Alternative energy is great for homesteaders, modern pioneers or anybody who wants to save on their electric bill every month. What follows are some of the ways you can use alternate energy to power your home. There are others also, such as gravity generators, magnetic force generators and more.

Solar Power Generator

1. Buy yourself a small solar panel. For about $100 you should be able to get one rated at 12 volts or better (look for 16 volts) at an RV or marine supplies store. You can also look online at specialty stores.

2. Buy yourself a battery. Rechargeable batteries are recommended. Get any size deep cycle 12 volt lead/acid or gel battery. You need the deep cycle battery for continuous use. The kind in your car is a cranking battery–just for starting an engine. Look for bargains. The more amps, the more expensive. Figure out how many amps you need. Twenty amps is a good estimate of what a one-room home with a family of five would need. The cheapest ones should cost about $50-60. Schools and health care facilities would need amps in the hundreds.

3. Get a battery box to put it in for $10. (This is good for covering up the exposed terminals in case there are children around. If you going to install the system in a pump shed, cabin, or boat, skip this.)

4. Buy a 12 volt DC meter This will help you monitor the charge in your battery. Discharging it below 50% can damage it. Overcharging it can damage it. Keeping it at about 80%-90% charge will keep your battery good for a long time.

5. Buy a DC input. The triple inlet model which you can find at a car parts store in the cigarette lighter parts section for about $10 is great. This is enough to power DC appliances, and there are many commercially available, like fans, one-pint water boilers, lights, hair dryers, baby bottle warmers, and vacuum cleaners. Many cassette players, answering machines, and other electrical appliances are DC already and with the right cable will run straight off the box.

6. If you want to run AC appliances, you will have to invest in an inverter. This will convert the stored DC power in the battery into AC power for most of your household appliances. The writer of these instructions bought a 115 volt 140 watt inverter for $50 fifteen years ago–it still works. The prices have actually dropped on inverters. Count up the number of watts you’ll be using (e.g., a small color television =60 watts) with a VCR(=22 watts), you’ll need 82 watts. Cheap inverters of many sizes can be had online.

6. Use a drill to attach the meter and DC input to the top of the box.

7. Use insulated wire to attach the meter to the wingnut terminals on the battery. Connect the negative (-) pole first. Only handle one wire at a time. Connect the DC inlet to the battery in the same way. Connect the solar panel to the battery in the same way.

8. Close the lid (use a bungee cord to keep it tight). Put the solar panel in the sun. It takes 5-8 hours to charge a dead battery; 1-3 hours to top off a weak one. It will run radios, fans, and small wattage lights all night, or give you about 5 hours of continuous use at 115 volt AC, or about an hour boiling water. This system may be added on to with larger panels, inverters, and batteries.

Options: A pop-up circuit breaker may be added between the positive terminal and the volt meter. Some of you will want an ampmeter as well. The panels recommended have built-in bypass diodes, but charge controllers are recommended for people who have panels without diodes. Another option is a voltage regulator, which is not necessary for a system this small, but a larger system would require one.

For this information including illustrations, visit http://www.rain.org/~philfear/how2solar.html .

Sun Oven

Most sun ovens operate by reflecting several beams of light onto a single spot. It is basically a box lined with foil with a glass top (some people use Fresnel lenses which magnify the sun’s power and work very well) that you leave in the sun to cook your food. If done right they work very well.

Here are some great videos showing you how to make your own and use them, from simpler to more complex items. Solar ovens can also be purchased. Fresnel sun ovens have been found to reach almost 500 degrees.

Here is an “open design” Fresnel oven: http://www.rain.org/~philfear/Fresnel.html

Here also is a design from a Physics professor at Brigham Young University: http://www.solarcooking.org/plans/funnel.htm

Wind Turbines

Wind turbines are capable of generating a lot of electricity using the power of the wind. Unlike sun ovens and solar power generators though, they require you to really know what you are doing to make one. Here are some good tutorials:

1000 Watt Turbine: http://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-1000-watt-wind-turbine/#step1

Very step-by-step instructions here: http://www.mdpub.com/Wind_Turbine/

Video tutorial including parts used:

Hydro Powered Generators

Hydro powered generators function the same as a wind turbine but they use water to generate electricity. Again, you must be pretty mechanically-inclined to make a good one.

Here is a very good plan for a smaller one: https://www.engineeringforchange.org/static/content/Energy/S00070/5%20Gallon%20Bucket%20Build%20Manual.pdf

Mother Earth News also published a very concise how-to regarding making your own: http://www.motherearthnews.com/renewable-energy/hydro-electric-power-zmaz72jfzfre.aspx#axzz2atRr9lLI

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