The off grid utility shed

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The off grid utility shed

Postby bobhenry » Tue May 12, 2015 12:40 pm

Well here I go with the utility shed on wheels...


I am about 2 weeks away from moving the caboose onto it's new home. In that move the caboose will get a 8x20 flatbed trailer patio Image

and a 4 x 20 utility building.
Here we are still remaining mobile if the zoning police find me. I am starting this separate thread to highlight the development of a multi- functional utility building.

I am starting with the absolutely free glider trailer I acquired way back when. Image

I have purchased a food grade 275 gallon bulk tank for $125.00 Image


I paid somewhere around $200 for the four 6 volt interstate deep cycle batteries.Image


And I have many many other items stored that I do not yet have pics of
I purchased 2 full sets of the dastardly old Harbor Freight solar systems as a place to start with my photo voltaics. Image

My house in a house had junk in it when I moved in. In that junk was a 42” wide extra tall steel fire door.Image

I have a monster wood stove I had purchased during the oil embargo of 78.

I also have my beer can hot air heaterImage

and 2 free full view doors to build a pair of solar tube type water heaters.

The glider trailer is 44 inches wide inside by 52” tall the tank and door are both 42” wide and the wood stove is just over 3 deep by 28” wide.
Starting to see a pattern ? The door becomes a fire proof floor under the wood stove. It will also support the water tank in close proximity to the wood stove.

Image

They both will need a bit more support than what is existing! :shock:

I think a baffle wall may be a wise idea to keep the tank away from direct radiant heat that may otherwise distort and damage the poly prop tank. It will share quarters close enough to avoid freezing in fridgid weather thanks to the wood stove heat.
A “room” will be created for these 2 items and act as a hot air plenum this room will be forced fan vented back to the caboose with input and return air tubes. The fan will be thermostatically controlled by the caboose inside air. When the thermostat in the caboose calls for heat the fan will be activated and inside air will be pushed thru the return tube pressurizing the plenum and forcing the heated air back down the outlet tube into the tiny house. I have also found a timed circulation pump brand new still in the box at a yard sale for $40.00. (I later looked it up and it was over $200.00 retail ) This circulation pump will circulate the water in the bulk tank thru the solar water heaters and return to the tank a few minutes every couple of hours. http://www.ebay.com/itm/Watts-Premier-500800-Whole-House-Hot-Water-Recirculation-Pump-System-Blue-110V-/321721311558?_trksid=p2054897.l4275 By keeping the water warmed by the wood stove and/or the solar heaters the water will act as a heat storage medium and could be called on as low grade heat for a cool but not cold night.

This rather crude drawing shows the wood stove inside the trailer in the black dotted line. The blue dotted unit is the bulk tank. The light blue squares on the roof represent the water and air to air heaters. The 6 red small squares are the solar panels mounted on the side and hinged at the top to be adjustable to the optimum angle for best collection advantage based on the season. Well that is the starting point of this thread. There will be a bunch of pics to follow as this adventure unfolds.

Image
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Re: The off grid utility shed

Postby bobhenry » Wed Jun 03, 2015 9:17 am

I located an old cast iron bathtub for the grey water evaporation holding tank. By focusing my Fresnel lens solar "Death ray" it is reported I can generate 1400 degree temps at the focal point. I am sure the water will cause some distortion in the actual focal point but it should still generate enough heat to evaporate the water portion of the grey water slurry. What is left should be dust from food particles and soap residue. I am not fully prepared for winter mode of this feature. I will have to do some rethinking of the mechanics and possible housing to reduce freezing during the cold season.


HERE Is the general idea........Image
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Re: The off grid utility shed

Postby GerryS » Thu Jun 04, 2015 4:56 am

I'd worry about odors...nothing smells quite as awful as simmering grey water. I'd also start planning about a tracker of some kind. The sun moves quite a bit and keeping it focused on one spot will take constant attention.
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Re: The off grid utility shed

Postby bobhenry » Thu Jun 11, 2015 11:22 am

Here is the off grid utility shed formerly known as the glider trailer (far left) waiting for me to get the caboose in place.

Image

Way back in the background you can see my other 8x20 flatbed trailer. It will receive
a new deck and will become the "patio" pulled up tight to the caboose's side.
Instead of a hand railing at the outer edge I will then pull the glider trailer into place
once again tight to the flat bed.

It is really kind of ironic that all 3 of these trailers just happen to be 20' in length.
I bought the flat bed over a decade ago the caboose frame was given to me in 2011
and the glider was a absolutely free craigslist find in 2013. It is almost as if it was
some kind of a plan.

Image

Image

Image
Last edited by bobhenry on Mon Jul 06, 2015 11:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The off grid utility shed

Postby bobhenry » Fri Jun 19, 2015 5:53 am

Well those that know me know there is a crazy streak in me . I have to let the inner child out now and then............

I placed an add in our local freecycle network and asked for an abandoned and unloved power wheels car or two.

I got the first nibble yesterday and scored myself an h2 Hummer. The glider trailer looks very much like the railroad's car
transports so why not add a couple of cars to further that illusion.


Image

Image

Image

I am gonna cut this and hopefully another car in half and stick the nose and tail out each end of the glider trailer to make it appear a bit more railroad'esk

I know with all I have to do why and the hell would I bother with such a dumb project.

I only have one answer "Cause I wanted to !"
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Re: The off grid utility shed

Postby tac422 » Sat Jun 20, 2015 11:35 am

I thought you might cut the sides off the cars and mount them on the sides of the trailer, making it look like an auto transporter ....
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Re: The off grid utility shed

Postby bobhenry » Thu Jun 25, 2015 2:03 pm

Most of the new auto transports are fully enclosed like this......

Image

so by installing a shelf mid way I should be able to get the same look. :D

I don't have a rear shot so you have to imagine a couple tiny cars poking out of the front of the glider trailer.

Image

Well it keeps the inner child happy anyway :eyebrows:
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Re: The off grid utility shed

Postby bobhenry » Thu Jul 02, 2015 9:57 am

Well the 4th is here ! With a little luck the monsoon season is over and I just may get to move the caboose this weekend. I have been looking at the pictures and trying to think of a way to avoid cutting thru the glider trailer to incorporate the features needed and gain the access needed from the ends rather than cutting into the sides.

Here is what I have came up with so far..

Image

The yellow is the solar panels these will be top hinged to be able to adjust for seasonal adjustment

The green solar glazed cabinets containing coils of 3/4" cold water tubing for sun warmed hot water in the summer / fall season some valve control will be needed for summer vs winter operation as the coils will be unused and drained down in freezing weather.
The red are solar warmed air to air heaters that will provide warmed air to the caboose on cool days by a small thermostatically controlled fan

The black box on the left is the big wood stove. I moved it to the end so as to be able to feed it without cutting into the trailer to gain access for the feed door on the stove.

The brown lines represent a corrugated steel partition wall to protect the blue 275 water tank from the direct radiant heat while allowing the warmed air to protect the tank from freezing. This 275 gallon tank will be fed by the rain water harvesting system that will be installed around the perimeter of the caboose roof. It will be filtered and drained to the tank for non potable water. Perhaps after some testing and the installation of a charcoal filter it might be potable but to be safe for the moment bottled water for ingestion and cooking will be the practice.

The brown wall to the rear is a wooden access door to which is installed control panels for all necessary electrical and electronic equipment

The big steel door we talked about earlier is the other brown line under the wood stove. It seemed like a good strong floor for the heavy as hell wood stove and the 275 gallon tank when filled.

The battery bank will remain in the caboose tucked conveniently under the fridge and freezer shelf with easy access for checkups. A inside thermostat will control the duct fan that will bring the warmed air from the plenum around the big water tank. The smaller solar air to air heaters will draw from and return to the same plenum. It is unclear if they will need some sort of separate draft induction fan to maintain a flow.

Image
This overhead shows the staggered baffle wall to protect the big tank. The red mass off of the wood stove is the rear vented stack being directed back to the front of the trailer where a 15 foot stack will be installed vertically to vent the wood stove. I think a copper trace line could be wound around the hot flue stack to percolate
heated water back to the big tank as well to aid in preventing winter freeze up and gaining some heat that would have otherwise been wasted up the chimney.

There seems like a lot of trailer left but I have fans to install and large duct runs to and from the caboose. Inside that duct work will be the water lines hopefully protected from freeze up. I guess I had better think about insulation and trace heaters just in case huh. Ok get on your thinking caps ! What have I forgotten ?
Last edited by bobhenry on Wed Nov 25, 2015 7:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The off grid utility shed

Postby DrewsBrews » Wed Aug 19, 2015 3:30 pm

I just purchased one of the harbor freight solar kits a few weeks ago and have nearly finished the install for shed lighting. I've done a decent amount of research about the kit. There are limitations that you will likely run into if you want to have all the batteries in one bank and use all six panels of the two kits to charge them.. Having two charge controllers attached to the same batteries isn't a good idea. And as far as using one to attach all six panels to one controller...Each panel puts out about 1amp in full sun and the factory controllers max out at 4amps. It will "appear to work", but there is an internal self resetting fuse that will heat up and cut power until it cools down... rendering the extra panels near useless. Something like this should be able to handle all the panels and do as good or better job of charging the batteries: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00WSDO1X4?psc=1 or this http://www.amazon.com/Sun-YOBA-Switch-Charge-Controller/dp/B00PVOC11G/ref=pd_sim_sbs_201_5?ie=UTF8&refRID=02QK8C6AZKYYFVK415CD Much cheaper than the 30amp controller harbor freight also sells. The factory kit controller is still useful as a power supply for the various voltage and socket outputs... a feature not many other charge controllers have (it's sort of a two in one device).

Though if you plan to run the kits separately with two batteries per bank that will work too. It is much more of a compromise however.


On my setup I'm just using one 12v deep cycle size 24 battery with one solar kit. This should be plenty for the included kit lights that will be used sparingly and one 6watt LED flood light that will stay on through the night. The panels are close enough for their cables to reach so I'm cutting off the connectors, tossing the included Y adapter and extension cable, and installing ring terminals to connect them all directly to the posts on the back of the controller. Reduces resistance so I get the most out of the panels.
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Re: The off grid utility shed

Postby bobhenry » Thu Aug 20, 2015 9:11 am

I have a small fridge and a small separate freezer. These are the only large draw items. Other items are circulation fans and led lighting and a small tv or radio. I do have a 9000 btu air conditioning unit but I am not entering it as a need at this time. My plan was to set up the two totally seperate HF solar systems each feeding 2 of the 6 volt deep cycle batteries on each separate leg making each a 12 volt system. The fridge would be on one system and the freezer on the other. The tiny house will simply be divided right and left as far as the remaining loads. All cooking and heating will be propane backup to the remote wood stove. Does this sound as if it is in the capability of my Horrible Freight systems?
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Re: The off grid utility shed

Postby bobhenry » Thu Aug 20, 2015 9:42 am

Well I made the list of just some of the goodies I need to truck over to the site from the house in a house.

The big 275 gallon water tank
the large steps for the side door
the smaller steps for the "back porch" (observation deck)
my two HF solar systems
the 4 deep cycle 6 volt batteries
door hinges to mount the solar panels and air to air and air to water heaters
extra LED light for wherever
the big inverter
the black/grey water tank that was original to the camper before demolition.
the huge steel door for the floor of the utility trailer
the Fresnel lens for the grey water reduction system
my pop can air to air heater
2 more full view doors to build two more air to air heaters
black tubing for the air to water solar water heater
a 12 volt and a 120v water pump
a timed circulation pump to move and blend the water thru the air to water heaters
2 propane tanks
rv awning
Insulated chimney for the wood stove
and the wood stove
the brake wheel coffee table for the deck little observation deck
and the bed rails that will become the hand rail on the observation deck.

Man I am tired just thinking about transferring this mess.

Sure will help clean out a spot or two in the big storage building though :thumbsup:
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Re: The off grid utility shed

Postby DrewsBrews » Thu Aug 20, 2015 4:56 pm

bobhenry wrote:I have a small fridge and a small separate freezer. These are the only large draw items. Other items are circulation fans and led lighting and a small tv or radio. I do have a 9000 btu air conditioning unit but I am not entering it as a need at this time. My plan was to set up the two totally seperate HF solar systems each feeding 2 of the 6 volt deep cycle batteries on each separate leg making each a 12 volt system. The fridge would be on one system and the freezer on the other. The tiny house will simply be divided right and left as far as the remaining loads. All cooking and heating will be propane backup to the remote wood stove. Does this sound as if it is in the capability of my Horrible Freight systems?


You can only discharge as fast as you charge so 90watts (2x45watt) over however many hours of full sun is the maximum amount of watt-hours you realistically want to use in a day. You can fudge and use more than that one day and less the next as long as your batteries can handle it. I imagine winter will be the true test as that's a double whammy of reduced sun for charging and more darkness to eat up lighting power.

Two separate kits will be more fiddly.. It will be easy to use one more than the other, which can get out of hand if three panels has difficulty fully recharging the overused bank. However, if your usage is low enough, it could be a non-issue.

Though, if you often run anywhere near the maximum daily usage, combining the batteries and panels into one bank would be much easier to manage, put less stress on the batteries, ect. Expanding with more panels is easy too as long as the charge controller has the capacity.
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Re: The off grid utility shed

Postby MtnDon » Thu Aug 20, 2015 5:38 pm

I had not seen this thread until today.

Running two separate banks of batteries ans PV is, IMO, making for more potential headaches. Unless there is something terribly funky about the HF charge controllers you can run two or more PV sets and controllers into one battery bank. It is done frequently in off grid cabin / home systems. Sometimes folks will have a west facing pv array and an east facing array as well as a south facing array. Each set of panels with it's own CC. It works. When the batteries reach the next charge setpoint one CC may cut off sooner than it might if they were totally separated because of slight differences in their internals. But it is no big deal. Unless the HF is weird and I don't think it is that weird.

I had a set of two of those panels years ago. On a really good day, really good clear skies they might produce the rated watts. So in your calculations it would not hurt to figure on getting maybe only 80% of their label rating. Output goes down over time.

Ideally for one pair of typical golf cart batteries in series the charge rate should be in the range of 20 to 25 amps. Good electrical energy making sun only happens for a few hours a day, longer the further south you are. Those HF panels leave you in a deficit situation. Unless you only run a few LED lights. The fridge and freezer may be the battery killer. Any idea of what watt-hours they consume in a typical 24 hour day?

You may be already aware but you don't want to run the batteries down to less than 50% daily and expect them to provide years of service. And a full charge should be reached at least once a week as a minimum. 50% gives you approximately 1200 watt hours to use daily from one pair of GC-2's. If the batteries did drop to 50% it would take one set of three HF panels about 35 hours to replenish one pair of GC-2's. On a good day. Not too encouraging.
Our 6x12 deep vee nose cargo trailer camper conversion... viewtopic.php?f=42&t=58336

We have a small off grid cabin we built ourselves in the NM mountains; small PV solar system; 624 watts PV, Outback CC & inverter/charger ... http://countryplans.com/smf/index.php?topic=2335.0
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Re: The off grid utility shed

Postby bobhenry » Fri Aug 21, 2015 6:22 am

Well left work early ( 2 hours) and started digging in the storage unit. Why is it that everything I needed was now behind tons of junk I didn't need. :x

Well the truck is loaded and headed out Sat AM. I have a second load ready and waiting in the main floor of the house in a house for a trailer load to be transferred as well.

I have the HF solar system ready to go batteries and all. Hope to have lights by dark Saturday night. :thumbsup:

I want to thank all for the input on the split solar system. Perhaps it would be best to combine the entire unit. I was just hoping to be better able to control the draw by even dropping out the refrigeration for periods of time if needed.

The fridge is 1.3 amps during the compressor run only and the freezer is almost the same. Since they won't be running continually they should be well within the capability of the 45 watt system ???? (yep that is a question)
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Re: The off grid utility shed

Postby daveesl77 » Fri Aug 21, 2015 8:39 am

I am assuming the fridge and freezer are 1.3amp at 120 volt. If they are 12 volt then you can ignore this post, as the conversion numbers are wrong and you'll be fine. Also, maybe the 1.3 is wrong, as my little cheap Haier dorm fridge pulls 0.7 amp running and 5 amp on startup.

Anyway just doing the basic conversion calcs, at 1.3 x 120 = 13amp at 12 = 156 watts running. If the system is efficient and well insulated, then consider a 20% normal duty cycle, so running watts per hour could be as low as 30 watts per hour. Start up can be 4-8x running, but only for a few seconds, but still that will do a hit of say 20 watts per hour. 50 watts/hour demand for each system or 100 watts demand total. It could be much lower, depending on the appliance.

Figure you are lucky and your panels are running at 90% rated over a 12 hour day. 45 watt each = 90 watts x .9 = 80 watts per hour total available. Cheap inverters now can run at about 80% efficiency and good ones at maybe 90%, so you will have a loss of 8-15 watts during the 12v-120v conversion stage. Your dual 45 watt systems are now possibly providing 65-75 watts per hour to the final demand appliances. So, if your demand is 100 watts and potential feed is 75 watts, you are hitting the batteries at a rate of 25 watts per hour. Not too bad, but you aren't charging the batteries and at night, with no solar potential, it is all draw.

With my single 50 watt panel and 2000 watt inverter, running my 3 ft3 Haier, using a single, old Mopar truck battery, and not being careful at all on positioning the panel orientation, I ran my fridge, at coldest setting on a 90 degree day for 11 hours before the battery voltage dropped to 11.9 volts. But, while not oriented and some clouds covered, as well as shade, it did run that one fridge with temps down to 16 degrees F. I live in Florida, so I have a pretty good sun angle. That said, I was not able to run the fridge and charge the battery, just kind of maintain. With a good battery bank and better orientation, I am sure I could have provided a positive charge, but not a lot. So essentially my system was kind of equal to 1/2 of your system on both supply and demand, but a fraction of your potential due to the 6v battery banks. I think you need to substantially increase your charging potential IF each of your appliances pull 1.3 amp at 120 volt and you only have 90 watts rated charging ability.

Oh, and I use the 50 watt Aleko (Renogy) systems and not HF. I do plan on buying another panel, since these are often on sale for about $80 for the 50 watt and $150 for the 100 watt. I'll run them parallel to keep the voltage down and double the potential amperage.

Just my thoughts and they are often wrong.

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