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Most effecient way to make your own electricity?

Discussion in 'Survival/Preparedness Forum' started by emt1581, Mar 13, 2012.

  1. emt1581

    emt1581 Curious Member

    Oct 17, 2002
    Penn's Woods
    I've been trying to design a small solar setup that would let me do minor tasks should the power go out and/or stay out. But in searching around online and asking folks on GT that quickly went from a "Hey will this $150 kit that lots of people rave about get me there?" to a "Don't even get into the solar game unless you have a few grand to spend and don't expect much out of it" conversation. So solar.

    I really don't care, I'm still curious about this damn Harbor Freight kit...I don't mind wasting the $150 just to try it!! :tongueout:

    I also looked into the wind route and got a similar result consisting of people scoffing at anyone who did not live in a wind tunnel because anything other than constant gale-force wouldn't do wind.

    But when it comes to producing your own power (without gasoline or natural gas or oil or anything else that is not commonly found in any state for free....) what is the most efficient way to manufacture your own electricity?

    I don't care if it's going all Gilligan's Island and hooking a bicycle up to a motor or something along those lines....let's see what options are out there.


  2. Carry16


    Sep 7, 2004
    SW Missouri
    Wind is much cheaper than solar, and hydro is cheap too, if you're in the right place for either of these alternatives.

    I can tell you really want that HF solar gizmo EMT, so I would suggest that you order it and let us know how it works for you. Like you say, it isn't that much money to get your feet wet and see what it can do for you.

  3. OldSchool64


    Sep 5, 2010
    Didn't Nikola Tesla have some ideas about this???? What happened????
  4. techiej


    Jan 11, 2012
    If you have a creek or stream a micro hydro will be your best bet. Folloeing that would be wind.

    So long as your power demands are low almost anything will work for you. But you will need an inverter (pure sine wave preferred) and a large battery bank.
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2012
  5. RED64CJ5


    Jul 7, 2003
    There are many factors to your equation, but I will give you a simple answer that will most likely fall within the most "efficient" methods available at your disposal considering total ownership costs and having reasonable power output.

    A Generac/Onan "standby" home generator that runs on natural gas or propane is likely the best for your money on a modest / average person's budget. Second to that would be your tractor-PTO style or standalone 20kw+ diesel generator. Probably third to that would be the 8kw gasoline jobs you get at your big box stores.

    I know you stated no gas or fuel, but I gave you efficient answers.

    The Harbor Freight kit is a toy; nothing more. You can use it to trickle charge batteries for your cell phones or walkie-talkies. I use a similar one from Tractor Supply Company to charge the deep-cycle battery I use for 12V lighting in my horse barn. I also use one for charging batteries when I do portable ham radio events. 15 watts is barely worth it. You really need 50-75 to get results for long duration charging.
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2012
  6. Donn57

    Donn57 Just me

    Aug 11, 2006
    Sunny Florida
    Large battery banks take a very long time to charge with solar power. Just a single battery can take days or weeks to charge depending on the output from your solar panels and the number of hours of useable sunshine per day.

    There is a reason why solar and wind aren't widely used for generating electricity.
  7. cowboy1964


    Sep 4, 2009
    There are no good, fuel-free, options. If there were the world wouldn't be in the oil and coal mess we are in.

    If I lived in the right place wind or solar would be "good enough" for small uses. Wind in particular can generate quite a bit of power and it's pretty easy to scale up the size of the turbine.
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2012
  8. lawman800

    lawman800 Juris Glocktor

    Botac has been selling solar panels good for 12v each at $20 per. Link a few together and maybe you can power a flashlight and an iPod!
  9. techiej


    Jan 11, 2012
    The real key is how much power you need to have vs. what you are consumiung at the moment.

    When we RV we can run the lights, TV and furnace off of the batteries (2x12VDC lead acid) for about 10 hours before they need to be recharged (don't let them drop below 50% SOC). On this RV the furnace, hot water and fridge can all run off of propane so the electric demand on them (electronics) is fairly low. Also, all of our lights are either flourescent or LED. If you're interested in more detail you can check our blog.

    On our last RV (large diesel pusher) we had 4xlarge batteries (nearly 1,000 AH worth) and could go about 24 hours but also had a residential fridge an a lot more parasitic load than we do now.

    While it can take quite a while to charge batteries from solar and/or other sources, what you are trying to do is store the power for use when the generating source is't readily available (i.e. at night).
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2012
  10. Brian Lee

    Brian Lee Drop those nuts

    Jul 28, 2008
    Up a tree.
    I once did some calculations to see how much electricity you could get if you had an exercise bicycle with an electric generator on it that you powered with your legs.

    I can't remember anymore exactly how the numbers turned out, but it was something like : If Lance Armstrong pedaled the thing as hard as he could for an hour each day, even he couldn't make 10 bucks worth of electricity in a whole year.

    Another one of my brilliant Ureeka moments got thrown onto my scrap heap of discarded inventions that day.
  11. This, but it requires flowing water to be near by.
  12. 9jeeps

    9jeeps Still Jeepin

    May 22, 2004
    If you have close neighbors perhaps a long color coded extension cord could be acquired. Watch for sales...
  13. The best answer is to try to wean yourself off the stuff in the first place..

    The RV comment by techeij is dead on. We camp a lot in or travel trailers, and you can learn a lot about power management in a short time doing it. We have a dual battery setup, all LED lights, all our appliances can run on gas. We have gone as long as 2 weeks without a recharge.. and as short as 2 days. Weather has more to do with than everything else.. to hot or cold and you need to run the furnace or fans.. and those eat up the electricity.

    Same at home. We heat with a wood stove, have been slowly changing all our bulbs out to CFL's, now cooking with gas, or on the wood stove. In the last two years we have cut our power costs by more than half, with no loss of comfort. If I could give up A/C..
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2012
  14. Donn57

    Donn57 Just me

    Aug 11, 2006
    Sunny Florida
    Of course the problem then shifts to making sure you have a sufficient supply of gas and firewood. No such thing as a free lunch.
  15. bdcochran


    Sep 23, 2005
    Los Angeles
    The number one thing is to have a sense of humor.

    I was raised on black and white WW2 movies about generating electricity by using a bicycle. It was used to power a radio.

    Just how does humor factor in?

    Well, having a radio didn't help the people in distress (keep that in mind when you think that having a shortwave radio or cb is "really" going to help you in your circumstances).

    Most importantly, it is now 60 years later and despite the headlines, the political talking heads, the business news, etc., there is no cheap, effective, maintenance free way of generating electricity.

    There is humor imagining spending thousands of dollars for generators, fuel, solar panels (assuming that they are not stolen, defective or broken in shtf) to power a television or a limited capacity refrigerator when you don't have the storage space (I know all the rural members have the space). A deck of cards, a carton of batteries, and some mres are much cheaper. (Can't attack me, I already have the generator and 20 gallons of gasoline that will be exhausted in a few days).

    Sometimes, OP, there are no good solutions or alternatives. Do I buy things from Harbor Freight? Yes. Do I expect quality? NO. Do I expect a low cost solution from that store? Again no. The only thing that solar power might be good for is charging a few small batteries slowly.

  16. LOL.. yeah you have to have a supply of both.. turns out a 1000 gallon propane tank will keep a stove running about a decade.. and I own a bunch of hardwood forest, and because a few people know I and some friends heat with wood, I get calls frequently about down trees.

    Thursday I had a call from a guy I never met, but knows someone I go to church with, about some downed trees.. myself and two buddies who think alike went over after work and bucked and loaded and hauled 4 cords, I took one, and the other two guys split the rest. (they don't have as much wood as I, but are trying to get caught up.. We will probably pull another +6 cords from this property.. So I will get another two cords laid up in a couple weeks, adding a year or two to my reserve. And yes, we have the tools, ability, and knowledge to fell, buck, split without a chainsaw.

    The point isn't of a free lunch, the point is of reducing the need, and then being able to meet the need without outside help/interference.

    In our case it's about layers.. In the "beginning" or in a short term event, we will go on with no change in lifestyle, we have a genny big enough to run everything.. including that darned A/C, and fuel for a month to do so. If "whatever" continues longer, or resupply is impossible, we drop down a layer.. if it lasts longer than a few months, and again no resupply is possible, we drop down another.
  17. Donn57

    Donn57 Just me

    Aug 11, 2006
    Sunny Florida
    Tell me about your generator set up. Being able to have whole house electric for a month sounds pretty cool.
  18. bdcochran


    Sep 23, 2005
    Los Angeles
    For SFCSmith: I would love to have a 1000 gallon propane tank. Costs about $1200 not including the stand and filling. Can't put one in within my backyard. Even a 250 gallon tank would be fine.

    A lot of people are off into sophisticated, high tech solutions. I worked for a guy whose concept of preps was to have two extra 5 gallon propane tanks. When I reflected upon it, the idea was fairly sound. I have 4 tanks and might buy a larger one. No propane refrigerator or propane tv, but a tank will fuel a lantern, camp stove or a barbecue for quite a while.
  19. 'tis straight forward.

    12kw genny (Generac) wired into a transfer sub panel, it's currently set to run on gas, and we have 2 250 gal storage tanks in the barn, plus 10 or so 5gallon cans, all treated with PRI-G. If run full time, which we wouldn't, it uses about 16 gallons a day. We have been contemplating a propane conversion carb for it, and plumbing it to the in-ground propane tank we already have..

    We also have a small inverter genny that will run most everything, (3kw) we use it with our RV, but of course can hook it up anywhere we need it. and it sips fuel.

  20. When I retired, we bought our property based on a few desires.. and being able to do what ever we wanted with it was one of them.. When we first retired/built house/moved in.. we had 4 #20 propane tanks, a Ducane grill, and a kero heater with 20 gallons of kero. And a fireplace. Lots of camping gear and experience. I suspect, as I look back, even then we were more prepared than most.

    We have, over the last 15 years, just expanded on that. Part of the move to the wood stove for primary heat was brought about after the '09 ice storm. We had huge amounts of tree debris to clean up, and decided to use it as heat. So we removed our prefab fireplace and built/added a place for a wood stove. The attempt to get away fro our electrical use just seems like common sense.. it just keeps getting more and more expensive.. and as I said above, the less you NEED the less you need to find/produce if supply becomes a problem.

    Our electricity bill is figured on the average of your last 12 months use. 5 years ago we were paying $210 a month. This month we paid $93. We have not filled the propane tank since '08. It is still at about 70% full.
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2012