AC/DC and my inverter

my inverterPassers-by frequently tell me they would be quite happy to live in our outhouse.  ‘That’ll do me, duck!’ they quip.  I should point out, they only ever say things like this on fine summer days.  It’s not that they probably wouldn’t make lovely neighbours, but there just isn’t space.  We refer to the outhouse as the ‘generator room’ although even this is a little misleading, there is indeed an old generator in there but not the one we actually use.  There is also a fine assortment of other old stuff that ‘might come in handy one day’.  As far as I’m concerned however the most handy thing in there is my Trace Sine Wave 24volt  inverter and our battery bank.

If you’re a boater or caravaner, or like us live off-grid, you might have come across these fine pieces of electrickery.  For those of you who still feel clueless I’ll explain as best I can.  My apologies in advance if you are a physicist.      DC or direct current is the sort of current you get from a battery, picture it like a straight line please.  AC or alternating current is the current that feeds all the electrical appliances in your house, this is an altogether more wibbly-wobbly affair – o.k just picture a wavey line, or sine wave to give it a proper name.  What an inverter does, is to convert that straight line of current stored in batteries into a wibbly-wobbly current that can power household appliances such as lights, TVs, and computers.

This is something that revolutionised  our quality of life. You might remember my post on how wasteful our generator is, (see Genny Tales: The Dark Ages) well the batteriesgood news is that now we can do our housekeeping at a sociable hour.  When the generator is running the inverter is busy using all that excess energy that might other wise be wasted to charge up our battery bank consisting of twelve two-volt batteries.    This means we can arrange our lives a little more conveniently, no more traipsing to and from the genny room with washloads at ten o’clock at night.  We can run the generator for a couple of hours during the day if we need to and make use of high draw electrical appliances such as washing machines and dryers during this time, knowing the batteries are charging up for the rest of the day when we might only be using a few lights, a TV or a computer.  Most people can no longer tell that we don’t have mains electricity, there is some minimal tell-tale light flickering when we change over from genny to batteries.

We are of course, still using the genny as much as we used to, but we are getting more out of it, it is less wasteful.  The important thing is we now have some of the equipment in place, batteries and inverter, needed to make most forms of renewable energy work on a domestic scale.  For many domestic settings, the cost of  wind turbines or electric solar panels plus the inverters and batteries, means that  householders could wait years to recoup their expenses.  We are already half way there however, and when we last made enquiries, about a year ago, it was estimated it would cost us £45 000 to have mains electricity installed.  Time to research wind and solar power I think!   

I’m gradually getting over my allergy of candles and learning to love them again.  I’m getting much better at looking pleasantly surprised when people who don’t know about my days in the dark ages buy me a candle as a gift!      

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5 comments to AC/DC and my inverter

  • Ah 24 Volt. I wish we had spent the extra money and gone for that. We have 12 Volt Inverters and 6 2 Volt Batteries. I wish I had known more when we installed it. Could have doubled up the output from the Panels then.

    You live and learn I guess.

  • Very cool! Energy supply has been something I have been thinking about, for if/when we get off-grid. Re: candles, you could make them from tallow, using any leftover fat from meat (if you eat it) or you could make rushlights (Cobbet, whom I’ve mentioned before gives simple directions for making rushlights).

  • goo

    Interesting, thanks for that. We usually clean fat out of pans with rags and then use them as firelighters, but candles sound good. Do they smell?

  • Chris

    Have you seen those modular solar panels with built in invertors that output 240v and you can connect multple 200watt units together. The idea sounds fine but they won’t let DIYers fit them which I am sure will kill the possibility of any sensible payback period once you add on the ‘professional’ installation cost.
    I have a 2 acre smallholding on the Welsh borders and I am aiming for a sustainable lifestyle. I am currently setting up a website, realityGreen that I want to look at the costs involved in sustainable living. If anyone out there has any costing information regarding systems or products that help reduce your carbon footprint, please let me know. Love the site.

  • goo

    Hi Chris, no I’ve not come across solar panels that come with inbuilt inverters, they do sound really interesting and if anything much simpler than the system we have. I might look into that further. I wonder why you can’t fit them yourself – as you say most people are looking to cut back costs and I’m guessing that (unless you are an extreme power-down type) you’d probably need an array of at least fifteen panels to allow for surges – such as on water pumps.

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