Surfin': Getting Off the Grid Part Way
Last week's story about getting off the grid -- i.e., generating electricity from your own resources -- generated a lot of interest.
The general consensus is that getting your ham radio station off the grid is very doable, but getting your whole household off the grid is another matter, and a very expensive matter to boot.
For example, Tim Shoppa, N3QE, wrote that "getting my ham station off the grid was very straightforward. A few years ago, I bought an 80 W solar panel, a marine deep-cycle battery and I built a Micro M+ charger out of QST; my shack has been 100 percent solar-powered ever since. With most radios in the past few decades using +12 V power, this is very straightforward. I've never run the battery down, even on contest weekends.
"Getting the whole house off the grid is a substantial effort and investment of "mucho bucks!" There's not just the issue of watts of power and amp hours of batteries, but also inverter systems."
Kent Phillips, WB8HWO, concurs, and wrote that "you had better give a lot of thought to cutting the grid connection. There are a lot of options and considerable advantageous situations that make grid tie with a $5 or $6 per month electric bill a far better option than off grid. Off grid is very, very expensive; battery life is short and very, very expensive to replace every five or six years.
Kent is director of operations for a large renewable energy company and he recommends that "whatever you do, do not skimp on components or consider the very deceptive equipment that is offered with outrageous claims of performance. There is no free lunch."
Carl Zelich, AA4MI, warned to "be sure that the controller you choose (to run an off the grid system) does not generate RF spikes or noise into your radio equipment. This aspect is not of concern to the general population, but hams have greater sensitivity to 'noise.'"
Some readers asked for more information and I responded to their requests with the following: links for solar powering ham radio stations and links for wind powered ham radio stations. Also, Dale Mecomber, N2DM, specifically recommended OtherPower.com for wind power information.
Meanwhile, Charles Otnott,WD5BJT, reminded me about two pertinent books in the ARRL library: Independent Energy Guide -- Electrical Power for Home, Boat & RV by Kevin Jeffrey, and Emergency Power for Radio Communications by Michael Bryce, WB8VGE.
Until next time, keep on surfin'!
Editor's note: Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU, would still like to get off the grid real soon now. To contact Stan, send him e-mail or add comments to his blog. By the way, every installment of Surfin' is indexed here, so go look it up.
Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU