Follow up to “A flash of the &(#^$ type”

Posted on December 3, 2012


Forgive me if I rehash anything – it’s Christmas time and I’m busy making presents and visiting Church events. Also, I’m brainstorming more than designing, if you could call what I use a brain; I’m not convinced it isn’t just a jumble of random wires. 🙂

Today’s rant is on… Hmmmmm prepping. wait that’s the theme isn’t it? Ok, electricity. I’m not a licensed electrician, not even a journeyman but I know enough to catch myself on fire. (Haven’t done that, came close once though..) It seems we are pretty much blanked if we live in an area that isn’t windy, has a low number of sunny days, no flowing body of water nearby, and in the suburbs. There are some trees nearby and in yards but I know they will disappear quickly. Using fresnel lenses, I can generate a bit of electricity (especially if my source of water if huge) but heavy duty 20 amp and 30 amp generation is pretty improbable. So… what do we do and what do we do with the little power we get?

Certainly some have mentioned ham radios, but if I haven’t added that to my stocks, unless a neighbor has one, we’re out of luck. I do think that we might use still-working small devices to help us when things are in ‘hide’ mode. Silent iPads/tablets/laptops. Maybe L.E.D. lighting? Or storing it for bad times (when it’s cold or dangerous and you can’t go out?) I’ve been reading ‘Beyond Collapse’ by T. Joesph Miller Jr. ( and he has some great ideas but it’s a little heavy on the things to do after the SHTF, not during, or I should say during the height of riots or a pandemic or EMP/CME. He does mention having a power source and recharging your neighbor’s rechargeable devices. It certainly would reduce the neighbor’s likeliness of just stealing the solar setup. (In the beginning.) My Kindle powered up sure would be nice too.

One thing no one has talked about, in more than just passing, is dealing with the possibility of losing/hiding your power source. Miller does go over being careful when running up a wind turbine for power, because it can be seen very easily from elsewhere. And a ‘new’ wind turbine = people. And people = resources. Solar is mentioned, but never do we talk about how my neighbors might decide to take the solar panels off my roof. Sure it’s work, but when it means a little bit of ‘life’ back for family etc., it’s a real temptation. And easy to see up on that roof or in the back yard. It’s an idea stolen from ‘the Colony.’ (Show on tv.) Until then I never considered someone would see the panels on my roof and just take them down. Really! I figured if my neighbor has a solar panel and battery because he already had one before IT, then it’s his. Now food? That I figured people for fight and die over, but an iPad charged up daily? Surely not!

I’ve been wondering if using a passive solar system attached to a hidden generator might not do the trick. Sure, it’s not likely to power a bunch but it is solar and maybe a multi-stage system will get some usable power. Because of the fear of losing what I build, I’ve been trying to think of a way to disguise the pv panels… wrap it in something gross but leave some light able to come in? Make a PV panel ghillie suit? Make a charcoal grill that pipes the light to the panel inside? I’ve considered using mirrors outside the house  (polished metal not glass)  and pointing to some large windows (which are barred) and onto my solar kit there. Without seeing the panels, would anyone realize the use of the mirrors?

I also thought of doing this with some plants in the same room – ‘greenhouse’ in the house. In the summer it’d be so hot I’d close the door and open the windows to allow the heat to escape. Not that it will be ‘secure’ but it will hopefully reduce the interest in my panels or plants. On passive solar: Anyone who might consider grabbing panels could build it with stuff lying around, and most would likely mistake it for just shower water and reduce the temptation to take them (not totally, some people just are lazy thieves.)

Something just occurred to me (yes, OW!) What if we could use present day satellite dishes to concentrate the sunlight to pipes surreptitiously in the ‘prong’ and pass back down to the house. If we could actually get this to work (and not be stolen asap) this might change a horrific life to a semi-horrific life AND reduce the spread of disease: hot water constantly made would mean cleaner people, cleaner water… Plus it could be “hidden in plain sight.” ACK I’m a dummy. It certainly could be a part of a system that distills the water and then stores it in the household water tank. I think I could build an 2 sided system – pressurized hot water side, open cool side.

Really it would be a single system that has a closed portion. The cold water is drawn into the hot side and sealed into the pipes and boiler with valves. Then it’s heated by the sun and allowed to grow in pressure to X (the closed system boiler)  the pressure is then released into a set of turbine blades and the cooled water is flung into the condenser. The water there is distilled for use. Basically you use ‘dirty’ water and wood to get clean water and power. * You can have a system that splits how the water is handled: some of the hot water is run to a house radiator, the rest is sent to the turbine. By adjusting the amount of water sent to separate systems, you control the amount of heat the house gets and the rate of electricity generation. It is a trade off. If you want ‘lots’ of power, you can’t have a high or low temperature. If you want to heat/cool the house, you sacrifice the electricity.

Safe solar. I like that name for passive electrical generation. I like the idea of using present satellite dishes to redirect heat or generate electricity. I like the idea of being able to put my solar panels out and still not lose them. I realize these are small amounts of power, and those outside of the suburbs would laugh at this but if I can find a simple way that is cost effective, I can help my neighbors even more than just moral support. I wonder if we could do a solar ‘wellhouse.’ Capture and redirect the sunlight (not being used in the gardens all over the place) to a small (2 garages?) central windowed building that would feed the power to all the houses that help run it (and use some of their land for the mirrors.) Run basic solar heating and tiny steam generators at the houses and share the main power ‘station’ in the middle.

Random idea: wood burning refrigerator! Well not so random, just a funny picture. Since what a refrigerator does is compress then decompress a fluid or gas, using the heat from any process will work. Use the heat for electricity or heat or cooling. Keep the “power unit” either outside** (or if you have separate rooms in the basement) the basement. Or both?! When it’s cold, run the internal one. When it’s hot, external. Anyways, in this case, I believe heat conduits could take the place of electrical wiring; by ‘piping’ the heat to the device, you can have everything standardized in parts and if/when things get better, switch back to grid electricity. I guess what I’m thinking is that by using heat instead of electricity, in teh end everything is operated by heat and you don’t have to worry about people stealing your power engine as much, “everyone has a fire of some sort…”

yep. It’s fantastical, and with TEOTW materials, possibly not doable. BUT it’s a start, right?

*Maybe let the heavy minerals/crud fall as the water passes to the condenser?

** Shades of irishdutchuncle and using a different stove. Thanks for the input!

Posted in: Electricity, power