Come Visit With The Home Power Crew


AT SEER '90, BOOTH #5, WILLITS, CA ON AUG. 11 & 12

System Shorties

System Shorties are brief notes from readers about their home power systems. To join the party, send material similar in spirit to what you see here. We will edit for clarity and conciseness.

Retirees Choice

It seems to me many elderly and retiring people invest their hard earned savings in the large, spacious house they've long dreamed to own when they no longer may need it, so let me give a plug for the compact, solar electric home as a choice for retirees. My own Social Security benefits are projected to be $522/month, scheduled to begin late next year and me intending to live within my means. I moved off the grid and into my small, but light and airy, 840 square foot house on 8 acres in the central California foothills about six months ago.

Beside spending $22,500 for land and $36,117 on house, garage, septic, water well and 1500 gallon tank and access road, my investment in six Hoxan PV panels, eight golfcart batteries, a Trace C-30A controller, a Trace 2012 inverter/charger, an SDS well pump, 12VDC and 110 vac breaker panels, wiring and mostly fluorescent lights amounted to $5,693.

As such, I pull in as much as 138.6 amp hours/day and generate sufficient electricity for lights, stereo, TV, well pumping and nearly all my cooking.

I also spent an additional $1,150 on a near new, but not yet utilized, 4.9kw Onan generator and $1,015 on a new Servel refrigerator.

I burned less than one cord of wood in my small stove this winter and it now appears my propane consumption for refrigeration, hot water and supplementary space heating and cooking will average less than 18 gal./month.

Thus, a single, elderly person in need of some medical insurance perhaps, but with no extravagant taste or habits and keeping a most detailed record, my present monthly expenditures are as follows: Basic food & drinks - $125.00 Utilities, propane, & telephone - $37.00 Gasoline & 4x4 truck maintenance - $36.00 House & truck insurance - $56.00 House & property tax - $48.00 Shoes, clothing, books, etc. - $35.00 Monthly total - $337.00 Now from my house situated at 4,000 foot elevation, able to see 170 miles on a clear day and over looking perhaps a quarter million people, 10% of which believe it is necessary to make ten times that much to make ends meet, I find myself content. The sun, most splendid, works for me.

Dag Heistad, POB 788, Soulsbyville, CA 95372

A System at Whales Walk

Our home is powered by a hybrid PV, wind and LP-gas fueled generator system. We have: 16 - Kyocera 40 watt panels

1 - Bergey 100 1-kw wind generator on a 60 foot Rohn tower 1 - Onan CCK5.0 5 kW 1800 RPM genset fueled by LP-gas 1 - Trace 2500 watt inverter

1 - Peter Dahl Co. 117vac to 240/120vac transformer 8 - 6 volt, 305 amp-hr. Surette batteries in 24 volt output 1 - Solahart 160 hot water system

My wife and I installed and maintain the system ourselves. We improved upon the less than satisfactory results from the East Coast USA alternative energy company which dithered around for months after we arrived here. After 18 months, we are finally seeing success. By taking control of the situation, educating ourselves, and ignoring the advice of several profit-oriented, "self-appointed experts" within the AE industry in the USA, we now are completely independent and operate 24 hours per day on the AE system.

Our 3,000 square foot home has ceiling fans in each room, a 20 cubic foot refrigerator with ice maker, a 16 cubic foot freezer in the basement, water pump, 24,000 gallons of cistern capacity, lots of ham radio equipment, and outside lighting. Our AE system is almost transparent to us. Yes, there are times that the lights dim out, when the freezer and refrigerator are in their defrost cycles and the water pump kicks in, and there are days when the wind is calm and the total 14.5 KW design capacity of the collection isn't realized. However, the alternative was paying $36,000 for connection to an unreliable government utility system.

Your magazine has been of invaluable assistance to us, we read our borrowed copies of Home Power as if they are text books in a university course on energy self-sufficiency. The mixture of advice and new product reviews are excellent. Even the advertisements are educational.

Some Kudos for HP advertisers and the AE industry:

1) Real Goods worked very hard to get us a battery charger, in spite of the efforts of their air freight company to send the charger to Timbuctu, our VISA card company to not pay Real Goods, the US Customs Service in Puerto Rico to foul things up, and interruptions caused by Hurricanes HUGO and IRIS.

2) Our Bergey 100 Wind Generator has worked without a glitch, went through Hurricane Hugo with wind gusts measured at 110 mph, and continues to pump out the kilowatts. However, we are not anxious to raise another 60 foot tower during 25 mph winds, in this life or on the next 100 turns of the wheel. While Up There, I kept saying "I want to come back next time as a bird, yes, a small bird, oh, my, even as a tiny creature of the forest will do OOOOoooooommmm " You get the picture, I'm sure.

3) Although our Trace inverter failed after only 5 months of use, and we were forced to purchase another one immediately (in order to keep the house alive), the Trace people were helpful and spent a lot of time on the telephone with us.

4) The Onan Company, both at the head office and their factory representative in St Thomas, have performed above the call of duty. The Onan 5.0 CCK genset now has 2600 hours of operation over that last 18 months, without a glitch. About 800 hours were operated on leaded gasoline, 81 octane; 900 hours on unleaded 93 octane marine fuel and the remainder on LP gas. Amazing how clean the spark plugs and the air are after LP gas operation. It only operates about 1 hour per week, just to keep the oil stirred up.

5) The Government of Anguilla deserves a big salute, since they amended the the customs regulations to permit duty free entry of alternative energy and water heating equipment. This saved us 25% of the cost of our system and shipping charges.

6) The Peter Dahl Transformer Company for quickly and inexpensively engineering, manufacturing & shipping a transformer to convert the 117 volt 2 wire output of the Trace to the standard 240/120 3 wire service of our house system. Real professionals.

Buttkicks (Boots in the rear?) for some AE "experts":

1) The Surrette Battery people for shipping batteries without electrolyte and without instructions. This resulted in the batteries being supplied locally with electrolyte of 1.210 specific gravity instead of 1.265. We couldn't figure out why they would never come up to full charge. After 8 months of problems, a ham radio friend recommended adding some concentrated acid, bringing the specific gravity up to 1.265. Worked like a charm. The Surrette people don't answer their mail either.

2) The Bergey Company, for originally supplying us with a used EMS1000 controller for the wind generator. It was built for another system, then "modified" to work with our 24 volt system --all without our knowledge. It took 5 months to figure that one out, and to get them to exchange it for a properly manufactured 24 volt controller.

3) The Trace Company, for placing those tiny little allen-head terminals inside the inverter. There just isn't enough clearance for wires, fingers, terminal rings. We still operate our Trace inverter using the accessory plug on the side, wired into the transformer. That's just plain stupid engineering.

4) The Para Systems company for telling me that their "Minute Man 300" computer uninterrupted power system would work with an inverter. I bought two of them for my consulting work stations, and they will not work. They go into fault due to the non-sine wave output of the Trace Inverter. Para Systems people don't answer their mail from us, either.

Final results: We are now assisting 5 local people with the selection and installation of wind generators for 12 volt production. Their systems are on order and we are waiting for the boat to arrive. One person's antique Wincharger 12 volt 200 watt machine is being reconditioned after years of storage. In the 1930's and 1940's there were an estimated 15 wind generators on Anguilla, which then had no commercial generation at all.

The next project here is the completion of the island's emergency radio repeater system (callsign VP2EA/R, 147.81 mhz) which will be powered by an innovative twin turbine wind generator from Ted Baer of Enercraft. Planning for 1991 includes using surplus 200 watt Winchargers on 64 foot towers to power a local service station and installation of a Bergey 3KW synchronous, grid connected system for a local business. Future planning includes locating a surplus electric powered van in the USA and operating it here in a feasibility test, using a Wincharger or Enercraft system to charge the batteries at night. Considering that the island is only 16 miles long, an electric vehicle may be an interesting and very useful concept. Gasoline is about $2.50 per gallon, not to mention pollution.

Anyone out there who would like to give advice, information, trade ideas or donate a surplus electric van can contact us anytime.

Best Regards, and good luck in the future. Dave Mann (VP2EHF) & Dorothea Mann (VP2EE) Whales Walk, Little Harbour, Anguilla Island, B.W.I. 809-497-2150 (FAX and Voice)

Solar Cool

We must compliment you on your straight forward, intelligent information your magazine presents. Also we love your writers' sense of humor ... much needed in this hectic world of today!

We have a brand new solar home (nearly 1/2 completed). Our energy comes from 8 Solarex MSX-60's which powers our home for all our current electrical needs, except for our gas refrigerator & stove (stolen from our camper).

Your magazine has really been the "light of our life" in helping us make decisions and installing our solar system.

Our twenty acres of raw desert land did not come equipped with APS (grid power) and since we were located nearly 3/4 mile from the nearest utility hook-up we decided it would be much more cost effective to go "Solar Power". We were right. We have suffered plenty, enduring temperatures of over 115° while building our home. Summers here in the Sonoran Desert are nearly unbearable and for 3 years we endured the summer heat - UNTIL THIS YEAR.

We have just installed a new 24 volt cooler! We changed the pulley to a huge 18 inch, so now our 1/2 horse DC motor pulls 6 amps (1 amp over motor running free!). We are pretty impressed with our cooler power usage of only 144 watts! Yesterday, for example, the outside temperature climbed to a soaring 114° and our cooler kept us at an even comfortable temperature of 80°. Humidity was at 7%, which really helped the evaporation work. WOW, 34° difference at 144 watts of DC solar power! I just wish more people would give solar a chance to show what it can do.

As money comes, we plan to expand our PV array and battery capacity (now at 440 Amp-hours storage). We feel we are 1/3 the way there to all the eventual power we will need. At present, we power our cooling system, color TV, VCR, stereo, Kenmore large capacity washer, all lights PL, cellular DC phone, typewriter, compressor, microwave and a large outdoor yard light (75 watt) to the barn. Of course, all is used in moderation during certain times of the year, but I must add we "get a feel" for the power made available to us during a given day. Conservation is the answer from the beginning. As you add one energy efficient product after another, it finally all adds up, and in our case, we don't do without - we just conserved from the start. We hope in the future, we can inspire others who really care about our country's energy/waste and would like to join the positive side of solar power. Many thanks to you in your efforts of "showing us the way" and a word to let you know we are grateful. Bruce & Laine Brekke, Maricopa, AZ

A Silly Short Shortie

I am writing to thank you for the inspiration you provided which led to my installing a sixteen-panel PV-system in my remote home. Now, when I arrive, I can take a ready meal from my Sunfrost freezer, pop it into my microwave oven, turn on the DC television and VCR and feel just like at my old house in Levittown, PA. Sincerely yours, Marvin Kleinkopf, Big Bluff, CO i ttomeèrew

Shunt Regulator

Chris Greacen

Wind, hydro and photovoltaic panels can sometimes produce more electricity than our batteries can store. Overcharging batteries increases water loss in the electrolyte, decrease battery life; and is potentially more dangerous. Under charge, the voltage of a fully charged battery system can rise to levels which will fry 12 Volt electronics (including some inverters) attached to the system. There are two basic kinds of regulators: series regulators and shunt regulators. Both regulators have a sensing circuit which regulates current flow into batteries when the voltage exceeds a threshold level. Series regulators work by switching off current from the charging source (panels, etc) when the voltage climbs too high. With the charging source disconnected like this the battery voltage sinks to its standing voltage (lower than its voltage under charge). Series regulators are simple, but they have two disadvantages: first, not all power potentially produced by the power source is used. When the load is switched off, generators used in hydro or wind systems can spin more quickly than they are designed for and destroy themselves. This does not apply to solar cells - running Pvs open circuit, or short circuit for that matter, does no harm. Shunt regulators work by diverting the power from the batteries into some other load. In effect they waste electricity, but wasting electricity is much better than overcharging batteries - or destroying electronics. Of course if you do have a way to put those electrons to a good use, by all means do it - run the washing machine or vacuum cleaner.

What follows is a working, simple shunt regulator. With a proper load, this shunt regulator can regulate up to 15 Amps (more than 3 Kyocera J-48 PV panels on a very sunny day).

How it Works

The threshold voltage is determined by the potentiometer on the voltage divider into pin 5 of the 723 (refer to the schematic). When this voltage exceeds the 723's internal reference voltage (pin 6), pin 9 goes high saturating Q1. The 10kW resistor and 0.1|jF capacitor assure that the power FET does not make the ON-OFF-ON transition too fast. When the capacitor on pin 2 is discharged to 1/3 Vcc the 555 is triggered and pin 3 stays high for a time period determined by the resistor to Vcc and capacitor to ground on pins 6 and 7: time » 1.1RC » 1.1 seconds. Pin 3 feeds the gate of the FET, protected against over voltage (Vgatemax= 20 Volts) by an 18 Volt zener. When the gate goes high the FET conducts, sending full current through the shunt load. A 5 Watt, 22 Volt zener diode protects against voltage spikes from inductive loads. The two LEDs help see what the electronics are doing. The green LED is on whenever power is on. The amber LED lights whenever the regulator is diverting power to the load.

Construction and use information

In the schematic dark lines indicate high current carrying wires. To avoid overheating on these use 16 gauge or larger wire. For a load

12 V Battery under charge

11 to 16 VDC

12 V Battery under charge

11 to 16 VDC

I suggest using high wattage power resistors since reliability of the load is the primary consideration. Using a bunch of car tail lights in parallel would also provide a good load since chances are excellent they will not burn out at once. Here is an example for determining resistance and wattage. Suppose the maximum current I wanted to regulate was 15 Amps at 15 Volts. Since R = V/I we need a resistance of 15 Volts/15 Amps = 1.0 W. Wattage is given by P = IV. P = 15 Amps * 15 Volts = 225 Watts. To be safe, I'd use 250 Watts. When hooking up your regulator make sure the system's voltage is below 16 VDC since the NE555 is rated at a maximum 16 Volts. The regulator will regulate voltages from 12.0 to 15.8 Volts. When hooking up your shunt regulator it is a good idea to hook up the load first and make sure there are no short circuits. Access:

Chris Greacen, Box 229, Reed College, Portland OR 97202 For Power resistors:

Hosfelt Electronics Inc. 2700 Sunset Boulevard, Steubenville, OH 43952; tel 1-800-524-6464 ..Kk.

Quartz Halogen Lighting

Wally Skyrman

Upon reading in HP #15, page 31, the Wizard's Micro PV System, I think I know someone else who could use quartz halogen incandescent lighting. In past issues of HP reference was made to quartz halogen lamps and their efficiency, but until I got distracted with the RF static generated by my fluorescent lighting I never gave it much thought.

Like the Wizard, I like to use my radio, especially AM and shortwave, at night. I needed an efficient light that didn't interfere with my radios. In a nutshell what I did was to take one of the swing arm desk lamps and, by use of a converter, place a 20 watt, 12 volt quartz halogen lamp in place of the stock 100 watt, 110 volt energy burners.

The heart of the lamp is the bulb. Quartz light spectrum is very close to sunlight. 3000-3200 degrees and is nice to work with. The lamps come by themselves or with a built-in reflector. If you have ever relamped a Kodak Carousel slide projector you have dealt with the big brother of what is pictured. Instead of 300 watt-120 volt we will use 20 or 50 watt-12 volt bulb which is sold for low voltage track lighting. There is one hazard in using this style of bulb. It can break and explode in operation, therefore the fixtures designed to use this bulb have a glass lens sealing off the bulb.

Parts List

Swing Arm Desk Lamp - Any department store, Pay & Pak, K Mart, etc. $11. I used a Grandrich Model G-2512. Try to find one where the reflector bowl is in two pieces. This helps in working on the lamp after the front shield is in place.

Quartz Bulb - Electrical supply houses and some HP advertisers. Like projector bulbs, these lamps come with a three letter code. You

Above: BAB model Quartz-Halogen indandescent lamp made by Philips, Model "Accent 1200". This particular one consumed 1.8 Amperes at 12 VDC (measured by Fluke 87).

Left: The Grandrich Model G-2512 swing arm lamp with the Quartz-Halogen lamp installed.

Photos by Richard Perez will want a BAB for the 20 watt or EXN for 50 watt. I used a BAB model made by Philips, Model "Accent 1200" that cost $9. These seem to be the most commonly available flood style that are stocked. Others are available, but I have no experience with them. Price is $6 to $10.

Adapter - These bulbs will not screw into the lamp without an adapter. HP advertisers that stock halogen bulbs also have the adapters you will need. In my case, I already had the bulb and, it being a weekend, I fashioned small brass connectors to do the job.

Shielding - Not wanting hot glass raining down on me in the event of bulb explosion, I took the plastic from an old motorcycle helmet face shield and by using tin snips, cut out a disc that would snap into place. With the two piece reflector I was able to screw in the adaptor, insert the lamp and replace the reflector/shield. By installing an appropriate 12 VDC plug I was in business. No more whistles while listening to KGO, KOA or Radio Netherlands... Access

Wally Skyrman,4588 Pacific HWY N, Central Point, OR 97502 ,

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