05 December 2012

solar PV electricity & non-electric gadgets at Lindberg Landing

Solar PV array at the Lindberg Landing Guesthouse
I returned back from a community visit to Fort Liard on Monday & Tuesday and finally have a chance to post another update about the "off grid" operations here at Lindberg Landing.  The information sessions I offered to students at Aurora College and staff at Beaver Enterprises were received very well and I was able to fit in some very excellent meetings in between these sessions.
3 of the 5 different types of solar panels
There's been quite an accumulation of snow while I was away, which is not apparent in the pic's I'm posting since I am using pic's that I took on a trip out here almost a year ago.  These solar panels don't get much, if any, snow gathering on them though, because of their vertical orientation along the south-facing wall of the main Guesthouse.

the other 2 types of solar panels ...
For this blog update, I am documenting the different components of the Solar PV system & what they look like.  When I am back in the office & able to discuss things more fully with our AEA Energy Specialists, I can provide some additional information to explain what each component of the system does & why it is important for the operations of this Solar PV set-up.   

You can also refer to a couple of on-line documents for more detailed explanations of a wide variety of "off grid" systems created by Arctic Energy Alliance AEA Remote Facilities Guide & the Yukon Energy Solutions "Living Off Grid in the Yukon" Guide (there are great explanations of "off grid" systems in this guide book) http://www.energy.gov.yk.ca/pdf/living_offgrid09_web.pdf

Solar PV Battery Bank - Surrette batteries
... beside 2 old kerosene lanterns that used to be used in the barn at Lindberg Landing & are still used in the root cellar when needed.

The 12 Volt battery bank at Lindberg Landing consists of of 10, Surrette batteries that store energy for the Lindberg Landing Solar PV system.  Each battery = 6 Volts & the batteries operate in pairs, so each pair is one component of a 12 Volt system.  I will add more to this explanation after I can connect with one of our AEA Energy Specialists tomorrow.  

Currently though (pun intended), one of the batteries needs to be replaced, so that puts the matching pair to that battery out of operation until there is another battery to be paired up with it again.  So, the battery bank is not able to store the maximum it is set-up for while this battery pair is not in the system.

Batteries require regular maintenance - every 3 months you check the specific gravity of the battery acid with a hydrometer & top them up with distilled water as necessary.
solar PV instrumentation ...
Soltek Power Source DC Disconnect (white box with green stripe on the left), Magnum Energy Inverter (dark grey box in the middle), & Magnum Inverter instrument panel (black panel on the right), and Xantrex Battery Storage Monitor (light grey with green stripe & red number display, lower right).

The Magnum Inverter converts the 12 Volt, DC power into 120 Volt, AC power.  This makes it possible to operate the AC light switches & outlets so that you can use various appliances and electronics such as the computer, T.V., ...

solar PV instrumentation (con't)
Magnum Energy Inverter (upper left), Xantrex Battery Storage Monitor, & Outback Power Systems Tracking Charger ControllerThe Outback Tracking System provides a continuous readout of the minimum & maximum battery voltages obtained, peak input voltage & current, accumulated amp hours & total power production in kiloWatt hours (kWh), peak kWh, & accumulated absorbed & float times.

small inverter (StatPower - ProWatt 250 Inverter)
This inverter can be used when a smaller amount of AC current is required, such as plugging in to the Internet (satellite connection & wireless Internet), charging up my laptop through the outlet on the front but actually using the laptop requires more than the capacity of this inverter.  You know when the ProWatt inverter is being overdrawn when it starts to squeal a high pitched sound.  When a greater amount of electricity is required, then the larger, Magnum Inverter needs to be turned on.
DC powered light bulb ... difficult to find replacement bulbs
some of the built-in lighting options at Lindberg Landing ... propane mantle lamps, DC light socket with incandescent bulb in it (not used with this bulb, just for keeping the socket occupied), compact fluorescent bulb in AC socket)

Sue firing up the Honda generator to pump water from the well to the water storage tank upstairs in the Guesthouse
Using the gas-powered generator is another way to make it possible to use the AC switches & outlets in the Guesthouse.  Operation of the water pump to refill the water storage tank upstairs in the Guesthouse is done 1-2 times per week, as required. 
Communications Hub for the Lindberg Landing Guesthouse
Telephone = radio phone in the foreground, Internet = satellite modem & wireless router (upper left), ProWatt inverter on the right with the powerbar plugged into it, wires connecting to solar PV system on the wall at the back.
DC powered freezer ... located in the cellar of the Guesthouse
 ... 2 propane powered freezers are also utilized in the Summer as necessary

Sue's most frequently used non-electric kitchen gadgets ... very handy to have in any kitchen, really :)
Hand-cranked food processor, nut chopper, vegetable slicer/shredder, stovetop/campfire toaster used on top of the wood-fired kitchen stove, egg slicer (clockwise fr. L-R).  You may think that most of these items may only be found at garage sales or through Ktel television advertisements, but there are a few ways to access many related items through the Lehman's Non-Electric Catalogue as one example.  It's a pretty neat catalogue, looking forward to checking it out more in their on-line version:  https://www.lehmans.com/default.aspx

Alas, my immersion in "off grid" living & the opportunity to share snippets of these experiences with you have been great.  Please consider posting a comment or question to provide any feedback or ideas on other "off grid' or energy-saving gadgets, activities, & systems.  Perhaps I can address some of these comments/questions in future posts to this blog.

That's all for now, ... time to post this new update.  I'll see what else I can add into a few more posts soon, when I am no longer living "off grid" but retracing some of the very educational & fun experiences I've had out at Check Point & here at Lindberg Landing :)

"Mahsi cho!" to Sue, here at Lindberg Landing and to Lynn & Wayne out at Check Point for making it possible for me to experience & share what it is like to be "Up the Dehcho ... without a Powerline" ...  :)


02 December 2012

"off grid" ... but still on-line (a little) ... at Lindberg Landing

Lindberg Landing Guesthouse (30 November 2012)
... "off grid" perch #2 ...

We arrived at Lindberg Landing on Friday night, after winding down our "off grid" stint at Check Point, to enjoy a very tasty late supper, courtesy, of Sue Lindberg, the delightful & welcoming owner/host of the Lindberg Landing Guesthouse.
Sue Lindberg
On Saturday, we got into the day with quite an active start, as Sue prepared breakfast, Pam & I were getting things going to make a carrot cake.  The cake was made to help our little celebration with Lynn & Wayne, in honour of their recent wedding anniversary, when they arrived back this way from their trip down South, en route to heading home to Check Point.
carrot cake to help celebrate Lynn & Wayne's anniversary
Later in the afternoon, Sue tended to cleaning out the ashes in the wood stove heater that is the primary heat source for the main Guesthouse here at Lindberg Landing.  The wood heater is made by Arden Energy and it is the 6500 model, the large sized wood heater that RSF used to manufacture. 

My blog posts this week-end will be a little different, since the electricity needed to power my laptop & post updates on the Internet are reliant on the battery back-up power that is created through the Solar PV array on the south-facing wall of the Guesthouse here.  For now, I will post mostly pictures for this first update & I will add additional text to these posts later on ... the pic's in this update will introduce you to the large wood heater here at Lindberg Landing and the effort required to maintain & operate  it ...
Sue breaking up the ashes in the wood heater
breaking up the ashes in the wood heater
cleaned up & ready for another 4-6 weeks
cleaning out the ashes from the wood stove heater
20 litre (5 gallon) pail, mostly full of ashes
cleaned out & ready to light up again
we have flames ... 45 min. after starting to clean out the ashes :)

 Free Breeze fan (Cdn  made)
close-up large air circulating fan on the wood stove heater
time for a break out in the snow with Yukon, the wonder dog!
ahhh, enjoying the peace & beauty of the Winter wonderland around Lindberg Landing
Sue's annual Winter wood supply for the wood heater
... measurements to follow
kitchen stove firewood supply ... enough for 3 Winters

additional wood supply, around the corner from the main wood supply
... used as needed if the Winter is colder or longer than usual

Pam had a great time pulling together a big pot of her awesome chili, although cooking next to such a hot stove, made for a very hot cooking experience!  We enjoyed a very tasty supper Saturday night, later than expected, since the blue corn bread wasn't baking up as quickly as we anticipated on the wood heater stove. We thought we'd try making the most of using the heat coming off the wood heater for getting supper prepared, just made for a toastier effort as we took turns stirring the pot & Pam went back & forth to the kitchen  nearby, to grab various ingredients to add to the pot ::

"hot stuff"... Pam & her rosy cheeks as she perfects her wood stove heater chili creation

veggies sautéing on the wood stove before they go into the chili
More later today, on the wood heating system and some new pic's & information about the kitchen stove and the renewable energy sources that Sue uses here at Lindberg Landing ... the Solar PV & battery storage system ...


30 November 2012

keeping warm in MINUS 35 degree temp's (con't)

Yesterday, my cold weather travels from Check Point continued ... 

I hopped over to Jean Marie River for a community visit and to share AEA energy efficiency information with students & staff from Louis Norwegian School and a number of residents from the community.  We had a great time and everyone went away with new information & a few helpful energy saving devices or home winterization materials :)

While I had to hop away from our "off grid" perch here at Check Point, Pam was busy taking care of the wood pellet stove & boiler operations, ... during the coldest days we've had so far this season (Autumn)!!!  The temperature during that time was a consistent -35 degree Celsius, which made it much more challenging to reload the pellet hopper outside.  Pam figures it took twice as long to do because of the extra time needed to stop & warm up her hands along the way.  Thanks for taking one for the team, Pam, much appreciated :)

These colder temp's also contributed to a little waterline challenge, when I was getting ready to head off to Jean Marie River in the morning yesterday, I noticed that the water was not draining out of the kitchen sink.  Turns out the waterline had frozen, so Pam ended up setting up a portable heater to help thaw the line.  It's been a problem in the past, so Wayne will know that to do when he's back to take care of the frozen line more fully.

As well, the wood pellet stove in the main building was bumped up a notch yesterday to kick more heat out to maintain the room temperature in the main living space at 20C.  Otherwise, the temperature would only have been maintained at 15C as a result of the colder temp's outside this week.   

The 2 dogs here have also been enjoying a little extra special treatment, as we've made sure they aren't out in the freezing temp's for too long.  Yet, Max & Nikko are happy to hop outside to run around & check out their territory!

It also appears that the higher wood pellet stove setting over the past 24 hours may have increased the amount of black carbon deposited in & behind the burn pot of the pellet stove ... as we have observed while dealing with cleaning the wood pellet stove again.  We're doing this cleaning a few days earlier, at Wayne & Lynn's request, to make sure it is done prior to & not after the timing of this coming Monday, when they'll be in the thick of getting settled back at home here at Check Point.

We'll have a more reasonable temperature to deal with when we go out to top up the hopper for the wood pellet boiler in a little while, since the outside temp. has increased to -26C for today!

We'll also be packing up here at Check Point to get ready to head off to Lindberg Landing, where I'll be posting updates on Sue Lindberg's "off grid" living operations.  Sue's primary & ONLY heating source is wood, with propane for the majority of cooking (wood as secondary), while the primary electricity at the Lindberg Landing Guesthouse comes from a Solar Photovoltaic (PV) array with battery storage.

Thanks HEAPS to Wayne & Lynn for the opportunity to learn and experience the day-to-day tasks involved with maintaining a wood heating system that operates with wood pellets.  Both Pam & I have learned heaps about wood pellets and we've pumped up our biceps along the way too!  I am also very grateful to Pam as well, for helping make this "off grid" blogging experience possible, with her keen interest in learning about & helping maintain these systems :)

"Mahsi cho!" 

We'll connect again, further "Up the Dehcho ... without a Powerline," ...  from Lindberg Landing ...

Teresa ... & Pam

keeping warm in MINUS 35 degree temp's

It's been a busy week of travel for me from this "off grid" location here at Check Point ...

I had to hop into Ft. Simpson for a couple of workshops led by Linda Todd, fr. the AEA Yk office on Tuesday & Wednesday for the NWT Housing Corporation staff and group of their Housing program clients.

The Tuesday afternoon session was a "Burn it Smart - train the trainer" session to provide a few NWT Housing Corp. Dehcho staff with the information & resources to share with residents who either rent or who have recently purchased Housing Corp. homes.  The Wednesday evening workshop was an information session attended by 8 community members who rent/own Housing Corp. houses.

Linda shared heaps of important information with all of us & I have included a few web links, videos, & lists below to highlight some of the key points that we learned ...

Here's a link to a video that we watched, it shows the difference between a conventional wood stove & an advance, EPA/CSA efficient wood stove ...
Advanced Wood Stove Technology video (Env. Canada)
 I find it odd that they don't keep the door closed for the old stove, when they are comparing the size & quality of the flames, but otherwise, the information shared in the video is quite helpful.  

Environment Canada also produced a video for the Burn it Smart program to share many helpful tips on selecting, handling, and storing your firewood ... you can see the video below ...
 Firewood from the Forest to the Shed video (Env. Canada)

 Here's a few links to other great sources of WOOD HEATING information & resources:
More on our "off grid" cold weather fun in my next post ...


26 November 2012

Pellet Stove Cleaning Day ...

10 Steps for Cleaning a Wood Pellet Stove
Time for the weekly maintenance cleaning of the wood pellet stove here at Check Point ... all in all, not a difficult task ... but somewhat finicky & needing a reasonable level of care and attention to detail.
What we used to get the wood pellet stove cleaned up: 
·          leather (or rubber) gloves
flash light &/or head torch/head lamp
·         large flat tray to work on in front of pellet stove
·         ash vacuum cleaner
·         scraper
·         small wire brush
·         cleaning rag or paper towels
·         fine dust cleaning gloves
·         wood stove glass cleaner (spray) & conditioner (gel)

 soot-covered glass of wood pellet stove BEFORE cleaning
Here's how we cleaned it, in 10 steps ...

1.  TURN OFF wood pellet stove & WAIT for it to cool down (~60-90 minutes) ... when glass is cool/cold to the touch, it's okay to start cleaning

#2.   OPEN BOTTOM HATCH (be sure to put the wing nut & washer up away from areas to be cleaned with vacuum cleaner)

#3.  RELEASE burn pot (pellet tray) hook & pull out burn pot

wood pellet ash in burn pot
burn pot being removed after ashes vacuumed out
larger charcoal pieces caught on outside of vacuum nozzle
 ... pull these off & add to ash drawer

#4.  SCRAPE ASH AWAY from all surfaces within the burning chamber ... all 4 walls, above door, all around combustion chamber area where carbon deposits may be heavier

back side of burn chamber after burn pot is removed ... see the charred black carbon deposits that need to be scraped off
#5.  CLEAN BURN CHAMBER really well - very important for this area to be free of any debris
vacuuming out the burn pot before removing it
Teresa scraping off the soot

close-up of soot/carbon deposit
#6.  VACUUM ALL AROUND the inside and WIPE DOWN with fine dust catching gloves (you can vacuum the gloves to remove the heavy ash layer that collects on them)

wiping the walls to remove ash dues
vacuuming ash off gloves

 #7.  CLEAN GLASS on DOOR - vacuum & wipe down inside glass of the pellet stove door, then wipe clean with Clear Flame Glass Door Cleaner (spray) & Glass Cleaner & Conditioner (gel)

inside of glass BEFORE cleaning
glass door AFTER cleaning

#8.  RETURN pellet tray to original position & lock in place with latch that secures it in place
FULL ash drawer

#9.  EMPTY ASH BOX  & return to original position

 #10.  CLOSE HATCH & fasten hatch door in place with  washer & wing nut

wood pellet stove ... ALL CLEAN & ready to be fired up again!
1st pellet dropping into the newly cleaned burn pot :)
pellets igniting ...
... we have FIRE!
ALL systems GO!
front row of burning wood pellets ... burning strong
clear view of the flaming burn pot ...
enjoy it while it lasts, 
  the glass gets smokey over the next 1-2 days

Thanks HEAPS to Pam for her help with this pellet stove cleaning demonstration & to Wayne for his tutorial on cleaning the pellet stove before he & Lynn headed South :) 

"Mahsi cho!"