I have decided to take my several small blogs and merge them into a more cohesive blog with an emphasis on hands on preparedness. Much of this site has been rolled over, but there is a lot of new information at http://proficientprepping.wordpress.com/
Please take a minute and visit us there.
Most utility companies do a tremendous job of providing electricity, but violent weather, black outs and disasters create outages. With stocked fridges and freezers, a power outage of any duration could be disastrous, not to mention no lights, microwave or other conveniences. Until recently, a generator was viable and still is for short term emergency power generation, but with sky high gas prices, it would be financially impossible for most of us to run one for an extended period of time, even if gas was available.
Enter the Battery Operated Backup, (BOB for short). With inverters (a device that changes 12 Volts DC to 120 Volts AC) becoming ridiculously affordable, a battery powered back up supply was more than feasible. We wanted to assemble a heavy duty unit capable of multi tasking. One that could be left idle for months on end, but ready to go when needed but with one more angle, it would have to be portable to enable us to use it where it was needed during an outage, or at the other side of the property to run power tools where there isn’t electricity.
To start with, we scrounged an old steel pickup truck tool box. After cleaning it up, we welded a small trailer receiver on it and added a set of flat freeMarathontires which easily handle the battery weight. With the welding finished, we painted it inside and out with “Rust Bullet”, a coating that we use a lot around the ranch.
The best battery to power BOB was an Odyssey AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) battery, and for several reasons. I’ve used them in the past with great results, they can be installed in any position except inverted and won’t leak, never need water or checking, can go two full years before needing a charge and have a design life of up to 12 years. They also produce more power than similar size lead acid batteries. EnerSys makes numerous Odyssey batteries and while they are initially more costly than conventional batteries, if you figure their useful life, they are actually a real bargain. While lead acid batteries will work, they require maintenance and lose power unless topped off regularly. They are also prone to causing nasty corrosion which we couldn’t have inside BOB because of the sensitive electronics in the same enclosure.
For our inverter, we went with an affordable AIMS 1500 Watt continuous, 4000 Watt surge, modified sine wave inverter, which provides ample power for everything we plan on using it for.
It has digital Wattage and Voltage meters on the front to keep track of usage and battery charge. It also has a wired remote to turn it on and off from a distance.
BOB’s battery still requires charging, and when the power is on 99.% of the time, we use an “Xtreme” charger. Designed for the military, it actually pulse charges the battery increasing its useful life and freshens weak batteries. To test it, I had an old tractor battery that wouldn’t take a charge and put it on the “Xtreme” charger for a few weeks to de sulfate it, and it took a charge and still works fine.
When the power is out, BOB still needs a charge to function. Instead of a gas generator, we felt a solar charger would be ideal. After looking around, we decided on the Coleman 55 Watt Solar 12 Volt power generator kit. Its affordable, compact, was easy to set-up and better yet, is maintenance free. No gas, no mess, no noise, no future expense. Not only does it include a 200 watt inverter, all of the panels are very rugged and the connections simply push together. In addition, it has a lighter plug to power 12VDC products. The frame could be a little tighter, but overall it’s a great system for anyone that likes it simple. We also found out during the final assembly that the entire solar package easily fit inside BOB meaning we can take the entire package anywhere it’s needed. When we only need a little bit of power, we use the Coleman 200 Watt inverter to save battery power.
After getting the unit all assembled and wired, we put it to the test and found that it does everything we hoped it would. I tried it out on a full size circular saw and it cut exactly like it was plugged into a hard line. One day, I was in the shop and the power went out. I rolled BOB over and continued working – no wasted time. Using our scrounged riding mower to pull it around, we now have a portable power supply that doesn’t need gas, will provide basic emergency power if rationed properly and can be recharged off a car battery or generator if the solar can’t keep up with the demands. Understand it won’t run a whole house, but if used judiciously, it can tide you over until power returns.
If you’d like the security of a backup power system for your fridge, freezer and other electrical necessities, but don’t need it on wheels, these components are actually designed to sit still and can be put almost anywhere an extension cord will reach.
We’ve since added a 500 Watt halogen work light, jumper cables and an adjustable battery charger inside our portable power supply, so now anytime the power goes out or we need some light, a jump start or some electricity we just say “go get BOB”.
Shown all set up with the panels charging the batteries. It literally takes just a few minutes for one person to get it up and running with the panels.
Inverter: TheInverterStore.com (888)417-8673
Battery: enersys.com 610-208-1991
Solar: coleman.com 1-800-835-3278
Charger: pulsetech.net 800-580-7554
Single use AA and AAA Alkaline batteries are some of the most plentiful, expensive, wasteful items on the planet. We pay upwards of a buck each, use it only one time and toss it in the trash or recycle bin. Either way it’s a wasteful nightmare with countless BILLIONS of these batteries littering our landfills.
Imagine the savings to your wallet and reduced impact on the environment if you could recharge them and use them several times before sending them to the recycle bin?
A well kept secret is that Alkaline batteries CAN be safely recharged. Now some of you’ve heard that they will blow up and take grandma with them. If you use a NiCad or older style charger, you could have a problem. However, technology has finally found a way to SAFELY and efficiently recharge Alkaline batteries for almost nothing.
The newest generation of smart chargers are so affordable; they pay for themselves almost immediately in battery savings.
Our unit cost around twenty bucks, and will charge a single AA or AAA battery, or up to four at a time. The whole process is simplicity itself. You put the discharged battery in the unit (it only fits one way) and immediately it will read red for charging, green for charged or no indicator for dead.
A microprocessor monitors and controls the entire process including the temperature. It charges for about four hours at a slightly higher voltage to refresh the batteries. After they are “topped off” they go from red to green and can remain in the charger without damaging them.
To test our Rosewill CT 505 charger, I retrieved over fifty batteries from the recycle bin at a local store, all brands, all states of discharge and from all types of devices. To my surprise, I found that almost 10% of them were still good, probably taken out of a bad device or replaced prematurely. About the same amount were worn out and couldn’t be recharged. The balance were in various states of discharge and were all successfully recharged.
Since my test, I’ve recycled hundreds of batteries, some several years old without a single problem, and given them away to family and friends to be reused with the condition that they return them for fresh ones. Nothing says I love you like a fully recharged battery.
Tell your friends to save their old ones, and you can retrieve them from recycle bins (with permission of course) if you want to have a supply on hand.
Devices like remotes, LED flashlights and MP3 players work great with recharged batteries and the difference between a new one and recycled one is very slight. When they get so depleted they don’t take a charge, go ahead and recycle them.
It’s estimated that Americans dispose of 160,000 tons of single use batteries each year.
Imagine saving big bucks on batteries and easing a big burden on the planet at the same time – talk about a win – win. For more information go to: http://therecycleranch.wordpress.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org
There is so much waste today it boggles the mind. We have become a disposable nation, without thinking about the consequesces to the environment. Polluted landfills, illegal dumping, contaminated water supplies are all part of the disposable mentality.
Here at the recycle ranch, we have started reusing old filing cabinets and steel shelving that was headed to an already overtaxed landfill and turn them into beautiful garden and indoor decorations in the form of butterflys, flowers, dragonflys, bugs and more. It gives an ugly useless filing cabinet a new lease on life and that is why we call them the metamorphosis line.
If you use a disposable item such as a water bottle, challenge yourself to re use it until it can be used no more. Whether it is refilling it with perfectly good tap water, or cutting it in half to start your seedlings, rethink and retask.
It’s all around you. Free steel, free lumber, free firewood and landscape material and in most cases, it’s free just for the asking
Last year, due to high energy costs, the price of steel went through the roof. A piece I used to pay $5.00 for was now over $15.00. Although it’s come down a little it’s still exorbitant.
I always have 10-20 projects on the burner here at the Recycle Ranch, and they all require materials of one sort or another. I’ve always been keen on scrounging and barter, so the outrageous prices of materials made scrounging even more important.
When we moved here 15 years ago, I went to a local company that built office chairs and asked if they had any scraps available. They showed me to a huge dumpster full of kiln dried hardwood scraps and said help yourself. They asked if I could use plywood cutoffs and I hauled off hundreds of 12” x 96”, ½” thick pieces of mahogany and OSB plywood. Their machine would “waste” the strips and they simply took up warehouse space. After awhile, they would call and ask if I wanted this or that and I always said yes (much to my wife’s chagrin)
Once they received a bunk of 1”x 1 ½ to 2” hardwood for chairs and the dimensions were wrong. The mill didn’t want it back and the chair company couldn’t use it so I ended up with a huge supply of kiln dried premium lumber.
Where I live, the energy business is a huge industry, and along with energy is a lot of steel fabrication. I introduced myself to the managers of a couple of fabricators and asked if they minded if I rooted through their scrap piles. The one company generates more steel scraps in a day than I use in a year. I have scrounged literally thousands of pounds of steel for various projects, all of it just for the asking and a little sweat equity.
We recently picked up over a ton of pipe and sucker rod (1/2” to 1” solid rod used in oil rigs) because as I drove by a pipe company I saw a guy dumping 15’ sections into a dumpster that had “SCRAP” painted on the side. I went in and asked the manager if he would mind if I scrounged some and he said help yourself.
I figure in three trips I’ll have enough pipe and rod to be able to build a new corral for our livestock for labor, welding rods and electricity.
Another big score I found out about is tractor skids. I went to a local tractor company to get a part and noticed dozens of crates made out of square tubing, flat stock and angle iron. The tractors are shipped on them and they are scrap. I asked them if I could have some and they said take them all.
When we first started landscaping, we wanted some rocks and found some at a construction site that were being hauled off. They were going right by my place so I asked them if they’d mind dropping a load and I got a free ten wheeler of beautiful rocks.
The same goes for concrete. I live across from a batch plant and they always have extra concrete on bigger jobs. If I need something poured, I make a few forms and ask them to deliver any extra. A soda pop or bottle of water for the driver is nice and I always let them know I appreciate it.
I have a deal with the local propane company (I’ve signed a waiver releasing them from responsibility) for old tanks for various projects. They are great for Barbecues, rollers, lawn aerators, burn barrels, blades and more. (IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTE) Make sure the tank is empty, and fill it with water to the top to purge all gas vapors. Then remove all of the fittings and let them set for at least a month before using them.
Fortunately we have enough acreage that my junk (treasure) is located on the other side of my shop, mostly out of sight. However, we built a fence out of free painted steel roofing that was used as cover sheets to protect the paneling under it. It had a few light scratches, but worked great for a fence.
I’ve scrounged empty 55 gallon steel drums, plastic barrels, tree chippings for landscaping, sheet metal by the ton, steel and iron by the tons, railroad ties, timber, lumber and a lot more.
We are a very short sighted, wasteful society.
A few pointers:
Always ask to root through somebody’s scrap bin. I nearly lost my steel rights when some gypsies (true story) came and took a huge load of scrap without asking.
If they are reluctant to give it away, offer to pay scrap prices for it or see if you can do any bartering or offer some donuts for the crew. My wife bakes a lot so we take cookies and rolls to our benefactors.
Be safe. If you get hurt, it’s your own fault. Some things aren’t worth getting because they are too heavy or too dangerous. Use good judgment.
Keep an eye out on items and if they sit there awhile, ask, all they can do is say no. I went to a fence company and they offered me all the cutoffs from the landscaping posts I could haul off. They had to pay to dispose of them. Same with metal roofing.
When the local theatre expanded, they pulled out numerous beautiful trees and we asked for them, hauled them off and they ALL lived and look great! They also gave me the old marquee which is 4”X4” square tubing and 4” angle iron, 18” long. I am going to make an overhead trolley with it.
If you aren’t afraid to ask, chances are you can find some pretty good stuff for just the asking. We even give our various fowl left over popcorn from the theatre.
Nothing is better than a project built out of scrounged material. I’ve saved countless thousands of dollars over the years and recycled thousand of pounds of steel and other items that were headed for the landfill or scrap yard. I even use recycled steel in my business when it works.
The fact is, on 95% of my projects, you can’t tell that the materials were recycled, but my wallet knows.
Tough Times and Bent Nails
Surviving Hard Times
“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years”. Mark Twain
I owe my dad an apology and I wish he were still around to accept it. My father lived through the depression, and in my younger years I used to chide him about his peculiar depression driven habits. One that really irked me was he had us kids pull the nails out of boards, save the lumber if possible and pound the nails straight for reuse. It wasn’t that he couldn’t afford to buy a truckload of lumber and nails; it was just the principal of not wanting to throw away something that was still perfectly functional, albeit slightly used.
I’d tell my dad that he was a visionary and a conservationist and I was ignorant not to see it. His generation had a totally different outlook on life. Things were simpler, most houses were simple little homes that served their purpose well, not the ego driven monstrosities of today. (A friend of ours looks after a 20,000 square foot mansion that the owner uses a couple of weeks a year.) His generation seemed happy with a simple home and a small garden to help put food on the table.
He told me that during the depression, it wasn’t about just your survival; it was about everybody trying to get through it together. If a stranger came to your door in need of food, they would simply water down the soup to make it go farther. It was the right thing to do.
If he saw me buying a case of bottled water, he’d roll over in his grave. (Although in my defense I refill them numerous times, and make my kids) He’d ask me what’s wrong with tap water, or water from the hose, or drinking fountain, and he would be right. More than 60 million plastic bottles end up in US landfills EVERY DAY – about 22 billion last year alone.
Disposable cameras, disposable cell phones, paper towels, at what point will we realize enough is enough.
My dad’s generation used a single straight razor for decades until they invented the safety razor that used replaceable blades. Now we have throwaway razors with four blades for a “closer” shave. Kids shoes have LED’s with batteries in them. The only thing my dad would ask is, why?
My dad’s generation used cloth diapers. They were softer and better for you, and didn’t end up tossed out the window like so many we see today littering the countryside. It is estimated that 27.4 billion disposable diapers are consumed in the U.S every year. Over 50 pounds of petroleum products, 300 pounds of wood and 20 pounds of chlorine are needed to produce disposable diapers for one baby EACH YEAR
These aren’t just huge numbers, these are staggering numbers. While many of the disposable products are touted as “convenient”, my dad would ask the obvious “at what price”?
Having traveled extensively inMexicoandCentral America, I’ve seen hundreds of children and adults rummaging through a single dump to salvage plastic bags for seven cents a pound, (That’s hundreds of bags). I’ve seen three generations of one family, sixteen in all, living in a black plastic and stick structure, with no running water, electricity and a dirt floor. And they were the norm.
We live in the most blessed yet conversely the most wasteful society in history and we wonder why we are facing enormous problems. Unfortunately, decades of disposable and careless habits have caught up with us. Overflowing landfills and pollution are just a sampling of what’s to come.
Take nothing for granted. Use everything as much as you can. Rethink essentials. Enjoy what you do have. Recycle everything possible including furniture and clothes. Use disposables longer than they’re meant to be used, especially razors (But not diapers). Refill water bottles.
Challenge yourself to make more from less and new from old.
Life’s little pleasures are the most affordable ones.
These are tough times, and they are going to get worse. Perhaps the best thing we can do as a society facing troubling times is to look back at how our ancestors dealt with the depression, and learn from them. They weathered tough times with dignity, grace and compassion. Why should we do any less?
Straightening bent nails really isn’t a bad idea, and thanks to my dad, we do it here at the recycle ranch.
Dozens of people that sift through rubbish at the dump line up for bags of rice and beans, some candy and toys. Many of these people live in the crypts at the cemetary next door.
In an impoverished nation, absolutely nothing of value gets discarded until it is no longer useable. If they could go through an American landfill, they would be shocked at what we throw away.
It’s all in what you have. To these boys, the balls were one of the best gifts they had ever received. Our idea of poverty and the harsh reality of genuine poverty are two different things.
If you’ve priced heavy copper terminals, you know they aren’t cheap. Most run a dollar or two and it adds up. One way to make a great woking terminal is to scrounge some scraps of copper. (Plumbers usually have short scraps they can’t use.) I bought a 15 foot long roll of 5/16″ soft tubing at the scrap yard for $3.00 and using a tubing cutter, cut the tubing a little longer than an inch. I used a vice to crimp one end and then put the flat in the vice and drilled it. We cranked out a dozen terminals in a matter of minutes. If you solder the wire in, they are absolutely as good or better than new ones because some are copper plated and these are solid. Next time you see a scrap of copper tube, throw it in the parts bin. Instead of having too many expensive terminals, or not enough, make your own and save some money.