BIT Studio

December 22, 2014

Armageddon Lite

Filed under: Solar — webmaster @ 9:53 pm

  Phase 1 of Armageddon Lite is complete!

This nerd adventure began as a result of being without electricity for three days in sub-zero weather during Christmas 2013 in Toronto. The other utilities (water and gas) survived and it was determined that if we had had power backup sufficient to run the furnace, we could have stayed in our house for quite a while.

The furnace, a natural gas boiler with rads, requires 460 watts to run a PLC, thermostat and two motors – one motor for the blower and another for the circulating pump. Running non-stop, the furnace would consume approximately 4 amps of electricity per hour (watts = amps x volts, that is, 460 = amps x 120). In very cold weather, the furnace might run for up to 30 minutes per hour, which would consume 2 amps of electricity per hour. The design of the backup system would, at the very least, need to be able to sustain this requirement.

Battery Backup System:
-2 batteries (12V DC, 100Ah, deep cycle, sealed)
-1 inverter (DC to AC, pure sine wave, 2500 watt)
-1 generator (gas powered, 1200 watt)
-1 battery charger (12 amp, AC to DC)
-1 55 watt solar array (3′ x 3′ panel, trickle charger)
-1 battery charge controller (DC to DC, 7 amp)

In the event of a power outage, the furnace is unplugged from the house outlet and plugged into the inverter. The 2500 watt inverter is larger than necessary, but in less extreme temperatures, it is very likely that other appliances (such as, a fridge, a water heater, cellphone chargers) could be plugged into the system. Based on a consumption of 2 amps per hour, the 200 Ah battery bank would drop less than 15% of capacity over a 12 hour period (24 amps / 200 Ah), which is well within battery operating specifications. Using this model, the gas generator could be run one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening to top up the battery charge. Assuming that natural gas (for the furnace) and gasoline (for the generator) are available, this infrastructure is sustainable for a very long time. The trickle charger keeps the batteries healthy during long periods of inactivity.

Phase 2 of Armageddon Lite involves installing and connecting a rooftop solar panel array to the existing system. Four 250 watt panels (1 Kw) would provide sufficient electricity to support a mini-fridge and mini-freezer throughout the year without generator support. As a green yet somewhat shallow solution for cold beer and ice, Phase 2 isn’t quite part of an armageddon scenario. It does, however, build upon an existing framework for expansion into an autonomous, off-grid solution.

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