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Author Topic: Question(s) on solar/battery capacity & settings  (Read 46851 times)

ZooT_aLLures

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Re: Question(s) on solar/battery capacity & settings
« Reply #120 on: November 02, 2009, 01:28:53 pm »

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Could it really be that the batteries are developing a stronger charge, despite all efforts to sabotage them?

It could be that they just got a full charge for a change....



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Claire

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Re: Question(s) on solar/battery capacity & settings
« Reply #121 on: November 02, 2009, 02:28:58 pm »

So glad to hear that you're making such progress with your power system!  Considering that I know little to nothing other than generalities about off-grid power, would it be a wise decision to run the gennie anyway, even though you don't technically have to?  My thinking is that it would still help get the system back up to the absorption/float level quicker (or whatever the current goal is.  I got lost. ) and would make it that much less that the panels need to do during the day to get it to full charge.

I could be wrong and someone who actually knows what they're talking about will correct me...

Well, Thunder, you know as much as I do. (Which, of course, is a little scary.  :laugh:)

I'm sure we will run the generator some times -- for instance, on the evenings of cloudy days. And we'll probably run it this evening after (and if) we got the four additional batteries wired into the system. Since they won't get a full day's sun charge, I'm sure it'll help to give them a boost going into their first night on the job.

As to running it other times, even on sunny days ... good question for those folks who "know what they're talking about."

But it's amazing how much of a charge the batteries are picking up from the sun right this minute with all the proper wheels cranked up to high.
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Just as the flattery of friends often leads us astray, so the insults of enemies often do us good. -- St. Augustine, Confessions, Book IX, Chapter 8


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Claire

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Re: Question(s) on solar/battery capacity & settings
« Reply #122 on: November 02, 2009, 02:34:23 pm »

Quote
Could it really be that the batteries are developing a stronger charge, despite all efforts to sabotage them?

It could be that they just got a full charge for a change....

Well, anything that helps them is fine by me.  :mellow:

But I believe they were semi-depleted as we went into yesterday's evening hours. The reason I phrased it as a deeper charge, rather than a full charge (and this may be pure ignorance on my part) is that although the level of charge dropped quickly in the early evening as it has in the semi-charged past, it dropped soooooo sllllowwwwwly through the night. More slowly than it dropped the night before when I believe the batteries were actually more charged.

I dunno. Just seemed as if, somehow, each 0.1 amp somehow had more to give.
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Just as the flattery of friends often leads us astray, so the insults of enemies often do us good. -- St. Augustine, Confessions, Book IX, Chapter 8


When faith ceases to be a challenge to the standards of polite society, it is no longer, or has not yet become, faith. -- Donald Spoto, Reluctant Saint:  The Life of Francis of Assisi


My life is my message. -- Gandhi

Silver

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Re: Question(s) on solar/battery capacity & settings
« Reply #123 on: November 02, 2009, 03:12:15 pm »

I suspect that the batteries are both more fully charged AND are regaining capacity lost as a result of chronic under-charging and deep discharge.

The chemistry gets complicated, but basically the process of discharging and recharging a battery produces lead sulfate on the surface of the plates.  Sulfate doesn't conduct electricity, so it will tend to choke off the flow of current.  One of the several purposes of the absorption charge is to let absorbtion/desorption reactions physically move lead being plated out on the surfaces of the plates to deeper cracks and crevices.  The plates are engineered with relatively large surface areas to speed this process along.

When you go a long time without fully charging the batteries, that sulfate is never removed and the lead never re-deposited back onto the plates.  The capacity of the battery is reduced.  Eventually the process goes so far that the battery will not take a charge at all and must be replaced.

Claire's observation that each 0.1 volt change during discharge "had more to give" is probably accurate, and explained by getting a decent time on the absorption charge.  I expect the battery capacity will continue to improve over the next few days and weeks.

This is also additional reason to think the old batteries are not toast, simply mistreated.  If allowed some decent time in absorption charge to develop a full charge, they might prove useful, either as backups or to other gulch residents.

As to Thunder's suggestion that you run the generator anyway, of course you can.  But the purpose of the solar panels, and the upgrade to the panels, is to capture energy from the sun rather than buying it from the gasoline pump.  Once you've made the investment in solar panels, might as well get as much energy as possible from them.

The generator is rated to last for 2,000 hours.  If it runs 3 hours a day, every day, that's less than 2 years.  It can be repaired and rebuilt, but as a mechanical device it does suffer from wear and tear, and fuel isn't cheap and will probably be a whole lot more expensive soon.  So Claire's reports of two days where the system survived the night and began recharging in the morning is good news for the generator - and for those who have to make the morning trudge out to the power house to fuel it and start it.

Peace,

Silver
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Claire

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Re: Question(s) on solar/battery capacity & settings
« Reply #124 on: November 02, 2009, 03:21:38 pm »

Once again, I would suggest using X-10. That DVD player doesn't need to be on all night; plug it into an X-10 module and have the central controller shut it off every night at 10 PM.  Put a cheap X-10 control panel in the room so people can power it up with the push of a button. 

Well, I solved that one even easier than that. I just pulled the plug on the power strip that holds the DVD player, sound system, and monitor.  :laugh:

But I shouldn't feel too cocky about my "fix." I forgot to measure the amp draw of those three items when "battery buddy" and I were testing. Just assumed that, like everything else on standby, they were drawing next to nothing.

Whoops. 0.8 amps. How embarrassing. Funny that they should draw so much when idle. The don't draw a whole lot more than that when operating.

At least it goes a long way toward cutting down nighttime power. And all I have to do is insert Plug A into Socket B if I want to watch a movie. Same with battery chargers & so on. Easier to pull the plug than buy special gear.

But the fancy gear may well come in handy for other devices that aren't so easy or intuitive to unplug.

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Just as the flattery of friends often leads us astray, so the insults of enemies often do us good. -- St. Augustine, Confessions, Book IX, Chapter 8


When faith ceases to be a challenge to the standards of polite society, it is no longer, or has not yet become, faith. -- Donald Spoto, Reluctant Saint:  The Life of Francis of Assisi


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Re: Question(s) on solar/battery capacity & settings
« Reply #125 on: November 02, 2009, 04:25:48 pm »

Well, that's 19 watts of the 96 being drawn 24x7.

The inverter draws less than 20 watts, or less than one amp. So you are looking for about another 2 amps of parasite loads.

You can consider cutting off power to the propane refrigerators.  You need to check the manuals of course, but most propane refrigerators are engineered for RV duty where power gets cut off and restored all the time.  If you cut the AC to those refrigerators from 11 PM to 5 AM or whenever you aren't likely to be opening their doors, they will keep cool and just run a bit longer on propane to restore full cold every morning when the AC power is restored.

It may seem picky to go after these tiny loads, but the ones that are on 24x7 really hurt you.

Even with upgraded solar panels, the InMyBackyard model shows an annual energy harvest of ~2700 kilowatt-hours.  Just 2 amps - 48 watts - running 24x7 represents over 420 kilowatt-hours - more than 15% of all the energy you harvest.  That's why you need to hunt down these parasite loads and control them.

Peace,

Silver
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Thunder

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Re: Question(s) on solar/battery capacity & settings
« Reply #126 on: November 02, 2009, 05:05:01 pm »

I believe I read somewhere that anything with a wall wart is draining power without actually being in use.  Don't know if there's any truth to it, but it's something to consider as possible culprits.

As to Thunder's suggestion that you run the generator anyway, of course you can.  But the purpose of the solar panels, and the upgrade to the panels, is to capture energy from the sun rather than buying it from the gasoline pump.  Once you've made the investment in solar panels, might as well get as much energy as possible from them.

Oh, I agree totally.  My line of thought was just to get the batteries topped off as soon as possible and then not run the gennie any more until it's absolutely needed, which we hope is never.  You'd know better than I if that would be a waste of resources or not.  Wear and tear on the genset is something to take into consideration.

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ZooT_aLLures

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Re: Question(s) on solar/battery capacity & settings
« Reply #127 on: November 02, 2009, 05:53:39 pm »

Quote
DVD player, sound system, and monitor.  laugh

monitors in particular usually are running all the time with only the picture tube/lcd screen being powered down......

Back when I was a kid I remember the TV "taking a few seconds to warm up"..............but they don't anymore, because they're kept warm all the time......

Quote
that anything with a wall wart is draining power without actually being in use.
Yup...............the primary side of the transformer is still charged............there's just no output via the secondary side and any circuitry beyond that..............

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Even some cowboy and indian outlaws in the 1800's eventually stopped sleeping under buffalo skins, and came to town to entertain paying customers. For some I imagine the bruising of their ego never healed.

We all have some scar tissue that never lets us completely forget the intent of the adventure.

Claire

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Re: Question(s) on solar/battery capacity & settings
« Reply #128 on: November 02, 2009, 06:04:55 pm »

Oh, I agree totally.  My line of thought was just to get the batteries topped off as soon as possible and then not run the gennie any more until it's absolutely needed, which we hope is never.  You'd know better than I if that would be a waste of resources or not.  Wear and tear on the genset is something to take into consideration.



I think you're right, Thunder -- even though I expect we'll never reach the "never-point" on the generator.  :rolleyes:

Hooked up four new batteries at 3:00 p.m., doubling the size of the bank to 800 amp-hours. By that late in the day, the solar array struggled vainly to charge them and didn't get much done. (In fact, I don't think the present solar array is big enough to charge all eight and handle the loads, even at high noon on a great day.)

Started up the gennie and will do a three-hour bulk/absorption charge this evening. Good sign? I notice that the charging amps dropped off very rapidly again, then stabilized around 4-5 AC amps, 16+ DC amps. I take that to mean the bank is pretty well charged already. Or so I hope.

I expect we'll be running the generator every evening until the new solar array is online, doing the job Thunder says.

But wanna bet we'll also have power every morning?  :mellow: I'm hopeful.
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Just as the flattery of friends often leads us astray, so the insults of enemies often do us good. -- St. Augustine, Confessions, Book IX, Chapter 8


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Claire

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Re: Question(s) on solar/battery capacity & settings
« Reply #129 on: November 02, 2009, 06:10:01 pm »

You can consider cutting off power to the propane refrigerators.  You need to check the manuals of course, but most propane refrigerators are engineered for RV duty where power gets cut off and restored all the time.  If you cut the AC to those refrigerators from 11 PM to 5 AM or whenever you aren't likely to be opening their doors, they will keep cool and just run a bit longer on propane to restore full cold every morning when the AC power is restored.

This time of year I definitely think we can -- and will -- do that. Starting tonight.

Quote
Even with upgraded solar panels, the InMyBackyard model shows an annual energy harvest of ~2700 kilowatt-hours.  Just 2 amps - 48 watts - running 24x7 represents over 420 kilowatt-hours - more than 15% of all the energy you harvest.  That's why you need to hunt down these parasite loads and control them.

Fifteen percent? When you put it that way, you make me ambitious to track down all the little parasites.

And ZooT, thanks for the info about those non "warm-ups." I hadn't thought if it like that. But oh yeah, I remember those old TV sets ...
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Just as the flattery of friends often leads us astray, so the insults of enemies often do us good. -- St. Augustine, Confessions, Book IX, Chapter 8


When faith ceases to be a challenge to the standards of polite society, it is no longer, or has not yet become, faith. -- Donald Spoto, Reluctant Saint:  The Life of Francis of Assisi


My life is my message. -- Gandhi

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Re: Question(s) on solar/battery capacity & settings
« Reply #130 on: November 03, 2009, 06:01:43 am »

It's a fair bit of work, hunting down every single electrical load in several households.  But off grid living demands it.  Just one watt, 1/24 amp DC, running 24x7 consumes 8760 watts-hours per year, 8.76 kilowatt hours our of your expected harvest of 2700.  As synchro so eloquently explained it, balance is the key.  Energy used must be less than energy harvested or the generator must run.

The payoff comes when you finally get the parasite loads under control, the system settings to something reasonable, and most importantly where you understand the why and how of each setting.  At that point a great transformation takes place; you become master of the equipment, and it does your bidding (within its limits) rather than the other way around, where you are subject to the seemingly endless whims of a poorly designed and barely operating system.

It's a great feeling, very liberating, taking charge and responsibility for any aspect of one's life.  Energy is at the heart of quality of life, taking responsibility for one's energy supply and consumption is a huge step.

Peace,

Silver

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Claire

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Re: Question(s) on solar/battery capacity & settings
« Reply #131 on: November 03, 2009, 08:11:05 am »

The payoff comes when you finally get the parasite loads under control, the system settings to something reasonable, and most importantly where you understand the why and how of each setting.  At that point a great transformation takes place; you become master of the equipment, and it does your bidding (within its limits) rather than the other way around, where you are subject to the seemingly endless whims of a poorly designed and barely operating system.

It's a great feeling, very liberating, taking charge and responsibility for any aspect of one's life.  Energy is at the heart of quality of life, taking responsibility for one's energy supply and consumption is a huge step.


Ran the generator on bulk/absorption rate for 2.5 hours last night, though signs indicated the bank was already pretty well charged.

25.6 (and 6.7 amp draw  at 8:00 p.m.

25.3 (and 4.6 draw) at midnight

Blinking between 25.1 and 25.0 (and 2.9 draw) when I leisurely and belatedly crawled out of my sleeping bag at 6:00 a.m., not having to go out and start the generator, not being awakened by its roar. And from the amperage level, I'd say everybody else was enjoying a good sleep-in, also.

VICTORY!!!

Never, in the entire almost-six-year life of this system does anybody remember anything as good as this. And it's thanks to you guys.

I know we still have to track down more of the ghost loads, Silver -- and thank you for continuing to remind me of their inpact. Almost 9 kilowatt hours per year from a load so small the Tri-Metric can't even record it? That's food for thought.

But in the last few days, I'm also discovering (as I've discovered in other areas of my life) the empowerment of beginning to understand this system and how to manage it. Always before this weekend, I saw the power system as some mysterious, dangerous nemesis. What the hell was I -- an arty type who can barely do enough math to balance a checkbook -- doing attempting to upgrade and manage a system of such scientific, mathematical, and technical complexity -- a system that has bedeviled and defeated every other person who ever tried to deal with it?. Even with a former mechanic as my "battery buddy," and even with reams of advice from experienced people (I was and, admittedly to some extent always will be) in so far over my head I couldn't even see the surface above me.

Now, although the system and all that I don't know about it still humbles me, I have the greatest feeling in the world: WE DID IT. With a little -- a LOT -- of help from our friends, we did it.

In the last few days I've also found myself beginning to understand some things that were just a blur of meaningless words and figures when you guys presented them to me along the way. I look at a chart that a month ago I would have dismissed as forever beyond my comprehension and (even though I don't understand the underlying theory of it) I understand what it means to this system. You state a formula that I've heard and spaced out on since school (amps x volts = watts) and suddenly, now that it matters in a very personal way -- and now that my head is clearer -- I see how it applies to the DVD players, refrigerators, and cellphone chargers right in front of me.

Earlier, you mentioned fear of computers. Most of my girlfriends and some of my older male friends have that. Something goes wrong with their browser or their mail reader and they panic. They don't try new things because they fear messing up. And they won't try to fix even simple problems because they "know" they can't.

I've never had that fear. The first time I put my hands on a real computer (in a week-long trial of a new word processor for an IBM office system back around 1981 for which they wanted complete computer novices), I was excited and overjoyed because I understood the computer to be both a marvelous tool and a fantastic plaything. I'm no geek. I don't understand the guts of either the hardware or the apps. But I have no fear of poking at this or that. To this day I sometimes fix problems on my friends' computers, not because I actually know anything but merely because I'm willing to poke and scratch until I come up with a solution and they aren't.

Well, I guess I'd better never get that cocky about the power system -- because as you point out, I can do a lot more than just crash the OS on a computer!

But I started this project "knowing" that I'd never understand this system. And more than once I've felt absolute panic and a sense that no matter what I did (or my "battery buddy" did) we'd never solve the problems. This system would be like a zombie that just keeps coming at you with destruction in mind no matter how hard and how often you attack it.

Now ... despite all that I still don't know (and know that I don't know), for the first time, everything feels different. I feel different.

And it's all thanks to you guys.

Now ... to keep tracking down those ghost loads. And to prepare for whatever new mysteries arise when the second solar array, the MPPT charge controller, the two lightning arresters, and the blessed master cuttoff switch join the system a week or two from now.

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Just as the flattery of friends often leads us astray, so the insults of enemies often do us good. -- St. Augustine, Confessions, Book IX, Chapter 8


When faith ceases to be a challenge to the standards of polite society, it is no longer, or has not yet become, faith. -- Donald Spoto, Reluctant Saint:  The Life of Francis of Assisi


My life is my message. -- Gandhi

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Re: Question(s) on solar/battery capacity & settings
« Reply #132 on: November 03, 2009, 09:02:08 am »

Congratulations! There will be more battles, but getting a full charge into the batteries and having power in the morning is a great step forward.  It will be interesting to see what the good SG hydrometer has to tell you.  As time goes on, you will learn how much charging is required, have some excess power to try recharging old batteries, perhaps even make use of the "bulk amps done" setting.

Speaking for myself, I didn't really do that much.  Long-distance kibbitzing is a fair description.  I know a few things, and am happy to help, but I didn't haul any batteries, build any solar panel supports, or spend a whole lot of money.  You and your fellow gulchers did that.  I'm very happy to have been able to play a small role, and I hope to continue to be of some service as time goes on.

The bit about small loads has been an education for me as well.  I scoff at the people who chide me to go around my house unplugging appliances and maintaining eternal vigilance for wall warts.  I've realized that it has to do with different economic situations.

You have 2700 kWh per year from your upgraded solar collectors.  Just a tiny power draw, 24x7, eats 9 kWh per year.  Getting more power is very expensive, and running the generator is expensive and noisy and wears the machine out.  Put all this together and it is well worth your while, essential really, to hunt down every little parasite load, even to the point of turning off refrigerators during the nights in cold weather.  Why?  Because living off-grid, energy used must always be less than energy harvested, or misery results.

I live on-grid.  That same 1 watt load, drawing 9 kWh per year, costs me about $1 a year.  The difference between our situations is that I only have to balance my bank account.  You have to balance both your bank account AND your energy account.  I try to be frugal, but to be honest I have a lot of things that waste more than $1 a year.  When I need to cut back, it will be a long time before I find myself crawling under desks to unplug wall warts.  There are easier and more effective ways to save money.  Being on-grid, I don't have to balance my energy account.  I don't even have an energy account, I don't generate any electricity.  I just need, like everyone, to balance my money income and expenses.

I personally find this solution much simpler, but I recognize the potential benefits of living off-grid.  Things like being able to live in places that I won't.  Not having utility people pull onto your property as if they own the place.  Having a backup power supply (the generator) as a normal part of your system and experience.

To each his or her own.  It's good to see you making such great progress.  I hope your life in the gulch is happier and more relaxed as a result.

Peace,

Silver
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Claire

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Re: Question(s) on solar/battery capacity & settings
« Reply #133 on: November 03, 2009, 09:36:18 am »

I live on-grid.  That same 1 watt load, drawing 9 kWh per year, costs me about $1 a year.  The difference between our situations is that I only have to balance my bank account.  You have to balance both your bank account AND your energy account.  I try to be frugal, but to be honest I have a lot of things that waste more than $1 a year.  When I need to cut back, it will be a long time before I find myself crawling under desks to unplug wall warts.  There are easier and more effective ways to save money.  Being on-grid, I don't have to balance my energy account.  I don't even have an energy account, I don't generate any electricity.  I just need, like everyone, to balance my money income and expenses. ...

To each his or her own.  It's good to see you making such great progress.  I hope your life in the gulch is happier and more relaxed as a result.

Yeah, I'd find it a lot easier if I didn't have to balance either an energy account OR a money account.  :rolleyes:

But better to be adapatable.

This morning brings more user-related chagrin. I looked at the Tri-Metric at 8:00 a.m. and a screamingly awful 50 amps were running out of the system. That went on. And on. It would dip to 38, once in a while even to 25, then go back up to 47 or so.

It turned out that one of the people here was doing a load of laundry and both the washing machine and the pressure tank were in action.

The person who decided to run laundry at 8:00 a.m. told me that a) he had checked the inverter and judged that he had plenty of power and b) it wouldn't be convenient for him to do the laundry between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. even though he knew that was the rule.

This person is nice and in beaucoup ways totally good people. But he has no interest or stake in the power system. He hasn't invested a dime and isn't part of the ongoing efforts to improve the system. When the subject comes up, he grins, "I don't care and I don't have to care" (because he'll soon be gone and will eventually have his own place and his own system) and walks off. Yet he's also far and away the biggest power user and treats the system as if it were there for his own personal use.

I don't know how to deal with this. Laying down "The Rules" only provokes him. And he already has made one huge sacrifice by not using his furnace (which was salvaged from a real house and draws 40 amps). And that has been a considerable sacrifice on these cold fall mornings. As it happens, he also did no harm this morning. The batteries were at 25.1 when he started his laundry, they popped right back up to 25.1 after he finished.

Am I being unreasonable? Am I just a control-freaking bitch who resents somebody else making judgments about the use of "my" system? I feel very much out of control when he does these things -- but is that just me being neurotic?

He'll be gone in a month and after that will only be here as a visitor. But I feel like I'm trying to work with this system in an organized way and I'm being thwarted by someone who has no stake in it.

Yikes. I wish I were a better diplomat and a more effective communicator. I don't know how to handle this!
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Just as the flattery of friends often leads us astray, so the insults of enemies often do us good. -- St. Augustine, Confessions, Book IX, Chapter 8


When faith ceases to be a challenge to the standards of polite society, it is no longer, or has not yet become, faith. -- Donald Spoto, Reluctant Saint:  The Life of Francis of Assisi


My life is my message. -- Gandhi

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Re: Question(s) on solar/battery capacity & settings
« Reply #134 on: November 03, 2009, 09:50:10 am »

That's a tough one.  Someone who says "I don't care and I don't have to care" and walks away is not being reasonable, or honest.

If he is using your property, he does have to care.  That's the unvarnished truth.  It may be that he has lent a helping hand to his neighbor.  It may be that he is freaking indispensable.  But neighbors swapping favors can't escalate to the point of intentional trespass and abuse of the other's property, ever.  That's what's happening here.

So no, I don't think you are being a control freak or unreasonable.  Even if, some time in the future, you decide that its OK to do laundry when there is no solar power, right now you are learning very rapidly about some very expensive hardware that you helped pay for - and he did not.  You have every right to want to control unnecessary upsets to the system.  And if he were honest and lived by the principles of sustainable freedom, he would acknowledge that fact and beg your forgiveness.

Not using his 40-amp furnace may be a significant concession in his mind, but it reveals a startling lack of understanding about where he is and what rules he must live by.  Not your rules, laws of physics rules.  Synchro has pointed out on several occasions that resistive heating is a poor way to use electric power.   He's right.  Even a bread making machine is a poor choice energy-wise; it's far more efficient to use some propane to heat an oven.  That will use 80% or more of the heat energy of the fuel.  Heck, a solar oven will work at your latitude.  But the convenience of those bread-making machines is a strong attraction.

The smart way to heat a home in your area is with solar thermal collectors and a big hot water storage tank.  Electric heaters are a profligate waste of energy, and not using one isn't a sacrifice, it's the only smart choice.

So I don't have any great ideas.  There is a profound disconnect here.  He thinks he's a free man but casually trespasses on others property - after multiple discussions on the topic.  He's clever enough to thwart an engineered safeguard - like one of the X-10 sockets for the washing machine.  And there is no indication that he would take the hint and start listening to your reasonable requests. 

I'm so sorry to hear about this.  It does not bode well for a peaceful and harmonious future.  The power system won't be the last issue; it is only the first.

Peace,

Silver
« Last Edit: November 03, 2009, 09:56:40 am by Silver »
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