Practical Survivalist

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    This project goes into the build of a 1.72kwh emergency backup battery system out of old and used laptop batteries and an old military surplus ammo box. The materials you need to build this project are lithium ion 18650 batteries from old laptops, 4X5,3X5 cell holders, ammo can, 40 Amp BMS or Battery management system, spot welder, fused nickel strip, heat shrink, kapton tape.

    First we determine how many batteries that we can pack inside the ammo box. In our case, we have 2 packs of 91 18650 cells , a total of 182 cells. We take the 4 X5 and 3 X 5 cell holders and connect them to make a couple of 7 x 13 cell holders.

    To make this 24V lithium ion battery , we need a 7S ( 7 cells in series connection) combination . A single lithium ion cell has a nominal voltage of 3.7V . To make a single long 7S configuration battery , we connect 7 groups of 26 cells in series to get the 25V nominal voltage.

    The cells used in the build are Samsung ICR18650 – 28A with a capacity of 2800Mah .The cells are rewrapped with heat shrink and added an insulator disk at the positive side of the cell for safety. The cells are installed on the holder in such a way that the first 26 cells are in a same polarity and are connected in parallel. Next 26 cells are installed with opposite polarity and is the connected in series with the first 26 cells . The rest of the cells are connected in the similar way to make a final 7S 2P ( 7 series and 2 Parallel ) configuration with max capacity of 26 X 2.8mah or 72.8 amp hours.

    A four wide fused nickel strip is used to connect the batteries in series. The nickel strip is placed over the first 4 cells and spot welded in place using the sunkko spot welder. Each cell is individually fused in case there is short circuit or malfunction. The nickel strip connects the first two rows in parallel and then connects the next two rows in series .

    Similarly, to complete the series connections, the nickel strips are placed and welded on the opposite side of the pack in such a way that it wont short out the connection by coming in contact with the most negative side of the battery.

    We take 0.15mm standard nickel strips to connect the positive ends of the whole pack together. The last 2 rows of most positive end are connected together using the nickel strip . Small pieces of nickel strips are placed across these two rows to connect them in parallel . The pieces are bent so that it can be connected to a separate copper busbar.

    The separate 2 battery pack of 7 X 13 cells are connected together by the nickel fuse strip in such a way that one of the pack is flipped on top of the other. The nickel strip that connects the first 3 connection on the 1st pack is bent to connect the 4th connection on the other pack. A 90 degree bent on the last row of the 4p fused nickel strip is welded on to the first battery pack.
    A piece of kapton tape is placed over the nickel strip to insulate it and hold it together.

    The bent nickel strip on the first pack is placed on the other pack is such a way that the fuses are perfectly aligned . Then it is welded using a spot welder. A one sixteenth inch ABS plastic is placed in between the two packs. The second pack is now slowly folded over the top of the first pack. The whole pack is then wrapped around with the kapton tape so that it doesn’t move around.

    The last three unconnected terminals on one side of the battery pack is connected to the single row of unconnected terminal on the other side with help of four nickel strips. The 4p fused nickel strip is cut to connect the 3 sides and the other side.

    To connect the main negative and the positive tabs , we attach a THHN copper wire across the both the terminal ends. The extended nickel connections are folded across the wire to hold it into place and soldered . The terminal wires are then connected together with XT90 connector.

    Next step is to connect the BMS or Battery management system to the pack . This is a small circuit board which is used to protect each cells of the battery pack from overcharging and becoming unbalanced and getting damaged. It stop the over draining when the cells are fully charged. The BMS used here is a 7S 24V with charge current of 20A and discharge current of 40A. It has two negative leads, one connecting the battery and the other for charging and discharging.

    The BMS also has 8 sense or balancing wires which are connected to each series connections on the battery. The black wire is connected to the most negative terminal of the battery. The first red wire is connected to the first series connected group of cells, the second red wire is connected to the second series connected cells and so on. The last red wire is connected to the main positive terminal of the battery. A heat shrink is wrapped around the whole battery pack for added safety .

    Before inserting the battery pack into the ammo box, a hole is drilled on the back side of the ammo can to allow the cables from the battery to pass through. Also a small piece of one sixteenth inch ABS plastic is placed at the bottom of the ammo box as a support and insulation.

    The battery is slowly dropped into the box . The BMS is placed on the top and is connected to the XT90 connector and the balance wires from the battery. The B- terminal on the BMS is connected to the XT90 connector on the battery. The black wire on the BMS is the charge and discharge lead. To provide extra insulation between the battery pack and the the ammo box ,we attach two pieces of the insulting ABS sheet on either side of the box.

    The lid is put back on the box and the battery build is complete.

      This project goes over the installation of a homemade radiant floor hydronic heating system for the garage. The radiant floor heating uses a pex tubing that is installed along the floor of your garage or room . Hot water is passed through the tubing which radiates the heat out into the room or space.

      The first step is to figure out what size pex coil tubing and how big of a water heater you would need . Also how many feet of tubing would allow enough heat to exchange into the concrete floor to sufficiently warm up the entire space. The total BTU/hour or heat required will be based on the square footage of your garage or room .

      We begin by levelling the ground and start laying down a vapor barrier .The vapor barrier is made out of 6 Mil Visqueen plastic PE film .The barrier keeps the moisture from under the ground to rise up to the surface of the floor. We then lay a mixture of sand and packing gravel before installing the two inch extruded insulating polystyrene foam on the floor and the perimeter.

      Four circuits of 800 ft half inch Pex tubing is stapled down on two inches of polystyrene insulating foam using a pex stapler. The eight tube ends are routed upto to a box from where it is connected to a manifold which is mounted on to the wall. The pex tubing with the supply and return tube is connected to the manifold with the help of a compression fitting .

      To check if all the connections are OK or if there is any hole or leak in the tubing, connect the manifold to a 100 PSOI air pressure gauge to do a pressure test. Five inches of concrete is then poured over the pex tubing circuits. Saw cuts of less than an inch are made into the concrete to allow for the shrinkage during the curing process.

      To insulate the pex tubing and to prevent water from entering into the floor, an expanding foam sealant is filled near the junction where the concrete meets the supply and return tubing near the manifold.

      The heating components of this system are mounted on a 4 X 4 square sheet of plywood. The heater has a rating of 7.2kW . The heater is flow activated which requires a circulating pump to pump water through it which then activates the heater based on the temperature setting.

      Two 120V fractional horsepower circulating pumps are used , one for running the water through the heater and the other circulates out through the pex loops. The pump has an inbuilt garden hose connector system used for draining.

      The hot water coming out of the output end of the heater passes through a pressure tank which removes the air bubble with an air release valve and prevents any water hammer to the system.

      This is further connected to the flow activated circulating pump for the heater with connections for filing and draining the system with the help of shut off valves. The water then comes down to a stainless steel manifold and then flows through the supply end of the pex tubing . The heated water splits into four supply loops at the manifold into the concrete floor.

      The water then returns back to the return end of the manifold through the other four loops of pex tubing and goes straight through another circulating pump and a Y strainer filter before circulating back to the heater.

      Two thermometers are connected at the supply and return end of the pipe to know the temperature difference of the outdoing water and the returning water. The flow is controlled by a thermostat and a switching relay that turns on the circulating pump .

        This project goes into the build of a simple and inexpensive waste oil/ used vegetable oil candle from an old nail polish bottle. You can burn motor oil ,vegetable oil, olive oil or you can also use lamp oil in these types of candles.

        The first thing your need for this oil candle is a reservoir to hold the oil in. Here we use a finger nail polish bottle. Next , a length of 100% cotton yarn is needed that is slightly longer than the length of the bottle. Another requirement is a one inch square piece of aluminum foil.

        The first thing you need to do to start this process is to take the bottle , clean it completely and fill it with your source of fuel like veg oil, waste motor oil, corn oil, olive oil . When you are pouring the oil, you don’t want to go all the way up to the top of the bottle. Leave small amount of space at the top of the bottle.

        Take the aluminum foil and fold it length wise in half .Puncture a small hole in the middle of the foil . Through this hole, the cotton wick is pushed through.

        Lower the wick into the bottle and fold the aluminum foil around the neck of the bottle. This acts as a lid . Make sure that everything is folded down nice and tight around the bottle.

        Check the candle and see if this wick is wet. And if it is not , turn it upside down for a minute . The oil will then come into this wick and saturate it. Be careful that your aluminum foil doesn’t fall off. If your cotton wick is a little bit longer, pull it up a little bit . This exposes the wet part of the wick. Take your scissors and cut the wick down just a little.

        Light the candle . When you first go to light them it takes a minute because you have to get everything warmed up. Let it burn a little bit. Make sure to not use a thick layer of aluminum foil for the lid. The aluminum foil will heat up and cause problems.

          This project goes over the build of a simple and basic DIY chainsaw mill from start to finish. This chainsaw mill is portable and doesn’t require very large space . This is a very inexpensive way of producing lumber from logs and can be made from easily available materials from your local hardware store.

          The materials you need to build this chainsaw mill are one by one square tubing, half inch square tubing, quarter inch flat bar, weld nuts, bandsaw and welding unit. The welder used here is Millermatic 212 auto set mig welder and the saw is Homelite 1130g

          The dimensions of the saw are as follows. A 12 inch deck to slide across the log that acts as a milling surface. The max width of the mill is 26 inch. An 8 inch metal to grab the bandsaw on both the sides. A quarter inch flat stocks for the holding the saw.

          We start by cutting 26 inch pieces for the sides and 12 inch pieces for the sides. Assemble them into a rectangle and weld it using a MiG welder. Do Check if the corners to make sure it is square and the sides are even.

          A center bar welded into the rectangular guide plate, just to give it a little bit more support and make it so that it doesn’t twist.

          Two guide posts are welded onto the sides. 2 larger pipe sections of dimension one by one is cut .This will slide within the guide posts. This is done so as to make the saw adjustable to how thick it cuts a slab .The side posts also gives you adjustability on the deck to move up and down.

          4 quarter inch flat bars of length nine inches are cut . Two of them are bolted onto bottom section of the rails that slides up and down on the guide posts . The saw blade is placed securely between these bars. A small spacer block is welded onto the bars so that it doesn’t touch the saw blade. Three eighth inch weld nuts are welded onto the side posts . Tightening with the bolts locks the adjustable rails in place.

          A crossbar is welded onto the guide posts .These help push the bar along when you are operating the mill and it is a nice place to put your hand , It feels like you are farther away from the chain.

          The chain saw blade is inserted between the flat brackets at the bottom and it is locked tight in place between the spacers using 3/8th inch bolts.

          For the first cut, we attach a flat plate at the top of the log so that the bar has something to ride. The height of the cut is adjusted with the help of the side rails on the mill . The saw is then started and placed on top of the flat plate to begin cutting the log.

            This project goes into the build of a homemade DIY Water distiller that can purify dirty and contaminated water and desalinate salt water into clean drinking water. The total cost of this build is about sixty dollars. For distilling water, you need three thing – water, a source of heat, and some sort of apparatus that will allow water to boil into steam and then recollect that steam , condensing it back into usable water.

            A water distiller basically needs to do two things, it needs to boil water to create steam, and it needs to capture that steam in a way that allows it to condense back into water. The materials you need to build this distiller are six quart stainless steel pressure cooker, 20 foot three eighth inch copper tubing, two gallon bucket, jb weld, zip ties, flat bar, five sixteenth inch silicon tubing, mason jar.

            The first step is to boil the contaminated water in a tea kettle or a pressure cooker. Here we use a six quart stainless steel pressure cooker. Since the boiling water must be directed to the condenser, something with a sealed lid of some sort is needed. The existing pressure valve of the cooker is removed and replaced with a barbed fitting .A small rubber O ring gasket is used to tighten the new fitting.

            Next step is to make the condenser. The purpose of a condenser is to give steam the opportunity to cool back down enough so that it turns back into liquid water. The condenser is built using a 20 foot three eighth inch copper tubing. This is reformed into a tighter and taller coil such it will fit into a two gallon bucket.

            Because it needs some sort of support to avoid having the coil collapse under its own weight, a flat bar bent into a U shape is placed under the coil. A small cross piece is attached to it at the bottom using JB weld. The coil is attached to the punched bar with some zip ties.

            A hole is drilled near the bottom of the bucket to allow the copper tube to drain out the condensed water . The coil is placed inside the bucket carefully and the tail end of the coil is pushed into the drain hole .

            The condenser is connected to the pressure cooker with a 5/16th inch silicon tubing. A similar silicon tubing connects the bottom of the condenser to the clean water receptacle like a mason jar.

            When distilling water , cooling the steam back down is very important. The coil itself will cool some of that down. But that alone isn’t enough at this scale. It will end up losing a lot of steam through the bottom of the condenser because not all of it has been able to cool and condense by the time it reaches the bottom.

            An efficient way is to add a cooling element to the condenser. Filling the bucket with ice water will increase the efficiency and water output by a lot because it will cool the copper tubing much more than air alone. Doing so had an immediate effect and all of the escaping steam condensed instantly to liquid water. By periodically adding cold water through the distillation process, it practically eliminated all of the steam waste coming out of the condenser.

            The gap around the copper tube where the hole is drilled is not sealed. This is because of two reasons. The first being able to easily remove the condenser from the bucket for cleaning and maintenance. The second reason being it acts as a drain. The boiling steam causes the copper tubing to get very hot. Because of this, it heats up the cool water very quickly and this drain makes it convenient in that the water will drain out before it gets to that point.

            In a survival situation , set the condenser over a larger bucket to collect and reuse the cooling water as it drained out and not simply let it go to waste.

              This project goes into the build of a homemade alternative offgrid power generation system using a water wheel and flowing water source like a stream or creek. In order to catch the water from your spring or creek , the first step is to build a small dam. This enables us to produce maximum power from the running water wheel .

              First, We use a 4 inch pipe to divert the water before starting the construction of the dam. With a solid concrete foundation ,we aim to make a 42 inch dam with 30 inch of head . A six inch 36 inches long PVC drain pipe is installed on the high water side .The dam is constructed using four layer of hollow blocks and quickrete blended mason mix .Try raising the water higher to see how much higher it needs to go before it overflow through the sides.

              The dam board gates made of deck boards are installed in the middle .The back board and the front boards are spaced apart an inch and three quarters. The dam stop gate made of plywood with dimensions of one and half is inserted between the boards . To get a tight seal a half inch rubber tube is stuffed between these boards.

              With a 13 and half inch treated plywood and couple of 2X6 plywood side boards, the flume is built. The side boards are glued to the plywood base using adhesive sealant and screwed with exterior grade screws.

              To resist twisting and to keep the width of the plywood steady , four cross spacers are installed on the flume board. To divert the water without having to drain the dam, we make a small trap door in the flume near the opening . The trap door is made seven inches back from the face of the dam. The door is supported by a flange around the back and a stainless steel hinge.

              The flume is installed on the creek with the help of rebars and supporting deck boards. The rebars are attached to the boards using u-bolts and drill bit. Three more subsequent flumes are attached to each other. The gap between the flumes are sealed with poly foam caulk rope.

              The waterwheel is made out of a section of 55 gallon HDPE drum . The blades are made of 4 inch PVC drain pipe. The blades are curved so that it retains most of the water making it more energy efficient. 24 blades are attached to the drum using 16th by half aluminum angle pieces.

              A three quarter inch jack shaft from an old go-kart is used as the drive shaft. This is supported at both ends of the wheel with a help of pillow block bearings. Two 28 inch Circular end pieces made of plywood is bolted along both sides of the barrel using a 6 ten inch long half by thirteen carriage bolts to make the wheel build complete.

              Two square collar blocks are mounted on to shaft to center them. The holes are larger than the shaft so that the wheel can be adjusted to get the runouts reduced.To center the waterwheel and to adjust the runout of the center shaft , we use four blocks and adjustment bolts around the center block like a four jaw chuck .

              To install the water wheel securely, a support structure made of 2×4 boards are installed near the end of the flume. The water wheel is secured on these support boards with the help of couple of swivel block bearings.

              We use an adjustable Unistrut to mount the bearings,sprockets and the motor. This can be adjusted for chain tension as well. The Unistrut will stand vertically on top of the cross support that is under the flume.The Unistrut’s are mounted onto the wheel on both the sides with help of bearings and T-nuts. A Number 35 sprocket with 72 tooth is mounted onto the center wheel shaft.

              This sprocket is connected to a half shaft with 11 tooth sprocket with the help of a size 35 go kart roller chain. A Permanent Magnet Brushed DC motor mounted on 2×4 board is further connected to this shaft via another sprocket. This gear system has a ratio of 30.86:1

              Using unistruct angled brackets, the wheel is mounted onto the support board near the flume. The wheel is positioned near the flume in such a way that the water where it meets the wheel is exactly at the top.

              The charging system consists of a 12V DC emergency standby battery, MPPT charge controller, 300W sine wave inverter . The connection from the water wheel DC motor goes to the charge controller.The charge controller is also connected to the battery.

              Finally the inverter is connected to the battery which is further connected to a load. To make this charging system secure, make sure to make fuse connection between the components. All these components are mounted on a temporary wooden board.

                This project goes into the build of a DIY pedal powered generator out of an old car alternator and a bike. This generator is useful for powering your devices and gadgets in case of an emergency or grid down scenario.

                The materials you need to build this generator are bike, MDF for base plinth, magnetic trainer stand for bike, Alternator, drive belt, 12V battery, cable connectors, 12V socket, multimeter, screwdriver, insulation tape.

                The rear end the bike and rest of the components are mounted on a one inch thick MDF board. This has a good amount of stability that keeps it away from moving around. We add an extension bit on the front. The extra height there just compensates for the fact that the back wheel is in a stand.

                The alternator is mounted nice and secure onto the base using brackets. Bolts connect the alternator to the brackets and screw the brackets down to the base. Once you are pedaling, and you have got electrical load in the circuit, there is quite a bit of force pulling the alternator forwards. So it does need to be really securely bolted down.

                Make sure that the wheel of the bike is in line with the alternator pulley .With any wheel, we have rim bed and the rim walls. Here what we need is a drive belt that fits purely in the rim bed. Make sure you measure the internal width of the rim bed .

                Also measure the width and depth of the alternator pulley grooves and get a belt that fits accordingly . Also make sure you have got a belt that is long enough because a typical drive belt that is used in a car is not going to be long enough because it is only made to go around a pulley on the engine.

                The car alternator used here has three wires coming out of them .It has a main power thick output wire, it supplies main power to the devices. Then there is two small cables, one for voltage sensing and the other for field coil ignition. The voltage sensing wire goes straight to the 12V lead acid battery in our case. To get the alternator generating power you first need to apply a small voltage through the field coil and that is because an alternator doesn’t have any permanent magnets in it.

                The way that any generating device works is moving either electrical charges through a stationary magnetic field or moving a magnetic field around a charge. So the field coil inside the alternator is attached to the field coil ignition cable, and putting a voltage generates the magnetic field, which enables the alternator to generate power when you turn the shaft via the drive belt. You don’t need to keep applying a voltage to it as it’s running, because it will generate its own power. The negative from the alternator is connected to the negative of the battery.

                The positive connection from the alternator is connected to the positive of the battery. The third connection coming from the alternator is the field coil activator .This is connected to a switch .The connection goes back to the alternator to active the field coil.

                A standard cigarette lighter socket is connected to the battery terminals. It will draw power off the battery first, and once you start charging power, because the alternator is connected into that, it is going to draw it from the alternator, and the alternator will simultaneously power whatever is connected into that socket, and recharge the battery.

                The alternator used here has voltage tolerance of 11 to 14V . A Modular splitter is connected to the cig power socket to charge multiple devices. Make sure that the plug comes with a fuse or whatever you plug in needs to be rated to the right power for what you are going to charge .

                To run alternating current devices, we connect a 150W Power inverter to the circuit. The alternator actually generate alternating current. But its got a rectification circuitry built into it, which changes it to DC. The inverter changes the the DC output from the alternator to AC.

                Finally ,we add a master switch that switches the battery on.The Power switch stops any drain from the battery through the field coil . The switch also connects the multi sockets that charges various devices. It isolates the battery from the circuit. It isolates the alternator from the circuit, and it isolates the remote switch and the battery from the field coil completely.

                The AC generating device like an alternator have a minimum speed of operation in which they are stable. So do check for your alternator, what is the recommended minimum speed for it. If you spend it below that speed, what happens is because of the way it works, you get a periodically varying force which acts as a resistance to your pedaling.

                  This project goes into the build of a portable and powerful off grid emergency solar generator with higher capacity than commercial units at a fraction of the cost. This system can keep a small fridge operating 24/7, charge your devices, power TV ,LED lights, Laptops. it is small enough to be stored away in your garage and portable enough to move where it was needed.

                  The main components used to build this generator are as follows.

                  4 Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Panel
                  Renogy Rover 40 Amp MPPT Solar Charge Controller
                  Renogy Deep Cycle AGM Battery 12 Volt 100Ah
                  Sug 2000W(Peak 4000W) Power Inverter Pure Sine Wave DC 12V to AC
                  Renogy 20 Feet 10AWG Solar Extension Cable with MC4 Female and Male
                  BLACK+DECKER BM3B 6V and 12V Automatic Battery Charger / Maintainer
                  6 Circuit Fuse Block W/Negative Bus
                  Milwaukee Hand Truck with handle
                  Control Panel with USB Charger,LED Voltmeter,12V Power Outlet, ON-OF Switch.

                  To create a solar system that can truly meet your needs and cope with the variability of your environment, you really need to do some planning. This will help you avoid building a system that isn’t up to the job and can save you considerable money by preventing the expense of replacing components later on.

                  To calculate the number of batteries and solar panels you will need to create a system to provide power in all seasons through inclement weather and at your particular latitude, you need to determine the devices you intend to power, log their power consumption across a few days using a power meter. Then find the reserve days . This is how many non sunny days the system can tolerate while still powering your devices. Also find the recovery time by calculating how many days of sun that will be needed to fully recover when the batteries have run down due to lack of sun. You also need to know the usable charging hours in day and the actual battery round trip efficiency since batteries give back something less than the amount of power used to charge them.

                  Here we use 4 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Panels to charge our 12 Volt Deep Cycle Battery. The panels are wired in series so that the voltages add together and you can get up to 80 volts from four panels. With this system there is enough voltage to begin charging as soon as there is any daylight at all. It also charges the batteries right up until dusk. Another advantage of the series wiring is that it is much better for long wire runs when the solar panels are not close to the generator and you can use less expensive smaller wire gauges for the solar panel runs.

                  To use panels in series you must have an MPPT type charge controller. They are specially designed to accommodate the high voltage of panels wired in series up to the particular controllers voltage limit .MPPT controllers are much more efficient converting nearly all the energy coming from the panels into charging power for the battery.

                  A 2000 watt pure sine wave inverter is used that can provide up to 4000 watts of surge power, and with enough battery support can run any conceivable device including those with motors. To store energy we use a 2 12V AGM marine batteries . These give plenty of reserved capacity that will last with reasonable care . They don’t leak and can tolerate cheaper discharges and have very good round trip efficiency.

                  Four 100 watt solar panels are connected through the 40 amp MPPT charge controller . The panels can deliver up to 2400 watts of solar power in the shortest days of winter. And the charge controller converts solar power to charging power very efficiently and also support serial panel configurations increasing the systems capability.

                  A heavy duty hand truck is used for loading all the components . A frame made of angle iron is welded on to the platform to mount the batteries. Two angled straps are welded across the truck to provide more support for the battery frame.

                  The various components are mounted on a back support made of five eighth inch plywood. I use a tapered punch to make starter holes for all the screws that hold the components. The hand cart is laid on its back and the plywood board is aligned in such a way it doesn’t block the holes. While the cart was on its back I screw down all the components with stainless steel screws.

                  For the project we use a thinner 18 gauge wire for the low current circuits, medium 14 gauge for the 12 volt port and heavy 10 gauge for the high current charging circuits. Red is always connected to the plus or positive connectors, black always to the minus or negative.

                  The positives and the negative connection coming from the solar panels are connected to the solar charge controller with the help of a quick disconnect Wire Harness SAE Connector. The negative of the solar charge controller is directly connected to the negative connection of the battery while the positive goes through a fuse block before connecting the positive of the battery.

                  The negative connections from switch, voltage display ,USB ports and battery charge meter is connected via a medium 14 gauge wire to the battery negative. The positives are connected to the battery through the fuse block. The 12 volt port is on its own fuse so it gets separate wires in the medium 14 gauge. The positive of the 12V Battery Charger is connected to the fuse while the negative is connected to the battery.

                  The batteries are placed on platform of the cart facing opposite directions so that positive and the negative terminals are near the plywood backboard where the components are attached.

                  The battery connection cables are cross connected to create a parallel 12 volt configuration careful to ensure the block cable connected only to minus terminals at both ends and the red cable connected only to plus terminals at both ends.

                  Next step is the orientation of the solar panels. As you probably know the sun is lower in the sky in the winter higher in the summer. In the winter, the days are also shorter as you really want to optimize for winter to get as much energy as you can when the days are short. Since my panels are fixed, we want to point them due south and angle them for the winter sun. There are tables you can find online that can give you a pretty good idea of the right vertical angle for your geographical location.

                  In the summer the sun is pretty much straight overhead, so the panels are optimal when laying flat. The angle panels are their most productive in the depth of the winter losing a little each day until the height of the summer as the sun is further off the winter angle. Meanwhile, the flat panels are less efficient in the winter because the sun is at a low angle but gaining each day as the sun gets higher in the sky.

                    This project goes over the build an off grid survival fridge using a five gallon bucket . It has a peltier cooling module on the top. So no need of refrigerant or ice cubes. The materials you need to build are as follows. A 12V 12A Thermoelectric Peltier Refrigeration Cooling System unit from Amazon, a 5 gallon bucket , 4 gallon Styrofoam liner from Home depot.

                    This refrigerator works by the principle of peltier effect. The Peltier effect shows that a temperature differential is created when a DC current is applied across two different materials .The peltier unit is made of using two thin ceramic wafers with a series of n and p semiconductor materials sandwiched between them. The ceramic wafers add rigidity and provide the necessary electrical insulation for the module. The n type semiconductors have excess electrons, while the p type have a deficit of electrons with one n and one p making up the junction couple that creates the thermoelectric effect. When a DC current is applied to the circuit, the thermoelectric module can work as a cooler or heater depending on the direction of the current. A thermoelectric cooler or tech transfers heat from one side of the device to the opposite side against the temperature gradient creating a cooling effect.

                    We use heat sinks and CPU fans on the peltier chips to radiate and lower the heat generated on the hotter side and move the cooler air into the bucket from the cold side. The peltier setup in this build uses two 12V 92mm fans on the hotter side glued to a large 200m X 100mm Aluminum heat sinks, two 12v 5.8amps peltier chips are glued under two 40mm heat sinks using thermal paste. 2 40mm fans are also attached to the heat sink.

                    The Styrofoam liner is inserted in to the five gallon bucket . Two small rectangular cuts are made on the lid of the liner so that the heat sinks fits inside there and gets good airflow around the edges.

                    We cut a rectangle on the top lid of the bucket to allow the peltier module to sit in. Small vent holes are drilled on the sides of the lid using a standard quarter inch drill bit so that no hot air gets caught between the bucket lid and the Styrofoam lid.

                    Cut a small notch in the bucket using tin snips so the wires from the peltier units will come out without getting pinched under the lid.

                    You can hook this unit to 100 watt solar panels straight , 12 volt deep cycle battery, 12 volt transformer to the wall, or you can use your car CIG lighter. This unit can drop the temperature inside the bucket from 81 to 47 degree Fahrenheit in minutes.

                      This project goes over how you can dig your own shallow well using simple tools that you can get from your local garden store. The materials you need to dig and install a well are as follows. A customized Seymour AUA2 Post Auger to dig the hole. A Shovel is used to move the pea gravel and dirt out of the way.

                      A Four inch casing PVC pipe that is going into the hole that is dug and this is going to hold the water until you need it. One and one fourth inch threaded adapter. This connects the bottom of the casing pipe to the foot valve. The foot valve is one and one quarter inch. This valve allows the water to come in and not go out. This helps to keep the pump primed.

                      A water well pump pipe which is basically a one and one quarter inch PVC pipe. This will pull the water from the bottom of the well bringing it to your pump. The length of this pipe is going to be determined by how deep your well is. It should be at least a foot shorter than the depth of your well. You don’t want this pipe sitting on the bottom because it would just be sitting in sediment and it will be clogging things up.

                      A pitcher pump that has a one and one quarter inch threaded water inlet at the bottom. A closet flange. It makes mounting the pump to the top of your well four inch casing pipe very easy and it also helps keep things clean. Basically you would just set this inside you your four inch pipe, drill a hole out of the middle of a board, screw that to the top of this flange then mount your pump to the board that you have fastened to this. A one and one quarter inch threaded adapter. This will screw into the bottom of your pitcher pump and in turn, it will connect to the pipe bringing water to your pump from the bottom of the well. Teflon tape, PVC glue.

                      Pea gravel – This will go down around the casing pipe of the well. The amount of pea gravel you need is determined by the depth of the well and water height. Quikcrete or aerated concrete to cap the top of the well. This prevents groundwater contamination and keeps stuff from finding a way to easily get into your well.

                      To find the spot for the well, we use couple of coat hangers as dowsing roads. We take a drinking straw ,cut it in half and slide it over the coat hangers. This helps us in not using our hands or fingers influence while dowsing. Also it is easy to rotate the rods within the straws. The rods are kept parallel to the ground . If the rods cross each other , then mark the spot on the ground directly down the cross . This is the ideal spot for the well.

                      The auger used for digging the hole for the well is modified from the default Seymour Post hole auger. We use a custom 5 foot 11 gauge one and half inch square tubing as the extension for the auger . The handle of the auger is a three foot three quarter inch pipe welded to a four inch 11 gauge square tubing.

                      We start digging into the the spot that we have found earlier using the dowsing rods. Pay attention to the changes in the color of sand , because that can give you clues as whether you are getting closer to water. We extend the auger using the square bar tube once the auger handle is near the ground. Once you have hit wet clay, there is going to be suction around. We twist and pull at the same time to get the auger out of the hole in this situation.

                      Next, we put the 20 foot PVC casing pipe into the hole . We cut slots using a reciprocating saw on the pipe one foot from the bottom of the well to the top of the water level to allow the water to flow into the well. Pea gravel is poured around the sides of the pipe all the way up to the slots .

                      The remaining hole area around the pipe is packed with sand and clay. We seal the well by packing it around the sides with quickrete cement. This helps the water not to be able to run down into your well but around it.

                      We lower the one and one quarter inch well pump pipe with the foot valve at the end into the PVC casing pipe. A four inch drain flange is secured on top of the casing pipe .

                      A pitcher pump is then attached to top of the pipe. To prevent the pump from moving, it is bolted to the board where the flange is installed. To prime the well, we pour some water down through the pitcher pump. Pump out the dirty water until it is clean.

                      This project goes over the build of a simple gasification system that functions to produce wood gas for running a generator, a cooking stove...