Power was drawn from the battery bank and ran to a Xantrex 175 amp d/c main disconnect, then to an inverter. Since I wanted to power small battery chargers, cell phone charger, home office equipment, and various other electronics, I chose a true sine-wave inverter, the Xantrex xw1800.
The inverter fed a second Square D 100 amp breaker box, from which all a/c circuits emitted. I wanted a/c power in the “kitchen” to power a blender, crock pot, and various other kitchen aids. We wanted a/c in the entertainment corner to power stereo and tv hardware, although I retained the d/c components to use during the lean power winter months.
We now have a building wired in duplicate, one breaker box each for a/c and d/c circuits. Direct current powers all interior and exterior lighting, a ceiling fan, small refrigerator, stereo and tv, small fans for HVAC and the composting toilet, and numerous receptacles throughout the building. Alternating current powers a window air-conditioning unit, stereo and tv, the home office, and numerous receptacles.
This arrangement could be very dangerous. What if we plug an a/c load into a d/c receptacle, or vice-versa? Something just blew up! The simple solution is to use keyed plugs and receptacles. Most standard 110 a/c plugs use two vertical spades, but plugs and receptacles are available with one vertical and one horizontal spade, which were used for d/c circuits. This must be done to adhere to code, but more importantly, is a no-brainer. We can’t mix up a/c and d/c circuits and appliances and have things blowing up!
We switched from florescent to Utilitech 61621 floodlight fixtures, available at Lowe’s for about eight bucks.
An unlimited budget would eliminate these concerns, but this entire experiment was designed to use as little cash as possible and still be “livable.” Oak Ridge National Laboratory has designed and built an ultra efficient, some call “net zero,“ home that is “energy neutral.” It supplies all of it’s own energy needs. The trouble is, the budget needed to construct this home is out of reach for most of us. For this technique to be useful, it must remain realistic, cost wise. The foremost goal of this experiment was to live without monthly bills of several hundred dollars or more, with some level of comfort, and not need a $100,000.00 budget to do it.
If you have followed all of these articles since the beginning, it is clear that we are trying to build a rather conventional house using some unconventional methods, most of which have worked out extremely well. My wife has commented on numerous occasions that the power system has worked out best, by far, of any of the ideas that I’ve put into practice. I agree. Solar power has been the most important factor in our ability to conjure up a sustainable
lifestyle. I am amazed that society as a whole has not embraced this wonderful technology. If a system is designed correctly, it will be as close to perfection as one can get.
In future articles, I will detail such topics as heating and ventilation, rainwater harvesting, the home office, outdoor living spaces, and give details about the battery bank storage set-up.
The best thing about this entire venture is that anyone can do it. I have no college degree, and when I began this mess (uh experiment), I had little specialized training. I suppose I got lucky, achieving such success on the first try. Plenty of research was the most beneficial tool that I started with. That, and the desire to reuse and recycle any and everything when possible.
In memory of my “little brother” Jeffrey Allen Hurd, Rest In Peace
All photos by: Jeff & Kathy Chaney
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