solar panels for off grid camper
May 13th, 2016 by Off The Grid

Today’s video podcast looks back to the early months out here when I was installing Solar Panels for the Off Grid Camper. If you have ever been interested in alternative energy, generating your own power from the sun, or solar panels in general then today’s show should be entertaining. One of the main things to remember when hooking up solar panels is that you are working with DC (direct current) as opposed to AC (alternating current). Most grid tied houses run off of AC.. this is why most of the electrical appliances you buy are 120 volt. A lot of times when you are powering an RV, or in this case a camper DC can be a better option especially if you have access to solar panels.

 

Video Post notes from today’s Off The Grid Podcast

  • Today’s lesson: Think outside the box and consider alternative energy like solar.
  • Like to watch videos about off grid living? Please connect and subscribe to my new channel on YouTube.
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firewood space camper
November 5th, 2015 by Off The Grid

The fact that it is now November is the calender’s way of reminding us all that cold months are on the way and the time to get prepared for winter is NOW! Last episode I responded to some of your questions comments, and feedback but forgot to address one.. Tom emailed and asked about some backstory to this whole journey off the grid thing, guy living in a camper, and with no power or water. After thinking for a moment I realized that I forgot to talk about some backstory so it was added for you in today’s show. If you are new to Off The Grid Podcast then please take a listen to this one for a better idea about my journey from the suburbs to here in the woods away from utilities and civilization to an extent.

“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining”

The other main topic for today’s show is all about how I am getting ready for winter out here off grid in the camper. When all of this began it was super cold.. fast forward a few months and then it was crazy hot! This is where my story began with the camper and the podcast beginning a journey smack in the middle of summer months. With the turn of the month November is simply a reminder that despite the warm weather here in Va. the cold months are almost upon us. I am indeed getting ready for winter out here both inside and outside of the off grid camper. What am I doing to get ready for winter you ask?

  1. Firewood – I have a small woodpile going with plans to selectively cull, chop, and collect more wood from the surrounding land.
  2. Pallets – Now that I have a reliable source for pallets I have been recycling those incredibly useful wood things. Why pallets you ask? They are primarily being used for kindling firewood. Pallets are also a great source for building materials Check out episode 67 & watch video of my solar heater project. I also used some of them to complete a small spplace for firewood camperace in the camper to hold reserve firewood. (see today’s featured image) No need to go outside when its crazy cold & let all the heat out!
  3. Insulation – I still need to fill in every single crack, crevice, and hole that might zap my heating efforts with a steady cold draft. Also I am going to try my hand at building a basic frame with either plastic or recycled windows around each of the camper windows. That last idea came from a listener just like you! Thanks for the email Carl!
  4. Painting – I have seriously been thinking about painting the camper. Painting a slightly darker color would allow for collecting more solar heat from the sun, look a lot better, and could be camouflage as a bonus! I will also be putting another 5 gallon bucket of printable rubber on the roof. This would also give me more solar gain because it being rubber.. is black in color so it should heat the camper roof quite nicely.
  5. Solar Heating – I already mentioned the solar heater project that I’ve already started. Yes it is a big one. At about a 45 degree angle with an 8 foot by 8 foot solar collector made mostly from recycled materials. It should provide a majority of my heat needs during the day when the sun is out. The solar heater project will have 2 thermal batteries (55 gallon rain barrels), hold 2 large solar panels providing electricity, and several glass windows collecting solar heat into an air circulating system for the off grid camper.
  6. Wood stove – I recently acquired a small pot belly stove that is technically a coal stove but should work fine for small pieces of wood as well. While not the best way of heating a small camper it should take the edge off the cold for about 3 or 4 hours at a time.
  7. Propane Heater – I forgot to mention this one in today’s show. Brian emailed with great info on the Buddy propane heaters. Yet another great suggestion from a listener just like you that I will be purchasing soon because on their low oxygen sensor cut off feature. Living off grid in a small space like a camper, tiny house, or log cabin means never forgetting Safety First!

 

Show notes from today’s Off The Grid Podcast

  • Today’s lesson: Even if its nice outside in November winter is still on its way so get ready now!
  • As a quick reminder to new listeners. Episodes are posted twice a week: Tuesday and Thursdays
  • Be social! Connect with me and the podcast on Facebook, like the page, and tell a friend! 🙂
  • Please help support this show and the off grid community by checking out Off Grid Singles.
  • Get The Off Grid Podcast on the go with iTunes and Stitcher. Please Subscribe and rate the show!
  • Like to watch videos about off grid living? Please connect and subscribe to my new channel on YouTube.
  • Got questions, comments, or tips about living off grid? Please share your thought below or Contact me!

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pallets for pallets
October 27th, 2015 by Off The Grid

Making good use of a plentiful resource like recycled pallets for heating and for building solar projects just makes a lot of sense when working on a budget. Many times when you are starting something new on a budget all of the materials may not be immediately available. The number of pallets being used in the U.S each year are staggering. Amazingly there are an estimated 2 billion pallets in circulation within the U.S. alone. A majority of those wood pallets are replaced each year putting a major drain on hardwood resources. (Dick McCarrick. Analyst, Foresight Science & Technology). After recently finding a local resource for free recycled pallets my creative juices were now kicked into high gear. Let the building of solar heating projects to provide warmth during the frigid winter months begin! This weekend I was looking at some of the best weather to date out here off the grid. With the colder months coming up fast I wanted to take full advantage of this beautiful couple of days by building something. Something cool, something hot (radiant heat from the sun), and something solar had begun being built out of recycled 2 X 4s and pallets out here in preparation for winter.

“Its good to have less than you need and its good to have more than you need to figure out what you actually need.”

About a month ago my brother gave me a lead on a perfect sized pot belly stove for the off grid camper. Two weeks later I had it in the back seat of my car with a seat belt on the way out to its new home. I was grateful to have found such a solid and sturdy heating source. Aside from the heat this cast iron pot belly stove would give me the ability to cook as well. There was only one problem. I needed fuel to feed this hungry pot belly stove. Recycled pallets seemed like a good option so this last week I managed to find a good source for free pallets. After visiting twice this week I was able to building steps recycled palletsscore 3 heavy duty pallets for building along with another care full of recycled pallet pieces, kindling wood, and yes.. more wood (8 foot long 2 X 10s) for building. Needless top say last week was a good one and I was really looking forward to the weekend off the grid. Saturday I spent the day cleaning in and around the outside of the camper. Saturday’s highlight was cleaning the kitchen and reclaiming the meal area from the grip of countless items that made their way for storage. If your a regular listener you know I love to cook. The last year has been frustrating with not having a kitchen or refrigeration. This was one small step for man.. and great leap for me! lol I celebrated by firing up the rocket stove for several hours until the sun went down. As the sun waved good night through the trees I started dinner on the rocket stove. It turns out that recycled pallets burn really good! Splitting up some pallets into pieces was easily done with a hatchet and hammer. The split pallet wood fit perfect for the rocket stove allowing just the right amount of airflow. Ahh. Another perfect end to a perfect day with the satisfaction of work done during the day, the anticipation of a good meal, and the smell of wood smoke out here off grid among the chirping crickets.

Waking up to the promise of another beautiful fall weather day out here off the fall leaves off grid campergrid meant one last opportunity to make good use of the day before heading back to work tomorrow (Monday). I wanted to make the day a productive one so I started building a new solar project for the camper. Observing the sun as it rose in the morning, graced the sky at high noon, and set in the west in the evening gave me the opportunity to figure out the best placement for my new solar project. I had been wanting to build some solar projects ever since arriving out here off the grid but the unrelenting summer heat made it intolerable. The fall and winter months turned the tables on the whole heating / cooling issue and meant that I could go full on with my solar projects. My recent finds with recycled pallets gave me new inspiration for some off grid solar projects. As of now the camper has no heat. The only thing I have been using are candles for a minimal heat source. 4 – 6 layers of clothes don’t really count! lol Using pallets for firewood is a great free option but again they burn fast. I gathered several 2 X 4s, some deck screws, a cordless screwdriver, the video camera, a couple of free recycled pallets, and some ingenuity. By days end I had the basic framework of an 8 foot by 8 foot wooden frame for my new solar heating project. The nickle sized mosquitoes started coming out like vampires on Halloween night so I called it a night. Quickly gathering my tools with the mosquitoes giving chase I felt a sense of accomplishment with the days work on the start of my new solar heater. In the end it was a great weekend with awesome fall weather. Forcing yourself to work with what you have is a good exorcise for critical thinking skills. I would suggest everyone give it a try once in a while even if you do have all the materials you need for a new project!

 

Show notes from today’s Off The Grid Podcast

  • Today’s lesson: Sometimes you need to work with what you have in order to build your solution.
  • Here is the link mentioned in the podcast to the site with cool pallet furniture.
  • Be social! Connect with me and the podcast on Facebook, like the page, and tell a friend! 🙂
  • Please help support this show and the off grid community by checking out Off Grid Singles.
  • Get The Off Grid Podcast on the go with iTunes and Stitcher. Please Subscribe and rate the show!
  • Like to watch videos about off grid living? Please connect and subscribe to my new channel on YouTube.
  • Got questions, comments, or tips about living off grid? Please share your thought below or Contact me!

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off grid amp reading
September 25th, 2015 by Off The Grid

For the last week I was holding out hope that the solar battery bank may be ok but unfortunately it looks like the batteries are done. If you remember back in Episode 52 Big Solar Battery Bank UPDATE I topped off all of the batteries with distilled water. Then I reconnected my off the grid solar panels via the charge controller to the battery bank. The last few days I kept an eye on both the levels of individual battery cells along with the amps at the end of the day. After not noting any change as to the solar battery bank holding a charge I started checking each individual deep cycle battery. As it turns out one by one each one of the (3) 12V deep cycle batteries were in fact done. Not a single rechargeable battery held a charge so my off grid solar battery bank needs to be replaced.

The second notable note for today’s podcast I was trying something new for my DIY / homemade off grid toilet by using kitty litter. If any of you have cats you may be thinking one of two things.. one your crazy!! or two wow that makes sense so lets try it! lol Well time would tell as to weather this was going to work. First impression so far was that the “99% dust free odor free” might just be false advertising. It was still to soon to tell about the odor but there was a lot of dust! Now granted this was kitty litter and probably not intended for use in an off the grid compost toilet of any kind but out of necessity I was willing to give it a try. The off grid toilet that was a simple 5 gallon bucket lined with trash bags that anybody could easily put together in a SHh hit the fan scenario.. Attention preppers you probably already knew that but it doesn’t hurt to explain for the newbies out there. People wanting something quick as a DIY toilet for off grid living will appreciate the simplicity of it all too.

“At the start of a journey your desire is always greater than your talent and sometimes that time is just so that your talent can catch up”

Thank you guys once again for tuning into the podcast and sticking with me. It really does mean a lot and I thank you for it! It seems like for the most part every day is a welcomed new adventure in many small ways. Yes for years probably just like you I listened to and watched countless shows about people living off the grid or way out there in harsh environments. It was really cool to see how they were able to figure out and adapt to challenging situation. Evey day I learn something new and am still amazed as to just how much of “everything OFF GRID” that I simply could not have imagined or predicted. Life as always it seems is best experienced first hand as opposed to watching hours of TV.. especially when things are far from ideal. lol

 

Show notes from today’s Off The Grid Podcast

  • Today’s lesson: Experience life first hand not in front of a screen even when things are challenging!
  • Got questions, comments, or tips about living off grid? Please post and share them here or Contact me!
  • Please help support this show and the off grid community by checking out Off Grid Singles.
  • The Off Grid Podcast is now available on iTunes and Stitcher so please Subscribe and rate the show!
  • If you like the show please tell a friend about the podcast 🙂

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small off grid battery bank
September 22nd, 2015 by Off The Grid

This just in ~ BIG BATTERY UPDATE in the off grid camper! If your a regular listener to the podcast you are aware of some of the problems with my deep cycle batteries not holding a charge from the solar panels. Due to the heat I have not been able to stay out here in the camper all day long in order to keep an eye on the batteries during an equalizing cycle. First and foremost I want to say I am not an expert here but I am learning very quickly! lol I have been having an issue with the batteries not holding a charge. The solar panels were putting out electricity. The charge controller was supplying the off grid battery bank with the proper DC power in order to charge the batteries up. The issue ultimately wound up being with the deep cycle batteries themselves. I have 3 deep cycle batteries in my off grid battery bank in total with a fourth battery on the side. The fourth battery is a gel cell battery where as the other 3 are lead acid deep cycle batteries. A gel cell battery is sensitive to overcharge so this is why it is not hooked up to the main off grid power bank.low solar battery

After figuring out that all three batteries in the off grid solar power system were low on fluids I researched on how to correctly top them off. It turns out that all three deep cycle batteries needed to be topped off with distilled water. If by chance you found this this episode of Off The Grid Podcast in seeking an answer to your own deep cycle marine batteries not holding or keeping a charge then please research thoroughly. I found that you can not use tap water, spring water, or filtered water for topping off a battery. Only use distilled water because other trace elements in waters can cause calcification as well as other issues with the plates inside your lead acid battery cells. It took about two thirds of a gallon of distilled water between the three of them. Time would tell as to weather or not this recent lesson in off grid solar power problem with the battery bank was going to work. Crossing my fingers and holding my breath a moment I decided to hook everything back up so the solar panels would charge the batteries the next day. Just because your of the grid does not mean you do not need power. Well.. um I guess ultimately you don’t but it sure makes thing easier. Really the only thing I want right now is to have enough power here in the off grid camper to be able to run a refrigerator. This would give me the ability to refrigerate and preserve food like normal! lol I couldn’t wait to find out if this was going to work or not.

If topping the off grid batteries off with distilled water and then running a couple of water for deep cycle batteriesequalization cycles did not work then this was going to be a $200 – $250 mistake. Why a semi-costly mistake you ask? Because I bought the deep cycle batteries used. Comments, questions, or lessons anyone? If your off the grid solar power system does have an equalize feature integrated within your charge controller please use caution before using. Why be careful equalizing your battery bank? Because running the equalizing feature charges the batteries at a slightly higher voltage causing the lead acid battery cells to literately boil. Use caution because when equalizing deep cycle batteries because the boiling is meant to clean the plates within the cells themselves. Again I am not an expert but I have learned a lot in the short while of my off grid journey. If you are having an issue with your battery bank draining and I can help I will. Yup.. today’s episode of the podcast motto rang true. “Its not what you have its what you know”.

 

Show notes from today’s Off The Grid Podcast

  • Today’s lesson: Save money ~ If your running a solar powered battery bank check your levels regularly!
  • Got questions, comments, or tips about living off grid? Please post and share them here or Contact me!
  • Please help support this show and the off grid community by checking out Off Grid Singles.
  • The Off Grid Podcast is now available on iTunes and Stitcher so please Subscribe and rate the show!
  • If you like the show please tell a friend about the podcast 🙂

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soft testing solar system
August 26th, 2015 by Off The Grid

If you have been keeping up with the podcast hopefully your half as excited as I am bout finally being off grid! Today’s episode is coming once again in the camper as I was still taking everything in with the new surroundings. For the last four months I was staying at a friends house on the couch because when I originally planned to be off the grid in March everything simply wasn’t ready but I still had to move.. somewhere. The move was planned but when it was clear the camper would not be ready in time I had to go with plan “B” which was staying on a friends couch. The time had finally arrived to be off the grid and it was still settling in. I was not used to the peace and quiet yet but was still making progress each day in the camper. I just bought a brand new multimeter the day before.

I was also excited and looking forward to getting started with the day because I got a new multimeter. I had taken some electronics classes in high school but that was a long time ago! lol A multimeter can be used to check various things when troubleshooting electronics. I had just put two 85 watt solar panels on the roof of the off grid camper with only one of them hooked up to start. The solar panel was converting energy from the sun into DC (Direct Current) Power. The DC power was being regulated through a Charge controller feeding into the deep cycle batteries. The charge controller basically helps to protect your batteries from being over charged.. and having to prematurely buy new batteries. A side note: On average it takes 3 hours / times as long to charge your batteries as it does to use 1 hour to use the power stored. Whoops!!!!! After double checking the settings and putting the multimeter on its highest setting I FRIED IT! Soon after I hooking up the multimeter and realizing it was indeed cooked a burnt electronics smell filled the air in the camper. This was a minor downer to start the day but I was not detoured. It was time to make good use of time by hooking up some LED lights. Today’s episode of the Off Grid Podcast was recorded back in July ~ new shows being posted 5 days a week until current! 😉

 

Show notes from today’s Off The Grid Podcast

  • Today’s lesson: Know your meter BETTER than you think you know your meter. Don’t blow it!
  • If you have questions, comments, or tips about living off grid then please post them here!
  • Please help support this show and the off grid community by checking out Off Grid Singles.
  • The Off Grid Podcast is now available on iTunes and Stitcher so please subscribe and rate the show!
  • If you like the show please help support this journey off grid by telling a friend about the podcast 🙂

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