Why have a section on self reliance on a website dealing with DC (battery) power generation
(solar), storage (batteries), and conversion (inverters and converters)? For a variety of
1. Many of our customers are using our products to maintain or establish some sort of self reliant setup, be it short term (hunting camp, ice fishing house, pop-up trailer, remote cabin, house boat), or longer term.
2. There is significant interest in building, restoring, maintaining, or converting battery powered personal tranportation devices, such as GEM cars, bikes, golf carts, and even motorcycles, due to the rising cost of fuel, and environmental concerns.
3. Instances of hurricanes, storms, etc. causing power blackouts for a significant duration seem to be increasing in frequency and duration, causing customers to call about emergency power for computers, radios, lights, CPAP machines, etc.
4. The increasing cost of utility power on a household budget.
5. The recurring instability in the financial realm, evidenced in real estate, the stock market, commodity markets, derivative markets, precious metals markets, etc. This area is a whole website topic in itself, but the concerns it generates trickles over into DC power applications. (P.S. After the week of September 15, 2008, there should be no question that this topic belongs in the list.) (P.P.S. After the week of September 22, 2008, ......)
And many more. We'll probably break self reliance into multiple subject pages, and flesh them out as time permits. This section is not meant to scare or cause concern, but if you are not concerned, or expect someone else to be responsible for your life, health, and future (and that of your family), you are not paying attention. There may be pages you don't want to think about, so beware.
Self reliance implies having the knowledge and tools or equipment to take care of one's self and family (community, etc.) without outside supply or intervention. There are short term and long term variations. For short term, for instance, you can have an inverter on hand, and be able to run your CPAP machine during a storm induced blackout. You can run several days if not a week off a standard car battery. They are not designed to be run dead like this repeatedly, but we're talking emergency use. Upgrading this setup, would involve having a deep cycle marine battery around (if you have a bass boat, there they are), and keeping it on a maintenance charger. A quality battery will last years like this. Upgrading this setup may involve adding about a 30 watt solar panel and controller. When not in use, this would keep the battery charged, eliminating an AC powered maintenance charger. When used, the solar panel would give about 10 amps in a day to the battery. This is not a lot, so you have to be aware of the power consumption of the devices you run from the battery. As our inverter tutorial states, inverters are inefficient devices on the order of 15%, so using 12 volt input devices whenever possible is advisable.
Location can play a role in self reliance, and the general attitude of those around you. Big cities never sleep, and there is always something to do, but most of them import all of their food, water, power, fuel, etc., and use sewers and reclamation plants for waste, and a lot of the people are used to having someone service their cars, prepare their food, protect them, etc. There generally is gainful employment to be had, coincident with the lifestyle. Preparing to deal with self reliant living, short or long term, can be done here, but ordinarily can't be integrated in a lifestyle, and has its own peculiar requirements. Rural living doesn't offer the glamour, busyness, business opportunites, etc., but may have a different attitude. In southern Oregon where we are located, most of the county population doesn't live within the city limits. Most rural residences have acreage, a well, a creek nearby, a septic system, trees all around (no, we didn't cut them all down), etc. This involves more routine maintenance than condo or apartment living. Most neighbors have wood stoves even though they may have a heat pump for cooling and heating, they all have wells, septic systems, chain saws, etc., and most have gardens and fruit trees. Most of them can fix anything that needs fixing relating to these items. Everybody has kerosene lamps, candles, batteries in bulk, etc., because they live on a one way utility power distribution line, not a grid as would be found in a city. In a grid, load dispatchers can route power around a disruption if necessary. Out here, if somebody takes out a main pole on the distribution line, or a storm breaks the line in several places with trees or tree branches, it could be hours or days before power is restored. People are used to dealing with this, and have standardized the preparations necessary to deal with it, and most of the hardware type stores carry the equipment. It's inconvenient as heck, but not life threatening at all.
Some of the sections will be titled or seem similar to the Tutorial sections, but the material may be from a different perspective, or include aspects not included in the Tutorials. Read the Tutorials as well, on the same topics.
Feel free to email if you have questions, recommendations, or areas that aren't covered here you are concerned about. Don't email if you think being prepared to deal with unexpected, expected, and random circumstances that occur throughout history, is unwarranted or immoral.