Episode-437- The Road to Individual Energy Independence

Today we discuss “alternative energy”, not always “green energy” as a path to energy independence.  Like many topics that involve “independence” it is not an all or nothing concept, unlike death, independence does come in degrees.  So what we cover today ranges from initial baby steps to full tilt off grid life.

Join me today as we discuss…

  • The why’s behind the quest energy independence
    • Alternative vs. green energy
    • Polar bears vs. practicality
    • Peak oil?   May be.  Peak expense?  Inevitable.
    • Taxation
    • Disaster
    • Liberty
  • Steps on the route to independence
    • Start with efficiency
    • Identify reality (lights aren’t that big a deal)
    • Building a back up system
    • Adding a small generator
    • Adding solar/wind to your back up system
    • Adding a large generator
    • Building a passive solar heater
    • Building a solar hot water heater
    • Going full tilt with solar and wind

Resources for today’s show…

Remember to comment, chime in and tell us your thoughts, this podcast is one man’s opinion, not a lecture or sermon. Also please enter our listener appreciation contest and help spread the word about our show. Also remember you can call in your questions and comments to 866-65-THINK and you might hear yourself on the air.

16 Responses to Episode-437- The Road to Individual Energy Independence

  1. Jack, Series is Positive from the first battery to negative on the second (doubling the voltage) then negative from first to device and positive from second to device.

    Parallel is positive to positive and negative to negative then to the device thus doubling the amperage not voltage.

    It’s tough to describe over the radio

  2. Modern Survival

    @Rocknrandy,

    How the hell did I jack that up? Anyway the way I described it is accurate I just reversed the terms series and parallel.

    So for those reading who listened today hook the system up the way I described to maintain 12VDC but I used the wrong term.

    The link in the show notes shows it accurately. I really don’t know how I did that, jeez you would think 3 years of 24VDC vehicle systems work would have it burned into my brain.

  3. @Jack

    Lol, Like I said, Trying to describe wiring stuff and brain surgery on the radio is damn near impossible. Great show, I’m looking at adding two 130 watt panels to my house soon and I will begin to slowly rewire things to let mother nature help with the power bill

  4. Jack – Why is your southern accent so strong in today’s show? I will hear it from time to time but today it was really strong in several parts. Just thought that was odd…..

  5. Jack –

    Just over a year ago we put a $40 mechanical timer on the power lead to our 40 gallon electric hot water heater. Now we run it about 4 hours out of 24 per day and still have hot water when we want/need it for showers in the am; hot water for dishes at lunch and dinner. If we need more hot water at a different time, there is an override button that will send power to the heater until the next time it would normally cycle off. If you are going to be away for a few days, you can shut down the power to the heater at the box and then reset the 24-hour dial on the timer when you get home. Even just using the average cost to run the hot water heater at about $20 a month, you quickly save the price of the timer in a couple of months and permanently reduce your energy use to heat water, regardless of what happens to the price of electricity. Adding additional wrap-around insulation to the body of the heater and pipe insulation to the feed lines just increases the savings.

  6. Jack…a great place to pick up good diesel Mil-spec generators (ie.MEP-003A) is www govliquidation dot com. They are fairly cheap if you know how to work on them. I don\’t represent these people in any way but I buy a lot of gear from that site. Some people are getting good results running a mix of diesel and waste motor oil in these as well. I have not tried this yet with mine.

  7. Donna, I was just thinking about doing this, but with a little pricier digital timer. How much savings have you noticed per month on average?

  8. Just a tip for anyone with a Tractor Supply in their area: I was in there this weekend and saw a couple of SunForce 80 watt solar panel kits in their clearance section. They were originally $629 and had been marked down to $199. Quick check of Amazon.com on the iPhone and saw the same kits were selling for $429 online. The panels themselves (*0 watt from Sharp) sell for ~$350, so I grabbed them both. Now I just need a few batteries and an inverter. I should have a nice 160 watt setup for way less a grand.

  9. Finally got a chance to listen to this podcast last night.. some great ideas I’d like to implement in our own place. Our next project will be a small solar array with batteries. It’s something that my husband has wanted to do for years and we finally have some cash to invest in it. I’d personally like to try some of the water heating ideas in the near future as well. Thanks for an awesome show- I’d love to hear more on this topic in the future.

  10. WB4ARP, the developer of APRS, had a talk at the local club and I missed it.

    He said he uses the car with an inverter for a generator when the power fails. Another backup to think about.

    He doesn’t have batteries for his solar and wind, he said he feeds it back to the power company.

  11. Sorry, WB4APR

  12. Hi Jack,

    Great show! Thanks!

    If you build a series of 4′ x 8′ or 3′ x 10’/12’interconneted boxes and run both hot air and black water hose through them you cut down on costs, spread out the weight, reduce the effort of getting the system on and off the roof (for repairs)and increase the efficiency of the system (same heat for both jobs) you get a nice, compact, dual-purpose system. Also, people should remember to shower and run dishwashers in the morning or very early afternoon so that minimal alternative energy will be required for evening/night hot water use.

    That’s all fine for heating and hot water but what about us folk who live in the deep South and have way more than enough heat ? Here’s a solution I think y’all (with property) will like. . .

    Like most of you, I don’t even remember WWII as I was born just as the World was cleaning up the aftermath and dividing up the spoils but fuel, like other commodities, was at a premium and the fuel of choice for those left behind was wood gas. A wood gas generator can replace the electric grid and liquid fuels. Current systems can run off of grass clippings, hay, corn STALKS, wood chips or any other cellulose based materials. It can drive a 3 to 5 liter engine which, in turn, can drive up to a 30kW generator. The cost is about $10,000 plus ‘accessories’ (see below) for a total of about $15,000. If your current electric bill is $500 per month average, then on grid the ROI is right at 30 months or 2 1/2 years (plus fuel costs if any) after which electricity/auto fuel costs only what is required to collect and process fuel for wood gas production (though you can buy nut hulls, sawdust, etc. if that’s more convenient/cost effective). Check out http://www.wood-gasification.com/ and lots of videos on YouTube for more info.

  13. Sorry, forgot about the ‘accessories’. In addition to the gas generator ($10,000), you’ll need:

    up to 100 hp engine
    up to 30 kW generator
    Storage barn (for equipment & to keep fuel dry)

    Depending on your fuel source and system size, you may need:

    Chain saws
    Log splitter
    Wood chipper
    Pelletizer
    Tractor w/ front loader & lawn mower for filling feed bins, harvesting grass/hay, etc. (also good for farming )

  14. blackfedora

    This past weekend I completed the installation of a hydro power unit at my retreat in the Virginia mountains, where you can’t throw a rock without hitting a creek. It was the culmination of years of planning and execution, beginning with a dream as a kid forty years ago, and the deciding factor in the property purchase ten years ago.

    I cannot describe perfectly the sensation of throwing the switch and seeing the bank of lights powered by my Pelton wheel turbine, or the quietness of working without the gas generator droning int he background. It was exhilarating.

    Mine is a Rolls-Royce quality unit to last for decades, producing enough power to run the house and my substantial wood and metal work shops. I intend to learn much more so that I can design and construct much less expensive units and be a resource to my neighbors so they can follow me down the path to off grid living.

    I did this not because of the Peak Oil fairy tale, but because of the Peak Tyranny probability. As I told my coworkers when asked why I would go to such lengths, I replied simply, “Because I don’t trust liberals.”

  15. As always, a thought provoking podcast.

    There are multi-fuel furnaces such as the Yukon-Eagle which can burn various fuels. The Yukon-Eagle can burn Natural Gas/Propane/Heating Oil/Wood/Coal. Also it heats on Wood or Coal when electricity is out via gravity feed. There are 2 multi-fuel water “furnaces” I know of out there. I am not sure what to call them as they don’t boil water but use it for house heat. They have even more fuel flexibilty. They claim to use Natural Gas/Propane/Heating Oil/Coal/Solar Thermal and electricity. They are just big tanks of water that surround the combustion chamber.

    I am skeptical of all these systems’ claims for efficiency. I can’t find any independent evaluations of any/all of these systems. Burning wood efficiently is difficult since volatilss (smoke) must be burned. A great deal of the energy in wood is in the smoke. I’ve seen claims of upto 40% of the energy is in the volatiles.

    One future technology to keep an eye on,is Stirling engines. A Stirling engine takes heat and converts it to mechnnical power to run a generator. So in theory, any hot enough heat source can run this type of generator. The only one I know of that is home sized is the Whispergen. It runs on diesel, so it doesn’t have multi-fuel ability. Also no efficiency numbers are available on their unit.

    Hmmmm, maybe I can modify their unit for multi-fuel capability. There are 3 fuel internal combustion powered generators. They can use natural gas/propane/gasoline. Of course, there is the old standby of a diesel generator.

    A warning on the grid-tied Solar photovoltaic system. Many of these grid inter-tied systems are designed to completely shutdown if they loose grid voltage. This is to protect any lineman working on power lines. You wouldn’t want people working on energized lines which can kill them. Make sure your system doesn’t completely shutdown but only prevents power from being sent out of your solar system when the grid is down. This also applies to wind powered generators, etc

  16. Cave dweller

    I came on to tell u about the series parallel thing, and found another listener had already helped you. Anyway one area hooking in series might be useful is with deep cycle batteries. Some of them are 6 volt, you wanna boost that to 12 volt which might be easier for most applications.