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2/22/16

Modern Prefab House Resolves An Off Grid Battery Bank Issue And Pulls Out More Projects

Can you believe the off grid modern prefab house began the week with this much snow? Looking back, at the end of the week, where it suddenly soared into the 60s, it seems like months ago.




Can you BELIEVE this was
just last MONDAY?!?

Sometimes, in this farming community, I think I'm the only one who becomes joyful when it snows. But all good things must come to an end...
It went from 20s to 60s, FAST!


So yes: the week at the off grid modern prefab house began with snow, sledding, and lots of soup... 
 
NIGHT SLEDDING!!!!!

With the frigid weather, we went from outdoor to indoor projects.
Our living room suddenly had scaffolding stretching through it again. But now we have new ceiling fans installed! Plywood is being put on unfinished wall areas! Things are coming together! But in order for things to "come together" we had to pull everything apart. It's a mess!



We wouldn't have a blast in this frigid
snow unless it was TOASTY in the prefab house!

After four winters living off grid under my belt, here is what I think about normal winter weather (not polar vortexes or anything under 15)- Wow. Once you heat the passive solar prefab... When the days range between the low 50s to mid-20s at night... you're just... it's so easy to... OVERHEAT even with the HRV running and opening windows.

DON'T GET ME WRONG- if we're gone a few days, we return to the UNHEATED prefab being 20-30 degrees higher (I guess? I'm certainly wrong). No, wait. Again, guessing- we go away, it's 20 degrees, we return to probably 60? I will have to do some "away" experiments but when we return it's certainly not balmy but definitely not frigid. ANYHOO the POINT I AM TRYING TO MAKE (why are y'all always interrupting? ; ) ) is that in "normal" winter conditions once we get up and running it's so comfortable it's almost... too comfortable. I let the cookstove burn out at night. We awake -ALWAYS- in the mid-60s.

We Learned Something New About Our Off Grid Battery Bank This Week...
You might recall that a year ago we went from the original battery set up, twelve LR16s, to a new generator and a new industrial battery, the kind that powers fork lifts. Now with our OLD LR16s battery bank, we were supposed to equalize it once a month. So when our NEW battery arrived, we continued to do so and noticed after a month or so... it just didn't seem to be... it wasn't as... it wasn't as strong as we expected it to be.

I worried that the new generator was somehow TAKING US DOWN. But troubleshooting revealed nothing...  and it is an extremely reputable generator for off grid.

WHAT IS GOING ON?!?
I went into a slow burning meltdown with the unanswered questions swirling...

Over the next months we tested here, there, everywhere and slowly worked our way through the distributor's questions and tests to finally going directly to the manufacturer. GREAT NEWS: in the back of my mind I worried that this battery bank would never be 100%, that we'd have to limp along for the next decade at 80%ish, always worrying if it was accurately working... I feared we wouldn't get answers in time before the warranty ran out, and even then, the expense and TROUBLE to haul another battery out here, something you only want to think about doing every 15ish years...!

Phew! Battery bank is working great again!!!

FANTASTIC NEWS: There is not a one year warranty, we have a FIVE YEAR WARRANTY. *PHEW!* And if that wasn't good enough, the manufacturer assured us our issue is easily fixable: We were told to equalize every day for 4-5 days to get it fully charged and working again. 

At that point, we need to equalize not once a month (which is why we after a month or so, were never fully charged) but on every fifth discharge.

Which makes sense: It's a FORKLIFT BATTERY, so picture that the forklifts are used, then recharged via the battery bank, then used... and they, at the end of the work week, then equalize.

Immediately you think: "Wait. Now they have to equalize ONCE A WEEK when before they equalized ONCE A MONTH?" NO. After the fifth discharge. Let's say we consider the battery bank discharged at 24v. So in summer, with consistent sun, it shouldn't discharge for weeks unless there is an overcast period.

HOWEVER, I know that every fall there IS an overcast period, usually lasting 2-3 weeks. During that period, yes I might equalize once a week. But otherwise, NOT.

We equalized daily for the recommended time and our battery bank BOUNCED BACK, BABY! 

They recommend equalize every 2 weeks just to be safe during cold cloudy weeks, and made two great points:
Outdoor vs. Indoor Battery Banks
The batteries are affected by the cold when stored outdoors. Now one cold night is not going to chill it to the core, but weeks of frigid weather will affect them. If you feel your batteries are not pushing through as they should, then equalize them- which also warms the batteries up!
Temperature
Again, knowing how temperature affects performance, if you are considering going off grid maybe we should be talking about insulating those battery closets well (while also always allowing for proper ventilation!) OR how to best, safely place them indoors.

Note: You still need to do battery maintenance- checking water levels, etc. regularly. 

During normal, "average sun" weeksgenerators should only be needed for equalization in an off grid situation!
(FYI Consider, for more battery bank info:
http://gbbattery.com/FAQ.html
http://www.survivalunlimited.com/
batteries/batteryblunders.htm
)

Old Friends, New Friends
I had the best Girlz Afternoon with a dear Amish friend, and made some new friends!

I am so grateful to our new friends who *very* generously opened their farm to my Amish friend and me, and took valuable time to walk us through their non-GMO natural produce farm, greenhouses, fields and mushroom logs! My Amish friend is getting her own setup up and running and wanted to see what others in the area are doing... A really beautiful day with an old friend by my side, while making new friends.
Instead of heating via the air, they heat these small
water tubes with warm water.
Yurt living.
MUSHROOM LOGS!!!!

The Weather Warmed. Back Outdoors Our Projects Went!
Awhile back we cut wild cherry down (poisonous to equines, but excellent hardwood!) and today we moved the logs from the field. The branches we moved to the undergrowth on the field edges, creating wildlife habitat, especially for birds.

The day we were working with crop tree release, harvesting the cherry from our fields, moving it for the safety of our animals and freeing up other trees to grow well, in the mail, we got another letter:
 I have a few reserved words for
Is this supposed to make me feel happy?
When I see this I want to grab my hatchet but not for the tree.
SERIOUSLY?!?
Ugh.

We worked worked worked but made time for play.

SOMEONE's Handsome Husband, after working in the field, hauling logs, then stacking, in a grimy t-shirt after a day of hard work, *beat his chest* and yelled, "AND NOW? I WILL MAKE QUICHE!"
Hahahahahahahaha

And so he did.
A real man teaches his kids
how to make quiche
It was DELICIOUS.

Recipes:
Fake Miso Soup
Snowbound, I made fake miso soup with what I had on hand: onions / sliced Swiss chard / assorted broths / tofu / tahini (yes tahini) / anchovy paste and tamari. It could've been disgusting it was delicious!!!

Reading Club:
Ok everyone, it's Monday, BACK TO WORK. ; )

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