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This has been "one of those days" on top of "one of those weeks". No sun all week - peak output from an 8kw array has been on the order of 150w for a few minutes at a time. Small Honda generator 3 qts a day of gas. I shouldn't have this computer on, and will turn it right back off when I'm done posting.

I overslept this morning (nice electric blanket) and didn't get out to start the backup generator till about noon, when my 24v nominal system was down to 23.1v - ugh, that's hard on those batteries, and I was about to have my first actual power failure in over 34 years of off-grid living. I prefer infinite 9's uptime, so time to act.

Well guess what - the Honda died about 10 min after starting it, and here I am, with snow/sleet coming down at about a 4"/hour rate, and no power. Honda has no spark, and it's wet all over, so I bring it in, but can't find the problem immediately (it's really packed tight in that little box). And yes, when my other, less efficient backup generator died, I should have either fixed it (spun output shaft seal) or bought another. One spare is never enough, I know that, but I slacked - all my bad.

Sooo - I finally get a real test of the Volt inverter hack. I have a forklift ferroresonant transformer battery charger I use with the Honda, or whatever. This time, I used the Volt inverter hack I'd installed in the car for just this sort of thing. And, it works! It's been running since about 4:30pm (it's now 6:30 pm), but due to the Volt's unique system, it actually only runs 1:25 (one minute, 25 sec) about every 10 minutes. I'll brave the ice and go see how much gas it's used, since it's about time to turn it off anyway - I have gone into extreme power conservation mode for the night, no blanket, turned off my vacuum system on the fusor, only nightlights and book reading for now.

But the point is, no matter what the gas number turns out to be - it just saved my a$$. And my 100% over 34 years uptime. I am NOT whining.

I am pumping out around 25 amps at now 25.8 volts, from a 1.3 kw inverter/battery charger into the house system, and I won't need to fully charge it to survive the night - tomorrow is another day after all. I could use a more efficient charger, this one draws about 700w to put out about 650, but...life.

The setup is like this - Volt is in mountain mode, on, keys in the cup-holder, in the driveway. 50 ft extension cord to the "energy shed" and battery charger. I will have used some extra gas because the Volt wasn't charged up to the MM threshold when I first started it - that took an extra 10 min or so of running hard. Further, for the first hour, I had the heat on, the defroster etc - the snow load on the hatch was such that it was very hard to lift it to get to my inverter output.

But now it's happily cycling with a pretty low duty cycle - one wonders if in this cold weather it's not as efficient as it could be - with the engine cooling for 10 min between runs, and only running about a minute and a half each 10 min, but hey - when the going gets tough, you have to make some compromises. So my mileage numbers this year won't be so stunning. Oh well.

OK, in two hours running, I've used just 0.5 gal of gas - not great, but not terrible - I could leave it on overnight if I wanted to keep everything in the house running as normal, but I won't - this is an exceptional case, so I'll just get enough charge to survive till tomorrow (with even my modem/router turned off - everything I can find, even the battery charger for my hand tools), when maybe the honda will run again after drying out, or...we have sun predicted. I expect the extra gas was from running the heaters and defrosters for a bit till I realized that even they could not keep up with a snowfall (mixed with ice/sleet, wonderful) that is now bordering on 8" - in just a couple hours. It's going to be rough to lift that hatch again to turn the inverter off so I don't run the 12v down overnight, but I shall live - and well - and the Volt just saved me from a rather nasty emergency.

Even my 4WD truck wouldn't want to be going out tonight to try and find a generator replacement. With 8" or so of sleet/ice/snow the Volt wouldn't even make it to the road, much less anywhere else - forget the air dam, the snow is near the middle of the wheels in height!

Now I'll turn off the world, other than my one reading lamp (10w LED), night-lights (10 more watts of leds), and dorm fridge, and hope we still have power in the morning. I bet this does it. I'll report later, of course.

Looks like being a decent engineer has paid off - again.
 

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What a mess. Glad your Volt was able to help you through it. Stay warm. :)
 

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Great that you had a way to save your 34 year record and keep that electric blanket going! Weather sounds miserable.
 

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DC's first on the planet (* assuming) to have a working V2H Volt solution. Very prudent work. You have the resolve of Nikola Tesla and the ingenuity of The Professor (ie. Gilligan's Island). Combined, you are having a good time with power systems and life.
 

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It's great that you have adapted the Volt for emergency power. I have to admire your self-reliance.
 

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SuperVolt says the day!!!! :)

Check the oil level in the Honda. It has an oil alert that will kill the spark if it gets too low. I'm sure you know that; just a reminder.
 

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DC, just a heads up... You shouldn't need to leave your keys in the car. Once it's started, it will stay running without them.

Also, mountain mode isn't needed to run like this, the engine will cycle the same way with Normal mode, just at a lower SOC point. I guess if you wanted extra reserve if the gasoline ran out though, then mountain mode gives you that.

I love being able to use my Volt inverter kit in a power outage. Does a great job keeping those critical appliances online!
 

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Great story DC. Now if we could just convince GM to sell a stand alone Voltec based whole house generator system.
Yes! Boy that sure would be great, and even at 10kW, would draw less than half of what is drawn from the battery at a constant 60mph or so.
 

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Great story DC. Now if we could just convince GM to sell a stand alone Voltec based whole house generator system.
Sounds like a good Volt retirement plan when a chassis is just worn out. I know they did a project with ABB to recycle the HV battery into a secondary life but why not have a plan to recycle the other major components like the ICE as well. A 300,000 mile Volt resurrects into a whole home genset, and disaster/emergency distributed generation electrical source.
 

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Doug, you are in a better setup than NewYorkers were when Sandy hit them!
Clarkson's setup is also a very nice to have setup, as it gives a backup supply of electric power.

Putting your Volt in Mountain Mode makes the battery being used in a range of SOC that
is putting the less strains on the battery, as it is kept at 40%-50% SOC. It's a very good call!

I wish you some sunny days! ;-)

Francois
B2653
 

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So the weather has finally hit you hard Doug. Hopefully the warm spell west of you will soon visit your panels and you can get your SOC back to 100%, don't forget to top off the Volt! ;) Man I have to look hard at getting a inverter or 2 together.

BTW high here today is going to be 75F and headed to upper 70's this weekend, looks like a Harley ride is in my future.
 

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Well done. I used two cheap 400W inverters for a couple days after Irene, obviously not house tied though. It did not work very well because they had a hard time with the inrush current of even a little dorm fridge (that draws 75W nominally), nevermind a real fridge. Your big inverter approach is much better. Do you have a lot of 24V devices in the house or do you need to invert again for all your house power?

Does ground reference matter between the car inverter and the house transformer? Are they just floating or is the car inverter ultimately referencing house ground?

OK, in two hours running, I've used just 0.5 gal of gas - not great, but not terrible
You mentioned you paid a startup cost to come up to MM threshold so that's some of that 0.5. It will be very interesting to see where that settles out as far as fuel/watt-hr. I'll bet it's at least as good as a cheap generator like my Generac 5500, though probably not as good as your Honda.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I'm BACK! Thanks for all the kind words, everyone! I am still running on the Volt this AM (turned it off overnight) because we got a foot of the stickiest snow we ever get. Yes, I used MM to keep the battery in the Volt at least somewhat charged, and that was probably about .17 of that .5 gal of gas - it was pretty run down after that other escapade where I was trying to get kwh/mile measurements in the cold to compare with warm.

Having the house system already able to handle its own peaks (batteries!) is very handy - it offloads any peaks from whatever source, which just has to drive a small battery charger (well, small in this context, imagine charging a 24 kwh battery with a 600w or so limit, and how long that will take - I'm still scraping bottom at the moment).

The problem is - we have super full sun today, but there's a foot of snow sticking to even my solar panels that are only about 20 degrees off vertical, and since the first layer was sleet, it's darned hard to scrape off even the ones I can reach. Pretty, though.
Lost the lens cap off my camera in one of my falls in the attempt, I guess I'll find it in a few weeks.

I'm going to post more details on my site, and will link to that from here. I'm just catching my breath from attempting to clean off at least one rack of panels - the resulting hot air rising under them *might* clear off the ones above. (crossed fingers).

Glad I have dual heat in my home as well - the propane for one of the heaters ran out last night, we're burnin wood right now. In a couple hours I might go out and try to change that tank - if I can find the other one under the snow. This is wicked for us, though I'd suppose some of the people in real snow country are chuckling right now - had this been expected, it would not have been a big deal even here.

snowpanels.jpg VoltSavior.jpg

More later. As soon as I get some blood sugar up, I'll be out again scraping and finding propane tanks etc. I might even go so far as to put low octane/ethanol laced fuel into the Volt if I can't make that honda generator fly - I've got plenty of that for the generator and tractor stashed (if I can find it under the snow).
 

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So besides a new backup generator, would more solar panels help?
 

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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
Currently(!), no. Even the almost vertical panels are covered with so much ice and snow I'm afraid to put the force level to scrape them off I'd need on them - they do break if pounded on hard enough, as mr energy czar knows (man, that picture of the tree in your array almost physically hurt to see). With the weather we had the previous week, I only got 150w *at most* off an 8kw array - and this computer alone uses 250+, so I'd need a *lot* more for that condition. You can only get so far with "brute force". More useful now that the panels are all snow/ice covered might be a system to push warm air up under them, and I may try that when I catch my breath - what I've done so far this morning has me a little whipped.

And oh yes, I did check the oil in the honda - first thing I did, second thing was drain the float bowl to make sure it wasn't water in there. It's pretty new and doesn't even burn the thin 5w-30 mobil one I've been running in it, yet.

That wasn't it, evidently some dampness got to a bad place in there and was messing up the supposedly hermetically sealed spark coil in the honda - it has spark this AM after sitting indoors near a wood stove all night. So I will lug it back out there if I can get it to start indoors and run for a few seconds (it's a tiny engine, I won't suffocate if I run it indoors just long enough to prove it will run at all).
For now, the Volt lashup is still in use.

I started a thread on this on my own forums, which I will fill in today - there's not much there yet, but at least there I can put all my pix without sweating running this forum out of space - mine has "unlimited storage and bandwidth" an advantage of buying the service and locking in a couple decades of hosting fixed-price at a time my hosting ISP really needed the money (just after the dot com crash).

Once a trader....

Edit - yes, GM, like VIA, should put a "real" inverter in the car, why not, it's the same parts as already there, a couple contactors, and some different programming. An option cheap to make, but they could do the usual high profit margin pricing and many would take it (I would have).

Yes, except for my led night light string, all my house stuff is 120 or 240 AC, and I re-invert from the batteries with Xantrex inverters, currently a total of 5 of them in 3 buildings - all in the 4kw continuous class (up to 70kw peak apiece!), and all but two, sine wave. I find the older sq wave ones actually do better with cap start motors and big inrush modes - FWIW.
 

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You need a solar panel heating/deicing system (probably ironically gas-powered). :)

If you had a smart phone/tablet you wouldn't need to fire up the watt-heavy PC as often.
 

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Well I do live in snow country, and typically 12" isn't anything too bad. It's when its wet and heavy (like it seems to be there) that we have problems. Wet heavy snow brings down trees and power lines and certainly makes a mess.
Don't hurt yourself trying to clean up! We see people of all ages with heart attacks, strokes and back injuries every year up here!
 

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Discussion Starter #20 (Edited)
Right - when expected, this wouldn't have been that big a deal here either - I AM in the mountains of SW VA, after all. But it usually waits another month or so before we get this kinda stuff - wet and heavy.

Oh, and here's why I need the hi watt computer...a tab would die in a heartbeat doing what I do for a living.
Screenshot-74.jpg
Which for a change is doing fine even though I'm sort of distracted just now. This takes about half an i7 with a couple hundred cuda cores to keep up with the 200 kb/second data feed and display all that in real time on two 24" monitors.

OK, got the honda back online. In 6 hours of running, the Volt used .99 gal of gas. So, even with the losses and parasitic loads, the Volt is right up there with the Honda in terms of kwh/gallon. If I fixed a couple of those losses - it would beat it, even though the honda is darn good, running at a low pumping loss load, with an efficient DC generator driving an inverter in the generator itself. A larger (160cc) honda engine driving a 24v generator from a P51 WWII fighter is only a little better - no conversion losses doing that, other than the belt drive and field current, but that makes too much power to really run wide open (more than C/10 for lead acids isn't a good idea). Well, there is a diode drop loss in that one too, else I'd need a latching relay that could handle 200a or so.
 
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