Home Energy Information

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      Welcome to Backwoods Home Magazine's Home Energy Information page. We hope this page with its accompanying articles and the extensive Q&A section will help you answer some of your questions about a home energy installation, especially about an alternative energy installation such as with solar, wind, hydro, or a generator.

Our Latest Energy Article

Solar system codes — build it right!
      By Jeffrey Yago, P.E., CEM

      The further you go into the mountains or rural countryside, the more some people think building codes do not apply to them. But not following electrical codes can kill you or burn down your remote cabin, regardless if the county inspector can find you or not.
      Thomas Edison built the first central generating station in 1882 to power a string of DC-powered streetlights in New York City. In 1893, the Chicago World's Fair had the first public demonstration of public building illumination. After a large number of these early electrical systems caught fire, several independent code groups got together and published the first National Electric Code (NEC) in 1897. Since then the NEC gets revised every three years to reflect any problems that have been identified and to reflect any new electrical materials being introduced.
      Unlike government-mandated codes and rules (which are sometimes the result of pressure from paid lobbyists on politicians or just plain bureaucratic stupidity), the electrical codes were developed by experts in the field and actual working electricians selected to represent all electrical installers as well as code officials. If there is one section of the NEC that has undergone the most revision, it's Article 690, which addresses solar installations, mainly due to the significant increase in solar installations and the resulting experience identifying new wiring problems that get resolved in later code updates.
      Read More


Solar-powered water purifiers
      By Jeffrey Yago, P.E., CEM

      While it is estimated that more than 70% of the earth's surface is covered with some form of water, only 2% of this surface water is fresh water and not salty or contaminated. In addition, fresh water is not always located close to populated cities or agricultural areas and may have to be pumped hundreds of miles. Of the known below-ground freshwater aquifers, less than half are easily accessible.
      Read More

Website Exclusive

A small creek provides plenty of power for this off-grid home
      By Scott Gentleman
Hydro Powered Home
      For eight years, Tracey and I lived in a solar powered home and for eight cloudy winters, we ran a small Honda generator every week to recharge our batteries. We understood that the original owner of our home had operated a small hydro system from the property's year round creek but we never investigated this option because the creek ran through dense forest. Besides, we could just tell there wasn't sufficient drop over its course.
      We finally decided to use Backwoods Solar's Site Level just to confirm hydro didn't make sense. Much to our surprise, our traverse through the woods from a potential turbine site to a convenient intake location revealed about 80' of drop. Not possible, we declared, assuming our technique must have failed. To double-check our method, we used the same Site Level to measure the drop from our water cistern to kitchen sink. We knew this drop equaled 56 feet because we had used a transit to measure it when this gravity fed system was installed. The review with the Site Level gave us about 60 feet and confirmed we knew how to use the level.
      Voila, hydro potential.

BHM Advertiser Resources

Backwoods Solar Electric Systems
1589-BWH Rapid Lightning Creek Rd
Sandpoint, ID 83864

Central Boiler
20502 160th St
Greenbush, MN 56726

Miller Refrigeration LLC
7295 50th Ave
Sears, MI 49679

Energy Articles

Energy Questions

Sorry, we no longer answer questions online. Please Click Here to search the Energy Questions blog archive which includes many questions not listed below.

We are in the process of transfering all the questions and answers listed below to the Energy Questions Blog.

Page 1 — A tour?, Fuses for 12 volt systems, Convert my car to alternative energy vehicle, Small Gas Turbines, Free energy from a car?, Solar help for those without a clue, Battery question, Old New England Victorian, Woodburing stove, Solar water pump

Page 2 — Sine wave inverters, Small pumps, 4-wheel bike batteries, Solar water power, Dry batteries, Batteries, Charge controllers, Solar panels and batteries, Iron-nickel Batteries, Solar home

Page 3 — Two part question, Battery bank storage, Wet cell, Will this combo work ok?, Hydronic heating cost vs forced air, Solar home insurance, Alternate power for refrigerator, Converting to alternative energy, Passive solar, What about Alaska?

Page 4 — Alternative energy, Snow melting, Summer cooling, Solar power, Solar collectors, Tower for solar panels, Whole house power, Cabin power, Battery bank location, System design

Page 5 — Effect of gusty winds on solar panels, Modular Solar RV build, Water towers, Standby generator, How big of a system do I need?, Locating batteries, Sunroom heat, Battery hook up charger, Question on grid-tied inverters, Cooling question

Page 6 — Yago's Article on Flashlights, Corn burning boiler stove, Battery charging...to cycle or not to cycle?, A starter Solar System, Trailer plugs, Alternative energy insurance, Gravity-fed outdoor solar shower, Home power questions, Grid tie inverters during power failures

Page 7 — Electric automobiles that use no fuel, Deep well pump, Hooking up solar panels, Make lead-acid batteries, Generator amp sizing, Saving energy in an older home, Wood stove to heat water, Running a well surface pump from solar, Charging Batteries, What tells the pump to turn on?

Page 8 — Solar to radiant floor heat, Propane vs Natural Gas, Solar energy to power air conditioner, Hot water on demand from an oil boiler, Cost to run floor fans, Chinese solar panels, Compact fluorescent burnout, Battery discharge during cold times, Solar water pumping, Battery wire

Page 9 — Battery Charging, Corn Stove/steam generator, Inverter location, Radiant floor heat, Generator/ battery charging, Off Grid Systems, Off-grid mortgage lending, Pump on hot water heater, Resale values, Solar Well Information

Page 10 — Solar panel strength, Wood augmented domestic hot water, Solar cabin, Solar battery question, Radiant floor heating system design, Radiant Floor Heating in an RV, Solar Package, Outside wood boiler, Temperature Sensor Location, Heat pump run with solar

Page 11 — Corn Boiler, Homemade wood stove, 12 volt thermoelectric refrigerators, Bicycle-powered electricity generators, Battery Bank For Mobile Lunchwagon's Kitchen, Multi-zone Thermostats, Solar Heat, Radiant Floor Insulation, Well system as double duty ground source cooling, Cookstove question

Page 12 — Corn stoves, Heating a four-season room, Wind generator placement, Solar-powerd bike fridge?, Printable solar panels, Solar or Wind, that is the question, Self-powered corn stove?, Home Cooling without AC, Solar panels for rent, Satellite dish solar collector

Page 13 — 220 to 110, Biodiesel, Calculating House Loads for Batteries, Powering Computers, What did the retreat cost?, Building an off-grid cabin, Dawn to Dusk photo cell, DC generator, Illinois Power, Books about solar electricity?

Page 14 — Charging two different size 12v battery at the same time, Government grants, Pelton Wheel, Two pipe steam system, Solar powered generator, Solar powering a weekend cabin, Stock tank heaters, Solar converted to electric batteries, Invertor/charger ground subpanel wiring, Solar heating and hot water radiators, Getting into the energy conservation field, Solar Powered Attic Fans in Hawaii

Page 15 — Water tank information, Hydro-power question, Water powered electric power generation, Picking a Standby Generator, Heating, How to start getting energy independent, Deep cycle batteries, Off-Grid Refrigerator, 72 volts needed, Wind power

Page 16 — Filters and water heater for eco-lodge, Question about solar street lighting, Outdoor light, Water problem, Dual batteries question, Hybrid autos, Solar powered golf cart, Car alternator, Deep well pump, More modules or change inverter?

Page 17 — Electric vehicles, Solar cooker/oven, Paint for battery box, Lamp post question, I want to use solar energy to power my business, Electric fence, Solar inverter, Large amp-hour batteries, Battery backup power, Generator Shed

All Questions & Answers below this line have been transfered to the searchable blog format. They are still available here, as well.

Page 18 — Need some ideas on solar energy battery bank, Off road truck campers, Stirling engines, Hydronic wood stove, 7 year old AGM Deep Cycle Batteries, Solar installer certification, Solar light question, Generator question, Solar question, Solar with Computer Center Using Laptops

Page 19 — Low RPM genrator, Solar water well problem, 48 volt battery bank and a 12 volt charger, Solar water heating for campervans, motorhomes and RVs, Utility disconnect, GTIs and Inverters, Double duty for a Honda/Yamaha inverter generator, Bike energy?, Solar collector on a trailer, Starting out the right way

Page 20 — Inverter Source Question, Emergency stove, Well pump advice, Old Solar panels, Pump volume for in-floor heat, Golf cart generator/starter, Alternative Energy Education, Cabin in the woods, Hybrid inverters, Module arrays

Page 21 — Recycling power poles, Simulating a grid on a grid tied system, Steam generator, We want to build a low carbon footprint home, Windpower, RV solar system, Small water boiler, Electric operating costs, Gravity hydronic heat, Solar powered lights

Page 22 — Alternative battery charging, Bio-diesel, Battery for the home?, 12 volt light, Batch solar water heater tanks, Battery question, Building an ice box, Solar battery life, Vent pipe fins, Old solar water heater

Page 23 — Remote cabin water heater, Wood stove/radiant floor heat, RV power to house, Propane generator, Inverter and battery charger question, Solar panel safety concerns, Switching power supply from Inverter?, Alternative energy in new home construction, Flashlight review question, Turning heat into electricity

Page 24 — Pumping water in Brazil, Hybrid System, EPA wood stoves, Solar-run water purification, Off the grid, On demand water heater used for hydronic heating, Diesel alternator, Grants for solar, Wind power, Passive Solar/ Photovoltaic System Home Design Question

Page 25 — Wood cook stove, Pre-catalytic wood stove conversion, Old Hot water heating system, Books, Thermosiphon, LED plant lights, Solar on the coast, Making steam heat more affordable, Info on solar basics, Solar power school

Page 26 — Solar array, Aeroponics, Surface mounted LED fixture, Transfer switch, Going solar on our RV, Wood fired hydronic furnaces, Windpower, PTO Generators, Inverter for solar powered trailer, Safe LED Lighting

Page 27 — LED Lighting, Biodiesel in Oil Furnace, Efficient Water Heater, Charge controller, Wind Generator Heating System, PV for hot water, Wood fired hot water, Wood Burning Stove, Reflective materials for solar arrays, Grid Tie Solar

Page 28 — Temperature setback and May/June article, Solar back up water system, Battery Charging Rates, Solar Power Battery Bank, Wood fired hot water, Steam from Solar, Charging Flashlight batteries, Ultra-capacitors, Reverse Polarity Damage, Inverter Question

Page 29 — Woodgas Stove, Generators, Connecting a PTO generator to wind turbines, L16 batteries, 20 foot ceilings and energy help, Cheaper low PV panel count grid tie?, Solar powered pump, Good used car, Solar problem - parallel or series, Solar panel on car

Page 30 — Solar Well, Biogas, Earth Sheltered Homes, Used forklift batteries for solar powered home, Solar heater tanks, Energy trailer, Solar power for hot water and dryer, How can I convert truck to solar power?, Turbine choice, Battery company investment

Page 31 — Solar power for existing well pump, Question regarding off-grid insurance, Solar precision questions, Battery bank transport, Energy related puzzlement, Cross check my design, Cast iron/copper pipe conversion, Luminescent solar concentrator, Spark igniter, Engine-driven generator

Page 32 — Converting to solar, 60 watt solar system, Solar Inverter basics, Old mill generators, Existing well convert to solar/wind, Solar refrigerator, Add a secondary generator, Air conditioning for a pickup camper, Generator puzzle, Low E Argon windows

Page 33 — Alternative energy for apartments, Solar pond aeration, Batteries, Personal tidal, Small solar applications, Geothermal Systems, Blue 55 gallon drum, Car/Truck Battery power for existing well pump, DIY solar panels, Comparing PV, wind, and hydro-electric

Page 34 — 12V DC System, Battery or Inverter Problem?, Charging batteries, Combining Renewable Energies, Adding wind power, Gel-Cell Battery Charger, Biodiesel for generator, Batteries, Fesnel lens, Book on solar power

Page 35 — Solar battery room, Inverter outputs, How can I become a CEM?, Generating electricity by burning wood, Battery hookup, Submarine batteries, Heating System/Smokehouse, Solar-powered refrigerators, Or should I say watt, Water pump - AC or DC to supply main pressure to an off-the-grid house

Page 36 — String lights to light dark steps, Condo unit energy solution, WiFi transmitters with solar panels, Inverter to sub-panel, Motion detector & compact fluorescent lamps, Alternative heat, Selling power to utilities, Hydronic woodstove, A solar soccer complex, Mix-n-match PV panels