Author Topic: How do I set up a generator and battery bank?  (Read 34798 times)

Offline Heavy G

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How do I set up a generator and battery bank?
« on: December 12, 2009, 07:54:17 AM »
OK, guys, I don't know crap about electricity. 

It's time for me to set up a generator and a battery bank at my BOL.  Eventually I want to add a little solar.

I need some help from y'all on how to do this.

Could you point me to a thread on this?  (I looked.)  Or to youtube vids.  Or anything else that helps.

I know so little about electricity that a PDF of plans won't help my ignorant ass.  I need videos and/or pictures.  A list of things to buy.  Suggested places to buy them.  That kind of handholding stuff. 

Here is some info on the system I'm thinking about, which will affect the kind of system people suggest.

I would like a system to provide power to my BOL for a short or medium term outage.  The overall purpose of this system is that if the power is out for a while I can take the family to the BOL and they can be comfortable.  If I can slowly expand the system to provide longer term power, I will.  I'm not trying to be self-sufficient with the generator/battery bank (although I would love to expand to make that happen). 

I need enough power for the fridge, occasional microwave, occasional electrical stove, a few small appliances (like recharging laptop batteries), and powering the hot water heater, which is electrical.  (Note on the hot water heater: It doesn't plug in but wired into an outlet looking thing; I'll send a photo of what I'm talking about. I say this because I couldn't just run an extension cord from the generator/battery bank to the hot water heater.)  The house has electrical baseboard heat but I don't plan on using the electrical heat if I'm on generator power since I have a good wood stove.

I have an unfinished basement at my BOL to put this in.  Here's a picture:

The unfinished basement has a porch:

Here is another view of the unfinished basement and the deck above where the main living space is:

I plan on putting the batter bank in the unfinished basement and storing the generator there too.  I would obviously run the generator outside.  I would run it on the unfinished basement porch and run an extension cord right into the battery bank in the unfinished basement.  If it matters, the breaker panel for the house is in the unfinished basement is right by where I would have the battery bank.  I'm guessing it doesn't matter since the output of the generator/battery bank would probably be an extension cord.

I have some cash saved for this.  I'm not trying to go ultra cheap but I'd like to invest scarce dollars wisely.  I'm not in a hurry on this so I could get a generator when one pops up on Craigs list or whatever and then wait for batteries to pop up.
   
TSP exists so we can learn stuff.  This project will help others learn stuff (including me, of course!)  After you guys tell me what I need to do, I will do my TSP part and create a post that synthesizes the directions, has pictures, and a list of what people need to buy and where to buy it.   My goal is not only to build a great generator/battery bank but to turn the experience into a resource for others.

So, let me know if you can help a brother out.
« Last Edit: December 12, 2009, 08:46:44 AM by Heavy G »

Offline AtADeadRun

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Re: How do I set up a generator and battery bank?
« Reply #1 on: December 12, 2009, 12:26:29 PM »
OK, Heavy, here's some of how it plays out.  First thing you need to do is figure out how much capacity you'll actually need from your generator to run your desired loads.  Each of the major appliances you've listed, the hot water heater, microwave, fridge, and stove, should probably have, either stuck directly somewhere on the thing or in the documentation, either an amp rating or a watt rating.  It'll also tell you what voltage is required, since frequently those major appliances are 240, not 120.  If it's not on the appliances or docs, it's still possible, it just takes more effort, so we'll leave that aside for the moment.  Once you have that information, you can start making some informed decisions about the gear you'll need to buy. 

First thing you'll need to know is voltage:  a 240 (or 220, which will work just fine) volt generator is going to run you more, typically, than a simple 120 generator will, but not a whole lot more.  Then you need to know the power for all your loads, in watts.  If that's not in your documentation, but the amperage is, a little math will yield the required power, since power is equal to the voltage times the current, or, more symbolically, P= I x E.  I'm simplifying some, here, but in a direction that will give you a nice cushion in generator capacity, so we'll set the difference in real and apparent power aside for the moment.  For example, the water heater in my house, a particularly inefficient model, draws 4500W when it's on, so in order to make sure I could power that, I'd need a 4.5kW generator set.  If you've got a more efficient heater (and god I hope so, I just looked at that thing and I kinda wanna smack my landlord now), you'd need less generator capacity for the hot water heater.

Once you know your total power requirement, you can look into a genset that'll cover that requirement, and the next step is getting it hooked up.  Since you've got at least one, maybe two (depending on your stove) hardwired, probably 240V, appliances, you're going to have to set up the generator to hook into your breaker panel directly.  There are other ways of doing it, but with kids in the house and folks not experienced with electricity, I recommend against things like suicide plugs; wiring it into the breaker panel is the way to go for safety.  That means needing a transfer switch and a disconnect, and if you're not handy with electricity, you should get someone who *definitely is* to do it.  Leaving out the transfer switch and disconnect is almost certainly illegal wherever you live, as it's a safety issue for the guys working on the lines during an outage.  Then, when the power goes out, you just wheel your generator outside, hook it up to the transfer switch/disconnect, throw your transfer switch, and fire up the set.  Once utility power comes back up, you shut down your set and transfer back to utility.  Most transfer switches can also do it with the set still running, to minimize your retransfer down time, but *make sure you know that's the case* before you do it:  explosions are bad, and arcs can blind.

As far as the batteries are concerned, to charge 'em from utility and/or the generator, you simply hook a battery charger up and keep 'em topped up.  To run 120V house power from batteries, you'll have to buy an inverter as well, which is a piece of equipment that takes twelve volt direct current and chops it up into 120 volt alternating current.  Again, this requires a disconnect from utility to run one.  Frankly, for emergency power requirements with a generator and without major solar/wind/microhydro/whatever, I leave my battery bank as a 12V supply, and use it primarily for charging handheld electronics, with the eventual intention that it'll run my high-frequency emergency communication radio.  For now, though, I just went to the auto parts store, bought some cigarette lighters, and a little box, and made myself a box with four lighter sockets in it, so I can charge my lappy/phone/iPod with a car charger.

That's the quick-and-dirty overview; if you want to get into the specifics, well, ask away and we'll pile on and get it answered.

Offline Heavy G

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Re: How do I set up a generator and battery bank?
« Reply #2 on: December 12, 2009, 02:33:51 PM »
Awesome, Atadeadrun.  Thanks.

Assuming the set up ends up being like you describe, what is a ballpark range of costs?  Assume a decent generator, quality parts, and an electrician doing the set up.

Offline AtADeadRun

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Re: How do I set up a generator and battery bank?
« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2009, 03:51:41 PM »
Mrph.  For a quality genset in the range of "run a fridge and a hot water heater and other, incidental loads" you're looking at a couple grand, new.  It's not tough to get a used one significantly cheaper, but, of course, caveat emptor.  A transfer switch rated at 100 amps for indoor mounting is ~$100, more if you want automatic switching or greater capacity, up into the $500 range for a good 200A one integrated with its own panel.  Installation will vary by local code and labor market, but it'd probably take me a day to install the switch and run it all together properly, so expect to pay ~8 hours labor at whatever the going rate is for a sparky where you are.  If you have an electrician friend who's willing to do it for beer, so much the better.  Batteries are wildly variable, depending on what you get, but a VRLA deep-cycle batteries are going to run you, oh, a couple bucks an amp-hour at 12V.  Inverters are also wildly variable, depending on features. 

There are a couple cats who hang out in this thread and the solar one who do solar power -- and therefore batteries and inverters and transfer gear -- professionally.  One of them could probably chime in with better numbers than what I'm tossing out here as far as cost goes.  My professional experience is all 3-phase multi-megawatt commercial power, so I know the theory and how to set it up, but I'm just googling and guessing on the prices.

Offline idelphic

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Re: How do I set up a generator and battery bank?
« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2009, 05:00:19 PM »
Battery Gasing:

Wet cell batteries when charged product a bit of gasing... Hydrogen gas...  I would think it would be best to house the batteries outside, or at least in a forced vented area to prevent gas build up.

Offline AtADeadRun

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Re: How do I set up a generator and battery bank?
« Reply #5 on: December 13, 2009, 08:15:07 AM »
It's not really a concern with VRLAs, rather than flooded cells, which is why I mentioned them specifically when tossing cost numbers around.  Even with flooded cells, the amount of outgassing from a handful of cells isn't a big deal in a largish space like that basement.  Only if you're going to do a lot of them would forced-air venting and/or hydrogen sensors become something I'd worry about.  At work we've got ~500 VRLA batteries each in two rooms and only recirc ventilation.  Never had a problem, don't expect to, either.

Offline Heavy G

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Re: How do I set up a generator and battery bank?
« Reply #6 on: December 13, 2009, 10:03:17 AM »
A couple grand is more than I thought it would be.  But I think having house-wide back up power is something I need.  I don't actually need it, but it would make my BOL a far more comfortable place if things were going sideways and Mrs. Heavy G would need a reason to leave the 'burbs even for a week or so.  It's a long story: http://thesurvivalpodcast.com/forum/index.php?topic=3239.0

So I think I'll do this project in phases.  Does it make sense to do it in these phases:

1.  Plan out the project and have electrician wire the breaker box for the generator.  This would be done in January 2010.

2.  Get a generator.  This would be done whenever (this would give me a few months to look for a screamin' deal on Craigs list or used from an equipment rental place).

3.  Start battery bank.  This could be slowly built up as I run into batteries that I can add.

4.  Solar.  This is a maybe.  But if it takes me 6 months or a year to get the generator/battery bank going, I can be looking for good solar deals.  Maybe prices will be coming down with all the green energy nonsense from DC.  Plus I can use this time to think if I really need a solar component. 

Does this phasing make sense guys?


Offline AtADeadRun

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Re: How do I set up a generator and battery bank?
« Reply #7 on: December 13, 2009, 12:16:23 PM »
That's a pretty reasonable sequence, yeah.  The only other possibility I might toss out is picking up the genset first, then the breaker panel, 'cause you can at least run an extension cord to your fridge or microwave or whatever and have *some* juice.  If your goal is whole-house backup, though, that's not gonna fly without the panel.  All depends on resources and priorities, I guess.

Offline BerserkerPrime

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Re: How do I set up a generator and battery bank?
« Reply #8 on: December 13, 2009, 01:14:10 PM »
HG,

HomePower magazine is a great resource for exactly that situation.

BP

Offline NCprepper

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Re: How do I set up a generator and battery bank?
« Reply #9 on: December 14, 2009, 08:35:32 AM »
In response to step "3.  Start battery bank.  This could be slowly built up as I run into batteries that I can add."

I think you would be better served to save your cash until you can buy all your batteries at the same time.
That way you can ensure they are all the same age and capacity.

I second the Home Power recommendation!!!

Will you also need to use the generator to pump water or are you on city/county water?

Offline Heavy G

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Re: How do I set up a generator and battery bank?
« Reply #10 on: December 14, 2009, 03:20:03 PM »

Will you also need to use the generator to pump water or are you on city/county water?


Am on public water.  No real well fields (the property fronts salt water).  Backup water is the main drawback of my BOL.  But the salt water was too much to say no to.

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Re: How do I set up a generator and battery bank?
« Reply #11 on: December 14, 2009, 04:04:31 PM »

Offline Heavy G

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Re: How do I set up a generator and battery bank?
« Reply #12 on: December 14, 2009, 05:32:06 PM »

Have you considered a Desalinators?  Like these?

http://www.katadyn.com/usen/katadyn-products/products/katadynshopconnect/katadyn-desalinators/

Yep.  That'll be a couple projects away.  There are creeks nearby so desalination is farther down on the priority list.  But it's there. 

Offline Beetle

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Re: How do I set up a generator and battery bank?
« Reply #13 on: December 16, 2009, 03:15:06 AM »
Yep.  That'll be a couple projects away.  There are creeks nearby so desalination is farther down on the priority list.  But it's there. 

  HG since you live in the NW I would use rainwater as your H2o back up. I would also equip yourself more towards utilizing the woodstove for cooking/ hot water and not worry about powering the stove and water heater. A small 2000watt honda and some extension cords would get you lighting and TV and save you a lot of money. Nice thing about going smaller is your generator fuel will llast longer and acomplish most of what I think your trying to do.
  PS how much firewood is stockpiled? I would suggest a minimum of 3-4 cords to get you through a winter okay.

Offline Heavy G

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Re: How do I set up a generator and battery bank?
« Reply #14 on: December 16, 2009, 07:49:30 AM »
I guess I'm trying too hard to have a place where Mrs. Heavy G will want to go.  I view a hot shower as so much of an incentive (to get her to get out of the riot-torn 'burbs--riots ought to be an incentive enough!) that I'm thinking about spending more money than makes sense.  For just making it through a crisis, a wood stove should be fine for heat (and for heating water that goes into the tub--duh, what was I thinking?).  And a small generator for a few outlets like maybe the refrigerator and some lights.

One question: I imagine there is now way to get a regular electrical outlet onto a hot water heater so I could get hot water from a small generator (without having to power the whole house).  Let me know guys.

OK, so assuming I can't just get an electrical outlet onto a hot water heater and it really would cost a couple grand to have a beefy generator put current into the house's electrical system to run the hot water heater, stove, etc., then I'm thinking it's not worth it.

One last call for opinions from y'all.  What do you think?

Offline broken1

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Re: How do I set up a generator and battery bank?
« Reply #15 on: December 16, 2009, 09:05:52 AM »
There are lots of half steps between giganto generator and nothing. Like you said with the wood stove, there's heat. and a HOT BATH if you're smart about it for next to nothing but a couple of decent metal buckets. There are also off stove water heaters and such.

I'm not sure what you mean by put a standard electrical plug on the wire, but if you mean like a regular wall outlet type of plug, then no. That is a 120VAC/15amp plug, maximum power 1,800 watts. It would still require the same amount of power to function. If it needs 4.5 that's what it needs, no plug changing will change that. If it's wired for 240 that's the voltage it needs. If you could reqire it for 120 and put a 120 plug on it it would just need double the current... which would definitely not be a 120VAC/15A plug.

I disagree with Atadeadrun on the 240V thing. Most of the generators I have seen, excluding little little ones (1200 watters and the like) have a 120/240 duplex plug on them. I agree with him on the rest of his post though.

My advice would be to start by taking an energy inventory, for everything. Then figure out what you can do any way other than electric. Hot water for dish washing,bathing, etc... grab that metal bucket and put it on the wood stove. Light? Candles, lanterns, head lamps, etc...

The fridge/freezer is probably a must, but you don't have to run it 24/7 I've run mine for about 25-50% of the time depending on season and it did fine. With some preplanning (making sure it is full using water bottles in both to store that absence of thermal energy, etc... I am sure you could push it further.

Aside from that you may be surprised at houw little you really need/want for power.

Offline AtADeadRun

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Re: How do I set up a generator and battery bank?
« Reply #16 on: December 16, 2009, 09:30:06 AM »
Heh.  Like I said, all my experience is in multimegawatt 3-phase, so I haven't priced or looked at small-scale gensets except by the almighty Google when writing those posts, so mea culpa if it's not 100% accurate.  It is possible to get good deals on generators; a quick survey of Craigslist in my region found a decent-looking 7kW Honda set for $800 and a 5kW Coleman for $300, so I wouldn't discard the notion entirely.  Just be willing to kick the tires, metaphorically speaking, before you buy a used unit.  That being said, Broken's right about the hot water heater:  if it needs 4.5kW, it's not going to use less for splicing a regular household plug onto it.  Figuring out your needs is definitely the first step, though.

Offline broken1

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Re: How do I set up a generator and battery bank?
« Reply #17 on: December 16, 2009, 10:21:58 AM »
FWIW, go Honda. I have a pretty old Honda 3KW I got given by someone that bought a shiny new one. It serves us during outages. I does 3KW all day long, is quiet, sips gas, stable clean power, LOVE it. I replaced the plug and the carb (gummed up, years sitting/neglect, cheap and easy to replace) when I first got it and have had zero problems since (3 years later). It is under rated too. For flood abatement I once ran 3500 watts (actual tested with a Kill-a-watt and added them all up) worth of pumps for 4 hours straight. Little guy never batted an eyelash. I would never buy one sight unseen, but baring a concerning rattle internally, or oil that looks like it's never been changed I would go Honda any day of the week.

For any generator:
You can load test on the cheap with a quick trip to walmart.
Sunbeam Ceramic Heater for $18.00
though mine are closer to:
Optimus Portable Utility Heater with Thermostat for 29.99

Once the heater is verified for current draw, you will have a decent self cooled 1500 watt resistive load to put on your genset, or to test someone else's. Turn the heat on high and crank the thermostat; make sure it can't heat the area  (outside so duh) and let it go. I use two for my bi-monthly tests. Exactly 3KW ;D.   For a 7 KW you could do 4 of them and a flood lamp or something if you got the better models you could get 5 and set cheaper ones 4 for full 1500 watts and 1 selectable power one for 1kw mode instead. I used to use my mom in law and wife's hairdryers...  before I bought the heaters. :D Buying a few heaters now might save you some serious change later. Besides if you plan on buying one you should PMI it at least every couple of months so you will need a load anyway.  If before or after you load it to spec the power turns to shite then pass on it, or if it's your fix it. Spec for me is 110<Genset Voltage<125 and 55Hz<Genset Frequency<65Hz across the full rated load range, with no funky spiking going much beyond that as loads go on and come off.

For verification of generator and load (as well as other AC stuff) I like the Kill A Watt™ It will tell you the load in watts and VA, as well as let you see what the load does to the voltage and frequency of the gensets output power. It will keep some cumulative stats too. You can plug in all your info and then plug your fridge into it and run it for 24 hours. At the end it will be able to tell you that it consumed X KWh and cost $Y.YY to run for 24 hours. I think everyone should have one of those Kill a Watts.




Offline AtADeadRun

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Re: How do I set up a generator and battery bank?
« Reply #18 on: December 16, 2009, 10:44:58 AM »
...whoa.  That is a *broad* frequency band.  I would go so far as to reject any set that ran 58Hz < freq < 62Hz, mebbe closer, and any variance outside 59.5Hz < freq < 60.5Hz when running steady-state would have me tearing up the governor to figure out why.

The resistive heater thing is a really good idea, though.  Need to pick me up a couple in the near future.  +1, why didn't I think of that?

Offline Beetle

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Re: How do I set up a generator and battery bank?
« Reply #19 on: December 16, 2009, 10:49:23 AM »
Well HG just play it off as a romantic thing to her...Candles and drawing her a bath in a power outage with the ocean and fireplace going...Something tells me you would "survive" just fine.

Offline bbuubb

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Re: How do I set up a generator and battery bank?
« Reply #20 on: December 16, 2009, 11:37:16 AM »

Correct me if I'm wrong...As long as he was careful and smart about things, couldn't HG wire a breaker box onto his water heater line with a breaker for the heater and a breaker for the outlet. This seems fairly cheap and simple if all he wants for his generator is a circuit with the heater and and outlet. He would have to be aware of the load that circuit is already capable of supporting. Maybe not run the water heater simultaneously with another large load.

Offline broken1

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Re: How do I set up a generator and battery bank?
« Reply #21 on: December 16, 2009, 12:27:43 PM »
...whoa.  That is a *broad* frequency band.  I would go so far as to reject any set that ran 58Hz < freq < 62Hz, mebbe closer, and any variance outside 59.5Hz < freq < 60.5Hz when running steady-state would have me tearing up the governor to figure out why.

First let me be clear that range was from completely unloaded running at speed to fully loaded to spec. Not while operating under a static load. Static loaded, regardless of percentage, should in my book move little to none. On the small, compared to your toys, gensets I have found that, outside of inverter based gensets, the voltage and freqs start a little high unloaded and then go down to normal with almost any load and then start to drop off after 100%. My Honda moves very little, regardless of what I do to it ~61HZ unloaded 59.5 loaded 100%. Some off-brands run there's way hot, because they can't generate the power unless they do. I saw one of those cheap oh ones at something like 140V unloaded, and 100 at "spec" load of 1500 watts. Frequency all over the place loaded or not. If you see that walk away.

Correct me if I'm wrong...As long as he was careful and smart about things, couldn't HG wire a breaker box onto his water heater line with a breaker for the heater and a breaker for the outlet. This seems fairly cheap and simple if all he wants for his generator is a circuit with the heater and and outlet. He would have to be aware of the load that circuit is already capable of supporting. Maybe not run the water heater simultaneously with another large load.

He could but the hot water heater would have to be on for a while before it got the water to a usable temp, that whole time it would be dedicated to just the hot water heater. So you fire up your 5KW generator and run it wide open for 4 hours, eating an entire tank of gas and getting one water heater full of hot water... Not a good deal in my book.  Likely it would be the same for the stove. Electrical is a horrible method for making heat, I don't care what anyone says. Stoves, dryers, water heaters, are all watt leeches. If he wanted to put in a 25KW whole house genset we wouldn't be having this discussion. He seemed to want to do as much as he could for as little as he could. He balked at a $2K price tag somewhere along the way. You aren't going to do this cheap wasting watts on making heat. Can a emergency backup be done on the cheap? Yes. Can you do everything you might do now, the way you do it now? No.


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Re: How do I set up a generator and battery bank?
« Reply #22 on: January 15, 2010, 04:55:18 PM »
For any generator:
You can load test on the cheap with a quick trip to walmart.
Sunbeam Ceramic Heater for $18.00
though mine are closer to:
Optimus Portable Utility Heater with Thermostat for 29.99

Once the heater is verified for current draw, you will have a decent self cooled 1500 watt resistive load to put on your genset, or to test someone else's. Turn the heat on high and crank the thermostat; make sure it can't heat the area  (outside so duh) and let it go. I use two for my bi-monthly tests. Exactly 3KW ;D.   For a 7 KW you could do 4 of them and a flood lamp or something if you got the better models you could get 5 and set cheaper ones 4 for full 1500 watts and 1 selectable power one for 1kw mode instead. I used to use my mom in law and wife's hairdryers...  before I bought the heaters. :D Buying a few heaters now might save you some serious change later. Besides if you plan on buying one you should PMI it at least every couple of months so you will need a load anyway.  If before or after you load it to spec the power turns to shite then pass on it, or if it's your fix it. Spec for me is 110<Genset Voltage<125 and 55Hz<Genset Frequency<65Hz across the full rated load range, with no funky spiking going much beyond that as loads go on and come off.

FYI, the cheap heater price has been rolled back to $15.88.  Also, according to the comments it has both a 1500W and 1000W setting.  With the two settings you'd be able to test any multiple of 1000W. 

Plus, it works great for heating!  :D

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Re: How do I set up a generator and battery bank?
« Reply #23 on: January 15, 2010, 05:28:03 PM »
I think your desire to make Mrs. HG comfortable enough to want to live at the BO is very honorable HG. In a non-SHTF world, figuring out the system that would pretty much mirror all the conveniences that you would have by living on the grid would be awesome to have, but quite expensive. Of course there are the Fed and State rebates that are out there, and that certainly can help. I encourage you to do as much research on your county's website and search for "Green Energy" information and contacts.
 
One thing that I have found out when visiting our BO is just how little electricity we can get by with. In fact, in the three or four times we have been there, we have gotten by with an outdoor fire pit, flashlights, candles, and an ice chest stocked with cold ones.

 Try your best to whittle down the power you require by finding other ways to provide those necessities, especially those needing 220/240. There are some great outdoor shower designs that utilize solar heater water systems that are easy to build, and fun to use.

A great resource for us has been the book: "When Technology Fails" by Matthew Stine.

As others on this thread have recommended, build your system a bit at a time, but do get your batteries and maintain their charge. The gen is great, but begin to add the solar panels until you have enough to reach your wattage goals. I am still trying myself to figure out the best system to use that I can easily break down and take with or store when I leave my BO location. I don't trust that they would be there when I return. Bummer...but just the facts of being out away from seeing eyes. Good luck. Let us know how it all comes together!

Offline “Mark”

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Re: How do I set up a generator and battery bank?
« Reply #24 on: January 15, 2010, 05:58:43 PM »
Don't forget to change the oil in your generator, just like in your car. If you're buying used, you might want to see the condition of the oil to see if the old owner bothered to change it. Given you should be changing the oil in your car ever 3000 to 5000 miles (which works out to 60 to 100 hours at 50 mph), you probably want to change your oil every 60 to 100 hours of usage.

spudhead archer

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Re: How do I set up a generator and battery bank?
« Reply #25 on: March 14, 2010, 10:53:40 AM »
  HG since you live in the NW I would use rainwater as your H2o back up. I would also equip yourself more towards utilizing the woodstove for cooking/ hot water and not worry about powering the stove and water heater. A small 2000watt honda and some extension cords would get you lighting and TV and save you a lot of money. Nice thing about going smaller is your generator fuel will llast longer and acomplish most of what I think your trying to do.
  PS how much firewood is stockpiled? I would suggest a minimum of 3-4 cords to get you through a winter okay.
I agree with Beetle HG. No matter where you are you can use rainwater directed into a cistern(that you can build yourself), and use your wood stove for cooking, heat, hotwater, dry clothes, and burning evidence.I am doing that on my familys remote cabin in the middle of nowwhere Idaho. Running the power off of a deep cycle set of batteries and charging them from a trickle charger used to power our computers, etc. The less fancy the less can go wrong is what I am thinking. Good luck and Godspeed!

Offline Nadir_E

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Re: How do I set up a generator and battery bank?
« Reply #26 on: March 14, 2010, 11:59:42 AM »
Perhaps combining some technologies can reduce your electrical demand.  For example, if you use a solar water heater as described in Chris Nyerges' "Extreme Simplicity" book (and I'm sure other examples abound on the 'net) you'd get *some* fuel-free heating of the tank (yes, I know you're in the PNW and it's not as sunny as it is down here in SoCal, but something is better than nothing).  That way maybe the water is luke-warm when you start up the gen-set, reducing how much power is needed to get it to "adequate" for showering.

Similarly, if you have slope on the property and can direct roof run-off to an up-hill cistern, you'd gain *some* water pressure without having to use a pump, etc.

Finally, in terms of worry about running the fridge - maybe consider a root cellar (either separate from the house or, alternatively, under the house so it's accessible from inside).  Put your fridge (or *a* fridge) down there and it won't have to work as hard as one in the 'normal' location.

Lots of these kinds of things would reduce the duration of the gen-set run-time and would lend themselves to an easier solar conversion in the future (as will insulating the heck out of the house - even if it already is).

Good discussion topic, HG.
-N

Offline “Mark”

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Re: How do I set up a generator and battery bank?
« Reply #27 on: March 19, 2010, 04:48:32 PM »
Perhaps combining some technologies can reduce your electrical demand.  For example, if you use a solar water heater as described in Chris Nyerges' "Extreme Simplicity" book (and I'm sure other examples abound on the 'net) you'd get *some* fuel-free heating of the tank (yes, I know you're in the PNW and it's not as sunny as it is down here in SoCal, but something is better than nothing).  That way maybe the water is luke-warm when you start up the gen-set, reducing how much power is needed to get it to "adequate" for showering.

I know this is off-topic, but another great way to preheat water is to loop a hundred feet of piping through a big compost pile. You'll have good heat for a month or two.

Offline Rorschach

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Re: How do I set up a generator and battery bank?
« Reply #28 on: March 20, 2010, 09:33:02 PM »
Maybe a good combination that may be here in the U.S. in a few years would be the WhisperGen (http://www.whispergen.com/main/PRODUCTS/) it is a combination water heater and generator (Stirling).  I am not sure of any other combinations of energy production/appliance not already mentioned in this post.  If anybody knows of any others I would be interested. 

Offline Cool Blue

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Re: How do I set up a generator and battery bank?
« Reply #29 on: March 21, 2010, 06:56:45 AM »
Would it be less expensive to just get propane tanks and run the heat and fridge off that?