Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Weekend Chores

Our corn-burning stove is clean, and ready for the upcoming heating season. I’ve cut the top off of a 55-gallon plastic drum, and will be using it as a storage bin for corn. Because the bagged corn contains cob and stem pieces that could clog the stove’s auger, I screen the corn as I fill the bin. I’ll store additional bagged corn in my shed, and screen it into the bin as necessary.

While I once used fire starting blocks to light the stove, I’ve found that alcohol-soaked wood pellets are a much less expensive alternative. The bucket of pellets (below) should last all season.

Check this blog’s archives for more information about our corn-burning stove.

Julie and I finally decided to get a new refrigerator. I’ve tested our old one with a Kill-A-Watt meter and found that it uses over 2000Kwh of electricity per year. We selected an Energy-Star-Rated 25 cubic foot Kenmore model that uses only 499Kwh per year. Not only will this save $$ on our electric bill, I can use the PV system to power it in the event of a grid power failure. And, when I add a few more panels to my array, I’ll be able to run the new refrigerator full-time off of solar power. For additional information, see my blog post of July 27th.

As we go from summer to fall, the sun’s position in the sky is noticeably more southern. I’ve adjusted the tilt of my solar panels to better align them with the sun during the fall and winter months. My blog post of February 15th provides additional details.

I have a few tomato plants started in my sunroom, and I expect to have fresh tomatoes before Christmas. I don’t bother to grow tomatoes indoors during the summer, because my outdoor garden provides an abundance of them. For more information about growing tomatoes indoors all-year-long, see my August 24th blog post.

It’s a little early for leaves to be turning, but Julie and I had a pleasant drive in the country anyway. I’m hoping to find a three to five acre piece of land where I can build a retirement home. An ideal location will have wind and hydro resources, as well as unobstructed sunlight, allowing me to continue toward my goal of sustainable living.



Gary said...

Nice blog man. I got ya bookmarked now.

I share your feelings on many things. I am fed up with the state of the world, and keep trying to convince the powers that be to spend some money on PVs. I am not an electrician but have done a bit of installer/technician work. Trying to find more info on PV off grid systems as a way to start making a difference. I think we will start with one collector to power the well water in the summer, which we use only for the yard and gardens. We also have a water garden which is new, and I hope to power that with solar. Then there are two window AC units for summer use only. I need an off grid system for these things, two water pumps and two ACs. If that works I envision pulling a wire to the dehumidifier in the basement.

anyway, rambled here a bit, but I am surfin for info, what to buy, brands, costs, etc...

I will return here. You sound cool. I live in Massachusetts.

Keep up the good work.

Solar John said...

Glad to have you as a regular reader Gary! In case you don't already know this, you're planning to run some HEAVY loads (Well Pump, AC units, water pump, and dehumidifier). As you do your calculations, you'll find that it will be very costly to build a system big enough to handle these loads. However, I hope you don't get discouraged by that. Many people base their decision to use PV on whether or not it makes economic sense. You seem to be the kind of person who opts for solar power because it's the right thing to do. I like that!

Gary said...

Hello again John,
I spent much time this weekend surfin solar. An old adage is true, the more I learn , the more I realize i do not know.

Which is better, crystalline or amorphous panels? Is it better to have more low wattage panels in series, or spend the money on large wattage? ( I suspect bigger is better here)

Concerning battery arrays, living in New England where winter temps sometimes drop below zero F, but never for long, usually winter is 10 to 30 deg F these days, is it ok to keep battery array in an outbuilding, or is it best to have them in a heated space?

Reply to what you said, yes I am thinking about heavy loads, mainly I would like to start with a collector on our stick built garden shed for the water garden pump, a 1800 gal per hour unit. I am thinking one panel on DC could do this w/o inverter. This is mearly a landscaping feature, decorative and a home for the frogs and plants. :)

We also have a large sunroom addition on the back of the house, with a large, relatively flat roof, ideal for PV panels. I am again thinking off grid, direct wired, to the nearby office AC units. I know that is alot of power, just seems very wasteful to have AC's burning grid power when the only time they are on is on the brightest sunniest summer days when I can fry eggs literally on the sunroom roof.

Anyway, I have lots of questions on many things. Still crunchin numbers here. what manufacturers do you recommend for panels and such? I have looked at BP, GE as well as local companies. Am I missing any good deals or new tech?

Thanx again. Good luck in your endeavors. I will stop by here periodically.

By the way, the tomatoes here are still goin strong ! If only we could keep the chipmonks out of them.

minotte's notes said...

i miss our old backyard where we had an abundant harvest of tomatoes and zucchini, among others, on compost coil.

we have moved to a nicer place, but the garden is landscaped and there is little land to plant. please let me know how to grow tomatoes again, even from the window-sill. there is nothing like home-grown tomatoes!!

btw, i left you a comment on the water-pump systems in africa powered by kids!

thanks for your blog!

Solar John said...


I'm not quite sure how to answer your questions about growing tomatoes, but I'll try. First, if you're going to grow them indoors you'll want to grow only dwarf plants. Ordinary plants will be too big, and require too large of a container for the roots.

Growing tomatoes in the winter presents a whole different set of problems, which is why I've written a 49 page instruction manual. (See my blog post of August 24th.

Since you have limited garden space, you might want to try container gardening outdoors. If so, make sure to use large enough containers for the variety of tomatoes you intend to plant. Again, you might consider dwarf plants. Make sure the containers don't heat up too much in the summer sun, and add water every day.

Outdoor plants need to be staked. Tomatoes allowed to touch the ground will rot. I'll be happy to help with specific questions, or you can try: www.gardenweb.com

Hope this helps.