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The 12 Volt Doctor’s Practical Handbook

12vdoctorOne of our favorite recommends for learning, building, and troubleshooting low voltage dc power systems is “The 12 Volt Doctor’s Practical Handbook“. This 200+ page booklet, though focused on the marine industry, explains everything you need to know about low voltage dc, switches, wiring, batteries, alternators, and more. Clear diagrams, schematics, and an easy to read dialogue completes the package.

Order this book from Amazon, email us the order confirmation, and we will email you the link to our DIY Solar and DIY Generator package for free.

Read more on this subject ….


American made Nickel Iron (NiFe) Forever Batteries

We do not sell these batteries, or gain any monetary value from promoting this technology, other than the satisfaction of seeing folks get a superior off grid storage system.

Tonight we had a nice chat with Stephen Ellis, of Zappworks. They take original Edison NiFe batteries, and re-manufacture them with improvements, and make a battery superior to anything else on the market. Why is it superior?

Well, for one, it’s the last set of batteries you’ll ever need to buy. Your grandkids will still be using them. Unlike lead acid batteries, the electrodes do not decay during use. Only the electrolyte (KOH) needs changing every decade or so, and there’s no lead to pollute the environment, not like you’d ever need to throw these away.

Ok, so what else makes them superior? Well, when you buy pack of lead acid batteries, and you need 1000 ah of storage, you actually have to buy nearly 2000 ah, as about 50% of the battery capacity can’t be used without severely degrading battery life. Not so with the Edison battery, you can discharge it down to 95%, and the voltage stays stable!

You want more? Ok. If you over charge, under charge, or leave a lead acid battery stagnate (no charging, no discharging), you damage the battery. You can take a battery bank that should last 7+ years, and kill it in less than 3. You can’t damage a NiFe pack by over charging, under charging, or leaving them unused for long periods of time. In fact, in one year they will have only lost 30% of their charge if left unconnected.

“Ok, but I heard they are very inefficient, and you have to put a lot more power into them than you get back”. Not so with these batteries. For every 100ah you want out, you need to put 130 ah in, making them 70% efficient at converting chemical to electrical energy. Normal lead acids beat that by only 10%.

Like lead acids, you need to add distilled water every month or so, and the battery box needs to be vented to the outdoors. They produce hydrogen when charging over 80%, but not the sulfur that lead acids produce, so no corrosion issues. Auto watering systems are available.

They have similar temperature requirements, 60F – 100F is optimum.

They do have different charge voltages, so you will need a programmable charge controller and inverter, like the Outback units.

Unlike lead acid batteries, you can add new batteries to expand the pack at will. You can’t mix old and new lead acid batteries together, as the old ones will bring the new ones down to their level.

NiFe’s are a bit more expensive than lead acid batteries (about 25%), but you only need to pay it once. It’s the last battery pack you will ever need to buy, and it’s American made! Do we like these batteries? You Bet!


Survival for the Medically Dependent

Power outages are bad for those with medicines that need refrigeration. An extended outage for folks with Type 1 diabetes and other conditions requires a good generator, a long term fuel source, or other option. Here is one we recommend. A Stirling powered cooler (4 amps @ 12v) can run well off 300 watts of solar (PV) and two Trojan T-105 batteries. No inverter required. Low parts count means little to breakdown, little need for service, increasing reliability, and lowering operating expenses. These units perform better, and use less power than the common Peltier thermo electric models. These are ideal for third world no-grid applications as well. A simple solar power setup to drive this is How to make your own Emergency Power System with appropriate pv and battery upgrades.


Building your own wind turbine (and solar panel)

Did you know you can make a inexpensive wind turbine by modifying an existing 1.5 kw ac motor by replacing the rotor coils with magnets, and making blades out of pvc pipe? Have you ever wanted to learn how to build a solar panel from scratch? Alex Hughes makes it easy with these very descriptive and easy to follow (and reproduce) video’s. These instructions are the real deal, no fluff.

DIY Wind Turbine and Solar Panels


Windy Days at Green Trust

We finally got the AIR-X (400 watt) wind turbine raised today, just in time for a windy mini blizzard. It sits on 30′ of 3″ galvanised pipe, bolted to the side of the house. We used a backhoe to pull a rope, connected to the tower at the 20′ mark, over the top of the house, as we didn’t have the manpower to pull it ourselves. We put two other ropes on either side of the turbine to keep it from sliding perpendicular to the direction we wanted to to go.

I don’t have my anemometer up to check wind speeds, but the turbine is peaking at 300 watts and singing like a stool pigeon. I have the output of the turbine (the negative) running through a shunt connected to my FLEXnetDC battery monitor, so my Outback Mate tracks the power the turbine collects. My solar panels connect to another shunt, and my inverter to the third shunt. This gives me detailed information on my production and usage.

I have some of pictures of the process posted at and more coming shortly.

The Whisper (500 watt) is the next unit to go up, followed by the rebuilt 24 volt (was 12v) 1000 watt Axial Flux Turbine.


Setting the posts for the solar array

Today we are picking up two 10′ sections of telephone poles for the posts for the new solar array. The phone company removed a pole that was broken at the base, and gave us the rest of the pole, cut in 10′ pieces. We will dig a hole 4′ deep, drop in the post, and fill the hole with concrete. a rock at the bottom with some concrete put in first will keep the post off the dirt at the bottom of the hole.

The top of pole array mounts we received are too small for the new panels (there was a mix up somewhere), so we wll mount our old Mitsubishi 110 watt panels first, and then when the second array mounts come in, we will mount the new Sanyo 195 watt panels. In the meantime, we will put the Sanyo’s on the old wooden fixed array mount that currently holds the Mitsubishi panels. We have a second Outback MX-60 charge controller coming in to handle the second array. This will bring us up to 1720 watts of pv, from 550 watts.


Top of Pole Solar Mounts

The Pole Mount for our new solar panels just arrived. The UPS driver took one look at the panels that were laid out, and commented as he handed me the boxes, “Toys for boys?”. Oh Yeh!

The pole mount is from Iron Ridge, and will hold up to eight panels, but only six panels of this size. Next year, when we get another six panels, we will put up another pole.

The pole is a 10′ piece of used telephone pole, courtesy of our local phone company. It has yet to arrive.


Solar PV Upgrade

Our new Photo Voltaic Solar Panels arrived this week while we were in Ft. Benning, Georgia. We were there attending our Son’s graduation from Infantry Training.

The six Panels are 195 watt Sanyo Hybrid panels. These panels have a amorphous layer over top the mono crystalline layer, and work well in cloudy and overcast weather as well as bright sunny weather. It was in the high 20’s last night, and the sun is low on the horizon, so a 1200 watt boost to our existing 550 watts will be appreciated. This will greatly reduce our propane usage and generator run times, and keep our house batteries fully charged for longer periods of time. I’ll be posting pictures and desciptions as we install them, and will be updating our DIY Solar Power Installation ebook at


Monitoring your off grid power system

We use a multifunction display from Outback called a Mate to monitor the operation of our charge controller, our inverter, and our battery bank. We have another shunt coming in so that we can monitor the wind turbine and solar independently. But what about logging and historical performance. It would be handy to be able to compare monthly and seasonal performance. Our Mate has a serial port on the side for connecting to a computer, so we are evaluating 2 software packages that will allow us to track and record the complete operations of our system.

The first is WinVerter-Monitor OB from, and the other is WattPlot from We will let you know about the strenghts and weaknesses of both.


Anguilla Solar

We just got back from our trip to Anguilla. We helped Francoise set up her new solar power system. Two Kyocera 130 watt PV panels, a Xantrex C35 charge controller, a Trimetric Battery Meter, a Morningstar Microsine 300 sine wave inverter, and a 70 ah AGM battery, power up 3 Compact Fluorescent Lights, A LG WP-680N Washing Machine (260 Watts) and a Shurflo 12v pump. Two weeks of testing, and we were never able to pull the battery below 12.4 volts. The system consistently output 1.5 kWh’s daily. More pics at Solar/.