Bougie McPrepper

47 thoughts on “Bougie McPrepper”

  1. Great post Johnny —- I haven’t read through the comments but I bet they are informative as usual.

    You can now get a “Grid Agnostic AC System” with inverters from Enphase. They solve that pesky problem.

  2. I needed the same kind of all-in-one, general purpose battery and I decided to go a slightly different way with it … to wit, I bought a Dewalt portable powerstation and populated it with 4 9AH batteries.

    It ends up being a nearly identical solution, but I can also use those batteries in my power tools – so there is some overlap in use-cases and some extra value as opposed to a suitcase battery that has a more limited use-case. Also, I could purchase four more tool batteries and double my stored capacity, etc.

  3. Any suggestions on where to learn more about designing a solar system such as sizing panels, batteries, wiring etc? I’m in Florida and a solar powered deep freezer sounds like a great idea. Your research on products is always spot on.

    1. If you want a DIY off-the-shelf affordable off-grid solar arrangement I recommend watching YouTube with a special emphasis on van dwellers, Tiny House folks, and people who have tricked out their RVs and boats. If it works in those applications you could absolutely do it in a regular home. Here are some links to get you started:

  4. Yes, she does. I’ve been following you as well since Kirsten featured your home in Hawaii. Good info from you and Prepper Princess. I’m interested in solar power for my home without the $ involved in stationary solar panels. Also to get electric or hybrid car. Amazing how little gas cost since we’ve been home bound since COV-19.

    1. Another option I’ll be implementing at some point in a small portable Honda generator that I’ll convert to propane instead of gasoline. Gasoline is flammable, difficult to store in large quantities, and perishable. (Gasoline goes bad after some months.) And in a crisis gas might not be available. Propane has an infinite shelf life and the steel cylinders are less volatile.

      Re: gas prices. The crash in demand has lead to a crash in price. That’s going to lead to a crash in production. Eventually that’s going to lead to a supply crunch and a spike in prices until things balance out again. The rise in prices won’t bother the professional work-from-home folks much. The people who are still required to travel to do physical work and have already been beaten up by the Covid-19 quarantine will take the brunt of that blow. Surprise!

      1. The dual fuel generators aren’t inverting generators AFIAK, so they’re electrically noisy. I’m not sure if you can filter the noise or what effect it has on appliances. Obviously for natural gas you need to switch your home natural gas line over to your generator. Honda makes great inverter generators but I think they only run on liquid fuel.

        You can also add a transfer switch to tie your rooftop solar to your home circuit. You need a transfer switch to run your house off your generator. You might need different transfer switches for the generator and the rooftop solar depending on the voltage, current, and impedance. This has been a hot business in SoCo since the fires. Most people are getting dual-fuel generators. Some are figuring out how to run their homes off solar when the grid is down. Both is the best of both worlds.

        1. I did my research. The small Honda Eu2200i has a pure sine wave inverter suitable for electronics, etc. There are after market conversion kits that will allow the Honda to run on bottled propane instead of gasoline. If I have both a small solar generator and a small propane generator I’ve got two complimentary energy fall back positions.

          I’ll state this again incase you missed it the first time. I’m not interested in a whole house Plan B electric supply. Instead I’m keen on a DIY plain vanilla cost effective backup system to run critical essentials.

  5. This is exciting, I’m glad you shared this because I didn’t know such things existed, at least off-the-shelf. I’ve been trying to cobble something like this together for my backup plan – and this will fill the “energy” part of things well. I see the same downsides for grid-tied solar that you mention. This looks like a right-sized, flexible set of gear – can help get you through a crisis (or just a camping trip) and it can move with you. It won’t run a household, but it’ll run what you *need*. I like options 😀

    Thanks for your posts, Johnny – your blog is like reading the logical, pragmatic next steps after Greer’s Archdruid Report, which I still miss. 🙂

  6. I like it. This has been called “guerilla solar” since it is not ‘permitted’, ‘inspected’, and ‘licensed’.
    I don’t know about S F, but in the part of Socal where I live if any code people saw this they would have their citation book out at the speed of light. Some years back I got some visits from the code people. I looked on the county website and found a list of actions. About 20% of them were about “un-permitted solar electric” systems. They made the home owners remove them.
    Also a second wiring system is not needed for a solar electric system unless you want to run DC lights, appliances, etc. Most of the inverters that change the DC from the panels to AC to run house electrical items, have a built in relay/switch that will instantly disconnect the system from the grid. This is so your system does not try to power the whole area, if the utility power fails, and prevent problems for utility repair persons.
    For most you could get by with ten old school lead acid batteries similar to the ones used in electric fork lifts and golf carts. Unless you want to run many things with electric motors all night, such as a forced air heater or A/C. The newer Lithium Ion batteries have more storage capacity for the same weight and size as the lead acid batteries, but they have fewer charge discharge cycles before they start to lose capacity and eventually become unusable.
    It is possible to hook up an APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) to a house/apartment. It could be a combustion engine generator or a solar system. Fancy relay/switches etc are not needed. I am not going to try to explain this here as I do not want anyone to get injured or start a fire. The electrical system in a house, apartment, or commercial building is not something to mess with if you do not know what you are doing.
    If you have a friend that has done electrical work they could tell you how to do it. Not complicated or expensive, but of course it’s guerilla and not “to code”.

    1. Yes. It’s all fodder for the regulators. If any part of this setup touched any part of the regular electric system I’d be in big trouble. The portable, non-connected nature of these products means that if I got a visit from the authorities I could disassemble it in minutes and put it in the car. Done. No longer in violation. Then I could drag it out again later…

      I also have a dry composting toilet ready to go if the municipal water and sewer system failed – say… in an earthquake situation. Is it legal? Noooooooo. Will I use it anyway? Yep. Try and make a bucket of sawdust illegal…

  7. Maybe the best of both worlds is to do both?

    Have a solar system tied into the grid so you can make maximum use of your solar generation capacity. Because I suspect that this system of a backup battery with solar panels on the roof ends up being dormant most of the time and really isn’t using the solar panels to their maximum capacity day-in and day-out.

    But then also keep emergency backup batteries such as these, and have some sort of switch so that one can still use the solar panels in the event that the grid goes down.

      1. That’s the thing. It doesn’t seem cost effective, or at least optimal to invest in solar panels and then not use them to their maximum capacity. It would annoy me to have solar panels on the roof and then only use them 5% of the time to recharge emergency batteries.

  8. My neighbor told me that, in his family’s small city in Mexico, the electric grid is very unreliable so they all have generators of one kind or another. In addition, there are no gas lines. Instead a gas truck comes by once a week or so and fills stationary tanks. Inevitably, during the week, either the gas will run out and/or the electricity will shut off. So they just don’t rely on it so much. For example, they’ll have canned goods ready instead of a massive fridge. If the gas runs out but the electricity is still on, they can use a crockpot. And so on. Layering.

  9. This is exactly the direction I would go if I were to dive into PV. I know just enough about this stuff to be dangerous, apologies. Did your panels come with micro-inverters? If so did you bypass them because the battery has a built-in inverter? How long is the cable run from panels to battery? I’ve heard that longer runs = power loss and thicker, more expensive cable is the only remedy. That cable doesn’t look particularly thick, and it looks like you didn’t have to “build” it, did it come with the battery or did you buy a separate cable off the shelf at an RV supply house? What was the cost, all in?

    1. The distance from the panels on the roof to the battery in my apartment is about 30 feet. I used 50 foot heavy gauge MC4 wires. Not sure about the inverters. I specifically bought these components because they were compatible with each other and idiot proof. All the connectors are male/female and you cant do it wrong. I did spend a few minutes making sure I connected two panels in series, then another two panels in series, then connected the two pairs in parallel.

      The panels were $159 x 4
      The battery was just shy of $2,000
      Various cables, connectors, mounting hardware… All in the cost was about $3,000. I struggled with that compared to buying a Generac or a Honda, but a gas generator needs fuel and the solar panels don’t.

  10. Check out Prepper Princess on U Tube. She previews and has five solar generators. Think she was evaluating the unit you show. Hers are all portable. No installation costs, no permits, no inspections. Think I discovered her blog last year, previewing her Klondike (not sure if I have right name).

    1. I’ve been following Prepper Princess for a long time. She reviewed the Kodiak solar generator – among other things. She really does look like the pretty lady from “Bewitched.”

  11. Interesting. I assume you just intend to plug your freezer in directly rather than wire this unit into your household circuits? I’m curious if you have calculated how long it will run your freezers in the event of a sustained outage.

    Looks like a cool item but at $2,000 on Amazon after taxes it is probably 4x more expensive than the value of frozen foods in my freezer and fridge. It does look like an awesome tool for off-the-grid camping though.

    I have not seriously investigated home solar, but I expect that the Cadillac installation would be something that provided some combination of home battery backup and electric car charging. It may not be the cost-effective way to go, but something about off-grid electric vehicle use appeals to me. Powering all of my mobility needs by the sun. But maybe that is more practical to do with something smaller like an e-bike.

    1. Even if the grid cut-off switches are too expensive (financially or regulatorily) for the neighbor right now, I’m pretty sure that electricians and inverter salesmen will be roaming the streets doing it for people immediately after a big disruption. That’s if they want to use the installed house wiring, otherwise the panels are still a good resource with basic direct connections.

      Battery technology is still a bottleneck to really useful home systems. I do like some of the ideas for tying in electric cars as storage. With WFH knocking down the long trips, and e-bikes doing the short ones, you don’t need big charges all the time on the car. Now only if the sun would shine at night! ha

    2. I have a pretty big freezer with some expensive farm-direct meat and such so there’s less of a spread in terms of battery backup cost and the thing I’m preserving in a power failure. Plus… I’ve been known to drop $2,000 on other things that were entirely discretionary. I have the cash. Why not piss it away on something that might prove useful at some critical point?

  12. Love it. These are on our short list to buy.

    However, one of the issues that I have had with buying a battery like that is that many are limited in terms of the voltage and power they deliver. Yours looks like it generates 120VAC with impressive wattage. Would you mind linking to the sources for your battery and panels?

  13. My prediction on the future of energy has been, for a while, that the grid is probably going to go away and be replaced by suitcase-size batteries that are either charged on-site or delivered like milk. Not a huge number of people need to go off grid before the grid itself doesn’t make sense economically, which will re-enforce the system. If the grid isn’t competitive, battery delivery will enter in the space.

    Seems like you’ve already arrived there.

  14. Impressive. The trend towards self reliance and bottom up solutions is something that deserves to make a comeback. There was a time when these kinds of techniques were at the heart of the counter culture as expressed in the timeless Whole Earth Catalog. Maybe the Catalog and some of the movements it inspired deserve an updating.

  15. You hit the nail on the head about what’s always bothered me about the privately-owned solar panel/electrical grid system: no autonomy ( as well as the bureaucratic hoops one must go through to have a system installed). In an ideal world, houses would have a secondary wiring system, parallel to the “normal” system, leading to an alternate supply system, be that solar or generator, isolated from the main (grid) system by a transfer switch, of course. More complex than your system but still reliable and no extension cords running across the floor from the battery.

    1. It’s an engineering issue, and a policy issue.

      The utility requires that grid-tied solar systems automatically shut off if there is a problem with the system. Perhaps a utility worker would be trying to fix it in the street, and be electrocuted when power came down from solar panels nearby.

      But what about diesel emergency generators? Why are they allowed? Wouldn’t that be the same problem?

      Decades ago, I heard about this island in Long Island Sound, where the small number of residents were powered by solar much of the time, since grid problems were so common.

      Basically, they are cut off from the grid in a blackout, and work with the utility to get permission to reconnect later when things are fine. Why couldn’t solar systems be designed to disconnect from the grid, rather than shutting down, if there is a problem with grid power, and only reconnect when a utility worker arrives to do so?

      1. Without batteries your ac appliances would have intermittent power, it can be done that way but the batteries are a lot extra and have limited lifetimes and aren’t subsidized like the rest of the system.

      2. They can. There is such a thing it’s called an “Automatic Transfer Switch”. When power goes out it closes a switch that automatically turns on auxiliary power then when the power is present it activates a relay that switches power. When normal power is resumed it automatically switches back. The large 100 to 200 amp or higher are expensive. A few smaller ones are not as bad. If you tie together normal grid power in your house to the emergency power back up without one of these switches it can cause BIG problems and possibly get sometime killed which you will be responsible for.

  16. Each system has a role to play, but they’re different roles. The grid-tied system is to take some of the load off of the grid generators; it doesn’t get you through a disaster (or even a rolling blackout due to overload). Your portable system will get you through the disaster, but you probably don’t want to wear out your batteries by using it every day; it doesn’t help with any of the environmental impacts of the grid generation capacity. Until a blackout comes along, it’s just an insurance policy. (As it happens, I have invested in both: 5 kW (peak) grid-tied and 200W stand-alone, so I appreciate the value of both.)
    It’s not clear from your photos, but I hope you’ve fastened your panels securely to the roof. 99% of the time, gravity is sufficient, but strong winds can turn panels into projectiles.
    In a prolonged emergency, your neighbor’s panels could probably be re-configured to feed your charge-controller, since the connectors and voltages are standardized.
    Does the installation of your neighbor’s system infringe on the ability of anyone else to install panels? I imagine that “sunshine rights” are something to manage, just as “water rights” are.

    1. I’m not motivated by a “save the earth” philosophy. I’ve spent too much time in China and India to think humans are going to stop burning coal. And I live in the US and know no one here is going to stop burning oil – including me. (How do you think I get to China and India?) Most of what passes for “green” blah, blah, blah is well-intentioned window dressing.

      But… the more I adopt a prepper living arrangement in order to make myself more resilient to short term difficulties the more this arrangement becomes accidentally “green.” By limiting my consumption to what a few panels and a portable battery can provide I’m tilting in the right direction.

      I struggled with how to keep the panels secure. I didn’t want to puncture the roof membrane with screws. There wasn’t anything else to attach the frames to. So I opted to weigh the structures down with sandbags. We’ll see how that works.

      1. Johnny, I sincerely appreciate how you articulate common sense, with the nuts-and-bolts practical steps towards greater resilience.

  17. Sweet! I love reading about your prepping stuff. You need to add lists of what you got and where you got it, like on Youtube videos. LoL!

    1. Larry – Yep. Good analogy.

      Johnny – You’re such a great resource for good simple solutions….to life stuff. Thanks.

    2. I get the analogy, but perhaps you mean more like a car and a bicycle, as in they both are created and used for individuals, while transit systems support entire cities and towns, are open to use by everyone, and are better for both the environment and the pocketbook than everyone having a car.

      1. I stopped using public transit as the time/schedule/expense equation no longer made sense. But it was actually the safety issue that put it over the edge. An embarrassing incident in the company of my daughter was the tipping point. I would not ride unless fellow travelers were screened . Which eliminates the public part of transportation.

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