*Alternate Energy - My Start*
By: Skid600
13 April 2005

I finally saved up some money and decided to use it on an alternate energy system. The problem is that I don't have a lot of money to spend all at once, so where do I start? Well, after reading a lot of the articles in here about solar power and alternate energy, I decided that the best place for me to start is with a generator. I know that a generator is not the optimum choice, but as long as I can provide fuel for it, I can have some power. The generator I bought does not have enough power to run my entire house, but at 5Kw, it's enough that I can wire it directly into my breaker box and just shut off the breakers that it can't handle. This also allows me to pick and choose. For example, I can run my well pump with nothing else running, then when my water supply is back up to par I can switch over to my Hot water Heater, which will hold hot water for a couple of hours, then I can switch over to the computer, etc. I chose the Coleman Powermate generator. Mine has a Briggs & Stratton 10hp engine. I chose this one for a couple of reasons, one of the primary being that I had used one before (borrowed after Hurricane Isabel, Isabel Debrief) and had liked the way that one performed. I also chose it because it was a decent price, higher than in the past, but still not too bad. The newer model that I got has some features that the borrowed one did not. Mine comes with 2 wheels and a folding handle that locks into the open position, it replaces the need for this article Making A Generator Cart. It also has a muffler already installed (maybe Coleman has been reading the Rubicon's articles: Quieten That Generator). Anyway, here's my generator.

This pic is looking at the warning labels etc, but you can see the wheels clearly and if you look near the lower left corner of the genny you can see the muffler (looks almost exactly like War's modified generator muffler).

Looking at the engine, very easy to start and it has automatic load adjustment

These two are from the outlet side with the handle in storage or running position and then in the open position. As you can see there are 4 110V outlets and one 240V Twistlok outlet. It's also got the circuit breaker reset buttons between the 110 & 240 outlets.

I assembled it this evening, and that was rather easy to do, I just needed (2) 9/16" wrenches and (2) 1/2" wrenches (or the equivalent). Once it was put together completely I filled the oil and the gas and started her up. It took a couple of sputtering tries because it had to get the fluids throughout, but after the 5th pull or so it just kept on running. I let it run for about half an hour and I was working right next to it. I'm not sure how the volume compares to War's modified genny, but I know that it is a whole lot quieter than the genny we used after Hurricane Isabel (that was actually War's genny before the muffler addition). I haven't got it wired into my breaker box yet because I want to consult with an electrician first, and also because this weekend I will be taking the genset with me to my uncles cabin in the middle of nowhere. I plan on running the genset under load until it runs through a full tank of gas, after which time I'll only run it when we actually need it. This is for a couple of reasons. First, it's brand new, I want to make sure it runs good under load for extended periods of time (I only have so many days to return it) and secondly, I want to know how long it will run on one tank of gas under load (about 5.5 gallons).

After I bought the genny, I realized I still had some "preps money" left, so I read some more articles and decided that the next thing I needed were some deep cell batteries and an inverter. I drove by Wally World after work today and got (2) 27DC-6 deep cell marine batteries (recommended in more articles than I should link to here) and I also got a 750 watt continuous, 1500 watt peak inverter. While there I figured out what I needed to hook the batteries together (a recommendation about using jumper cables and cutting them down to hook your batteries together by War in a recent post helped), but I needed some way to connect those wires to the batteries, I chose to use lugs that would fit onto the threaded posts on the batteries (tightened with wing nuts) because they would be easier to disconnect if I had to for some reason. Here's what all that stuff looks like:

This is my 2 batteries hooked in parallel using short pieces of the following jumper cables. Notice that the negative cable is wrapped with electrical tape. The cheaper jumper cables were run both the same color, but with a different texture. I like going with visual signs, so I taped the negative cable to make it easier for me to identify. Then I taped the cut end of the remaining negative cable to make it easier for me to identify when I add more batteries. The cables I used were a little over $13, the cables that were black and red were a little over $23. And the more expensive cables didn't look to be that much better quality, so I'm going to use the cheaper ones until they do me wrong. Note: I have a few sets of good quality jumper cables in various vehicles (one for each vehicle, and there are a couple of working vehicles here) so that if I need more cable in a pinch, I can use those. I also picked up extra lugs just in case.

These are the cables I went with, note that both positive and negative are orange. That's the reason for the electrical tape.

This is the packaging from the lugs I used. Notice that it says it fits 4 and 6 gauge cables. It does, but it takes a lot of effort to close them securely onto 6 gauge. I actually put it onto a brick and hit it with a hammer, that seems to be working fine for right now.

The Wally World inverter, actually, it's a "Vector" inverter. One of the brands reccomended by some of the boards alt power gurus.

And This is the batteries hooked to the inverter. I also picked up a 10A/2A battery charger that I can power with my genset so that I can use battery power through the inverter until the batteries get low, then I can run the genny for a (hopefully) short length of time to recharge the batteries and allow me to use some of the heavier load household items at the same time. This should cut down on the amount of fuel I need to have stored dramatically.

This is the charger I bought. Note: I have not tried charging with the generater yet, nor have I used the batteries until they got low and recharged them yet. This is something I plan to do next weekend to determine how long it's going to take to drain the batteries and also how long it takes to recharge them using the genny. Doing this will allow me to be better prepared. Another note: I plan to change over my charging methods very soon. I will be getting a C40 Charge Controller because they are much much better than regular battery chargers. They will treat your batteries much better in the long run and actually allow you to recharge faster and safer. But, due to financial constraints, all I could get right now was a charger. But that's ok, because everyone could use a good charger for their cars just in case :).

And this is what it lookes like running the stereo you see on the wall behind/next to the steps. Special note here, the "stand" that my batteries and inverter are on is only a temporary stand. Soon I will be building a much more appropriate bench area to store my alternate energy equipment.

I realize that I still have to test my charging capabilities from the genny, but everything else works as advertised (I had the charger hooked to the batteries running off grid power earlier, but only because my generater is loaded on a trailer and ready to go to the mountain). this article is only meant to help illustrate that it's a lot easier to get started than it appears to an "outsider". And I was completely an outsider yesterday morning. The first step to alternate power really isn't as big as it seems. I hope this helps someone else that is trying to decide how to start, because no matter what you get first, It's a start.

All materials at this site not otherwise credited are Copyright 1996 - 2005 Trip Williams. All rights reserved. May be reproduced for personal use only. Use of any material contained herein is subject to stated terms or written permission.