We had to wait to build our cabin. In order to free up enough funds to build a cabin and furnish it, we first had to sell our cabin in Wisconsin along with its 52 acres of land. While time was passing and the old cabin remained unsold, Dad had plenty of time to plan the MI cabin. It was definitely a plus for him to start over from the ground up with one cabin already under his belt.
A brief history of the old cabin:
- We built this cabin from the ground up; everything except for the concrete foundation was our work (including AC, 12V DC, and gas lights/heat)
- The outhouse/shed also contained a shower with a submersible pump dropped into a 5 gallon bucket
- We dug two ponds, and one water-filled “pothole” at the end of a deer lane (a straight path cut in the woods connecting a bait pile and a gun-deer stand)
- The tongue and groove paneling inside the cabin was cut from our land on a portable saw mill and later run through a portable four-side planer
- I rebuilt and painted the shooting bench one summer (I miss the shooting range, especially since I can’t bring any of my pistols into MI; not even my target pistol. I would be in illegal possession of a firearm. It sounds screwy, but it’s true. WI does not have a handgun registry and MI does, and unregistered handguns are not allowed in MI. Being a WI resident I can’t register my handgun in another state)
From the very beginning, the MI cabin was planned to be much more advanced than the old cabin. The first difference was the presence of a well and indoor plumbing. This detail was perhaps the most pivotal part of the plan. The Honda EU3000 generator, one of the few things we would not part with from the old cabin, was originally the heart of our off-grid living. The generator puts out 3000 W at 120V. Because this generator does not have 220V capabilities Dad looked for 120V well pumps. Eventually he found Grundfos and their line of submersible well pumps that accept 120V AC power. These pumps are able to use 120V because they do not have an appreciable surge when started and are advertised as “soft start”. Once we drilled the well (125 feet) and judged its depth adequate for a 120V well pump, I got the go ahead to start designing the off-grid system. The rest is history.
A brief list of the appliances we use day-to-day at the cabin:
- Grundfos 120V AC soft start submersible well pump (~1000 W )
- Gas range with electronic ignition (~300 W for ignition)
- GE microwave (~800 W)
- Sumsung 26″ LCD TV (~60 W)
- Recessed fluorescent lighting (~13 W ea.)
- 3 ceiling fans (~90 W ea.)
- Two-slice toaster (~800 W)
- Portable radio (~5-10 W)0
- Gas hot water heater automatic vent fan (~100 W)
Some ways we conserve energy:
- Running the generator at night only; this way we divert excess energy not used by the battery charger for lighting and appliances
- The hot water heater is plugged into an outlet with an ON/OFF switch near the kitchen sink — that way we only heat water prior to use (usually we heat water once each day)
- The well pump and pressure tank are set to a lower pressure than normal (the well kicks on at 30 psi and off at 50 psi) so the well pump runs less frequently and uses less power (more power would be required, due to the pump running longer, to reach a higher tank pressure).
- We use 3 wireless remote control outlet switches throughout the cabin to eliminate phantom loads from appliances such as the TV, radio, DVD player, antenna signal booster (all share a common power strip) and microwave (the microwave beeps every 8 seconds when the inverter is on search mode, so that switch is protecting our sanity more than anything else). Each switch automatically returns to the OFF position when power is disconnected for longer than 1 second
- The inverter has “load sense” activated and programed for sense interval: 8 sec, and sense below: 90W – which means every 8 seconds the inverter sends an electric pulse (a search current) through the cabin and if a load greater than 90W is found, the inverter will turn on
By choosing 120V for the cabin we haven’t limited our appliance options. If a clothes washer was ever installed clothes would have to be air dried — more because of the power requirements for a drier than the need for a 220V outlet.
In the future I would like to conduct a survey of our appliances using a Kill-a-Watt meter to determine how best to use the 3rd remote control outlet switch and to get a better idea of just where our phantom load is coming from. Right now the phantom load of our cabin is about 70-80 W. I would also like to know how much power each remote control outlet switch uses.