Build An Ark: What you can do with your Generator
Alternate Energy Basics:
What you can do with your Generator
I see many folks on the message boards
talking about the generators they have for disaster situations. You
never hear any mention of batteries or inverters so I have to assume
most of these folks think they will run their gas generators till the
gas runs out, then do without power.
With the addition of a few deep cycle batteries and an inverter, the
generator would be much more useful in the long term. It would also
serve to stretch their fuel supplies.
Running a generator without a battery bank and inverter would mean hardwiring
the generator directly to your panel box. Even a large generator would
not power all the electric for most typical houses. In this method,
power is only available while the generator is running. This would also
make it extremely impossible to keep a tactical alert with a noisy generator
Let's first look at some of the notorious "energy hog" appliances
and what we can do to circumvent them.
For some reason most people are overly obsessed with keeping a refrigerator
running after a power failure. A "fridge" is one of the biggest
energy hogs in your house. Either invest in a super efficient model
like a Con Serv or Sunfrost or go LP if you can. I remember figuring
out that it would take eight of our 120 watt solar panels just to run
a standard refrigerator! Makes the initial cost outlay of a Con Serv
or Sunfrost look minute. Eight panels at $550-650 per panel is $4,400
to $5,400 you can put towards an efficient fridge. I think you can find
one for that.
We've used a Con Serv model for close to 7 years now. I was told it
was a "low cost" version of the Sunfrost. For the most part
we've been very happy with it. It has had some difficulties. The unit
has a freezer at the bottom and the refrigerator section at the top.
Tall and somewhat more slender than a standard "fridge." The
door handles were both small short handles like one would see on a barn
door, just made of white plastic. They both broke within the first 6
months of use. The bottom of the refrigerator part had two pull out
hydrator/crisper units. On top of those was a piece of glass. About
the only thing we consistently keep in our refrigerator is gallon jugs
of distilled water. Evidently the weight of the water jugs was too much
for the glass. The glass part didn't last 2 months. Other than those
things, and the fact that it will sometimes leak water on to the floor,
it's been great! It doesn't use much power at all. With most everything
else in the house off besides any "ghost loads" that may be
running, the amp meter on my inverter shows 1 amp.
If TS ever did HTF, we would likely only use the refrigerator for short
term food keeping. If for some unforeseen reason our system could not
bear it or we needed the power elsewhere, we would simply discontinue
The next big power hog in most homes is the hot water heater. ANY electric
appliance that produces heat is a BIG energy hog. This includes: hot
water heaters, electric space heaters, curling irons, clothes dryers,
blow dryers and toasters. A toaster is the only one from that list that
we use consistently. The one redeeming factor is that the toaster is
never used for very long periods of time.
In your retreat house LP gas should be used for your oven, water heater
(solar is another option also), clothes dryer and can also be used for
Using LP gas for these items will greatly reduce the amount of electricity
you will have to produce. Reducing your load by this method will allow
you to purchase a much smaller power system.
Seek out and find a gas stove that uses a pilot light. Most gas stoves
utilize an electric start. The pilot light models require you to light
each burner pilot and the oven pilot. Even without power you can cook
meals, boil water or can food.
How will you get water after TSHTF? If you have a well how do you plan
on retrieving the water?
The best plan I've seen came from a buddy of mine. He built an elevated
platform and mounted a 210 gallon round plastic water tank on it. A
genset was used to run the well pump. Instead of running the generator
constantly as you would have to do to have water pressure, the elevation
of the tank provided the pressure. Every few days he would run his generator
to pump water up to the tank, then shut the generator back off once
the tank was full. If you had the generator wired to your inverter also,
it could be charging your battery bank while it's providing power to
the well pump.
We copied his approach on our system, modifying a few things slightly.
If an elevated tank is not possible in your situation, you could use
the same water tank/cistern type idea and put a small Sureflo type 12volt
pump inline between the tank and your plumbing. It would mean additional
electricity but would supply you with water pressure never the less.
Batteries are at the heart of your energy system. Here is NOT where
you want to skimp, buy the largest battery bank you can afford.
If you have the money then go with the absolute best like gel cell batteries.
Most of us due to economics and the number of batteries needed, will
usually end up with lead acid type batteries.
Standard car batteries will not last and may even be dangerous to use
in an AE system. Six volt batteries commonly used in golf carts offer
the cheapest option. The Trojan T105's and T605's are very commonly
available and fairly affordable.
We recently installed a second alternate energy system in one of the
outbuildings on our property. In this system we used golf cart batteries
due to the lower expense.
Our system for our house uses Trojan L16 six volt batteries. These are
the larger lead acid batteries with the higher capacity. The house system
is 24 volts and the smaller system for the outbuilding is 12 volts.
Batteries have to be purchased in the correct multiple for the voltage
system you are using- for a 12 volt system they have to be bought in
multiples of 2, for a 24 volt system in multiples of 4. The series connection
adds together the four 6 volt batteries to make 24 volts. The parallel
connections bump up the total amperage and get all the batteries working
If you are only using a generator as your power source, charge controllers
are not needed. A good inverter will have a charger feature built in
to it. I recommend survivalists purchase serious inverters such as those
made by Xantrex (Trace) or Heart. The $29 BS "inverters" at
Calmar are not what I'm talking about.
A 1,500 watt Xantrex (Trace) DR1512 inverter will only cost about $700.00
from www.altenergystore.com <http://www.altenergystore.com> and
it has the charger ability built in to it. We use this model in the
outbuilding system. Other than the fact that their is no standard LCD
display, it's been a great unit. Just keep in mind 1,500 watts isn't
all that much power (around 13 amps at 120 volts).
If you were putting together a generator only system you would need:
• Generator set
• Battery bank — batteries and cables
• plus all related safety devices — ground rods, disconnects,
Starting with this type of system would allow you to later add in a
few solar panels and/or a wind turbine for an additional energy source.
Solar panels are beginning to go up in price as demand grows for them.
I still think they are very affordable given their long life.
Solar has many advantages for the survivalist:
• No "moving parts" to break
• No noise produced
• No smoke or exhaust generated
• No volatile fuels to store for it
• Highly susceptible to EMP
• Highly visible
When you add solar panels to your generator based system you will need
to add a charge controller and a safety disconnect. Without the ability
to draw diagrams here, I will try to outline what your system would
look like with solar:
Solar panel(s) TO Safety disconnect (DC) switch TO Charge Controller(s)
TO Battery Bank. Then out of the battery bank to the inverter, power
then flows from the inverter direct to the standard fuse box of the
house. The power is all Direct current (DC) until it gets to the inverter.
The inverter changes the 12 volt (or 24 or 48 depending on system size)
DC to 110 volts AC (alternating current or AC is what's used in your
For the generator only system it would be:
Generator TO Inverter (acting as a battery charger) TO battery bank
to charge batteries. Then as the power is needed is goes: Battery bank
TO Inverter TO fuse box of the house.
Both the Xantrex DR1512 inverter we use in the outbuilding and the Trace
4024 inverter we use for our house has connections for both DC input
and AC generators, so I'm assuming most inverters will allow this also.
The bottom line is that if you already have a generator set, the addition
of even (6) six volt golf cart batteries (Trojan T605 or T105's) and
a Xantrex DR1512 would allow you a complete alternate energy system
and a much more long term platform for generator use. Adding these in
would cost around $1,100.00 or less.
The other option is trying to run your generator 24 hours a day, using
copious amounts of fuel, giving away your location 24/7 to looters and
dramatically decreasing the longevity of your generator. Most survivalists
have some sort of generator, even if it's a high rpm gas contractor
type generator. This would be a great way to put that generator to much
Who knows, later you might realize that after adding a solar panel every
few months to your system, you don't need the power company at all!
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