Introduction: brief background, experiment descriptions, UPS-topic, Battery banks, LED

 

 

Hi Folks !

🙂 ONLY 4,729 words, make a coffee and a sammich, it’s gonna BE a while !  
I have a wide and varied background, but germane to this subject, I worked for Maine state as a licensed energy auditor, estimating, specifying work, and inspecting work on low income weatherization projects in my county. 9+ years of DOE training in housing science and cost effective weatherization measures, back when it was real work and not just a caulking job 😉
We in fact ran the first of it’s kind, pilot project that performed DOE energy audits that quantified the actual energy saved.(astoundingly, never done before 1989-and DOE spending millions $ from the Exxon 1970’s fines, for low income wx programs)
  In 1989-1991, I personally estimated, spec’d, inspected, invoiced 2.5 million $ worth of the local utility’s “attic attack” program for low income clients,
as part of my regular agency work. Later served as the central heating improvement program coordinator (CHIP) cleaning and repairing/replacement heating systems for our client base.  In all, I was client advocate, educator, gave speeches, and wrote safety and wx measures documents for people interested in saving energy.  In low-income Maine, our work often made the difference between freezing in the dark, and food.
That being said, Ross Perrot was correct, it would have been better to cut a check for the individual, as it statewide cost $5000 to deliver $500 worth of
“assistance” ……Gov’t  at it’s finest.
  
Ever since I was a kid and first learned about the electromagnet, I have been playing with wires and batteries. I’m 52 now, and have graduated to larger systems.
  
I am a Network Engineer by profession, worked in large data centers-server farms, and most of those centers are on a LARGE UPS, and outside propane powered Generators.
Nothing like being in a room full of whirring equipment during a lightning storm, as the entire center ‘bounces’ between street power and backup power while it decides which power source is going to feed it. (actually have to leave the room-being afraid of a stray ARC -LOL)
  
So, an Uninterupted Power Supply (UPS) is designed to bounce, all the while outputting
smooth filtered power to sensitive computer systems and servers, that depend on a constant power feed. Their main purpose is so an individual user doesn’t lose the hours of work on a spreadsheet, document etc. as even a slight blink in power has the same effect as turning the computer off.
  
For the PC user, the UPS has a small battery, that will allow your machine to run for 15 minutes to an hour or so, depending on how big it is and what it is rated. The battery is a small gel closed case battery and generally last a year before it has to be replaced.
 
At my home, I have them on TV’s, stereo’s, and any other expensive toy that plugs in.
The main reason is that the company I use APC, has a $20,000 connected equipment warranty -they will replace your equipment if it gets cooked EVEN from a direct lightning strike !  The UPS is designed to take a full on strike, and shunt the surge to ground and away from your toys. A MUST have if you blew a paycheck on a large flat screen tv.
 
APC has all sorts of documentation, but another reason for a UPS is that it filters your power. Consider this, your utility has multiple generation sites that come on and off grid during the week 24/7 depending on community power demands. When one of these power sources comes online, it can (and often does) sends a surge or spike down the grid.
Sometimes this surge makes it direct to your home, sometimes it occurs as a blink that you can see, more often it occurs in milliseconds so you never notice.
 
These power surges spikes voltage fluctuations, put wear and tear on the tiny electrical components in your toys, and appliances, and is the #2 failure reason or shorter lifespan.
(the #1 reason is HEAT)
The average US home experiences upwards of 100 power “hits” a month.
most you never notice, but your plugged in equipment does, damage adds up over time.
 
IF you had a ups plugged in, you would hear a BEEP as it notices and adsorbs or shunts the power situation, at least a few times a month a UPS will ALARM as a BIG hit occurs.
If you work in an office with lots of equipment it is quite obvious.
 
If the power goes out completely, the UPS switches over to it’s battery, and allows you to save your work, and shut down the machine properly, it is a lifesaver if you work on important documents, and a productivity enhancement for any office.
 
As such, the UPS has circuitry that charges it’s battery, has overload protection, and will auto shutdown when 10% of the battery has been consumed.
 
They are quite the invention, and can be found for as little as $40 from APC or any computer online store. there are other brands, but none have the warranty APC has,
it is the caddilac of UPS.
 
They are rated as to connected wattage of the equip plugged into it.
 
IE your computer and monitor consume 500 watts, you need a 500 watt UPS or higher (a 750 will do nicely and give you TIME to shutdown)
 
So you need to do a little planning, by writing down the wattages of all the stuff you want to plug in and protect, generally found in manuals, and stamped on consumer info plates on the back or bottom of the toys themselves.
You simply add up all the wattages, and use that total to size/purchase your UPS.
 
OK, so thats a UPS in a nutshell.
now on to the reason you contacted me.
 
I had extra UPS hanging around the house sitting idle.
since the first CFL lightbulb came out in the early 90’s I had installed them everywhere
they are great mercury aside, and add up savings in bulb lifetimes and power consumption.
 
Most of the north experienced a major ice storm (I forget the year) in the 90’s and I personally had no power for a week, and could not live at home.
Not good.
 
After that, almost everybody was buying the small personal generators.
Did that, done that, got the t-shirt, when I lived WAY up north in the boonies.
I got so good at replacing small engine oil seals I could (and DID) replace them outside at midnight in an ice/rainstorm in january…the things we DO for TV !!!
 
There’s a reason small engine shops exist, because they are staffed by folks who think they LIKE small engine repair. Personally I am a carpenter, have built whole houses with no more than a splinter. Put a wrench in my hand and I am bleeding in 5 minutes, by
10 minutes the BIGLONGSWEAR comes out and I am throwing and breaking things.
A hammer may not FIX the damn thing but there’s great satisfaction in it’s application.
SO, that’s reason #1 I dont like generators.
 
Reason #2 which should be #1, is every year I read about people who have run a generator in an under house garage, on an enclosed porch, or even inside the home.
They DIE.
Sometimes the WHOLE family dies.
in fact my only brother died this way years ago.
the exhaust gas is Carbon Monoxide, and can knock you out in 5 minutes or less, and can kill you in 20 minutes of less. You will never notice, just fade off into sleep and gone.
(I have a paper I wrote when working for the state on Carbon Monoxide I will send out later
I usually send it out during the pre-heating season as a reminder to inspect your systems)
 
Reason #3 is a generator, works because all that engine exists just to turn a small
AC alternator that creates the juice you are after. The generator will throw HUGE spikes into your home if connected by a generac switch, or down the extension cord if you use it that way. again, spikes and surges degrade electronic and plugged in equipment.
So folks may feel ok by having the tv going, but they are shortening it’s life.
YEs, some MFG of generators realize this and add some filter equipment to smooth out the power, but some still gets thru, simply connect your UPS and it will start beeping and screaming…there’s your sign.
 
Reason #4 is quite often while re-filling the gasoline supply, some will inevitably splash on the hot muffler, resulting in a fire, and even explosion when the flame reaches your supply can. and here again many people die, burn the house down, whole families. BURNS are no way to die, every year there is at least one you read about in the paper. It’s sad and easily avoided by NOT buying a generator.
 
So, knowing this, I have been searching for years for alternatives.
I always had a car or deep cycle battery hanging around for experiments.
I have 12 volt flourescent lights when they first made those, and have been stripping the neato interior dome lights from cars, and bought a few neato van lights during the 70’s-80’s van conversion days, and would hook them all up during storms etc. I had cb radios and car stereo’s that I built into a box that I would hook up so I had tunes, and even had 12 volt black and white, and color (when they came out) tv’s. Life was grand.
All of it consumes a battery in around 8 hours, so you get maybe two nights of fun on a battery before you need to recharge. which in my case meant lugging the batteries to the car, running the car and jumping them.
 
One November, when I lived way up north, in the middle of 10,000 acre forest, 2.5 miles from tar, (and power) 1 mile to the nearest neighbor, we were experiencing the november rains.
What I call mini mud season.
My 2 kids were sick and needed something from town to reduce the fever.
I and my wife at the time, drove out over the three bridges to check to see if the road was passable, it was, so we drove back, and I went back to the homestead to take care of the kids while she went to town. in that 15 minutes, the water topped the last bridge, and scoured out a 3 foot deep hole in the road in front of it.
She didn’t realize it and dropped the subaru in the hole, the impact put the front struts thru the hood. (had to call the local taxi on cb had them pick up the meds and met us at the bridge) the next day had a local logger tow the car back to my dooryard with a skidder.
So what I had there was an instant generator.
 
Subarus if you ever owned one are a fun car, they handle nice in winter, and rust out way before the engine dies, they are great on gas, so you can pick them up cheap rusted out.
I like them because they have an extra pulley factory, on the crankshaft for a future air conditioner. simply cut out the fender, replace with a wood platoform, mount a few car alternators, and you have a power supply that will run forever on 5 gallons of gas.
I stapled 12/2 to the trees from the car to the house, and connected it to my 2 battery deep cycle bank. Tickled to finaly be rid of the small briggs and stratton mini generator.
I even dreamed up a wired remote starter so I didn;t have to leave the house to charge the
batteries, which was a daily chore at the time, the batteries got beat up with all the movement as well, so it was good for them to finally be stationary.
It worked, brought some level of civilization to the homestead. But very definitely looked like a yankee yard LOL…
 
Fast forward to a few years ago, and i finally decided to do something to reduce electrical costs, as I could see the writing on the wall that costs would be soon climbing again.
For years, I had been buying and installing energy efficient lighting, and appliances, but never really got the benefit of enjoying a reduced consumption and bills for long as they would inevitably jack the rate, so it becomes a never ending cycle of improvement and investment only to have them take the savings back.
 
From my experience working with the poor, the one major budget killer is energy costs, you could never predict what it would cost (reliably) and post 9-11, it became such that it had many families choosing between lights, heat and food.
I had heard of LED’s we all have them on our electronics, and some are quite bright at night, some annoyingly so.
 
I began reading researching and experimenting with LED’s in the 12 volt range.
Radio shack sold ONE led 12 volt tiny “bulb” for $5.99 so i could easily see it would be wicked expensive to even think of replacing the already obsolete CFL bulbs.
(obsolete because of rates, not because they didn’t perform, an incandescent now would cost $10 a month to run in the same socket, obsolete because they incrementally jacked the rates to take back your savings)
 
12 volt because an AC-LED bulb were upwards of $40 a major investment to reduce less than 10% of the total electrical load. Granted LED’s themselves will last 100,000 hours (11 years) and use MILLI-watts, but they are ALL 12 volt DC, in an AC-LED, the base actually contains a converter to change the AC from the socket to DC that the LED uses, that conversion process results in excess HEAT, and that ultimately shortens the life of the entire unit. So going total 12 volt was the elimination of most of the heat issue, and fit nicely into my now passion for double wiring the house for both AC and DC.
 
You read my experiment, I found a german MFG online that was discontinuing his line of 12 volt lamps, (a LED “bulb” that looks like a regular socket bulb, just that the center tip is wired positive) it has something like 14 led’s in it and several different colors to make up a
soft white illumination when running. at $25 bucks it was worth it to see if it would perform as advertised, and I bought two, one to dismantle to see how it was built in an attempt to reverse engineer it.
 
When it came I put it on my living room rafter hanging light, and wired that light fixture so that the center was positive, and wired the other end to the battery with a fuse.
I didn’t have a switch so it was ON all the time LOL
I had just purchased the energizer deep cycle battery from VIP, and straight from the store
with no pre charging, I got 3.5 months from that setup. I also had wired in my car stereo system for radio listening to Glenn LOL Car radios have great AM reception, and I like to have talk radio going as I putter around the house.
 
LEDs are directional beams of light which is why you need “bulbs” that have 100 or so to
create a good arc of light. the one in my experiment 14 feet in the air resulted in a cone shape area of light, and on the floor maybe a 3 foot circle, it was bright enough to read
with my 52 year old eyes with no problems, and some of the light splashes around the room adding to the overall room lighting. Think a Bright night light when used as the ONLY source of light.
 
THAT got me hooked. it uses .35 thats POINT35 of a watt, on a 850 amp hour battery
well you do the math. MONTHS of running to reach the discharge of only 10% of the battery capacity.
 
So, good sources are car boneyards and wrecks of late model cars, take the whole fixture
make a friend of the guy, and you can pick them up far cheaper than new.
and major hours of online searches to find a least expensive source.
 
I also have a PETZL brand cross country ski headlamp, which is awesome !
I forget what I paid, must have been costly as I got it from LL BEAN, but totally worth it.
On 4 AA batteries, the 5 bright white LED’s are more than enough task lighting for just about everything including reading, and it has three brightness settings, it runs for MONTHS without having to recharge the AA rechargeables, I have multiple sets of AA’s as thats another hobby of mine , I like toys and thingys that run on AA batteries.
 
I could go on and on about LED’s and I promise I will send some more on them, but this
spouting is about the UPS and other purposing of it.
 
So, having my led experiment going, the next issue is a good battery bank and keeping that bank charged and on standby. I also needed/wanted a source of AC for computers
and tv’s and even running the furnace during a power outtage. Woodstoves are essential backup, but a LOT of work hauling wood and cleaning ashes and chimneys.
Nothing like clicking a thermostat for a lazy day.
Plus after my experience up north, I HATE the cold and keep the house at 75 hell or high water.
 
So, looking at the UPS hanging around, batteries, leds, computers I started to think.
I stumbled across a website of a Canadian guy who is into alternative energy, and he
had taken a UPS and hooked it up to a car battery so -EUREKA !
my satori moment…
 
I took out the battery from the back of the UPS.
put it on my meter, it was 12 volt !!!
awesome, now i’m cookin with gas.
I added some extra wire to the leads of the UPS that connect to the battery.
they are bayonette connectors so I used that type connections, soldiered the wire to the connections and soldiered the connection itself, wrapped it all in electrical tape so they wouldn’t short circuit.
The wires are color coded, red for positive, black for negative, to make it idiot proof
and I connected it to my deep cycle battery.
 
I plugged the UPS into the wall, it went thru it’s test mode, and then stayed on standby
Alll good, I didnt smell anything burning, let it stay that way for a day.
no fire so cool.
 
I then moved the setup into my computer room/office.
I have a tall tower, 250 watt CPU (the main computer box) so I plugged that into the UPS
as normal.
 
I also had a 21″ CRT monitor (tv tube type-power HOG) and plugged that into the UPS as normal
 
started the computer as normal, connected to the internet…
 
Then I pulled the UPS plug from the wall.
 
It switched over to the battery as it should, for backup power.
The test was on…
It ran for 12 hours that way…
The UPS shut itself down normally and cut power to the computer and monitor.
I tested the battery and was delighted to find it was still 90% charged
The UPS shutdown after consuming 10% of the capacity
 
what I had really discovered was a poor man’s inverter from DC to AC
 
ok, what I didn’t say was while the experiment was running the UPS
BEEPED loudly every 5 seconds to let me know it was ON battery.
HUMM had to DO something about that.
so the next day, I carefully dismantled the UPS
(Unplugged and disconnected from the battery and house current)
 
found it’s mother board and found the piezo beeper componant on the board.
flipped it over, heated up the two soldier points and pulled the beeper from the board.
-reassembled the whole unit.
(easier said than done, if you don’t do this normally find an A+ certified tech on craigslist
or the local 13 year old geek-just make sure they dont get zapped-like a tv there are capacitors that store charge, a tech will know how to avoid discharging on skin or a safe way to discharge it to ground-I wore rubber gloves and was careful not to touch any componant or wire parts, even a tiny bit of copper on the board can connect you to the circuit LOL can stop your heart so BE careful)
 
connected it all back as in the experiment, plugged the UPS in the wall, and again
to my delight, it recharged the battery to full, took 24 hours.
 
SO, that creates a method to take your computer OFF GRID.
Add another battery in paralell and you get 24 hours run time !!
 
A quick mention, of a battery “bank” 2 or more batteries.
IF you wire the battery in series, you get double the voltage
in paralell you increase the amps hours, but keep it at 12 volts
 
never discharge a bank more than 10%, it eats the led/zinc plates and dramatically shortens the life. it also creates a “memory’ so the bank acts and remembers it’s discharge, it will do that anyway, just worse if you always discharge more than 10%
 
Now using our setup, you can buy a cheapo car battery solar panel, made to maintain it’s charge while in storeage/idle, or add a larger panel to insure you replace what you consume per day…
 
ONE major caveat.
I don’t keep my UPS plugged into the house all the time, in fact it is usually OFF
for most of the month.
IF a power outtage occured with the UPS OFF, it will NOT come on directly using the battery.
 
A UPS, always runs thru a test mode, and then goes to standby on AC power, only
then can it switch over to battery if you simulate a power outtage by unplugging it from the wall.
 
SO
 
I bought a cheapo radio shack car inverter, cut the cig lighter plug off it and wired that to the 2 battery bank
 
If I get caught in a power outtage, i use that inverter to FOOL the UPS into believeing it has house current, by plugging the UPS into the radio shack inverter. Let it go thru it’s test mode and into standby, then I unplug the UPS from the radio shack inverter.
The UPS then connects to the battery bank and draws power from that.
Problem solved.
 
SO, I look at this UPS/battery bank  “system”  as the equivalent/replacement of
one AC wall plug. it essentially replaces from the breaker box to the wall plug
but remember it is SEPERATE and has nothing to DO with the house system
with the exception that the UPS is sometimes plugged into a wall socket for
recharging the bank easily, or when I expect a storm and don’t want to go in the cellar to fiddle with the radio shack inverter as explained above.
 
You could run an extension cord from the UPS to where ever you need power, but
unlike plugging it into the wall the extension cord needs a good guage wire to get the juice it needs for whatever you are trying to operate. short runs are good, or thicker guage cord.
I also have run a “fake” wall outlet.
 
I have a wall outlet upstairs in the wall thats my dedicated (powered BY the UPS) ups outlet for emergencies. The other end of the 12/2 regular house wire, has a Regular extension cord PLUG wired on to it, and that is plugged into the UPS.
 
Critical is the fact that whatever you plug into the UPS, cannot draw/consume more wattage than what the UPS is rated for (in watts) SO
you may want several flavors of wattage capacities of UPS in your setup, depending on what you want to RUN off this kind of setup.
 
I also don’t see any issues with wireing in multiple UPS to a single battery bank.
the only issue would be that the combined draw of the UPS/and whatever they power, will
accordingly reduce the runtime hours of your bank, SO
as you add in more UPS circuits, you will want to add in more of the SAME type batteries.
 
 
Another thing about battery banks, is they are as good as the weakest cell in the bank.
do some searches about batteries, banks and maintainence. they require attention.
They are dangerous in many ways, especially while being charged, as they emit hydrogen gas, REMEMBER the HINDENBURG one spark can cause an explosion and cover you and your eyes with sulfuric acid, so wear gear as your grow your bank, even a single battery can cause issues.
They also give off hydrogen sulfide gas, deadly, not good in a cellar if you have forced air heat as it will spread the gas thru the house. there are commercially made bank cases that are vented to the outside, you could build a case out of plywood and caulk the seams
and use a bathroom fan to exhaust it(run the fan BEFORE charging to avoid buildup of hydrogen enough to be sparked by the fan windings)
I am building a ROOM for my battery bank that is vented. better becasue I can heat/cool it as temp does effect performance…
 
The amperage alone can kill you, it does not matter if it’s AC or DC, 1 amp for one tenth of a second can stop your heart dead. even fry your electrical system in your body.
 
Another thing is it is best to buy a bank all at once, then they age together.
you can screw up an old system by adding in a brandy new fresh battery.
so some future planning for a bank capacity is in order if you are shooting for off grid.
 
THe best battery at the best price is :
note they are 6 volt, so you need 2 for 12 volts, wire in paralell.
20 of these puppys will go a LONG way for taking you off grid.
If you start now, you can have the bank built in 20 months by the paycheck…
 
if you buy a good charge controller/combiner (which you need for solar panel arrays combined with generator etc) you could also have multiple battery banks, this sorta solves the
issue of $ vs getting a bank up and running over time, as it allows you to add a new bank with an older bank system. IE 2 seperate banks…
This is such a controller $160 and I believe it also has a diversion zone
 
a diversion zone is used when you have your banks charged, and still have sun/power
you can dump the excess to a street inverter to the grid, or to a 12 volt hot water heater element in your HWH, for reduced hot water costs. Awesome !
 
 
A final caveat, is there’s a reason some states are licensing people to perform installs
of solar and battery banks. safety. you can easily start a fire.
You can void your insurance by DIY like this.
If you are just starting out, maybe use the detached garage or a shed out back
make the mistakes on cheap stuff, not your primary residence.
 
One final neato thing.
Root cellar, food storeage, hideout bunker etc.
Imagine as a city dweller you bought an acre of land out in the woods somewhere for bugout purposes.
I also remember reading about my ancestors during the irish potato famine
folks were so poor the actually built piles of dirt hollowed them out and lived inside.
Underground the temp is 50 degrees if you dig past the frost line even in dead of winter.
body heat in a closed space can add the rest.
I introduce you to the handy dandy DIY waterproof bunker, you can spray it down with foam before burying for added insulation properties.
Think hogan’s heroes, put a dog house on the cover or a tree stump LOL
or simply a pile of rocks to disguise it. they can burn your house down and never find this…
Cheap enough too…  Crazy huh? LOL
yep like a FOX…
 
Ok, well, again, thank-You for your interest.
I’d love to hear about YOUR experiments.
this should get you thinking… spread it around
no fun knowing it all  alone…
 
whew !
 
I typed that out all in one breath…
 
-Watchman
 
..more to come

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