Ham Radio's Role in California Outages?

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by W2JKT, Oct 9, 2019.

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  1. KX4Z

    KX4Z Ham Member QRZ Page

    aha, now I understand. He is just up a creek without a paddle when the power company goes away. Most (not all) of those systems will NOT produce any usuable AC power if they lose the utility they are synrhonizing with. I guess people do that just to save $$$ but it makes no real sense to me.

    Our neighborhood is fed by a single solitary line that runs in a forest of trees on one side...and it will go down BEFORE the hurricane gets here.

    After we spent 10 days without any power many years back (previous hurricane) except a poor little genny --- loaned out every generator except that, and it almost croaked.....we decided to come up with something BETTER before the next one, and step by step, item by item, we did.

    By the way --- with a full moon my system DOES make a modest bit of electricity. I can't remember what, but it was enough to run a small ham transmitter. Even on cloudy rainy days, I often make 10-15kWHr. It is amazing. I could hardly believe it the first year. power just surging out of the thing and flowing down the lines to my neighbors in the heat of the day.....
    N1OOQ likes this.
  2. KP4SX

    KP4SX Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    One of the first steps in planning a system is to to a detailled inventory of your usage and figure out where you cut some. That may involve replacing an old inefficient appliance, going to all LED bulbs, etc.
    At the end of that when you look at the numbers does it make sense to run the HVAC (or whatever) on solar? The answer is different for everyone. Some people have an additional wood stove for heat, for example. Maybe buying a wood stove backup would save the expense of some panels and batteries!
    My determination was based on using solar as an emergency power source. I can go quite well without a toaster oven, electric water heater during am emergency. The fridge and freezer will easily keep overnight until the sun comes back up.
    I had to do some splitting up of circuits, etc to get my house the way I wanted and the most efficient while meeting my goals.
    So a mirror-image type of drop-in might not make sense for many people. You're allowed to mix and match things to see what works best for you. I like having a $40 power bill instead of $100+ and the security that I will be able to have power next time something like Maria happens. That works for me and wasn't terribly costly.
    KA4DPO, KJ4VTH and KX4Z like this.
  3. N0TZU

    N0TZU Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Well the numbers I can find online for flooded lead acid batteries, the type I believe you use based on your comments, show a “design life” of 20 years. That’s an ideal number, at a constant 77F, in standby service, kept charged but not discharged.

    Actual life degrades very rapidly at higher temperatures, and with use. From what I see online, 10 years seems to me a more realistic life expectancy for a standby battery with occasional use (you said they are 5 years old with 60 cycles) and higher temperatures (central FL, right?). Also, solar system vendor websites I’ve looked at say 5 to 10, maybe 15 years.
  4. KX4Z

    KX4Z Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thank you for doing the research. The manufacturer had no data to give me when I called them. So they gave me there best suggestions, and we follow them. There are of course stories of backup batteries being used for decades in telephone company sites. The "life" of a battery is generally when it reaches 80% of capacity, and I have been unable to find any data on how rapidly they decline futher. It is probably a surface chemistry kind of thing. Way beyond my ability to grasp.

    Oddly, these batteries don't reach best performance until after several cycles --- they are quite odd. So who knows? It won't matter to me either way -- as long as they keep the place going during a hurricane or other civil or natural disaster, we will be far ahead of where we would be otherwise.....even if they have degraded to only 50% capacity. So....check back with me when I'm maybe 75? Then we might have some more data.

    Beyond that is probably just speculation. For all I know, you are perfectly correct; and for all I know, the opposite. Not much I can say when the manufacturer has no data....... Few people other than telephone companies do with their batteries what I do.
  5. KX4Z

    KX4Z Ham Member QRZ Page

    To more properly asnwer --- yes, he is completely grid dependent AT ALL TIMES. I guess he was trying to be helpful. Another neighbor on our street has put in a system in the last year, and I haven't inquired as to whether they have batteries.

    For what it is worth. If you get a 2kw pure sine wave Xantrex inverter, and have solid battery connections to a LOTTA BATTERIES....we are talking huge wire here.....then you are very likely to be able to start a refrigerator. I havestarted some refigerators with a 2kw modified sine wave inverter...and I also had an older refrigerator compressor DIE with that treatment.

    My solar system feeds me 90VDC at like 50 AMps -- twice, two circuits, two charge controlles. Battery system runs at 48-52 volts. Whenever it hits 52 volts, it starts selling to the grid. It stays there almost all day long if there is any sun. The inverters are AMAZING. I have two 4kw inverters, master/slave to make 240VAC and it easily starts all compressors within its load range. Cannot start my big 3.5 or bigger AC older units --- but would be able to start a newer one that is inverter powered. Runs my smaller 1 ton (or 1.5 ton??) inverter ac on one structure with no problems at all.

    What I did do, was change out the heating elements in the water heater and rewired the heatpump strip heat --- both were 5 kw or so strip heat and I'm not willing to put THAT much power into one application so I think I cut both down to about 1.25 kw and although it takes longer to reheat the water, etc....we should be FINE.

    Since all my WIRING is already done.....unless the insulation degrades (and some of it is underground and unlikely to degrade) then if a component blows, I just pull the compnent and replace. I keep one spare inverter and one spare charge controller on hand. We did have some infant mortality with this system, but nothing significant in quite a while. I leanred the output transformers were getting quite hot, so I chanded the ventilation and added a simple walmart oscillator fan on a timer. Problem solved. Nothing lasts forever.
    N1OOQ, KX4O and KP4SX like this.
  6. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I've never seen a refrigerator/freezer that draws 730W (really should be VA, not W, since this is anything but a resistive load!) that could fit in a home. That's an enormous amount of power.

    My two fridges here draw about 100W each (measured with a Kil-A-Watt instrument) except for a few seconds when the compressor first kicks on, it spikes to ~400VA but only for a few seconds, then comes back down to 100VA again. A well-insulated fridge as most of them are, with good door gasketing and stuff doesn't run the compressor much. Ours seem to kick on maybe a dozen times a day, for a short while, and shut back off. The "average" consumption over a one-day cycle is on the order of 120VA.

    Our "Power Wall" isn't installed yet, it's on order and scheduled for install in a few weeks. But three neighbors have these and my experimenter neighbor, who is an engineer who works for JPL, already tried just shutting off the mains to see how long it would last without grid power. In his home, which is about the same as ours, it lasted 8 days, running refrigerators, lights, light appliances like TV sets and stereos, computers and regular stuff, including running a dishwasher twice but without the "heater element drying" and using a microwave oven a couple times a day for a few minutes...not running central A/C. We all have NG hot water heaters, so no impact there. We mostly have NG clothes dryers, so no impact there, either.

    8 days is a long time. The Power Wall specs indicate you can discharge them to "nothing" without damage, but of course below about 80% SOC the inverters probably hiccup so that spec doesn't mean a lot.

    More details: https://www.tesla.com/powerwall

    With the local utility company "incentives" for solar power here, the "payback" for covering a south-facing sunny roof with panels is about 3-5 years for 2019; but this is based on a few things that make it favorable. One is, the Fed tax writeoff (deduction) for solar electrical systems, which is still good this year but I think stops next year, so now is the time. (That can save 20-25% of the total cost, as a tax deduction.) Another is our utility company provides financing for anyone installing a system, at $0 down and zero-interest payments until it's paid off, which is typically 3-5 years. $20K over 5 years is $333/mo at no interest. During the hot summer months when the A/C runs all day, our electric utility costs $250/mo, so the payments are only $83/mo more than the pre-solar utility cost. And with the solar connected, the cost per month typically drops to very close to zero. During the cooler WX months when we don't use A/C, extra power pumped into the grid is credited at $.18/kWh, and those doing this usually operate during those months at literally zero billings, and building up credits towards the next peak season that can be used against whatever excess power is consumed.

    It really does work. I've done this before, almost 20 years ago when nothing was as efficient and before the incentives; today, it's a far better deal for those of us in sunny areas.

    The "deal" varies by location -- a lot.
    N1OOQ and KX4Z like this.
  7. KP4SX

    KP4SX Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I note that the Powerwall 2 runs about 5-6 grand for a 13.5 kwh unit. My lead-acid bank is 'rated' at 5.640 kwh and cost about $800.
    I don't believe your story about your neighbor's system lasting for 8 days, not for a New York minute. Those numbers don't even come close to adding up. Sounds like you might not be representing the details accurately (IOW, BS).
  8. N0TZU

    N0TZU Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Wow, 18 cents per kWh credit? What do you pay per kWh for the grid power?
  9. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    About $0.20, but it's a variable rate that starts lower and gets progressively higher with the more you use.
  10. KF5LJW

    KF5LJW Ham Member QRZ Page

    Well I am on of those telephone engineers and the public does not use the same type or quality of a battery and has no use for the. The main reason telephone companies can make their FLA batteries last so long is the fact they never use them, keep them at optimum temps, and perform regular routine maintenance. They are Emergency Stand-By Float Plants. Only used when and if the generators should fail. If they were to cycle the Station Batteries, they would only have maybe 100 cycles in them. Batteries have two life cycles. One is Cycle Life, and One is Calendar life. Whichever comes first. Calendar life is pretty easy to figure out, just about the time the warranty runs out. You can buy batteries with 1 year warranty, or you can buy one with 5, 7, 10, and even 20 year warranties. You get what you pay for.

    You are correct end of battery life is 80% of rated capacity and 100 years of data to back it up. Once a battery, any battery known today hits 80% capacity, total failure is soon. It make take 5 years for the battery to hit 80% capacity, but once it does will fail shortly. But even making it to 80% capacity takes tender loving care because 95% of all battery failures are from user neglect.
    KX4O and N0TZU like this.

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