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PG&E Forces 800,000 Customers to Begin Living Off Grid in California

Off Grid Living - Installing Solar Power to Produce Off Grid Electricity

Off Grid Living – Installing Solar Power to Produce Off Grid Electricity

PG&E confirms power will shut off to 800,000 customers statewide

Sacramento, California (October 8, 2019) – PG&E announced that many of the northern counties of California will see a power shutoff beginning at midnight Tuesday; a second round of outages is expected to impact the Bay Area starting at noon Wednesday.

“The power will be turned off to communities in stages, depending on local timing of the severe wind conditions, beginning with counties in the northern part of the state,” PG&E said in a statement.

After days of warning, Pacific Gas & Electric confirmed Tuesday afternoon that 800,000 customers across 34 California counties would be left in the dark starting at midnight.

To help homeowners without power, PG&E offers customer both solar incentives for installing solar power and well as rebates for adding solar battery backup banks for their solar power arrays so that they will be able to generate their own electricity, even when the power grid has been turned off.

Guide to Off Grid Living - How to Select between Mono-Crystalline vs Polycrystalline Solar Panels

Guide to Off Grid Living – How to Select between Mono-Crystalline vs Polycrystalline Solar Panels

The utility planned the shutoff as a precaution due to “unprecedented wildfire risk,” the company said in a Tuesday night press conference.

“The power will be turned off to communities in stages, depending on local timing of the severe wind conditions, beginning with counties in the northern part of the state,” PG&E said in a statement.

Off Grid Living - How to Size a Generator to Back Up an Off Grid Solar System

Off Grid Living – How to Size a Generator to Back Up an Off Grid Solar System

PG&E said it would communicate with affected customers directly via automated calls, texts and emails. It also created a map of affected areas, which you can check for your neighborhood. PG&E’s site was intermittently down Tuesday, so we’ve put some of the maps in the gallery at the top of this story.

PG&E said the shutoffs would begin just after midnight early Wednesday morning. PG&E meteorologists forecast high winds to last until midday Thursday, but power could be out for several days longer.

“Before restoring power, PG&E must inspect its equipment for damage and make any necessary repairs. That process cannot begin until the severe weather event has subsided,” the company said.

The outages could last “five days or longer” in some areas.

“It’s also important to remember that some of our customers may experience a power shutoff even though the weather conditions in their specific location are not extreme,” said Sumeet Singh, PG&E vice president of the Community Wildfire Safety Program in a Tuesday night press conference.

“The reason why this happens is because of the inter-connected nature of our electrical grid and the power lines working together to provide electricity through cities, counties and regions. We’re working directly with state and local agencies to help prepare our customers and the public for this safety event,” he added.

ALSO: Map shows neighborhoods impacted by PG&E power shutoffs

The weather this week is expected to be dry and windy, which makes the risk of a catastrophic wildfire high, PG&E officials said. The utility company wants to shut off power so its electric equipment doesn’t start a wildfire as has happened in recent years. Singh stressed that the shutoff is only implemented as a “last resort.”

The number of potential customers affected in each Bay Area county, according to PG&E, is:

  • 32,613 customers in Alameda County
  • 40,219 customers in Contra Costa County
  • 66,289 customers in Sonoma County
  • 32,124 customers in Napa County
  • 14,766 customers in San Mateo County
  • 38,123 customers in Santa Clara County
  • 32,862 customers in Solano County
  • 9,855 customers in Marin County

Read more:
https://www.sfgate.com/california-wildfires/article/PG-E-power-outage-800-000-customers-length-number-14501984.php#item-85307-tbla-10

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How to Size a Generator to Back Up an Off Grid Solar System

Off Grid Living – How to Size a Generator to Back Up an Off Grid Solar System

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Off Grid Living - How to Size a Generator to Back Up an Off Grid Solar System

Off Grid Living – How to Size a Generator to Back Up an Off Grid Solar System

Sizing a Generator to Back Up an Off Grid Solar System

California – When searching for a generator to support your off-grid solar system, keep a few things in mind:

  • Generator output should be 2x your inverter’s output
  • Match generator voltage to inverter voltage
  • Generator must be warrantied for off-grid use
  • 2-wire start is mandatory to work automatically with solar system
  • 3600 RPM generators are more cost-effective, while 1800 RPM generators cost more up front but last longer and are more efficient

Generator Sizing

As a general rule, the generator should be around 2 times the size of the inverter’s continuous output. For example, a 4,000-watt inverter should be paired with an 8,000-watt generator.

This is because the generator needs to charge batteries while still powering the loads (appliances using energy). If the loads total 4,000 watts, and the charger is 60 amps at 48 volts, that totals around 7kW of continuous power:

60a x 48v = 2,880 watts + 4,000 watts = 6,880 watts

8kW would make sense as a minimum generator size to power the loads and have enough power to charge the battery bank as well.

It’s a good idea to round up slightly to give some headroom for the generator, especially at higher elevations where your generator is going to lose some of its power. Engines can lose around 3% of their power for every 1,000’ increase in altitude. Make sure you account for this if your system will be installed at a high elevation.

Can I Use a Larger Generator?

A larger generator can be beneficial if you have large loads like an air conditioner or a welder that will only be used when the generator is running.

We frequently sell 12kW and 14kW Kohler generators with our off-grid systems using a 4000w inverter. A larger generator is going to burn more fuel, but otherwise will work fine.

Can I Use a Smaller Generator?

Smaller generators will still work, but it typically requires adjusting the settings to limit the battery charger’s output. Most battery chargers allow you to adjust the AC input amperage and charge rate.

You will need to match the generator’s voltage with the inverter. For example, 120Vac generators should be paired with 120Vac inverter/chargers, while 120/240Vac generators need an inverter that outputs 120/240Vac.

In the rare case that you are using a three-phase generator or inverter, the same rules apply: the generator’s voltage would need to match the inverter.

There is one exception we are aware of. Magnum PAE inverters are 120/240Vac but can handle a 120Vac input, provided you turn down the charge rate to 50% or lower, and adjust the AC input amps to match the size of the generator. This is useful if you need an inverter that can output 120/240Vac but are working with a smaller generator.

Generator Fuel Type (Natural Gas, Propane, Diesel)

Most standby home generators work on natural gas, propane or diesel. Diesel generators tend to be much more fuel efficient and longer lasting, but the initial cost can be 2-3 times more than a natural gas or propane alternative.

The Kohler 12kW & 14kW generators we sell can work with either natural gas or propane. Off-grid customers typically use propane instead of natural gas, but these models can be configured to work with either fuel type.

Warranty

Most generators don’t have a warranty that covers off-grid or prime power applications. Check the generator warranty closely to be sure it can be used off the grid.

Kohler’s 12RES and 14RESA generators are both warrantied for 18 months / 1000 hours of off-grid use (whichever comes first).

If you need more power, dual 14RESA generators can be combined in parallel with the Kohler Powersync module for 28 kW of output.

2-Wire Start

Off-grid generators paired with solar power systems need 2-wire start capability to allow the automatic generator start (AGS) function to work. When your batteries drop below a certain voltage, the AGS kicks in to turn on the generator and recharge your battery bank.

Note that 2-wire start is different than electric start. Some generators will have a button for electric start/stop, but they can’t be controlled by a 2-wire signal, which means the inverter can’t communicate with the generator to trigger the AGS mechanism.

The Kohler 12RES and 14RESA are both capable of two-wire start.

1800 RPM vs. 3600 RPM

Most generators operate at one of two engine speeds: 1800 or 3600 RPM.

The difference is based on engine design and the alternator being used. 1800 RPM generators are generally considered superior because they are more fuel-efficient, but they cost quite a bit more up front. 3600 RPM generators tend to be cheaper but less efficient.

The Kohler 12kW and 14kW generators we sell are 3600 RPM. They are very durable, reliable and more cost-effective for typical off-grid applications. Kohler doesn’t make any 1800 RPM generators smaller than 24kW, although there may be options from other manufacturers. Be sure to do your research and read reviews to learn about the company and make sure you are getting a quality product.

Source: https://apelectric.com/general-faq/

Want to Learn More? Join our Off Grid Discussion Group on Facebook!

  1. To learn more and discuss off grid topics, please join our free Facebook group at:
    Off Grid Living: Prepping to Live Off the Grid
  2. Or, read more topics in our “Guide to Off Grid Living” at:
    https://LivingOffGrid.Home.Blog/Guide-to-Off-Grid-Living/

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How to Build Sturdy, Long Lasting Fences for Off Grid Properties

Off Grid Living – How to Build Sturdy,
Long Lasting Fences for Off Grid Properties

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Off Grid Living - How to Build Fences for Off Grid Properties

Off Grid Living – How to Build Sturdy, Long Lasting Fences for Off Grid Properties 

Building Sturdy, Long Lasting Fences for Off Grid Properties

California – Off grid property fencing is a time-honored part of security on the homestead. It’s used for all kinds of purposes. From keeping out big critters, like deer, elk, moose, coyotes, mountain lions or bears, to protecting crops from smaller critters like bobcats, foxes, opossums, rabbits, raccoons and skunks.

Electric fences are one of our favorite types of fencing for off grid properties. Today, solar chargers can be purchased relatively cheaply and prove to be an asset in security on the off-grid homestead. We have used it for such a wide variety of projects and fencing needs.

We’ve used it for protecting our flower, medicinal and vegetable gardens from deer and rabbits. as well as to serve as temporary fencing between pastures when moving livestock.

One of the main drawbacks of an electric fence, for some people, is you must check it daily depending on the use. A limb may be on the fence or grass may be growing up into it causing a short out.

There’s also the possibility of a broken wire which can shut down the whole fence. To help alleviate some of these risks and others, we prefer to use a barbed wire fence in tandem with an electric fence. Especially once you consider upfront cost, upkeep, and reliability.

Hog panel or cow panel fence panels in combination with T-posts can be very cost effective for providing a very sturdy fence that is difficult to knock down and can be used to enclose the entire property or the one acre tract that protects the house and backyard gardens.

Please join our Off Grid Living Discussion Group on Facebook

  1. To learn more and discuss off grid topics, please join our free Facebook group at:
    Off Grid Living: Prepping to Live Off the Grid
  2. Or, read more topics in our “Guide to Off Grid Living” at:
    https://LivingOffGrid.Home.Blog/Guide-to-Off-Grid-Living/

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Bathroom Storage Ideas for Off Grid Homes, Cabins and Sheds

Off Grid Living Bathroom Storage Ideas
for Off Grid Homes, Cabins and Sheds

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Off Grid Living Bathroom Storage Ideas for an Off Grid Homes, Cabins and Sheds

Off Grid Living Bathroom Storage Ideas for an Off Grid Homes, Cabins and Sheds

Decorating Ideas for Off Grid Bathrooms

One of the most important rooms is an #OffGridHome‘s #Bathroom. Making every single inch of space count is even more important given is small size compared to other rooms in the house or cabin.

But thinking smart and planning well before building an off the grid bathroom can make every inch count.

Please join our Off Grid Living Discussion Group on Facebook

  1. To learn more and discuss off grid topics, please join our free Facebook group at: Off Grid Living: Prepping to Live Off the Grid
  2. Or, read more topics in our “Guide to Off Grid Living” => https://livingoffgrid.home.blog/guide-to-off-grid-living/

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How to Heat Water with Solar Hot Water Heaters and Stove Water Heating Jackets

The Benefits of Using Passive Solar Heating and Wood Stove Water Heating Jackets to Heat Water for an Off Grid Shed, Cabin or Home

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How to Use Off Grid Solar Collectors to Product Free Hot Water

How to Use Passive Solar Collectors to Product Free Hot Water for Off Grid Properties

Various Types of Solar Hot Water Heaters to Heat Water for Off Grid Homes

United States – There are many options for solar water heaters that range from inexpensive home-made jobs to high-end state of the art commercial models.

If you switch to a solar water heating system, your use of electricity or propane will drop significantly; that number will approach zero rapidly if your backup heating system is a wood stove or firebox with a water jacket rather than occasional use utility electricity.

The home-made options are typically not suited for use during times of the year when temperatures dip below freezing. You would need to winterized them before any threat of fall or winter weather arrives.  There are probably hundreds of variations that may be found on the internet. They range from coils of black plastic pipe on one’s roof to coils of copper inside a box with outer glass cover (creating a greenhouse effect).

Some of these utilize a DC electric circulating pump. It pushes the heated water into a storage tank and bring fresh cool water into the heater.  This pump may be activated by a switch that is temperature controlled. But some are directly connected to a solar panel and only run when the sun is shining (precisely the same times that the water is being heated and needs to be circulated).

Evacuated Tube Solar Hot Water Heaters

Evacuated tube models are composed of numerous rows of glass tubes with another smaller tube inside each of the larger tubes.  A vacuum is pulled between each of the two tubes which greatly lessens the loss of heat to outside weather.  Water or an antifreeze solution is then circulated through the inner tubes.

The advantages of evacuated tubes lie in greater efficiency and less heat lost.  So they work quite well even during surprisingly cool temperatures.  However they are somewhat fragile and may not be as suited to areas with a great amount of snow and ice due to the potential for breakage from buildup.

Flat Panel Solar Hot Water Heaters

These heaters look much like solar electric panels but contain tiny water passages which enable a great amount of surface area to come in contact with the heat from the sun.  While not as efficient as evacuated tubes, flat panels still work very well and are certainly more rugged when faced with heavy snow and icy conditions.

Typically an antifreeze solution is circulated through the tubes or panels and the hot fluid is routed inside to a heat exchanger which transfers the heat of the fluid to the home’s hot water.  There are some varieties of evacuated tube heaters that are called drain down systems, which do not require the use of antifreeze because the water drains away from exposed areas once the water cools off.

Thermo-Siphon Solar Hot Water Heaters

It is possible to set up a solar water heating system that doesn’t require an electric circulating pump.  This would be called a thermo-siphon system, operating on the principle that heat rises.

This was the type of system we planned to install for our cabin in the summertime.  The disadvantages would be the amount of work involved in installation, significant cost of commercial systems, and reliance on an electric circulating pump (unless it is set up as a thermo-siphon system).

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Solar Powered Lighting Systems for Off Grid Cabins and Sheds

Off Grid Living: Solar Powered Lighting
Systems for Off Grid Cabins and Sheds

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Solar Powered Lighting Systems for Off Grid Cabins and Sheds

Solar Powered Lighting Systems for Off Grid Cabins and Sheds

How to Install Off Grid Solar-Powered Lights

One of the first things you’ll learn when camping or off grid living is that without electricity, it gets dark quickly.

But solar power is a great way to provide a wide variety of lighting and security systems that will let see what is making that big bumping sound in the backyard at 2:00 am in the morning.

How Off Grid Solar Lights Work

Solar spotlights are powered by photovoltaic cells, which convert sunlight to electricity on the atomic level. Each cell contains a thin, flat semiconductor panel with a positive charge on one side and negative on the other. Sunlight causes the semiconductor’s atoms to blow apart, releasing electrons; the electrons are recaptured as electric current between the positive and negative charges. The electricity then travels through a cable to power the spotlight. Solar energy is also stored in the interior battery for use at night or on cloudy days.

Uses for Off Grid Solar Security Lights

Solar spotlights are particularly useful in illuminating outdoor spaces where traditional extension cords or bundles of wiring aren’t practical, such as in formal gardens, large open lawns or residential entrances. Newer models offer light emitting diodes (LEDs), which illuminate more effectively and efficiently than old-fashioned incandescent bulbs. Whether you choose to light a wide area from above or train the beam from ground level on an individual object, such as garden statuary, you can easily install individual spotlights without hiring a professional contractor.

Best Places to Install Off Grid Solar Lights

The foremost concern with installing solar spotlights is ensuring that enough sunlight reaches the photovoltaic cell. Spotlights today usually feature a long power cable between the cell and the actual light, so you can place the cell in a sunny spot that receives about eight hours of light a day, and position the spotlight where you want it.

For ground-level lighting, stake the cell in the ground so the cell faces the brightest sun, and then stake the light in the ground a few feet away from the object you wish to illuminate. Train the beam upward to focus on the object.

Mounting solar spotlights over entrances, garage doors or decks involves screwing the light’s baseplate into the vertical wall or post over the area you want to brighten, then angling the light’s beam downwards. With these types, the solar cell may be attached to the light’s hood or via a power cable; in both cases, the cell still needs to receive sufficient sunlight for operation.

Source: https://homeguides.sfgate.com/install-solarpowered-spotlights-79769.html

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 Read more about Solar Powered Lighting for Off Grid Homes:

How to Select a Wood Stove Based on the Size of Your Off Grid Cabin

The 6 Essential Considerations for Buying the Right-Sized
Wood Burning Stove for Your Off Grid Shed, Cabin or Home

By 30X40 Design Workshop

The video above presents a comprehensive buying guide for wood stoves – a primer on exactly what you’ll need to know before buying a wood stove for your off grid shed, cabin, container home, earthship, steel building, tent, tiny house, yurt and/or any other type of off home.

Top Stove Buying Decision Include:

  • Steel vs. Cast Iron Cost
  • Stove Output (BTU vs. Size)
  • Firebox size
  • Efficiency Catalytic vs. Non-Catalytic
  • Flue (Interior and Exterior)
  • Hearth Protection
  • Wood Storage Ash Pan
  • Aesthetics Maintenance

Checklist of Items to Consider when Buying a Wood Stove:

It may be summer now, but winter is coming and its going to be a cold one. Here are some simple considerations to think about when buying the right wood stove for your shed, cabin or other type of off grid home.

1. Decide Between a Fireplace and a Wood Burning Stove

There are two main types of wood stoves.  A fireplace, which is usually imbedded into a wall and a free standing stove, which sits in an open air space somewhere in a room. Fireplaces are usually open and waste a lot of energy and are prone to fires outside the fireplace as popping wood can send sparks flying out onto the room’s floor.

Free standing stoves are usually better because they can control the burn rate of your wood. They are much safer because they keep the fire enclosed inside a door. And, they radiant heat on a 360 degree basis, which is really important in very cold climates. When combined with masonry stone walls, they will heat up stone that will do a great job of efficiently heating up your home and keeping it toasty warm.

2. How Large Should Your Heat Source Be?

Picking the right sized wood stove for your living space is critical. A number of wood stoves for sale come with huge fireboxes, 3, 4, and sometimes even 5 cubic feet. But with modern insulation and the supplementary heat that most houses have now, these are usually overkill. A home between 2,000 and 3,000 square feet usually calls for a wood stove with a firebox between 2 and 2.5 cubic feet. If you’re heating a smaller space, like a garage or a cabin, you might want to try looking for even smaller wood burning stoves – 1 to 1.5 cubic feet.

3. Efficiency, Efficiency, Efficiency – Meeting EPA Standards

Higher efficiency means less money spent on wood, less work chopping and hauling wood, and a product that is better for the environment. Older wood stoves tend to be inefficient and waste wood and many companies don’t publish their efficiencies as a result. Look for wood stoves for sale that have EPA listed efficiencies of 70% or above to get the most bang for your buck. Some new stoves, like MF Fire’s Catalyst, also come with smart thermostat technology that helps to cut down on overheating, giving a real world efficiency boost of 20 to 25%. Buying a wood stove from MF Fire means less chopping, less stacking, and fewer trips to the wood pile during winter storms.

4. Clean Air and the New EPA Regulations

Gone are the days of smoke belching potbelly stoves. New clean air standards have set a high bar, restricting wood stove smoke emissions to only 2.0 grams/hour by January 2020, making nearly 85% of currently available wood stove illegal to sell. But some manufacturers are still trying to squeeze out their old units before the deadline. To get the cleanest and most efficient burn, look for wood burning stoves for sale with EPA listed emissions below 2.0 g/hr.

5. Catalytic or Non-Catalytic Fireboxes

When they were first introduced in the 80’s catalytic stoves, or wood burning stoves that use a catalytic combustor to reduce emissions, got a bad reputation. These initial poorly designed wood burning stoves were impossible to get started and used catalytic combustors that fouled and went bad after only a few seasons. New catalytic stoves don’t have those problems.

Most catalytic wood stoves for sale today are significantly cleaner and more efficient than their non-catalytic counterparts and those catalytic combustors can last for 10 years or more. When they do need to be replaced, the replacements generally cost less than $100. Some catalytic stoves can be harder to start, but buying a wood stove with new smart stove technology like automatic igniters or MF Fire’s TurboStart technology makes them easier to start than ever.

6. Smart Wood Burning Stoves

Technology is in everything nowadays: phones, cars, even refrigerators. Modern wood stoves are no exception. Some new wood stoves include features that make it easier to start, remotely control your burn, and even to protect your family from chimney fires. Buying a wood stove with these modern features help those of us who are getting up in years to do a little less work and have a lot more peace of mind. While smart wood stoves frequently cost a bit more, buying a wood stove with the added features are usually more than worth it.

7. Gathering and Stacking Wood

Acquiring, stacking and moving wood will become a part of your life. I personally embrace these as part of my choice to live in a cold climate, and I feel like the added effort is good for both myself and the environment — but it’s certainly not for everyone.

Source: https://mffire.com/ 

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