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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 ….


Micro Hydro Electric – A Primer for Novices

Frank Heller, of Katahdin Energy Works, is an installer of micro hydro, wind, solar, and bio-methane systems in Maine. He sent us a primer he wrote up for those who think they may be interested in having a micro hydro system, and it’s very educational. It discusses hydro potential, permitting, and the different types of systems. If you have interest in hydro electric systems, it’s a good read. Click below to download.

MicroHydro for Novices


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.


Todays podcast: All about wind turbines

We have finished the weekly podcast, and the topic is wind turbines. We cover siting, types of wind turbines, free tutorials, and DIY vs. commercial. We believe we have provided a lot of quality information, so don’t miss it at

Homebrew Wind Power


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


Preparedness is fun at the Bitterroot SOS Co-Op

Our friend Jim Farley sent us a newsletter put out by their preparedness co-op. We though you might find it interesting to see what other groups are doing. I have included an excerpt, and contact information for the group:

I was glad to see Dancing Bear express his fun in doing these things which is our whole intent of the Bitterroot SOS Co-op as I’ve said from the git-go.  In expressing this to the group last night, I said people pretty much do all they do in life, either out of fear or fun.  People are seeing we are all having these meetings out of fun, not fear.  It is fun to create all the many self-reliance tools, systems and products, not because of fear of the boogy man, but the sheer enjoyment of doing things for ourselves.  It is a true warm, fuzzy feeling of knowing you can do so much to free yourself of total life sustainment from outside sources.  I’ve never seen anybody that was not happier with themselves when they learned and built something that helped them to become a more self-reliant person. 
Prepared people have more fun in life.  Even if no catastrophic event ever happens, we will all still get to enjoy the fruits of our labors in this effort, become far more independent and save a lot of money in the normal costs of living in producing/generating much of our own food, energy, shelter and all of those activities of the 7 task forces.


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.


Energy Efficient Water Pumps

Piston PumpA few years ago we invested in a high quality dc pump for our offgrid
water system. It was recommended we go with a solar force piston pump
with a 12v motor. Although it is a fine pump, and is much more efficient
than our old jet pump, it was well over $1000. Piston pumps were well
known 50 years ago, and can last a century if taken care of. We have
replaced the rubbers and packing in a few of the old ones, but parts are
getting hard to find. We now have the same pump available that the solar
force is built on, brand new, and can easily get replacement gaskets and
packing, for less than half the price that Conergy (formerly Dankoff) is
selling the Solar Force. You can hand crank, pedal, or install a ac or
dc motor to this pump. 300-400 rpm is recommended.

Jim Juczak of has finished his book, The High Art of Scrounging, and his DIY Hand Powered Deep Well Pump. See for details.


Make your own DIY Water Filter

construction_schematicThere’s a lot of info on the net for building your own water filtration. One of our favorites is the Slow Sand Filter, because it uses every day common materials (sand, gravel and a container). Here is one design that is easy to duplicate using whatever containers you can find. I’d suggest 35 gallon drums. 5 Gallon pails could work but may not give enough filtration.