I was going to wrap up this whole Bluetti/solar generator discussion last time but some additional stuff came in email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and other sources, so let’s get on with this.
A couple of people have apparently been spending way too much time on YouTube watching people deliberately blowing up lithium battery packs and expressed the opinion that having a lithium battery in your home is the equivalent of having a rather large bomb waiting to go off at any moment. I won’t bother to point out that there are literally hundreds of millions of lithium batteries out here in the real world that somehow have managed to not blow up or suffer from “runaway thermal events” as they call it. Instead I’ll just mention that the batteries in the Bluetti and in many of these systems use LiFePo battery chemistry which is not only much safer, it also gives the batteries a much longer lifespan. I’ve seen LiFePo batteries being beaten with hammers and rocks, drilled through multiple times, stabbed with fishing spear, had nails driven through them, etc. and none of them exploded or turned into unquenchable blowtorches. They will get hot, they will vent gasses that I would very much want to avoid breathing, but none of them got explody or anything like that. If treated reasonably well LiFePo batteries could potentially continue to work well for years.
I got questions from a couple of people who have a power station or are thinking of getting one and don’t want to have to run extension cords all over the house in order to keep things running during a blackout. Why can’t you just use your house’s existing wiring system? Well you can, sort of. If you look at that photo of the AC200Max over there you’ll see a very large 3 prong socket on the far right. That’s a TT-30 plug, a high amperage connector. Well, sort of high amperage. If I remember right it’s only good for about 20 Amps because of the limitations of the AC200Max’s inverter. It’s intended to feed power to the electrical system of an RV but there’s no reason you can’t use that to supply larger amounts of power to a transfer switch system to feed selected circuits in your home without having to run extension cords everywhere.
So that takes care of… Uh? What’s a transfer switch? Ah I suppose I’m going to have to explain that now.
Okay, here’s the deal. You can’t just pump power from an external generator into your house’s electrical system. If you try most of your power is going to backfeed into the grid, overloading your generator and quite possibly killing some poor lineman working on a pole somewhere trying to restore power during a blackout. And you are not permitted to just shut off the main breaker on your electrical panel, either. In a lot of jurisdictions it is flat out illegal to hook any kind of alternative power source to your house’s wiring without the installation of some kind of transfer switch system.
And here’s an example of one.
That is a Reliance transfer switch kit that I picked up at a local home improvement store for about $300. These things are designed to allow you to take up to 6 individual circuits in your home and let you switch them to work with an external power supply like a generator or something like the Bluetti. A BAC (Big Ass Cable) plugs into the big socket on your generator, and the other end plugs into a BAP (Big Ass Plug) wired into the transfer switch. When you flip the switches on the box up there, you switch that circuit from the LINE, which is your connection to the grid, to the GEN input, which is fed by your generator.
And no, I’m not going to give you instructions on how to install one because I don’t want to be responsible for you electrocuting yourself or starting your house on fire or something like that. These things aren’t hard to put in. There are numerous videos out there showing you exactly how to do it. But I am going to put in the usual disclaimer that you shouldn’t go fiddling around in your circuit breaker box because you can kill yourself or someone else, burn down your house or damage equipment if you don’t know what you’re doing. In a lot of jurisdictions it’s technically illegal for you to do so. Legally you may need to get a permit, hire an actual real electrician to do the work, have it inspected, etc. before you can use one of these. So I’ll leave it at that.
During the weekly staff meeting here at the palatial offices of grouchyfarmer.com someone brought up the topic of maybe looking into some tax credits or something if we did a solar power system, so we’re looking into that to help offset the cost of putting in a 10 – 15 KWh battery system with something like a 8 KW or larger inverter fed with 48V batteries. We’re currently in the planning phase of that. With our electric bill running $300/month here, a decent tax credit and other factors it’s beginning to look as if it might make sense economically to install such a system to take at least part of the house’s needs off the grid.
We already have most of our garden planning done, all the seeds bought already, and are just waiting for the weather to get better so we can get out there and start puttering around in the dirt again. We have a lot of plans, but whether or not any of it will actually get done is something else again. Some of the plans are on the expensive side and if we go ahead with the solar project that might eat up a lot of our discretionary budget for the year. So we’ll see.
And that’s about it for now.