Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Float Cabin Living: How do you get power? Alternative Power Solutions

Winters are problematic for generating electricity with solar power.

Winter sunrise at Hole in the Wall.

After two cloudy days, we can’t use our electrical system without draining our storage batteries below the critical 12.0 volts. We then have to rely on alternative power solutions.

Wind Power

We install a wind generator at the cabin.
John and his dad Ed said it was a waste of money. The best place to get out of the wind is Hole in the Wall, but we've been here for winter storms with lots of it. One day we were walking through Canadian Tire with John and there was a sleek Air X model on display. John was sold.

The AirX mounted on a John built mast.
First we had to decide where to place the unit. The cliff would catch the most wind, but the distance from the float for wiring was too extensive.

The outer corner of the upper deck was selected as the most advantageous position. It would catch the wind from the east (storms) through the west (clearing). North winds would be blocked by the sheer cliff in that direction.

The AirX with a custom pole mount.
The wind generator did not come with a mast. John created one from a hand-milled 4X4 twelve feet high topped by a galvanized pipe going up an additional eight feet.

All of the components, including the heavy electrical cable, were salvaged from John’s shed or the local recycling yard. That’s the great thing about John, he can make something out of nothing in true British Columbian style.

The wind generator is connected into our cabin electrical system. We can charge our storage batteries using both solar and wind power.

Now, when it's dark or cloudy, we hope for wind. It takes speeds of 10 mph (16 kph) for our turbine to generate enough power to start charging. But now you’ll hear us cry, “We’re making electricity” on a cold stormy night rather than our old song, “I wish the wind would stop!” At least until it reaches 45 mph (72 kph). That is the speed when the blades stall to protect the unit from internal damage, and we hold on tight and hope our cables to shore don’t break.

Gas Generators

When all else fails in winter, we resort to a gas generator to keep our battery banks charged.

We have an additional large capacity generator that is only used for running large tools such as our electric log splitter in the woodshed. It's so rarely used that the tank never seems to run dry.

Alternative Power Solutions

Here's some additional reading about our alternative power solutions.

What Happens During Storms
Weathering the Wind
Winter Power Solutions
Winter Power Backup
AirX Wind Generator
DC Lights
Gas Generators for Alternative Power 
Mastercraft Gas-Powered Generator
Thermoelectric Power

You’ve heard a lot about our alternative power generation. Do you have a system that you want to tell us about? We are always looking for new options.

Want to know more about float cabin living? Wayne's written a book: Off the Grid: British Columbia Stories. It includes stories about how we do off-the-grid living on Powell Lake in Coastal BC. It's available in print and e-book formats at and other online booksellers. -- Margy


We welcome your comments and questions. - Wayne and Margy