Author Topic: Cat sanctuary off-grid in the middle of the city  (Read 1226 times)

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Amish_Fighter_Pilot

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Cat sanctuary off-grid in the middle of the city
« on: August 15, 2017, 09:21:25 PM »
Hello everyone. I'm new here. I'm off grid in Iowa, and I have followed this website for near a decade and always wanted to get in on the fun but could never really afford it. I love tinkering with things and have done a few jobs over the years that give me at least the basic skills needed(I built speakers and installed them among other things). I even designed a hybrid radial/axial DC motor concept that I really want to build eventually. I dream of a motor with no cogging and huge output potential.

So my girlfriend and I have been working with cats for about a decade now and we dreamed up our current charity startup venture; Recycling for Animal Rescue(RAR) years ago after being forced to survive exclusively off dumpster-diving for a couple of years. We tried to set up a cat sanctuary and get our recycling program going on a farm, but they turned out to be hard to work with and the site was too far out of town. Recently though(mid-June 2017), we found an amazing new location and a really awesome new landlord to work with.

The good news is that the new location is right in the middle of the city, and that it FEELS like a rural property because its in a former flood zone that the city tried a land grab on. Our landlord is one of the stubborn few that held on to his place and now we have a very special location in many ways to do our work. The bad news is that the city parks people want everyone in this area gone, and even go so far as to sit down the block in their vehicles and watch us with binoculars. They talked the power company into declaring our poles rotten(I have video of them struggling for over an hour with a whole team of people to remove just one of them). So we're right across the street from a 60 foot tall industrial power line circuit that feed a local food company, but we are forced to be off-grid.

We also ended up homeless this summer and our landlord for our charity project has been incredibly supportive and has installed a rainwater system on the property, brought out a generator for us to run, and installed a PEX system in the old house so we can have basic plumbing(the house is stripped bare right now though because of the flood 9 years ago). We have it running with a flowjet RV water pressure pump hooked up to a car battery via a quick connect accessories plug set I installed on it.

Our Harbor Freight 3500W generator died on us in mid-July. Our landlord got it after the flood 9 years ago, and put about 300 hours through it with no oil change and let it sit the whole time since then. He's normally the type to take care of things but a generator didn't seem important anymore at his new place so he just set it aside. It worked for us for about a week, but then the engine went haywire. One rod got bent and then I bent the other. The gaskets were all crappy and the spacing on the valve springs was all wrong. I've never done a small engine before. I had to learn pretty fast unfortunately. After about 8 days I had finally figured out how to tear it all down and I took parts from the old engine and merged them with a new engine that our landlord bought. I had to take the tapered crankshaft out of the original, and use the timing gear from the new engine, plus the end of the generator head was also the end of the engine; so I had to use the original back cover on the new engine, but the old timing gear had a tapered end on the shaft and the new one was squared off. So I had to carefully ream out the bottom of the bearing hole in the old engine housing to get it to seat properly and turn easily enough. It was so awesome to hear it all fire up successfully once completed. We've been using it for a few weeks since then now and we've even built a little generator shed to keep it quieter. Fortunately our neighbors are all too far away to be bothered by it even without the shed, but its nice to be able to have conversations in the yard again.

So because of our housing issues, we're in the process of building a tiny home. I picked up a storm-damaged Dutchmen 26B DSL and towed it over 150 miles with a Subaru Outback I had to do a lot of work to make able to pull a 26 foot trailer. We got it at the beginning of June and I had to learn how to use Sketchup really fast and I designed a totally new style of tiny home framing that is made of inexpensive materials but is much stronger than a regular frame and about half the weight of a Tumbleweed Home. We are still in the process of building it due to the immense workload we're under right now. The carriage garage and house have required a lot of work, the kitties are always a lot of work, we do our scrapping to raise funds, we've been repairing our cars as able, and building this tiny home, and taking care of our 3 year old son. I've never worked so hard in my life, and we've done some pretty hard jobs.

Power storage on the property and in our tiny home has been a big concern for us. We're going to definitely want a good polycrystaline/multijunction solar array on the roof of the tiny home and eventually on the cat sanctuary/workshop area. Even if we ever get past this issue of being denied grid access, we still will want to be as self-sufficient as possible. There is little chance we would be allowed to erect a windmill, but I do have a very unconventional turbine concept I would like to at least make a small version of since it would not look like a windmill. There's very limited micro-hydro potential from the pipes on the rainwater system, but I'm not sure that's worth the resources and time to install. We also have the gas generator to fall back on assuming it doesn't die again. I'd really like to get something with more HP like an old diesel truck engine so we could make some serious power.

Our landlord is rewiring the property. He was certified to do this on this property by the city before the threat of flooding in 2016, but when the water was coming he had service pulled temporarily to avoid problems. After the flood risk turned out to be no big deal, they wouldn't let him reconnect it because he doesn't live there and isn't an electrician. He is more than qualified for the work though because he worked with electrical systems in the air force and now works with medical electronics. His wiring is beautiful and all thicker than code requires, but we need an electrician to come down here and inspect the system, get a permit and then wait for the city to inspect. Honestly I want to tell the utilities to go F themselves, but our landlord really wants us to get on grid power. We're far too poor to get the power capacity up to a normal residential level yet though. We have no deep cycle batteries and only 4 starter batteries, 2 of which are in our cars and not working properly anymore. We have an Magnum Energy ME2012 charger/inverter which we got for fairly cheap off Craigslist with the remoter interface thrown in as well. Its modified sine, but it can still handle 2KW and does AC pass-through when plugged in to grid or generator. If we ever get any batteries to use with it we'll be a lot happier. I'd love to get some forklift/industrial nickel-iron batteries, but they seem cost-prohibitive. Maybe we'll pump water into a barrel up in the tree and reclaim it with micro-hydro later lol

Has anyone here used household(Romex type) wire to make inductors for generator motor windings? Could it be used with the sheathing still on it since it lacks resin coating? I have limited materials and extremely limited money to work with here. I do, however, have a massive number of hard drive magnets should I choose to liberate them from all these drives laying around. Unfortunately they are not aligned in the right direction for the motor I want to build, but maybe I can use a powerful electromagnet to reorient their field? I have tons of transformers and other stuff around here that I am sure I could turn into an electromagnet, but I'm not sure how practical that whole line of thinking really is.

Anyway, that's probably enough for now. I have a LOT more questions though. I'm going to be doing some extremely unconventional things here and this is certainly the right community for that!

SparWeb

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Re: Cat sanctuary off-grid in the middle of the city
« Reply #1 on: August 15, 2017, 11:03:55 PM »
Any jacketed wire is a very poor choice for making generator coils.  The heat that is ALWAYS created when generating power will melt the insulation very quickly.  The coil would also waste about 75% of its space to insulation, making the heat problem worse, not better.
Salvaging wire from a transformer has been done successfully.  Takes a lot of care not to nick the laquer finish.
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Amish_Fighter_Pilot

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Re: Cat sanctuary off-grid in the middle of the city
« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2017, 07:28:56 AM »
Thanks! I had hoped for a better answer on that lol    Would it be practical to take stripped household wire and shellac it ourselves?

Bruce S

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Re: Cat sanctuary off-grid in the middle of the city
« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2017, 08:41:18 AM »
Since you are already doing the scrapping , go looking in the back of old TVs and computer monitors. In the back will be a degaussing coil.
That will be a better type of coil to build with, there's a bunch in it. It's also some of the better free wire for building 'mills the first few times.
Even the old black-n-white TVs had the coils, the older the more wire in them. NOT to mention the computer parts in them.

Where abouts in IOWA ? Up near Vinton?
Best of luck

Bruce S
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hiker

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Re: Cat sanctuary off-grid in the middle of the city
« Reply #4 on: August 16, 2017, 11:11:28 AM »
old truck or car alts are a source..that is if you can take the rotor apart without damaging the field coil..some are easy to unwind ..others dam near impossible..forget coating your own wire..it's been tried here numerous times by other members..same with old motors ..another source of wire..trouble with used wire is their May be a few bare spots ..where the insulating coating gets pulled off when unwinding...no problem if not laid on the lams or next to another bare spot..nail polish or a bit of tape works for those...good luck....
WILD in ALASKA

Amish_Fighter_Pilot

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Re: Cat sanctuary off-grid in the middle of the city
« Reply #5 on: August 16, 2017, 11:39:15 AM »
Oh I have bunches of old TV magnets, bunches of transformers, and we get new ones all the time. I just figured I need pretty heavy gauge windings for my motor idea. I know that alternators and all that are much easier, but this is a concept piece we're talking about.

Bruce S

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Re: Cat sanctuary off-grid in the middle of the city
« Reply #6 on: August 16, 2017, 11:49:44 AM »
this is a concept piece we're talking about.
We understand concept stuff  ;D, however to be any real help , you're gonna need to give us a lot more information.
This website might also be of help http://www.sandia.gov/. IF you're at the stage of not wanting to give out information.

As a just in case (mostly cause we've been down that road) IF you're looking to put together a new style generator that you're thinking may be also going for a patent . Let us know up front. It's not that we're against patents or new designs, we just like to know first before we help.

Cheers;
Bruce S
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Amish_Fighter_Pilot

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Re: Cat sanctuary off-grid in the middle of the city
« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2017, 12:25:59 PM »
this is a concept piece we're talking about.
We understand concept stuff  ;D, however to be any real help , you're gonna need to give us a lot more information.
This website might also be of help http://www.sandia.gov/. IF you're at the stage of not wanting to give out information.

As a just in case (mostly cause we've been down that road) IF you're looking to put together a new style generator that you're thinking may be also going for a patent . Let us know up front. It's not that we're against patents or new designs, we just like to know first before we help.

Cheers;
Bruce S

Thanks Bruce. I'm pretty sure what I want to do is not exactly reinventing the wheel, but I really just asked about the scrap wire out of curiosity and won't be building this for a while because of money issues. I'm not even 100% sure of all the right terminology to use to communicate the idea at this point. I studied motors a bunch about 8 years ago, but I've been doing an awful lot since then and its all pretty fuzzy in my mind right now. Maybe once I get myself back up to speed and get a proper CAD drawing made of my idea then I'll look at sharing more specifics.

In the mean time, I think that it would be easier if we just say that I'm working on a regular permanent magnet generator motor of the axial flux variety like the DIY rotor-based units that many Otherpower-style projects use. I need a large disk of magnets that has a field going N-S through it's thickness, or wedge pieces that can make a large circle.

The plan will be to generate at a variety of speeds from various power sources, most of which are low-RPM. The output power will run through a magnetic DC transformer I invented to step it up and down. The smaller version of this motor will go in our RV, and will be used to maintain our 12V deep cycle bank if we can ever afford one. The larger version could be used on our property to power our storage there and keep the inverters supplied.

As of today we have 2 gas powered generators. One has a 6.5hp engine and puts out 3500W, and the other has a 10HP engine and produces 5000W(but has inferior electronics). The 5KW unit may not be working right now though but it might just be a bad plug. Haven't had time to look yet. I'd like something more efficient and better for charging batteries. Plus I just really want to build an axial flux motor.

Amish_Fighter_Pilot

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Re: Cat sanctuary off-grid in the middle of the city
« Reply #8 on: August 16, 2017, 08:48:35 PM »
Where abouts in IOWA ? Up near Vinton?

Yes, we aren't far from Vinton, though I rarely go there.

frackers

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Re: Cat sanctuary off-grid in the middle of the city
« Reply #9 on: August 16, 2017, 09:02:09 PM »
Develop a relationship with your local scrap dealer. They will be paying something like $4/lb (NZ$10/kg) for copper wire so just buy from them at that rate. That's how I got all the wire for my inverter build.

The pile of stuff in this picture http://gilks.ath.cx/gallery3/Building-a-PJ-inverter/IMG_3648 comprises 20kg of transformers and a 12kg roll of 1.8mm wire, all up NZ$130 (about US$90). That's enough wire to build about 10kw of axial flux generators!!


Robin Down Under (Or Are You Up Over)

Amish_Fighter_Pilot

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Re: Cat sanctuary off-grid in the middle of the city
« Reply #10 on: August 16, 2017, 10:28:36 PM »
Unfortunately, since the 2008 collapse of the market, copper has never come close to even 3 dollars a pound around here since unless you're shipping a couple tons or more overseas.

Scrap wire certainly is a great resource for sure. I probably have miles of the stuff at any given time among the scrap, but removing it is hard without damage. Our tools are not what we would like them to be. If I can't find it in the trash, cheap off Craigslist, or get it as a gift; I probably don't have it. I did find a whole Ryobi set in the trash though so I guess life could be worse. What we really need is a good welder/plasma cutter. I want one of those digital units that adjusts the arc automatically and does 3 different jobs. We're really just getting started here and we have big ambitions for our operation over time. There's lots of scrap that is hard for for-profit companies to incentivize people to bring to them. By getting people to donate such things to us, we'll be expanding the net that catches the scrap falling into the municipal waste stream and sometimes literal streams. It should benefit the community, the scrap yards, and the kitties. We have a long way to go still though.

frackers

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Re: Cat sanctuary off-grid in the middle of the city
« Reply #11 on: August 17, 2017, 06:03:52 AM »
Unfortunately, since the 2008 collapse of the market, copper has never come close to even 3 dollars a pound around here since unless you're shipping a couple tons or more overseas.

That's good then - it makes it even cheaper to buy good quality enameled copper wire that doesn't have to be removed from anything. That 12kg roll I got was almost brand new and certainly unused. It just takes a while to wait for the right stuff to come in and being on good terms with the scrappy to keep an eye out for stuff for you or have a pile in a corner you can go over on a regular basis.

Robin Down Under (Or Are You Up Over)

Amish_Fighter_Pilot

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Re: Cat sanctuary off-grid in the middle of the city
« Reply #12 on: August 17, 2017, 08:34:42 AM »
That's good then - it makes it even cheaper to buy good quality enameled copper wire that doesn't have to be removed from anything. That 12kg roll I got was almost brand new and certainly unused. It just takes a while to wait for the right stuff to come in and being on good terms with the scrappy to keep an eye out for stuff for you or have a pile in a corner you can go over on a regular basis.

Hmm, I hadn't thought about them possibly just having a roll of it rather than just in a bunch of things. I would think it that motor lacquer wouldn't hold up to repeated rebending, but nobody here seems to think doing your own lacquer is worth it so maybe that's what I should find. I have an excellent relationship with our main scrap buyer(Alter metals)

Amish_Fighter_Pilot

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Re: Cat sanctuary off-grid in the middle of the city
« Reply #13 on: August 23, 2017, 08:50:12 AM »
Here's a couple pictures of our generators yesterday when I was maintaining them. The blue one is a DeVILBISS GB500 and the other is a heavily modified Alton 3500W. You can see the carbon buildup on the Alton unit, but this darn Predator engine has no adjustment screw for the carb!!! There's also a picture of our makeshift hot water system. This is just the test of it, but it actually produces hot water very well. The best bath we've had since we've been living rough this summer. Last, but not least is Athena the mower cat, one of our residents that is only about 3.5lbs.

Bruce S

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Re: Cat sanctuary off-grid in the middle of the city
« Reply #14 on: August 23, 2017, 10:49:22 AM »
As handy as you seem to be; you could rig up a pipe from the exhaust to pass thru a metalized piping system that allows for a nice hot water co-generation system.
This type of setup worked great on my bio-diesel setup down here in St. Louis.
Cheers
Bruce
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Amish_Fighter_Pilot

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Re: Cat sanctuary off-grid in the middle of the city
« Reply #15 on: August 23, 2017, 11:35:50 AM »
As handy as you seem to be; you could rig up a pipe from the exhaust to pass thru a metalized piping system that allows for a nice hot water co-generation system.
This type of setup worked great on my bio-diesel setup down here in St. Louis.
Cheers
Bruce

I've been debating doing something involving some piping. I need to get a flow pump of some kind though. It has to be something that can handle heat. Maybe a pump off a dishwasher? Not sure what sort of duty cycle those can run however. I only have a 12V water pressure pump right now and it isn't great to put hot water through it. If I can pump it to an insulated barrel I could hold the heat longer....

Bruce S

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Re: Cat sanctuary off-grid in the middle of the city
« Reply #16 on: August 23, 2017, 02:10:39 PM »
If you don't have a hot water capable pump; try wrapping copper tubing around the exhaust and push the water through, have the pump turned down to it's lowest volume. Push the cold water through the pipe UP to a holding tank.
You could even have a food safe plastic tub inside another tub . Have the heat warmed water piped with a low-flow shower head all set.
Depending on how long you run the gensets you could have several gallons >5 good and hot.

Similar to the way one of those camper showers work. Those puppies can get too hot at times.

Bruce S
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Amish_Fighter_Pilot

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Re: Cat sanctuary off-grid in the middle of the city
« Reply #17 on: August 23, 2017, 03:35:45 PM »
I suppose it depends on how I end up doing it. I was considering just running a snaked pipe in front of the exhaust output inside the generator shed. I was considering circulating the same water to get the full barrel up to a good high temp. Maybe I need to get an intact hot water heater tank so I'd already have a steam safety release. I need to finish lining the shed with foil tape some time, and finish the insulation, but it isn't urgent yet. If things keep going the way they have been, we'll probably be producing our own electricity the whole winter too. City wants to put a park here and wants all the flood victims to f off

Bruce S

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Re: Cat sanctuary off-grid in the middle of the city
« Reply #18 on: August 24, 2017, 06:43:38 AM »
It sucks the City wants to encroach like that. Wrapping the exhaust is similar to what people (including me) have done on Mercedes diesels when working with veg-oil, except I did the pipe-in-pipe method. Not easy to get soldered just right but very effective.
For your setup it would be wrapping a copper pipe around the exhaust, which you could extend using black iron pipe, then pushing the water from cold to hot water holding barrel. You could close the loop and let the water recirculate which would get the water nice and toasty. Since it's an air-cooled motor it shouldn't hurt it at all.
Finding a discarded radiator would help with getting the shed warmed up too, you could use that to pump water thru it to push out warmed air using a smallish fan to dissipate the air thru to coils.

Best of Luck
Bruce S   
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Amish_Fighter_Pilot

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Re: Cat sanctuary off-grid in the middle of the city
« Reply #19 on: August 28, 2017, 06:03:04 PM »
I have been offline for a few days here thanks to the generator crapping out again. The backup generator also crapped out. The backup generator just needs a new ignition coil or new leads to it maybe, and the Alton/Predator generator got EXTENSIVELY overhauled three times this week. First to deep clean carbon out of it, and then to get the piston rings offset correctly(Predator factory lined them all up for some f'ing reason). Then after that it had a catastrophic failure of the little bearing end cap thingy on the piston rod. Turns out we put about 400 hours on an engine that had oil spraying into the chamber and a crankshaft journal too big for the sleeve bearing. Unfortunately the GX200 and Predator 212 piston heads are different, but I was able to take the piston billet rod from the Alton clone engine and put it on the piston head for the Predator so the bearing on that tapered crankshaft is right now. I also had to manufacture new carbon brushes for the alternator which was really hard with no electricity. I had to solder using an inverter with a plug-in soldering iron working by headlamp in the dark. The flywheel actually even warped when it suddenly stopped, and I had to fix the keyway with some JB Weld. and replace the shattered key.

I went to fire it up today and it was SMOKING like crazy. White exhaust and the engine would only run with the choke on full. So I took the older GX200 clone carburetor off and with a few tricks I was able to mount it on the Predator 212. The older pre-california/EPA rules carb has the old needle valves which are vital on older engines. The law change on that is stunningly ignorant. No, you can't easily run these engines dirtier than factory settings, but you also can't run them leaner either. Not well-thought-out law. Anyway the older carb worked a lot better and the engine is running smoother and smoother by the hour here. I am pretty sure I overdid the oil on the valve springs. I was trying to drizzle a little on there and ended up putting probably an 8th of a cup in there. I think that needed to burn off to clean things up a bit. I also poured 91% isopropyl alcohol down the exhaust port and gently cycled the pull start to let it work into the piston chamber. I did that a few times and each time when I went to start it would fight to start and spray that everywhere and then finally fire up. It ran noticeably cleaner after doing that. I picked 91% iso because it doesn't leave a residue.

Almost lost all our food, but thankfully we keep ice stored up in the freezer for just such events.......

Amish_Fighter_Pilot

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Re: Cat sanctuary off-grid in the middle of the city
« Reply #20 on: August 29, 2017, 07:19:22 AM »
Here is a video of my generator rebuild project...

https://youtu.be/fP43PYZG3aw