If your homestead can take advantage of water sources to produce electricity, then you have come to the right place. Here are the ins and outs of water-powered electrical production, from the microhydro web site. The link at the end takes you to the site for more info.
Water poweris as old as civilization . If you live in an old mill or have an upland stream flowing through or close to your property, you probably have a site suitable to generate some or all your domestic power requirements. If there is insufficient power for your needs electrically,you might still be able to use water power to drive a water source heat pump.
The main power requirements are in the winter months, so there should be little or no conflict with other river demands. Adequate provisions may have to be made for migratory fish, and if construction is needed, take care not to dam up the area. Check land drainage upstream of your intake. Construct all schemes in an unobtrusive and environmentally sensitive manner, and where appropriate buy drawings of proven designs.
Al Rutan and his tabletop digester
The production of natural gas (CH4) occurs everywhere in nature – in swamps, bogs, coal mines, land fills and in the guts of warm blooded mammals. In fact, it occurs anyplace where organic matter is present and air is excluded.
It is this same vapor gas that the utility companies market. Made by nature and deposited in the ground over eons of time, the chemical formula is one part carbon to four parts hydrogen (CH4). Because the vapor which the utility companies sell is for all practical purposes a non-renewable resource, the price currently is escalating rapidly and will continue to do so. The day of “cheap” energy in America is over. But there is a way around this dilemma. If we have the material at hand, namely organic waste that is ordinarily manure, we can harness the forces of nature and make our own natural vapor gas at virtually no cost once with the right equipment.
Is this equipment expensive? Not necessarily. All the process requires are three simple conditions: (1) a tank that excludes air, (2) a constant, even temperature of 95 to 100 degrees F, (3) a gentle stirring action. All three of these conditions mimic the conditions that are within the gut of every warm blooded animal, including people: air is excluded, basic metabolism keeps body temperature constant and even throughout the animal, a mixing action occurs by means of the simple movement of food through gut which we call peristalsis.
It is the process of digestion. Some of the food is converted into energy and building material for the cells of the animal – including people – and some of it passes completely through the alimentary canal. Are we familiar with the definition of the alimentary canal? Webster’s dictionary defines it thus: “The tubular passage that extends from mouth to anus and functions in digestion and absorption of food and elimination of residual waste.”
It is this same “tubular passage” that we mimic when we build a tank for producing natural gas, which we call a digester.
Here on our off-grid homestead, we use PV panels as part of our energy solution. PV takes the energy in the sun’s light, and converts it directly to DC electricity for battery charging. A inverter then takes the low voltage DC, and converts it to 120vac house current. In other countries, it may be converted to 220vac. The number of PV panels you need is determined by your electrical usage, and the part of the world you live in. We get 2.5 full sun hours a day, another area might get 6, so they would need fewer panels than we do for the same load. A good beginner’s tutorial can be found here . It’s a PDF, and requires Adobe Acrobat.
Victor Tikhonov converted a Honda from gasoline to DC Electric. A few years later, he upgraded it to a AC Electric propulsion system. Everything he modified, from removing the engine, installing the electric motor, control and instrumentation systems, adapting existing accessories, to performance testing is laid out for all to observe, and hopefully replicate with their own vehicles. Since electricity can be generated with solar panels and wind generators, a electric vehicle is an appropriate addition to the off-grid home.
With a regularly windy site, a wind generator can be an inexpensive source of electricity, especially compared to photovoltaics (PV). Commercial wind generators can be pricey, initially, as are the towers and installation. This can be done Do-It-Yourself (DIY), with proper education and experience. My friends at Otherpower.com build their own wind machines, and do their own installation. Follow along
as they construct a 15′, 1500 watt unit.
Ancient Kalamazoo Franklin
We had a very old Kalamazoo Franklin wood stove that was coming apart at the seams, literally. The final straw was this week when the cast iron chimney elbow separated from the firebox. We decided that it needed to be replaced, and in a hurry. Out door Temps were -10F, and heading to -22F, so a new Vestal Classic stove was ordered and delivered.
New Vestal Classic
I removed the old 26 gauge 7″ galvanized chimney pipe, and replaced it with new 22 gauge 6″ black chimney pipe. My fingers went right through the old pipe. As soon as I unhooked the chimney, the stove elbow fell completely off. This was a disaster waiting for an opportunity. I connected the new pipe, screwed it together, connected the new stove, and lit a fire. Soon the heat was again warming our home. My wife set a rocking chair in front, and enjoyed some well needed “me” time, and the cats curled up on the hearth, and took a nap. Life is good, and warm, again.
Good ol’ John Canivan – guru of sun heated water systems, related the following to me:
In 1970 a friend of mine left the civilized comforts of a New Jersey home to seek out and experience the free, wild wilderness of an Adirondack hilltop in upstate New York. Jake loved the country life and swore that he’d never leave his mountain retreat. He endured the cold winters without electricity and baseboard heating, but Jake still missed running hot water. When spring came he took a 300-foot coil of black plastic tubing and connected one end to a spring high up on the mountain. He draped the remainder of the 300-foot coil on his roof and spread it out to cover as much surface area as possible. For a $50 investment and one hour’s worth of labor Jake had himself a bona fide hot water shower. He made good use of it whenever the sun was high on the mountain. I used it a few times myself. It works. The roof might look a little funny and the hot water would sometimes run out sooner than you’d like, but it did work when the sun was shining.
John has a practical tutorial on the how’s and why’s of sun heated water on his website.
CHARLEY Boorman went off-grid with best friend Ewan McGregor but has not been able to find work since.
Since the pair returned from their motorcycle journey in aid of UNICEF, very few job offers have come his way. Charley has had to make do with promoting the DVD and book of the pair’s Long Way Round adventure.
McGregor, on the other hand, is one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars. He is currently in Los Angeles filming the sci-fi thriller The Island with Scarlett Johansson.
On our homestead, we have greatly reduced our water usage by eliminating the flush toilet. The idea of polluting fresh drinking water with humanure is an odd concept, but widely held as the only solution. At the same time, we have embarked on a process that builds topsoil depth and quality. By combining a sawdust toilet with a compost bin, we are reducing our “waste” footprint and creating valuable healthy soil.
A sawdust toilet is ONE of three components. The system will NOT work without all components, which are: