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Tip #8 Automation
Do it before you lose it
Humans are forgetful, easily distracted, haphazard, and other things too.When building your off-grid battery-bank's power house, consider incorporating photo-sensors that either turn items on or off when the sun rises or sets, motion-sensors that will eliminate forgetting turning off lights, timed-switches that will start the bread-maker, etc.
Automation also ultimately aids in the long-life of the battery bank, provided of course that the states of load/battery/charge equilibrium has been attained (preferably year-round).
Lighting are some of the easiest items to automate.
Virtually all of the lighting in this building turn on and off by themselves. By mere motion or presence, the lights are on; if the lights sense no activity for whatever period that is pre-determined in the configuration (usually five minutes), they simply "know" to turn themselves off.
Some of the more important lighting requires an extra apparatus that permit the manual control (override) of the motion-detection system.
As seen below, having an additional switch between the motion-sensor allows for the isolation of power when either not-desired, or when the battery banks need a break due to low sun or wind conditions.
Automotive stores or Automotive sections at a local Walmart, are some of the avenues for direct-current lighting and switches. Any ordinary 12v automotive accessory applies to an off-grid 12v battery bank. These items require no additional equipment or know-how to put into action. But before you go stripping your sister's car for lights and switches, look around your property for 12v items that simply have been converted by the capitalists to 120v (usually a heavy clunky item that eventually will burn up without notice).
So, for the 120v items that only require 12v, like the light shown below, simply locate the step-down converter which converts it down from the dangerous 120v to the desired 12v and you've just created one less item to worry about sending you back to the store to replace the item prematurely. With the step-down converter removed, the item can now be connected directly to the stable electrity of the 12v battery-bank, which also permits lighting with less-consumption.
You are going to get old (hopefully), and forgetful (probably), and therefore some safeguards in addition to switches and sensors, should amply be considered while you still have the mind to do so.
In the consideration for automation, might also be efforts toward maintenance-free and fool-proofing, efforts that may be key to the survival and sanity of the pre-dying, a.k.a. off-grid aging individuals. If this is the route you take, do it Before you slip into forgetfulness. (*Truth be told, this very sentence has been changed so many times that it probably bears no resemblance to the comment's intial statement.)
As a final note on automation, since it hits on the topic of lighting, add a multitude of lighted digital battery meters throughout the edifice. The dim glow of the meters will add a calming ambiance when sitting or lying still, yet still permit recognition of the walls and furniture when the motion sensors turn off the lights due to inactivity.
Not to change the subject, but...
November 2018 Update
Since there are a plethora of old used or "dead" laptop batteries located here, recently I find that the kids and at least one adult visitor to our off-grid building are making "POWER WALLS". These power walls are comprised of 18650 battery cells.
Typically, when a laptop battery is dead, it is the result of a solitary cell located within the battery pack.
In other words, if you take a hammer to the defective laptop battery you will find it is comprised of AA-like batteries.
The capitalists make the batteries non-serviceable which forces the victimized consumers off to purchase replacement batteries, rather than allowing a means for the freedom to safely open the battery and swap out a cell for a fraction of the cost (as one might do with a multi-battery flashlight).
Think of all the crappy plastic cases that we wouldn't have to produce (which never biodegrade and become real permanent crap which threatens the existence of the next generation), if thought had been allocated toward making a means to simply unscrewing the case and locating the bad solitary battery.
However the kids and adults alike on YouTube have made videos showing these impressive power walls, and the claims are incredible.
I've heard that the Li-Ion Battery banks (power walls) will outlast the well-known deep cycle battery banks by 10 times!
Now I'm not one to jump on any bandwagon, because I basically cannot afford the catastophic loss if I should err, or if the technology should prove to be unstable causing fires or other losses.
We are the test population using Li-Ion Batteries for these types of off-grid compositions .
I am however interested in something I did not find anywhere on the net, which I'll refer as The Hendrick Hybrid Battery Bank.
For the preliminary testing, I'll need a somewhat distant shed (move over chikins).
And if all goes well, I'll be testing Li-Ion in conjunction with the well-established wet-cell battery soon.
My thinking is that since Li-Ion Batteries are so cleverly designed, allowing for numerous deep-draws of energy that require less attention toward keeping charged, that the Li-Ion batteries will serve as a pseudo-capacitor of-sorts to the traditional deep-cycle battery bank.
As a leveler, or some other advantageous purpose, would of course be the goal.
It's possible that the Lithium Ion Batteries, which require less charging since it takes more load to pull them down, might be placed either alongside the deep-cycle batteries, or by themselves just before a heavy load or appliance (that has a need for more initial startup energy such as a freezer or well pump). Adding a couple of blocking diodes will ensure that energy only goes in one direction and cannot permit the deep-cycle batteries from damaging the li-ion batteries.
I am very impressed to see the new purveyors in off-grid living all over the world, boldly going where no man has been in the application conversion of lithium batteries, and by their potential martyrdom we all profit in the furthering of our understanding of energy and the transformation to useful purposes.
My only warning is this:
Please don't underestimate the Li-Ion batteries.
Back in 2007 I recall the videos of a newscaster in Canada hosting the "news" and the laptop that rested on the table before him began to smoke and burn.
I recall also the news telling us of an airplane that went down due to a laptop battery suddenly becoming unstable.
I recall watching another video of a Japanese Birthday when a laptop began to smoke and burn shooting a sudden fireball that went completely through a guest's backpack.
Despite the known dangers though, Li-Ion is of recent great interest to me, because I'm surrounded by them. Who knew that "dead" laptop batteries would actually become valuable someday?
Enough of Lithium Batteries for now.
The following are some variables and questions that still need ironing out concerning the ages-true-and-tried wet-cell deep-cycle battery.
DC electricity flows from negative charge to positive charge.
(*see: https://van.physics.illinois.edu/qa/listing.php?id=583 )
If this is so, that electricty flows from negative to positive, are not our installation of off-grid switches backwards?
In AC electricity, it is said that the positive wire is the codes-approved wire which is directed to a switch.
However, in a DC configuration why would we copy the AC dictates to our loss?
Since the DC Battery Bank issues negative electrons that don't complete a circuit until they meet up with one or more of the positive, then simply keeping the negative electrons contained closest to the battery bank and switch, could save energy that might be better-purposed elsewhere.
1.) A battery (with positive and negative leads)
2.) A switch that is a few feet away from the battery bank
3.) A load or appliance that is a considerable extended distance beyond the switch and further away from the battery bank
= Needless waste if we follow the Codes-Approved AC dictates.
As an example,
if energization of the wire is stopped at the switch (a few feet away from the battery bank), then are we not eliminating potential hazards, but also conserving energy by not losing our voltage and current due to having a long line energized at all times?
Oddly enough, the only analogy that came to mind is, when we pee or poop, it's good that the stuff isn't directly right at the hole, but is stopped further inside somewhere (thereby conserving our energy to make it to the bathroom).
Excess energized wire is loss, also referred to as "heat loss", "wire-loss" OR (I like this one), "Phantom Energy loss/consumption", it's also referred to as "line loss", etc.
As a final note, if anybody is already doing experiments with a hybrid battery bank using conventional batteries along with the Li-Ion, please contact me, I'd like to be in the loop
More of this?
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