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building budget auto-backup system

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DeTwang
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 268 Shingletown, Ca. (Near Redding)
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2004-10-04          97642


I want to create a battery backup system for a few things at my place. Since I don't live there full time yet and occasionally power goess out during snowstorms, I want to have automatic power B/U for my kerosene heater in the house, and a small electric heater in the pumphouse (and hopefully the fridge too). The idea is to keep the water system form freezing.

I have a 5KW electric start generator. What I'm hoping to do, is to get an inverter/charger and some batteries, to automatically backup the power to these items to keep the pumphouse and house warmed to 10-15 degrees above freezing when I'm not around, even in the event of power failure.

So I need an inverter/charger powerfull enough to supply power to my kerosene heater (monitor 441), and a small electric heater about 250-500w in the pumphouse, and a fridge (not sure what it draws). I figure a max of 2000w at any given time would be required (but probably a lot less). I plan to really insulate the pumphouse and reduce it's size, and I can get a more efficient fridge at some point if neccessary. Obviously, all of this stuff will be running intermittantly, not constantly.

The inverterchargers will charge the batteries when utility power is available, and automatically switch over to battery power when the grid power goes down. When battey charge drops too low during an outage, I want the inverter charger to automatically start the generator to charge the batteries. I'd also like the inverter/charger to auto run the generator for a few minutes two or three times a week just to keep the generator fresh.

I'll also need some batteries. Ive looked into deepcycle/marine batteries and they're extremely expensive. I'm not sure why they're neccessary over regular lead acid car batteries which are far cheaper. I could use some enlightenment on that subject.

Regardless, in the beginning I'll have to use car batteries for budget reasons. Is this rediculous? are they subject to freezing? Can they be stored outdoors (out of the weather of course)? Or I might be able to build a ventilated compartment for them in the pumphouse.

Any suggestions for this stuff? I've been looking for an inverter charger on line, and the cheapest I can find that does all this costs around 1200 bucks. Way too expensive right now!

If suitable inverter chargers can't be found for a lot less than this, is it possible to piece the system together using individual charger, individual inverter, and something that will monitor battery levels and start the generator?

I'm an electrician, but being from sunny SoCal, I'm new to the whole 'real' winter mentality. No experience at all with residential generator/battery backup systems.

Also, I have a thousand gallon water storage tank that sits outdoors next to the pump house. It is one of those big black plastic units with the corrugated sides. Can I leave it full during the winter. Seems like six feet deep is a lot to freeze. Can any harm come to it by leaving it full when I'm not around for extended periods?

All advice on this subject of winter proofing power and water appreciated.

I'm getting sick of draininng the water system, blowing it out with air, draining the storage and hot water tank, filling the toilets with antifreeze before I leave everytime I come to vist during the winter. Not to mention I forgot to refill the electric water heater once before turning the power on , and instantly ruined a 1 month old water heater. I also learned about the toilets the hard way last winter.

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Murf
Join Date: Dec 1999
Posts: 7155 Toronto Area, Ontario, Canada
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2004-10-04          97645


The problem you're going to have is that 'electric heater' means relatively high draw, that is the last thing you want to do on an inverter.

I suspect your estimation of a 500 watt heater is a little on the light side too. I don't know how far north you are, or how well insulated the pumphouse is, but I'd bet a 500 watt heater wouldn't do much about keeping things warm if it got much below zero.

It certainly is possible to hobble a system together, lots of people around here have, the problem though always comes back to capacity and endurance. If you have enough storage capacity then the cost is so high that you might as well have a genset and just be done with it.

Best of luck. ....

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building budget auto-backup system

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ncrunch32
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 762 Kingston, NY
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2004-10-04          97647


I used to have a 4KW generator in a boat with an inverter and two large gel cell deep cycle batteries. The purpose of the marine deep cycle batteries is that they are batteries than can be fully depleted over and over again without damage to the batteries. Apparently starter batteries can't take this abuse - I had 2 separate batteries to start the engines.

The purpose of the inverter was to avoid using the generator when you just needed 120volts for a short time and/or a small appliance. If you are heating something I imagine you could deplete the batteries real quick - so you might need a big bank of deep cycle gel cell batteries.
The inverter will drain the batteries quickly.




....

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building budget auto-backup system

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yooperpete
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 1413 Northern Michigan
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2004-10-04          97650


Don't know the size of place nor how cold it gets. I'd use propane and forget the techie approach. You can get a big pig tank dropped in on your property. They don't usually charge for a tank if you use a minimum amount. Get a small heater/furnace with thermostat. Set it at 45 or 50 degrees. It will only go on as needed if your normal heat is set higher like 60 degrees. Build an insulated cube around your pump and any portions of plumbing that are exposed. Heat tape works too. You may want to place a small propane heater in the pump house as well.
With regard to your water tank freezing, the Great Lakes freeze over with about 4 feet of ice. A little tank at the correct temperature will freeze quickly and usually burst. If you add some compressive floation objects in the tank they can compensate for the freeze thaw. Us Northerners do this with above and below ground pools. I agree with Murf, your estimates for BTU's seems awefully low. Although, we might be thinking in our terms of Winter. We're looking at lows tonight of 29-30 degrees. Last year in mid-February we were at the sled dog races in Chatham and Trenary where the temps got to -14 degrees at 9pm. The Michelobs being served were at temperatures below the recommendations printed on the labels.

I have a device called a "freeze alert" which has a little thermostat connected to my phone line up North. If the temperature drops below 40 degrees, the unit trips. I call there everyday and the phone rings as normal. Since there is no one there to answer, the call is free. If it doesn't ring, I can call the neighbor or drive there with haste! ....

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DeTwang
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 268 Shingletown, Ca. (Near Redding)
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2004-10-04          97652


Thew pump house is currently 4x8x9, but I was planning to build a smaller insulated box within it to reduce the volume to around 75-100 cubic feet. The heater would be within that box, as well as the 32 gal bladder tank, the well, the pressure pump and the piping.

I've already repiped everything in copper and insultated the individual pipes pretty well, but it's near impossible to insulate the pump itself.

I figured will a well insulated box and a small heater, hopefully I wouldn't have to run it too much.

I was thinking about in the future using a recirc pump that by using a couple of ball valves could be set up to recirculate water through the pump house, and the hot and cold water system of the house. I found some recirc pumps that are fairly low power (35 watts), but in that scenario, I would want to change the water heater over to propane first, otherwise it would cost a fortune to be constantly heating the water with electricity (not to mention backup power problems). I''ve been unable to find any low power small in line heaters. Just the big tankless units.

I'm a little reluctant to repipe the trailer yet though as I'm having a little bit of a hard time getting financing on the property because of the older trailer (1974 double wide) that's on it, and want to make sure they're not going to force me to yank the trailer and build a new home before I dump cash into the trailer itself.

Thats an interesting idea about putting floation devices in the water. What do you use, rubber balls, pool toys and the like? Or is there something especially made for this purpose?

Where the one inch pipe comes out of the tank there is an 18" tall x 12" deep wooden box filled with sawdust to insulate the piping. Would that piping be in danger in any way due to cold water on the bottom of the tank even if the ice is only on the top few inches of the water?

Also, I was wondering if a small aqaurium heater and air pump could be used to mildy heat and circulate the water in the tank. Not sure if this would be worth the power expense though.

Temperatures usually don't drop below the teens a whole lot there (gets a couple feet of snow max), but there might be cold spells that drop into single digits. Unfortunately, those are probably during the periods when power lines might go down. ....

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building budget auto-backup system

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TomG
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 5406 Upper Ottawa Valley
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2004-10-05          97686


I'm not sure that any virtually any backup system would be sufficient for extended periods of unattended operation. Something like propane or an oil stove with enough solar to energize a thermostat circuit might be pretty reliable but it'd be fairly expensive if you intend on becoming full-timer soon. A full time resident neighbour who would check the place regularly would be good and also would be about the only thing an insurance company would buy. It may be a pain but I think I'd just keep winterizing the place until you're a full-timer.

I know somebody who just used a light bulb for your insulated box idea. It gets much colder here but the pump was in a cellar and would get considerable geo heat. Light bulbs do burn out, but the person was a full-timer. Small baseboard heaters are safer and more reliable.

I wonder if geo heat might get by for just the pump house? If the sills are at grade, cement board attached to the sills and buried at an angle away from the building increases geo heat. Something like that combined with a lot of insulation and a black roof might keep it above freezing most winters. But of course you never know and the rest of the place would still have to be winterized. Sounds like you cracked a toilet bowl. Even people who winterize sometimes forget to squirt anti-freeze in the holes around the top of the bowl and end up with a cracked toilet next spring. ....

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building budget auto-backup system

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Billy
Join Date: Oct 1999
Posts: 975 Southeast Oklahoma
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2004-10-05          97696


I think it would be a lot cheaper to go all propane. That way you wouldn't need any electricity. A small propane heater for the pump house, a bigger one for the trailer and a propane refrigerator. You could probably find a good used propane refrigerator, at a reasonable price, if you shopped around. ....

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building budget auto-backup system

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Murf
Join Date: Dec 1999
Posts: 7155 Toronto Area, Ontario, Canada
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2004-10-05          97719


IMHO as someone who has several 'seasonal residences', cottage, farm house, hunt camp, and has too much experience at fixing frozen plumbing to admit to....

I would dig a 3' square pit about 4' deep, not too far from the back door, build a 4' square 'wee hoose' with a cresent moon cut into door on top of the pit and winterize the place each fall.

Unless you plan on spending a lot of time up there it's the safest and least expensive way to go.

Buy a couple of 5 gallon water containers and pack them along with your food when you go up there. Just don't foget to empty od pour anti-freeze into the trap in any sinks you pour the water into.

Best of luck. ....

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jwhinchman
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 1 Rochester NY
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2004-10-13          98238


DeTwang,
Upstate NY, Rochester adding my 2 cents. Try this web site.
Chris has been an OFF LINE power consultant and engineer for quite awhile now. He does consulting, engineering,construction, installation of solar,wind and propane off grid and backup systems. His business and home is a traning center,manufacturing shop where he tries out equipment and techniques before selling or recommending things to people. ....


Link:   

Click Here


 
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building budget auto-backup system

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k9fletch
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 52 Whittemore, MI
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2004-10-15          98449


Here is a site for your frozen pipe issue, good luck. ....


Link:   Freeze Flow Products

 
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building budget auto-backup system

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DeTwang
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 268 Shingletown, Ca. (Near Redding)
TractorPoint Premium Member -- 5 Tractors = Very Frequent Poster

2004-10-22          99009


well, I ended up getting a thermostat controlled switch to control the overhead 150w light and a 1500w heater, I set on med power. The thermostat only went down to 50 degrees so I set it to that. I drained the storage tank as far as I could (about 1 foot of water left), which I did last year and it survived the winter, so hopefully it will this year too. I put some environmentally friendly antifreeze in all the p traps and toilet tanks (stuff is expensive at $18 a gallon!). The pump house is well insulated, and I put a new seal around the door. I drained the water heater, and put a sign on the electrical panel reminding me to fill it first before energizing the circuit, so I don't forget like I did last winter resulting in the ruin of a brand new water heater. I hooked up a fitting that allowed me to use the iar compressor to fillup the bladder tank with compressed air a few times, then went around the house opening alll the valves until nothing but air came out. Put out about 20 rat/mice bait-traps, left the monitor kerosene heater in the house set to 42 degress, locked everything up and am crossing mmy fingers that all the new copper piping I put in the pump house as well as the old junk piping in the mobilehome survive the winter.

So...... hopefully that's enough. I've got no protection for power outages, so I'm at the mercy of things beyond my control there.

I left the day a big storm was coming in. There was already snow in the area about 500' above me from smaller storms that came through over the prior two days. It was 36 degrees when I left at 1pm, so odds are good when the big storm hit later that night, the place got dumped on.

So now, I just sit doen here in so cal and worry about the place I'd rather be. Hopefully by next wiunter, I can be there full time to babysit the joint. ....

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building budget auto-backup system

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Murf
Join Date: Dec 1999
Posts: 7155 Toronto Area, Ontario, Canada
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2004-10-22          99013


I know it's a little late, but, there is a very simple way to make a thermostat function at a different temperature range than the manufacturer's settings.

The thermostat uses a bi-metallic coil spring which rotates a mercury switch as it reacts to changes in ambient temperature. However, the switch does not know which way is up. If you mount the thermostat on the wall out of plumb, that is rotated either direction, then the 'on' point and the 'off' point get shifted also. It just takes a little experimenting to get the shifted temperatures calibrated back to the dial. I just adjust them so that the reading on the face of the thermostat is exactly 20 off and put a note on it to that effect.

I did this with the alarm systems at my seasonal homes, then hooked the thermostat to one alarm zone. If the alarm goes off it auto-dials my cell phone automatically, the zone that is registering trouble tells me if it is the temperature and I can either call someone or go myself.

Best of luck. ....

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kubotaguy
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 360 Shepherdstown, WV
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2004-10-22          99015


My parents have a place in the northern part of WV in the mountains and they winterize it every fall. They actually have the pressure tank and everything buried in the ground inside a barrel and it has worked well so far. They drain the lines and put marine antifreeze in the traps so they don't freeze and bust. They cut all the power and take everything out of the fridge. It has worked well so far and in the spring, they open it back up.
I did notice you said you had a trailer. My concern would be snow build up on the roof. Two years ago we had to clean their trailer roof off which had 4" of ice plus 36 inches of snow on it. A guy up the road wasn't so lucky and his trailer caved in. My uncle's trailer had some of the trusses break, so he put a house type roof on it.
good luck ....

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DeTwang
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 268 Shingletown, Ca. (Near Redding)
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2004-10-22          99089


There's a snow shed built over the trailer. It's pretty heavy duty and has a pretty steep slope.

Tom, I thought of playing with the tstat some, as it actually had some leeway available past the 50 degree mark, but I had no way to drop the temperature to test it. I was afraid of setting it too low.

So, I guess Ill deal with the extra hit on the utility bill for a few months.

Looks like Ill be putting a manufactured home on the kand in the spring anyways and getting rid of the trailer, so I guess I have some tiem to think about how to get it all right.

It really sucks that the government has so muych say so about what you can or can not put on your land. If I put the new home on the land, I have sixty days to get rid of the old. What the hell business is it of theirs anyways?

I went down to the building department today to pull a permit for a rewire job I'm doing on a duplex down here in LA. I've paid these things many times, but this is the first time that it hit me as to how ridiculous it is they charge us per outlet, switch etc..

I'm getting pretty sick of all these taxes disguised as fees. They tax everything you do. Soon they'll be counting how many times we breathe and tax us for that.

I'm really starting to understand the frustration of our forefathers that caused them to revolt against the crown.

It's all out of control anymore. ....

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