Follow by Email


Thursday, September 20, 2018

Prepper Solar

Solar electric is doing very well in northern New Hampshire. While we aren't the sunniest place, there are factors that are good for solar. It's pretty easy to tie solar into the New Hampshire grid. The political and economic conditions more than make up for the less than ideal sun exposure. Imagine what places like Florida could do if the powers that be were not actively working against it.

I've been talking to a lot of people who have put in significant solar arrays. They are doing so well that they are changing over all their appliances over to electric. One guy even got rid of his woodstove and put in an electric heat pump. They are saving a lot of money.

They have also put all their eggs in one basket. None of these people have battery backup. In fact, due their increased electrical usage, it would be cost prohibitive to buy enough batteries to run their houses. In a grid down situation their solar electric system is useless. The solar panels are automatically disconnected so as not to backfeed the grid. That's to protect line workers.

My solar electric system was put in when solar was expensive. With that in mind, I concentrated on energy efficency. The cheapest watt is the one you don't have to generate. Another thing I did was to have things like a woodstove that did not use electricity at all. Back then, it was expensive to tie into the grid. Not only that, they paid a much lower rate than retail prices. It made sense to have just enough solar for my minimal needs and to store it in batteries.

Of course, one of the main reasons I put in solar electricity was to make sure I had power when the grid went down. My power system might be of modest size, but it keep chugging along when everything else has failed.


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Trip Canceled

After investing a lot of time, money and effort on my sailing trip, I've decided I have to cancel it. The straw that broke the camel's back is the storm damage in the Carolinas.

Reports coming in from the Atlantic Intra Coastal Waterway are mixed. Some marinas were destroyed. Others survived the storm surge in good shape. I'm told the waterway is passable. Even so, many larger boats plan to sail outside in the open Atlantic to avoid problems.

While I could probably get my boat through the waterway, it would not be the trip I planned. A lot of the attraction of doing such a trip would have been all the interesting stops along the way. I have doubts about many of the places being ready for tourists. My experience in the Keys last winter revealed that a lot of businesses were out of order. In fact, there are places that still have not recovered.

When I let slip that I might be sticking around there was a lot of encouragement to do so. People have been good about supporting me, but really like the idea of my being around this fall. Since my travels are all self funded, it's totally my own decision. There will be other adventures. I'm thinking of maybe doing the same trip in the spring, but reversed, from the south to the north.

One final consideration: the hurricane season is far from over.


Monday, September 17, 2018

Propane Service

When I first went to a solar electric system I also went pretty heavily into propane. I had a propane refrigerator, tankless water heater, stove and clothes dryer. The idea was to be able to run off grid for months if necessary. Solar was expensive back then so it made sense to run as much stuff on something else as possible.

That was over 20 years ago. My lovely wife and I had three young children in the house. We wanted to be able to take care of them in grid down situations.

Life moves on. The children grew up and moved out on their own. One by one the propane appliances failed. The budget, as is often the case, was pretty tight. Propane appliances are usually more expensive than their electric counterparts. The tankless water heater was replaced by a grid tied electric tank for about a third the price. However, it was also adapted to get a boost from a hot water coil connected to the woodstove.

The propane refrigerator was also replaced with a much cheaper electric fridge. I experimented on it and added a huge copper water pipe coil. Every drop of water used in my house first goes through that copper coil. My well water is ice cold all year long. In fact, I shut the electricity off to the fridge and was able to keep food cold for a month without any problems. Of course, the freezer didn't work, so I eventually plugged it back in. However, the cold water coil reduces the power usage quite a bit.

My propane stove was replaced with a woodstove. In the summer that's supplemented with grills and a two burner electric hot plate. I also have a large toaster oven that I do some baking in. During cooler months though, the woodstove is great.

The propane dryer is still in operation. Sure, I've got both inside and outside clotheslines, but sometimes it's nice to use the dryer. It made no sense to maintain a 500 pound propane tank and a contract with a delivery company. Now I use 20 pound tanks like you've use on a grill. I can get them filled at the country store two miles away.

My systems evolved over time. Often I've had to use creativity because of a limited budget. That's not a bad thing. It made for a more interesting journey.


Friday, September 14, 2018

Leaving it all behind

There's an old Chinese proverb that goes something like this: in a long life a man should be prepared to leave all their possessions behind and flee at least twice. It was written during a turbulent time in Chinese history. War lords fought for territory and often the only wise thing to do was to flee.

Of course, that comes to mind due to the evacuations caused by hurricane Florence. At least people had time to plan their escape. Yesterday in Massachusetts problems with natural gas lines caused multiple explosions and fires. People had to evacuate immediately.

You don't need a major disaster to lose all your property. Something as simple as unemployment or divorce can cause a person to lose all their stuff.

The thing to keep in mind is that it's just stuff. Yes, it's painful to lose everything you've worked hard for. It hurts to lose personal items and mementos. Still, better to lose stuff than your life. Too often people have refused to evacuate or even gone back into burning buildings for material things. When I was a firefighter I once had to have police haul someone away to keep them out of their burning house.

When you have to abandon everything, it's good to have solid relationships: friends and family you can count on. It's also good to have skills. The knowledge in your head is extremely portable. When pursuing material things, never neglect relationships and skills.


Thursday, September 13, 2018

Trip in Jeopardy

Hurricane Florence has put my fall sailing trip at risk. Right now I'm thinking it's a 90% chance it won't happen. Much depends on exactly where and how the hurricane hits.

I'm not going on a sailing vacation in disaster areas. If the towns along the ICW are still struggling with repairs and supplies, they won't need me there adding to the burden. If the waterways are choked with debris, marinas closed, and lift bridges out of order, I'm staying home.

However, if the damage is limited, I could manage. Even the occasional out of order bridge is not a deal breaker. In a pinch I could drop my mast and motor through them. It's possible that the worse part of the storm could be over sparsely inhabited marshlands. There's not much there to damage. I could easily poke my way through a 50 mile stretch of sketchy conditions. What I don't want to do is struggle with hundreds of miles of devastation.

Larger boats with crew have the option of heading out to sea and skipping sections of the ICW. On sailing forums the common recommendation is to sit out the storm up north. Once the storm danger is past the advice is to sail in the open ocean outside of the waterway. That's not a good option for a single handed 19 foot boat.

As I write this the storm path is still not nailed down. The reality of the situation is that I'll probably not know for sure what's what until sometime next week.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Summer of our Discount Tent

My lovely wife and I just bought a new tent for half price at an L. L. Bean outlet. It still cost $275. Lesson one: don't skimp on your tent. It's your home away from home. Big box stores sell tents that leak. That's no bargain. Better materials, good design, no-see-um screens, and heavier construction are worth it.

It's a pretty good sized tent. The floor size is about 9.5 X 9.5 feet. The roof height is tall enough that I can stand up. That's important when trying to get dressed. When figuring out how big a tent your need, take the recommended occupancy and cut it in half. For example, a two person tent only really fits one person. Our six person tent is large enough for us, the dog, and some luggage.

Another thing we like in a tent is an attached screened in area. It's really nice to have a place to set up a couple of chairs on a dreary day. That really helps with the cabin fever if it rains for days on end.

Quite a few people can't get over the fact that my lovely wife enjoys tenting. Part of that is the fact that I've never made her sleep in crappy tents. A good tent is an important element of a good camping trip. If you wake up warm, dry and rested, camping looks pretty good.


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Sad Anniversary

On this day I mourn the loss of my brother firefighters in the September 11 attacks. As a former firefighter, it hit me really hard when the towers came down. I know what it's like to go into a building that everyone else is trying to get out of.

I mourn all the others who lost their lives in the attack.

Finally, I mourn for the United States of America. We are not the same country we were before the attacks. We lost our innocence and much of our freedoms in the name of security.

Rest in peace.