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Get Powered Up! Certified Energy Manager Jeff Yago answers your alternative energy questions

Wondering about a great new energy-saving device
you found on the Internet? Then CLICK HERE!

Sorry. Jeff no longer answers questions online.
This will remain as a searchable
resource for all BHM website visitors.



Archive for June, 2009

 

Vendors for fireplace hydronic water jackets?

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Jeff,

“There are hot water coils designed to fit inside traditional free-standing woodstoves, and hydronic water jackets designed to fit inside a conventional masonry fireplace”

This is exciting to me.

The references at the bottom seem to be selling complete outdoor furnaces, not the simple heat exchanger in the photo on the article Web page. Do you have the name(s) of a vendor or two that make these water jackets for conventional masonry fireplaces?

With Appreciation,

Brad

Brad,

I have answered this question before.

Stricter Federal government regulations and easy lawsuits against manufacturers have driven all the manufacturers of this type equipment out of the US market.

Back in the 70’s and 80’s there were many manufacturers of wood-fired hot water heaters, hydronic fireplaces, and hot water coil inserts for wood stoves.  Some moved to Mexico and are selling lots of these products in Mexico and others just went out of business.

There may be one or two left, but about the only water heating wood stoves made now are the outdoor wood-fired boilers you see advertised in this magazine that pipe the hot water into the house.

Hope this helps,

Jeff Yago

 

Solar for small cabin

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

Hi Jeff,

I recently purchased a small 600 square foot cabin that is wired for 12 volt dc. It has eight small florescent lights, a car radio and I also plug in a 19 inch 12 volt TV occasionally. In addition I purchased a used refrigerator Nova Kool model 3800 24volt DC for this cabin.

I am currently carrying two 6 volt golf cart batteries back and forth (for recharging) when I stay at the cabin on the weekends. I would like to make this process easier and am considering purchasing a Suntech 175W 24V Solar Panel, a charge controller, two more golf cart batteries and a power converter 24 volt DC to 12 volt DC. I plan to keep the lighting and power outlets at 12 volt DC and have 24 volt DC to power the fridge.

Am I on the right track? Do you know if Suntech solar panels are good quality or not? Can you recommend a charge controller and power converter for this application? Any other advice you might have for me?

Thanks,

Bob Kruckenberg

Bob,

The solar module you are considering is a 24 volt module, and cannot be connected to a 12 volt battery system unless you purchase a $400+ MPPT solar charge controller that allows a higher voltage solar array to charge a lower voltage battery. If you use a standard charge controller, it will force the solar module to operate at half its normal voltage which cut its watts output in half.

Although I do not buy or install any solar hardware made in China for more reasons than I can discuss here, I will say that SunTech is one of the oldest and best respected solar manufacturers in China, but I was not pleased with workmanship on the few that I have purchased.

If you stay with a 24 volt battery to match the 24 volt solar module, you will need four (4) golf cart batteries, and I think you will find the lower cost voltage converters to be very light-duty for this application. We have had several fail when loaded near their advertised ratings.

Since this is a small cabin, I would keep the batteries and all wiring 12 volts DC as you can find almost anything in an RV or boating supply store that will operate on 12 volts DC. You cannot find much of anything to run directly from 24 volts DC unless you use the voltage converter, but then if it fails you lose everything.

Good Luck and buy a good LED flashlight!

Jeff Yago

 

Camper shell A/C

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

Jeff,

I saw a question about air conditioning a camper shell for dogs. The answer was to let the dogs ride in the front.

I am looking for a way to A/C my camper shell as well. I have a heavy duty alternator in my pick up.

Kristi

Kristi,

Several companies make a 12 Volt DC powered air conditioning unit for truck cabs that can be powered from an alternator charged battery. They are not cheap and they usually require adding a heaver dual battery power system, but you can buy these.

I think you will find the cost will be so high that its not worth the trouble, but give it a try.

Good Luck,

Jeff Yago

 

Solar pump

Friday, June 19th, 2009

Jeff,

I own land on a river and want something simple that will pump a small amount from the river to the water trough on the other side of a fence about 50 yards from the river and at an elevation of about 10 feet.  Nothing fancy.  Simple and small is fine.

Can you suggest something? Many thanks,

David Mayfield

David,

Check out this article from a past issue that covers this topic:

http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles2/yago91.html

Good Luck,

Jeff Yago

 

Off grid system in Alaska

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Hi Jeff.

We’re from Alaska and thinking about buying 20 acres where electricity is nowhere to be seen.

And since the sun is scarce in the winter, we’re wondering what kind of a generator-battery-inverter system would be advisable and what’s the approximate cost of setting it all up?

Wind power is not an option either, as the data shows less than 5 mph, year round.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

SharLynn

Sharlynn,

You guys are in a tough place.   I have talked with many folks from there and your choices are limited.

The first thing you need to do is really limit your electrical usage.  I assume you will be using a wood, oil, or propane cook stove, space heater, and water heater.   I would not have any heating system that requires operating a central fan or air handing unit as these require lots of power.

I would use only a few low wattage compact fluorescent and mostly LED lights for lighting, and buy only very energy efficient short wave radio, flat screen TV, computer, and video equipment.    You must lower your energy needs first, and it’s worth paying extra for the higher efficiency devices.

Batteries do not like the cold, so they need to be above freezing.  Diesel generators do not start when it drops below freezing unless you use crankcase and carburetor heaters, and you cannot run these high energy loads 24/7 on battery power.  This means you need to find ways to keep the generator area above freezing.

Solar systems can work that far north for the periods of the year when the sun shines, but a generator-battery system will be needed the rest of the year.

I would check with neighbors to see how they deal with this.

Good Luck!

Jeff Yago

 

Battery charging from a generator

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Jeff,

I have a 7500 Watt generator working fairly well except that the DC output to charge the 12 volt battery is ony 8 volts DC due to a problem I am unable to repair.

Will the 8 volt DC to the battery cause any harm to the 12 volt battery? I have been using a portable 12 volt charger to to keep the battery up to par.

Thanks.

Bob Libbon

Bob,

You should never run a large generator like this just to use the battery charger circuit. Some generators offer this small DC charging power to trickle charge a battery while you are running the generator to power other loads, but you would use up a tank of gas just to charge a small battery like this.

You want to buy a high quality 120 VAC battery charger and plug it into the AC outlet of the generator. Select a charger that lets you select different amp charging rates to match the battery. You could easily power a large capacity charger with this size generator, so the charging process would be much faster and will save fuel.

One caution – cheap battery chargers will not work from most generators as they require the higher peak-to-peak voltage of a generator output, and if the generator voltage drops while under load the charger will stop charging. Be sure the charger specs indicate it can be powered from a generator.

If you have a half-full basketball with 30 PSI pressure inside, you will never add more air to fill it up if your air pump only goes to 20 PSI, even if you ran the pump all day. You cannot charge a 12 volt battery with 8 volts. Regardless of charger type – solar, generator, wind, grid, the charger voltage must be higher than the battery voltage. A 12 volt battery will require a charger that puts out 13 to 14 volts. At 12 volts the battery will be almost discharged.

Good luck,

Jeff Yago

 

Charging 6 volt batteries in a series

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Jeff

I have a 36 volt (6 6-volt batteries) Cushman golf cart.

Can I bypass the old charger and use a 6-12 volt battery charger to charge these six 6 volt batteries wired in a series? If so where do I put on the + and – cables? One on the first battery and one on the last battery in the series?

Thank you for your time

Tom
Indianapolis

Tom,

I am not sure why you want to do this but I am going to assume the on-board 36 v charger is dead, and you have this other charger around but it is a 72 volt charger (6 x 12)??.

My first suggestion is call or stop by a used golf cart outlet.  There is usually at least one in all larger cities having several golf courses.  They have tons of these used chargers around and will either give you one or sell you one very cheap since many people are paying to have these old carts re-furbished for use in RV parks and they usually include a new charger with each cart sold.  Be sure to get the right model as many of todays golf carts use six (6) batteries @ 8 volts each which require a 48 volt charger.

If your charger is really a 72 volt charger designed to charge six (6) batteries of 12 volts each, then you cannot use it.  It is possible to use a 12 volt charger and connect to two batteries at a time in series which makes 12 volts.  You would connect to the positive and negative of each set of 2 batteries, then move to the next set of 2 until all 3 sets are charged, or you could use a 6 volt charger (some 12 volt chargers have a 6 volt switch) and charge them one at a time the same way, but do not connect a higher voltage charger to a lower voltage battery set.

Good luck,

Jeff Yago

 
 


 
 

 
 
 
 
 
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