Catalyst Battery Caps

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Natural Solar Food Dehydrator!

■ Dries herbs, fruits, vegetables quickly & naturally with the sun's energy

■ Fun and easy to use. Heavy duty construction.

■ Size 22" x 21" Was $116, NOW $88 + $14 S/H also 22" x 45" Was $165,

NOW $125 + $18 S/H. sale prices for a limited time only

■ Commercial sizes available too.

Environmental Solar Systems, Inc. 1-800-934-3848

119 West Street, Methuen, MA01844-1325

AIR Wind Modules

(Both Land and Marine Models)

Recycled Solar Modules Arco 40W Solarex 480W(ow!) Best Pricing, In stock ready to ship!

SunSelector Infinity Distributor

Dealer Inquiries Invited

800-DCSOLAR 508-759-6706 • Fax 800-659-5961

Inverters 1-800-245-1827

□ 12V to 115v Inverter - 600w-1000w peak @ $195.00

□ 12V to 115v Inverter - 1500w-3000w peak @ $440.00

□ 115v Emergency Switchover Unit at 10 amps @ $44.50

□ 115v Emergency Switchover Unit at 20 amps @ $56.00

□ 12V Pumps 450 gph @ $16.50 to 2500 gph @ $72.00

□ Computers Assembled to your spec. & Parts

A.C.I. PO Box 10463, Santa Ana, CA 92711

Above: David Knapp shows off his PV-powered cordless Ryobi mower and a freshly cut lawn.

When you live in a subdivision, lawn care is one of those items that you do side-by-side with your neighbors. Saturday afternoon includes harvesting a crop that never goes to market and using noisy tractors built for the owner's comfort.

A Breath of Fresh Air

When it came time to replace our lawn mower, I remembered the poster, "Think Globally, Act Locally." I

recycled my old lawn mower by giving it to my brother who was starting a landscaping business. I purchased a Ryobi 24 Volt DC cordless mulching lawn mower called the "Mulchinator."

The mower contains a 24 Volt DC motor that spins the blade at 3250 rpm. A circuit breaker serves as a key; one of the many safety controls. Electrical storage comes from two 12-Volt, 12 Ampere-Hour, sealed, lead-acid batteries. Battery bank recharge takes 16 hours using the highly efficient on-board charger. The owner's manual directs the user to leave the mower plugged in all of the time. The charger will go into float mode when the battery bank is full.

Solarize It!

Keeping in mind my future off-the-grid plans, I concluded this mower could easily be PV recharged. The on-board charger charges the batteries up to 30.0 Volts and then goes into the float mode at 29.0 Volts. To make this project affordable I purchased two amorphous solar panels from Real Goods. The 12 Watt, 12 Volt panels make a 24 Volt array. Their peak power was at 14.5 Volts at 930 milliamps. When you put two of them in series you have 29.0 Volts at peak power (the float charge voltage of the on-board charger).

Since the C/10 charging rate of the battery bank is 1.2 Amperes, the panels are perfectly safe to leave connected to the batteries for a week without using a charge controller. Our average summer time sun is about 5.6 hours in the Midwest (4.3 hours per day yearly average). The panel array charges the battery bank in about 2 1/2 days of full sun.

The mower operates for about 90 minutes per charge and has had no trouble mulching my 1/3 acre lawn (which includes a 1,100 square foot house, two-car garage, and 1,000 square foot garden). The batteries should easily last 150 cycles at 50% discharge. The owner's manual recommends sharpening the blade several times a year. A sharp blade will cut through the grass more easily and save the batteries.

Above: Two 14 watt amorphous panels wired in series provide the charge.

Installation

Illinois state law says you must call the utility before digging. They will come out and mark your utility connections before you drive that eight foot ground rod into who knows what. After waiting 48 hours for the utilities to be marked, I installed the panels out by the garden about 27 feet away from the garage. The array mounts on a Zomeworks Pipe Tabs kit and 14 feet of 1 inch OD conduit. The PV rack sits on 2 four-foot landscaping posts for stability. One half-inch conduit carries the 14 gage wire into the garage. An analog voltmeter and ammeter provide for general indication of electrical wellness.

Weather Tight Combiner Box

Weather Tight Combiner Box

Weather Tight Combiner Box

Weather Tight Combiner Box

1) David plans to add an SOV to the system in the near future.

2) S1 prevents meter from pegging when mower is disconneted from PV array during full sun.

1) David plans to add an SOV to the system in the near future.

2) S1 prevents meter from pegging when mower is disconneted from PV array during full sun.

Above: The charging station in David's garage.

A polarized jack and plug make a quick release connector for solar-charging (less than 1 Amp). I use automotive DC type five or ten-amp fuses at the battery bank and in the wall box in the garage. I use a total of four MOVs in order to provide lightning protection from transient high voltage surges.

If I Had to Do It Over

Given the opportunity to do it over, I would have purchased the lawn mower years earlier. Although the old mower collected a lot of grass clippings for the compost pile, it's great not to do oil changes or tune ups. My grass is much thicker and has never looked so healthy. It looks every bit as good as some of the neighbors who go through the cut, water, and fertilize routine every week. I also get to hear the birds chirp while I am cutting away.

If I had to buy the panels again I would buy a pair of 10 watt single crystal silicon modules for about 40% more cost. Then I would need to add a small charge controller to the setup. My current panels work just fine. If they have a fifty percent reduction in power within five years, I will still be charging okay. In the winter time, I am sure I will find a use for the surplus power.

The Big Picture

My system inspired two more purchases by friends at work. I am glad to see less pollution as a result of my preaching to peers. As unglamorous as a lawn mower may actually seem, it is a unique feeling to know the same energy that makes your grass grow is also being used to trim its length. Although I would like to convert

100% of my yard to garden space, urban living seems to be home to the "lawn meisters." I have not fallen into the "my lawn mower is bigger than yours" syndrome.

The Future

We have been using our current residence as a sort of training facility to "cut our teeth on." Since picking up our first Home Power magazine in 1991, we have reduced our monthly power consumption from 775 KWH to 214 KWH. We have dumped all of our phantom loads, have been slowly replacing major appliances with energy efficient ones, and have converted to compact fluorescents. Our Staber 2300 washing machine and Peerless Premier gas cookstove have been wonderful additions to our new way of life. Next year will yield a new gas dryer to use when it's too cold for the clothes line.

Our next lawn will be only a tiny part of our new homestead. Our solar-powered lawn mower will fit in nicely by mowing a path through the wild flowers up on the roof of our future solar and wind powered Davis Cave earth-sheltered home.

Access

Author: David & Sheila Knapp, 208 N. Church St., Winnebago, IL 61088.

PV mounting hardware and meters: Alternative Power Renewable Energy Center, 701 S. Main, Westby, WI 54667 • 608-634-2984.

PV Modules: Real Goods, 555 Leslie St., Ukiah CA 95482 • 800-762-7325.

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