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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Keep Spare Parts With Your Preps

Original Article

Regarding preparedness planning, I can’t emphasize enough to have spare parts for your essential systems! This is a very big deal folks. During times of disruption, we probably will not have the luxury of driving down to the hardware store, automotive store, ordering parts online, etc. to keep our systems running.
I recently received an email that read, “Today the power went out twice and I went to start the generators to keep the refrigerator and freezer working and I discovered that the fuel line to one of the generators had a split in it, and gas was going everywhere. Did not have a spare fuel line and had to go to the auto store to get some hose. If the auto store had not been open then I would have had to run everything on one generator rather than the two. Without spare parts you have something that is essentially junk if the parts store is not open or you cannot jerry-rig something up to make it work. Am glad to discover this split hose before it could not be fixed when I really needed it. Fixed it and both are working now.”
The key to this line of thinking is to figure out what are the ‘things’ that you should have spare parts for. Also, should go without saying, the more handy you are – the better able you will be to identify these things and to actually repair them when they break. If you are not very handy, then I do suggest that you begin to spend some time learning some of the basic handyman skills. How do you learn, you may ask? By giving it a try…

So, what are the things that you should have spare parts for? Well, I believe that you should first look at what you depend upon for immediate survival, followed by secondary survival, followed by comfort level, etc.
For example, If you depend upon electricity for your survival, then you better have a backup, and you better have the essential spare parts for that backup. As exemplified in the email comment above, having a length of the proper size fuel line would have been an ideal spare for the generator. Duct tape ‘might’ have worked in a pinch, for a little while anyway…
Another example is regarding your transportation, your vehicle… most vehicles today have one belt, called a serpentine belt, which goes around all the pulleys of various engine parts. If that belt breaks while out on the road, you will be ‘down’. I always keep a spare serpentine belt with my vehicles (and tools!).
Think of the things that if they break, you will be dead in the water. During my previous career, we would call these types of things ‘gating’ items. In other words, items that gate or block the progress of the next thing.
Even if you don’t know how to replace or repair these things, the fact is that if you know what the ‘things’ are, you may be able to determine the spare parts that you should have. If they need to be replaced later – you can probably find someone who knows how to replace it.
I love having spare parts on hand. It makes for peace of mind!

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A Basic Solar Power System Description and Diagram

Original Article

Solar power systems vary widely in their power producing capacities, and the cost of implementation is directly proportional to that capacity.
Solar energy is not cheap. In fact, one could argue that from a cost savings point of view it is not very practical at all because it typically will take many, many years to reach the break-even point when considering the cost of your local utility electricity… I’m talking roughly 5 to 15 years in many instances depending on your usage.
However, despite the cost of solar power systems, for many folks it is a worthwhile investment for reasons other than saving money on your utility bill. If your property is far from the nearest road, it may actually cost less to have solar power than to pay to run electricity to your property. If you have an RV, or boat, solar power is a great way to have electricity present.
For many, simply having a very basic solar power system is reassurance that they will have some amount of limited power at the ready, just in case…
Without going into great detail, I thought that I would illustrate a very simple and basic system that could be assembled to provide enough power to operate some lights, a TV, a computer, enough to recharge power tools or other items… a 800 watt system (with caveats).

(1) Solar Panel (180 watt with MC4 connectors)

(1) Battery Charge Controller (15 amp, 225 watt – 12V)

(1) Battery (12 V, Sealed AGM, 55 AH)

(1) Power Inverter (12 VDC to 120 AC, 800 watt)

(2) Battery Cable Kit (4-AWG)

(1) Solar Array Cable (50 feet, MC4 ends – cut it in half)
With the components listed in the basic system above, while the sun is shining you could continuously run (consume) up to about 140 watts of power, or up to 800 watts for about half an hour if the battery is fully charged. Even when it’s cloudy, you will probably still have access to about 100 watts continuous.
When it is dark, and since we’ve included a battery in the system, you will have access to about 500 watts for one hour (or 100 watts for 5 hours, or 50 watts for 10 hours, etc.). The amount of available energy after dark assumes a maximum allowed 80% battery discharge (never go below 20% battery capacity!), and assumes we’re using the particular battery listed above (55 Amp hour, 12 volt), and assumes 5 hours per day of charging sunlight.
Note that if you get two identical batteries and wire them in parallel, you will double your night time capacity, provided that they get fully charged during the day time.
The price tag of the very-basic system above is nearly a thousand dollars, and as you can see, it’s not cheap to achieve the energy capacity listed in this example. If we assume that your local utility company charges say, 20 cents per kilowatt hour (per thousand watts of consumption in an hour), you would not break-even with the price until you’ve consumed 4,755 kilowatt hours (that’s 4 million and 755 thousand watts of power). That’s the same as running 100 watts of ‘something’ for 47,550 hours straight (or a bit more than 5 years).

I’m not trying to discourage you by any means! I’m just pointing out the facts. Again, there are lots of reasons to have solar energy systems other than for offsetting the cost of local electricity! Like… preparedness!
Here’s a sketch of how the very basic system that I’ve listed above, would be connected together.
A statement of caution… don’t attempt building your own solar energy system unless you have a basic understanding of what you’re doing. Maybe you know a friend who knows basic electricity… For example, if you don’t know what ‘ohms law’ is, then you probably shouldn’t be putting one of these together yourself. Designing the proper package involves a full understanding of power equations (P=IE), conversions, and other basic electronic understanding.

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