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The waterproof, military, portable power pack

ammocanI was having a discussion with a buddy of mine, and he mentioned an outfit that was selling a waterproof battery pack in a hardened package.  It used a 12v 5ah NiMH battery pack, and included a waterproof 12v power port. At an asking price of over $220, I felt this was a ripoff, but the concept is valid. I knew I could design a better solution, so I came up with a 10ah, and 20ah version, for about half the cost, with some nice options like built in  usb ports (cellphone, mp3, and kindle charging) and solar recharging.


So Here Goes:


One surplus ammo can, water proof, can hold two 12v 10ah battery packs (20ah total)

One 8 D cell holder (12v) (get a 10 cell holder if you can find one, or just add a 2 cell holder in series), add a second set for 20ah capacity instead of 10ah.

One set of  eight 10ah NiMH D cells + 2 more for 12vdc (second set for 20ah).  Alkaline D’s are 1.5v (8 = 12v) but NiMH are 1.2v (10 = 12v).

One marine waterproof 12v power port (can connect the solar panel here for charging, or add a second one)

Optional waterproof dual usb charging port

Optional 40 watt solar panel (add a second one for the 20ah solution).

Optional second ammo can to hold a 150 watt inverter until it’s needed for low wattage ac gadgets, like a laptop or portable tool charger.

As long as the charge rate is C5 or greater, you don’t need a charger, as solar is only going to charge 3-5 hours full sun daily anyway. A 10ah battery / C10 = 1 amp charge rate. Divided by C5 = a 2 amp charge rate.

You could also add a 1amp 12vdc power pack for ac charging. Charging at higher rates than 2 amps require temperature monitoring and a smart charger, which we will be building at







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.


Shell, and others, sponsoring Fuel Efficiency Technology

Shell is investing heavily into fuel efficiency and alternative energy solutions. Please comment on how you perceive the traditional oil companies are moving towards efficiency and environmentally friendly solutions. Read more about Shell’s Alternative Energy Projects.


Recycled Glassware, made in the USA, at Walmart?

anchorWe recently picked up two sets of drinking glasses at Walmart. Called the ECOGLASS, it’s made by Anchor Hocking, in Ohio. Made of 35% recycled materials, it’s 100% recyclable, and comes in 100% recyclable packaging made from 25% post consumer waste, and sustainable ink. It’s a good solid drinking glass, not easily broken. Qty 6 glasses for under $8. Did I mention it’s lead free?


Energy Fair Success

DIY BerkeyWe had a great time at the North Country Energy Fair. We had about 20 people attend our “DIY Solar class”, 10 at our “Make your own biodiesel” class, and about 50 attend the off-grid water pumping and filtration class we presented with a panel of 4 others, including Jim Juczak of Woodhenge and Rob Roy of Earthwood. Rich Douglas covered wind pumping, Jim covered deep well hand pumps, I covered filtration, John covered solar pumps and Luke Martin covered well buckets. Rob’s presentation covered pedal powered piston pumps. We gave about 30 rides on our E-Zip electric bike, and everyone had a lot of fun with it. Our DIY Berkey Water Purifier was a big hit, as was the Nature’s Head composting toilet, and the MRSA and Swine flu resistant cleaning products. Tom Leue presented his Yellow Heat Veggie Furnace. You can find more info on these products at, and construction details on the DIY Berkey at


Our Little World – The Climate Movie

A while back, we reported on a important little movie called “The Story of Stuff“. All about the process of manufacturing, use, and disposal of our “Stuff”.

Now another important work has come out called “Our Little World – The Climate Movie“. This is a must see, documenting where our products (and energy) come from, how far they travel, and the results of their manufacture. Do not miss these!

On a related note, here is one place all that “Stuff” goes when we are done with it, and sometimes before we get it:


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.


Brainstorming battery technology and human power

Melvin Martin was over last night. He’s greatly recovered from his accident, but still has a ways to go. We were discussing home built NiFe (Edison) batteries and how to make your own. These batteries have the ability to last 50+ years, and we have a bunch of info on them in the files section at We were also discussing human powered devices, specifically pedal powered water pumps, grain mills, and electrical generators. I have had a very good resource for this for 20 years called “Pedal Power: In Work, Leisure, and Transportation”, and just picked up a wonderful companion to it produced in 2008 called “The Human Powered Home”. Detailed drawings and parts lists for mixers, pumps, grinders, and many other projects where fuel or electricity may be in short supply, or you just need to lose 50 lbs. These books and more can be found it the Human Power section at