteries can be easily wired to provide 12V, 24V, and even 48V. (12V=minimum 1 battery, 24V=minimum 2 batteries, 48V=minimum 4 batteries)
 
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Digout

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Although more expansive, I would be installing Lithium batteries. they can handle deeper discharge and they weigh a lot less than
Flooded Lead Acid, or AGM.

If you are using switch mode power supplies, you need to be aware of the waveform of the output. Many do not give anywhere near a sine wave, and so they could damage less robust electronic equipment.
 

GaryLa

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Although more expansive, I would be installing Lithium batteries. they can handle deeper discharge and they weigh a lot less than
Flooded Lead Acid, or AGM.

If you are using switch mode power supplies, you need to be aware of the waveform of the output. Many do not give anywhere near a sine wave, and so they could damage less robust electronic equipment.
If your DC switcher is putting out a sine wave -- throw it in the trash, it's broken. I guess it's also possible it's overloaded and cycling through shutdowns/ramp-ups causing it to mimic a sine wave (but more likely a square wave).

Your statement is applicable to an AC generator. A good generator produces less than 5% THD (a measurement of sine wave distortions). The cheap ones are all over the map. How can you spot the difference? A good generator will brag about the THD, whereas cheap ones won't mention it at all. They can not only damage equipment, but they will also cause everything to operate less efficiently.

AGMs can be fully discharged thousands of times. There are many "articles" on the interweb pushing lithium over AGM which have erroneous information.

Get the manufacturer's datasheet. Generally speaking regarding 100% discharge before permanent damage: deep-cycles=20, golf-cart=300, AGM=2000.

Also, lithiums are twice the price. And not all lithiums are made the same. Some will ignite. You can put a rifle bullet through an AGM and it will still work -- I've seen it.

I'm not saying go with AGM over lithium, but I am saying every battery solution has its issues: none are perfect solutions. I have 20 years' experience with AGMs, and the idea of my house burning down by using lithiums keeps me from considering them.
 
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Arcticdude

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On our house I used all conventional building materials, including wiring and appliances. Its just like any other home being built today. Unless you looked at the solar panels, there's no indication that we're even off grid. I didn't want my wife, or myself, to do with out any of the modern convinces. We may live in the mountains and far away from town, but theres no reason to live like hillbillies or hippies.
I went with lead acid batteries because of the cost, and the dealers recommendation. Other than topping off the battery level once a month, and changing oil in the generator every 500 hours, our system is as automatic and trouble free as it can be. The batteries, generator, inverter and all related components are in a well ventilated building about 300 feet from the house.
When its time to replace this battery bank I'll probably go with lead acid again.
 

Dracos

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You may be interested in looking at super insulation. It costs a bit more at first but it will eventually pay for itself and will save energy both heating and cooling.
 
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Arcticdude

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You mat be interested in looking at super insulation. It costs a bit more at first but it will eventually pay for itself and will save energy both heating and cooling.
I think that's a good idea. My wall insulation is 6" and a foot in the attic. I heat with wood, so my cost is very little for heating.
 

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The weight of batteries is a factor if they are stored on stands or in cabinets. the shelf loading and floor loadings need to be taken into consideration, this is dependent on the size/capacity of the battery and it's construction. of course.

An Australian international airline lost it's world wide computer system when the UPS battery system caught fire, many years ago.
So fires in batteries of any type whether Lithium, lead acid, AGM are a known possibility.
 
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Digout

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If your DC switcher is putting out a sine wave -- throw it in the trash, it's broken. I guess it's also possible it's overloaded and cycling through shutdowns/ramp-ups causing it to mimic a sine wave (but more likely a square wave).

Sorry, I was thinking Inverters, not Switchers.
 

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You mat be interested in looking at super insulation. It costs a bit more at first but it will eventually pay for itself and will save energy both heating and cooling.
Definitely over-insulate.

When I built my house, I even insulated the interior walls. Made the house quieter, too. I also used double pane windows which at the time were unusual for Florida (perhaps normal today).

But probably the most significant insulation was the "radiant barrier". This looks like aluminum foil tacked to the underside of the roof. It reflects in both directions. I've heard you can also get it pre-attached to the roofing sheets, but I haven't seen that. My electric bill (heat pumps) was consistently half what the neighbors paid.

As far as I'm concerned, you can't put in too much insulation.
 
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GaryLa

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So fires in batteries of any type whether Lithium, lead acid, AGM are a known possibility.
There really isn't anything inside lead-acid batteries which is flammable. If a battery is burned, toxins can be released or created (but then, the same thing can happen when you burn a lawn chair.).

Hydrogen production is really the only explosive present. AGMs are VRSLA (valve regulated), but also off-gas less than flooded batteries. Proper installation to allow for venting of the lighter-than-air hydrogen is the only real requirement. Since they're not flooded, you can't accidentally run them dry.

Their construction is unique: a long roll of absorptive glass material (AGM) is impregnated with the usual constituents of a lead-acid battery. It is then rolled up like a paper towel roll to form a battery cell.

This is why you can drill a hole in an AGM battery and it will still function. They are, by far, the safest battery type. Their only Achilles heel comes in the form of using the wrong type of charger.

But lithiums incorporate a flammable electrolyte. This will actually provide fuel to a fire if the battery overheats.

While overheating any battery is bad, at least lead-acid batteries are not filled with a flammable electrolyte.
 
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Digout

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There really isn't anything inside lead-acid batteries which is flammable. If a battery is burned, toxins can be released or created (but then, the same thing can happen when you burn a lawn chair.).

Hydrogen production is really the only explosive present. AGMs are VRSLA (valve regulated), but also off-gas less than flooded batteries. Proper installation to allow for venting of the lighter-than-air hydrogen is the only real requirement. Since they're not flooded, you can't accidentally run them dry.

This is why you can drill a hole in an AGM battery and it will still function. They are, by far, the safest battery type. Their only Achilles heel comes in the form of using the wrong type of charger.

While overheating any battery is bad, at least lead-acid batteries are not filled with a flammable electrolyte.

The plastic containers can and do burn. While AGM's do off-gas less than flooded's they do off gas and they do dry out.
With a hole drilled or shot in an AGM, how long do you think it will take for them to dry out?

I have inspected many batteries some that have been damaged by overcharging including AGM's that dried out and caught fire.
Overheating flooded Lead acid and AGM has lead to boiling, the damage caused by the resultant sulphuric acid fumes was incredible.
 
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GaryLa

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I agree that all batteries should be treated as dangerous. All batteries should be vented to the outdoors without obstruction.

But car batteries are flooded -- the water can boil. Steam can be explosive.

My point is really that when I started designing motor controllers for electric racing go-karts 20 years ago, we went through many power sources before deciding that the pros and cons favored the AGM -- overall, they were the safest.
 
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