"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Wednesday 16 February 2011

Monitoring - for peace of mind

We took a short break and travelled up to the farm for a three day weekend.

When RMan and CGuy were there two weekends ago, they connected the batteries to the solar panel and installed the alarm.  However, they noticed that the battery, over a period of 8 hours, was "boiling".  Concerned, they disconnected the battery from the solar panels, just leaving the alarm connected to the battery - they figured that the power would last 3 - 4 days at least.

It was still working two weeks later.  And still indicated 12 volts of power!

The conclusion is that the three panels were producing far too much power, and the regulator wasn't functioning correctly.  The regulator should've controlled the amount of power sent to the battery - to prevent exactly this type of situation from happening.

We have decided that we are going to purchase a new regulator, and a 1kW inverter.  This, together with a couple of deep cycle batteries, the three 75 watt solar panels, should be sufficient to provide power for a couple of CFL lights, the car radio and a chest freezer.  We aren't going to purchase a solar powered, gas nor a 12 volt freezer.

Gas - we'd consume roughly 800gm / day X 30 days ZAR325.00 (US$44.00) / month and we would need to knock through the wall to install a vent of some sort for the fumes.

A 12 volt freezer - they costa plenty.  We got a quote on a 225lt Sundanzer box freezer of ZAR8500.00 (roughly US$1133.00) excluding 14% V.A.T. and transport. 

Solar powered freezers - we would have enough power from the three solar panels, but the unit only costs ZAR11 500.00 (US$1530.00)

But, using a 1Kw inverter, a standard 230lt Defy box freezer running on 220volt AC requires 123 watts of power when the motor is running and will only cost us ZAR2200.00 (US$293.00) to purchase.  If we still stick with the original idea of freezing large bottles of water and using them to chill a stand alone cooler box - then our perishable food storage problems are sorted.  We would also leave the freezer on, even when we're not there - on it's lowest setting it should consume negliable power (which would constantly be generated by the 3 solar panels) as well as be "ready" from the moment we arrive.  That should enable RMan's beers to be chilled to perfection.

And talking about chilled drinks - we could've used some on Monday.  The temperature rose to 44oC (111.2oF) outside.  In the house it was an air-conned 30oC LOL

I felt so sorry for the poor driver of the digger / loader we hired for the day.  Working in those conditions must've ben unbearable - and he had to sit above the heat of the digger / loaders' engine too!  But to cap it all off, we had no water - we discovered just prior to our departure that a stone had jammed the ball valve which controlled the filling of the water tanks.

But the driver did a sterling job.  We used all our building rubble to fill the verandah base, as well as some clay from our dam - the dam needs to be deeper anyway, as whatever water is collecting there is being evapourated by the heat / wind.

A digger / loader certainly makes light work of the hardest ground, and with the holes that it is able to dig, it will certainly give whatever we plant a fighting chance.  No point at all in planting something whose roots will become "pot bound" because the ground is too hard.

He also dug 5 holes for trees, ran a shallow channel for irrigation pipe, and loosened the soil where we are planting lemon trees - so next time we can continue planting.  My lemon trees are coming long very nicely - reckon the Weedguard works a treat.  All water given to the trees is solely for the trees - the weeds and grass below the Weedguard is dead :-)

Isn't it funny how synchronicity enters one's life?  We were meant to be there this weekend.  I'm convinced of that.

Another neighbour of ours, Franz, popped passed.  He hasn't been at his place for about a year - apparently his father-in-law, who lived up-country, passed away last year and Franz had to stay up-country to sort out his affairs.  But, he told us, as he was going to be away a while, he sourced a firm that would monitor his alarm, via radio transmitter.  He's now back permanently, so that'll be an extra pair of eyes too :-)

Bingo - the light bulb went off!  Now that we have an alarm, we can also have a monitoring service!  That will ease a lot of mental pressure regarding the safety of our house and it's contents.  We were not even aware that we could get a security firm to monitor our area.  We had assumed that it was too remote.

As we were leaving (at 8.00pm on Monday evening) we were repaid for the discomfort of the day by these amazing sunset views - the lightning was flickering in the background - high in the mountains.  Do so hope that some of the rain made it's way to our area...


  1. Sounds like you had an interesting and busy long weekend. Love the pics of the house and the digger/loader certainly made an impression on the hard ground. Hoping the gorgeous sunset was followed by lots of rain to soak into your newly excavated earth :).

  2. I looked into those solar refrigerators and freezers and have found independent reviews that state the refrigerator is truer to the specs they give you on amount of energy used but when you add a freezer that the companies data is incorrect. And on top the huge initial price they concluded a normal energy star freezer and a good inverter are more cost efficient and uses the same or even less energy. You lose some energy converting the DC to AC but not enough to justify the cost of the new solar freezer. We decided it would be better to buy another panel or two rather than get the new freezer.

  3. Your lemon trees are looking good...they must not mind 111°...wow. Do you have any issues with deer or other animals eating on your fruit trees and other plants?

    It was really nice to see some more pictures of your place and I'm glad to hear that there has not been any more issues with vandalism and burglary. That sunset is amazing.:)

  4. Robyn - hope we had rain too - the thunderstorm certainly explains the heat!

    Jane - exactly - and an extra battery or two too :-)

    Mr H - I'm also surprised the lemon trees are OK - guess the weedguard really does help prevent evapouration - and it's black too - go figure??!

  5. Dani, glad you'll were able to get so much done. Sounds great.

    My neighbor runs both a small chest freezer and medium sized icebox on his 800 watts of solar, but he has a timer on the icebox and it only runs while the sun is up. At night it shuts down, but seems to hold the cool enough to keep most food ok. Cold drinks are usually just cool and not cold though. He does keep the freezer going all the time and keeps gallon jugs of water in it (frozen) for help I think in the Icebox and maybe to cut down on the load of the freezer. However, he does need to run a generator at times when its cloudy or for a few hours in the winter months when the sun is further away and the day light hours are shorter.

  6. David - that's exactly what we plan - run the freezer during the daylight (charging) hours and shut it down at night, when no one is likely to open it and thereby cause any cold air to escape. We've also got a generator to help it along - when necessary.

  7. Dani, your posts are always so interesting! The photos are gorgeous...I remember hot days like those (and hotter) while I lived in Arizona 15 yrs. Thanks for sharing info about your fridge, freezer and solar. We all learn from other people's experiences and it's wonderful folks like you and ttfnguy post these things. A nice tall glass of ice cold lemonade sounds good :P

  8. Ezrablu - that was pretty hot. And yes - ice cold lemonade would've been wonderful.


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