lessons learned on the journey toward independence

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b2ap3_thumbnail_PRI-G.jpgPlease note: The following article was written a little while ago by Ralph Lewis, a principle at Power Research Inc.  We have personally used their products for fuel storage with excellent success for over 15 years (in one case successfully storing gasoline for 6 years).  We thought you might be interested in some details about fuel storage he reveals here, reprinted with permission of Power Research Inc.  While we have carried PRI's products at events, we do not currently sell them online.  We just want to share this information with you.

As a principle in Power Research Inc. – a company with extensive international sales to the commercial marine and power generation industries – I have deeply investigated the world economy and our present financial system in an effort to protect my company, my family, and my employees. There is absolutely no question that the present system is unsustainable, and the ramifications of an economic collapse will be severe. I have made my own preparations and have encouraged my employees, little by little, to do the same...
Addressing the issue of long-term fuel storage. Interestingly, more than half of emergency generator failures during a crisis can be directly attributable to degraded fuel. This was found to be the case post-Katrina. The product STA-BIL that you reference in your writing, will, in fact, stabilize gasoline and diesel fuel. But bear in mind this is a “consumer” type product – designed with strength only sufficient to extend fuel life 6-to-12 months. The active ingredient in this product is actually in a very small concentration.

Honda GeneratorOur goal for being off the grid has been to produce all of our power from renewable sources (solar, hydro, wind, wood gas, steam, hydrogen, etc) and not rely on fuel sources that must be purchased (gasoline, diesel, propane, etc).  But particularly in northern climates, it takes time to achieve that unless one has a bundle of money up front to invest in a very large renewable energy system.  Because of this, many people getting started with renewable energy begin with a small basic system and build up from there as budget allows.  Many times this initial system is not "renewable" energy but rather "alternative" energy as it involves the use of a fuel powered generator, to a greater or lesser extent.

The smallest and most basic system is often a battery bank with an inverter/charger that uses AC electricity from a fuel powered generator to charge the DC batteries and then converts the DC power from the batteries into AC that is useable in the house.  This arrangement means the generator is only running periodically to charge the batteries rather than running continuously whenever power is needed.  As soon as the owner is able to afford it, renewable charging sources are added and perhaps a larger battery bank installed.  Once enough renewable sources are added, the generator is used less and less until it takes on the role of only a backup power source.

When deciding which generator to purchase, there were a number of items I took into account (not necessarily in order of importance):


Any recent inverter worth it's salt has the capabilities to automatically start a generator (one that is equipped with electric start and remote control capabilities) when any of a number of pieces of criteria are met.  This could be battery voltage below a certain point, battery state of charge below a certain level, regularly scheduled generator exercise, among other things.  Depending on which inverter, it starts the generator, may be able to let it warm up for a given period of time, run a complete charge cycle, and run cool down time before turning the generator off.  So the question is, would this be a useful feature to take advantage of?

Personally, I have never liked the idea of letting a computer determine when to run my generator, potentially even when I am not at home to monitor things.  Of course, this is one of the most attractive features to some...the ability to keep the batteries charged even while away from home.  But for me, there is just too much that could go wrong and potentially malfunction while I am away.  Moisture in fuel, diesel engine not starting during cold weather, or any of a myriad of potential problems could happen.  And I have no need to use a generator to charge my batteries when I am away from home.  That's what the solar panels are for!

If, however, you are on a generator-battery system without other renewable sources of charging, this might be more attractive to you.  But for me, I leave the solar hooked up to the batteries and they are totally charged when I return from my trip.  No need for a generator, even when I leave the refrigerator on.  But to safely do that, you need to have experience that proves your solar will more than keep up with any potential loads while you are away, even during very cloudy weather.  I don't leave much if anything on while I am on a trip, so I have no concerns about that.


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