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Old 09-09-2008, 06:05 PM   #29
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The Po of our Airstream lived in it full time for 12 years in northern Missouri. He used 2 propane heaters and probably another half dozen electric heaters just to make it through the winters. He also taped tarps around the outside as a skirt and stacked bails of straw over the tarp to keep out the winter cold. I would think a Missouri winter would be bad but a Vermont winter would have to be terrible. Take every precaution, lives are at stake. Best of luck.


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Old 09-20-2008, 05:16 PM   #30
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Wow, my girlfriend and I are also preparing to live in our Airstream year round. It's nice to know were not alone. We'll be living on the Gaspe Coast in Quebec so it will be an experience. Winters are hard here and it will be an adventure for sure.What we save on rent will go into our trailer.Good luck and keep us posted during the winter.
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Old 10-17-2008, 10:25 AM   #31
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solar system up and running

Hi everybody! thanks for your great feedback. it's been a beautiful fall, and we've been hard at work. I'll send some pictures soon.

We now have a cute 8x8 shed attached to the airstream, a huge 250 lb. propane tank out back, a wood crib full of free scrap firewood cut to the size of our future stove's 9" firebox, and we now finally have electricity courtesy of a 240 W solar array and a 660 Amphour 12V battery bank.

The shed is totally sweet, built all from scrap materials plus $5 for hinges. It will act as a mud-room/vestibule/storage/electricity control room. I found the floor pre-made, as well as a nice door with a window. Roofing metal, sawmill slabs, electrical wire, and tools were contributed by generous community members.

The one thing we're missing at this point is the woodstove. We were told in July that it would be here "before it gets cold" but the stovemaker STILL doesn't have the cast iron he needs to make our stove... it's been a huge headache. The people making our stainless steel heat shield have also been pretty incompetent and we have to go into town this afternoon to slap them around. We've had quite a few frosts at this point, but so far we've been cozy under the covers, just a little chilly in the morning before we leave for school. And now that we have the solar, we can run the propane furnace if we really want to.

It took me three months to get everything I needed to install the solar, and eight hours to actually do the wiring. talk about satisfaction!
The batteries are buried a foot deep in two rubbermaid containers under the trailer's fold-up stairs, in order to insulate them from extreme cold.
The two 12 V solar panels are wired in series to make them operate at 24 V because they are located about 90 feet from the trailer, in a spot with all-day sun exposure. I have 6 gauge copper wire going from the array to the charge controller in the shed, so there should be a maximum wire loss of about 2.5%.
I have an Outback MX60 charge controller that converts the array's 24V output into 12V to charge the batteries. I also have an IOTA charger that allows me to charge the batteries with an 1800 watt generator.
We're planning on using up to 500 Watt*hours per day, which means we have 5-8 days of reserve electricity (depending on battery temp.) until the batteries are 50% discharged. And we can be conscious and use less when we think we might not have sun for a while. In the doldrums of winter here it averages about 2 hours of cloudless sunlight per day, but even then we should get close to 500W*h per day. I'm optimistic about hardly ever needing to use the generator. Unless of course our woodstove never comes and we have to use the propane furnace as our main heat source for a while.
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Old 10-17-2008, 01:11 PM   #32
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~ Pictures would be great ~
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Old 10-17-2008, 02:07 PM   #33
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You guys are going to have an exciting winter and I'm really looking forward to your updates throughout the season. Keep us informed on the good and the bad when you have time away from your studies. Hope that wood burner comes soon.

Steve
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Old 10-17-2008, 02:50 PM   #34
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I have friends living off the grid in VT also in a beautiful modest 2 story 2 room home. They have done it for about 6 years now. The hardest thing they have encountered was a two week period were they were snowed in. They keep food stashed for a month supply.

Your going to need that wood stove just in case nobody can get to you to fill that propane tank in the dead of winter if it should go empty on you. That would be my priority #1. Lack of sunlight is another very important thing to think about. They have monitors and alarms that let them know when the are using to much juice in their everyday living.

I think it's great you guys are going for it. It's an awsome thing to be free of the everyday things we so much depend on living in this material world. Good luck!
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Old 10-17-2008, 05:44 PM   #35
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Winter in Vermont gives COLD a whole new definition I am familiar with because it was my old stomping ground. Most of these flatlanders here have never had the experience of your nose hair instantly freezing all crinkly as soon as you step out the door, or 3" snotsicles on yur mustachio.

That being said many adventurous souls who have wintered over in an AS had the primary complaint of excessive condensation on the inside skin. When I was really, really crazy I would go "winter camping" in tents. We used cloth "frostliners" suspended fon the inside of the tent from the tent fabric. It helps considerably. I have not heard of anyone rigging one up in an AS, but it might be worth a try.
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Old 10-20-2008, 10:26 AM   #36
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hi there,
here are some pictures of our solar panels which we just got mounted on an adjustable stand to keep them out of the snow. And also a picture of the shed that is almost complete, and the charge controller showing 87 watts of charge right after the frost started to melt off the panels this morning.

don't judge us too heavily based on the stereotypical condition of our front yard... we're still in the construction process and all that junk will soon be cleaned up.

chester
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Old 10-20-2008, 02:22 PM   #37
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Please tell us how you had previously dug two six-inch wide fence post holes three or four feet deep into the ground, added a bag or two of concrete in bottom of holes that hardened around some steel cable, stamped fence post, rebar or angle iron thus making two "deadman" anchors to which you've cleverly bolted the wood frame to, keeping the solar array from sailing (tumbling) across the meadow? If you need to keep it semi-mobile a couple of good sized tree trunks dragged in and laid across/through it will do nearly the same thing,

I've seen a few heart-breaker episodes of wooden rack flutter that found internal weak points and ruined panels without leaving a mark, Also be wary of wood warp that stresses and wracks the glass so normal sun heating expansion pops it;- I'd also invest heavily in three or four inch deck screws at every joint so if it loosens up over the winter there will be no/low freedom of movement AND hang the actual PV panels on steel so when spring thaw happens one of those boards deciding to curl will have that to fight against steel, not the aluminum panel frame...

All in all looks like a good start (until her parents sees it? )
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Old 10-20-2008, 03:12 PM   #38
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ooh, can't say I did the whole deadman anchor thing.

but we were planning on sand-bagging (or tree-trunking is good too, probably easier) to weigh the frame down. it's used as a hay field in the summer so it does have to be semi-mobile. I have a hard time believing that sailing away across the field would be a big concern with such a small array, though. that frame has gotta be 300 pounds by itself.

your concern about warping, though, kinda freaks me out. that would be too sad. I'll think about putting up a steel strip between the wood and the panels.

all our folks are super pumped about the fact that we finally have electricity... and they've all witnessed our trashy yard and peed in our bucket before, so we can really only get better from here.
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Old 10-20-2008, 04:23 PM   #39
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Hopeful here as to not cramp this wonderful web log post with minutia - but I worry about turbulence, the odd gust that blasts down and about which we rarely see except for the damage it leaves behind...

My 123 watt panels are 26x59", so times-two plus the frame surface are is about 28 square feet of 'sail'. From Rohn antenna tower catalog; they state the pressure of 100 mph wind is about 40 pounds per square foot (0.004 lb/ft2/mph2) so that lone gust sweeping through (at just the right angle of course) yields an instant 1120 pounds of lateral force... then figure in the nice leverage the panel rack height advantageously provides and you've got the potion of motion effect happening on your beloved inanimate object!

Wind Load Charts - National Wind Protection - Alutech <--- winds chart (duh)

And yes, I know trailers would be flying like from the Wizard of OZ in sustained winds of those speeds, just talking about the brief 1 to 3 second pulse of turbulence that the great mass of the trailer readily shrugs off...
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Old 10-20-2008, 05:43 PM   #40
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cmell, this is very cool thing you guys are doing. It sounds like you have put some thought into it and are well planned. I'm really looking forward to your posts this winter.

I have never camped in a trailer during winter, but I have backpacked in very cold weather. If you can get your hands on a couple -20F down sleeping bags, you would be able to stay warn even if you have technical snafus with your heating equipment.

Just a thought. Enjoy, and please keep us posted.
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Old 11-12-2008, 10:42 PM   #41
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Hi cmell, I'm wondering how many times a night you'll have to get up and feed the heater. A firebox that small can't hold fire for too long. Then during the day when it goes out you'll have frozen cans of veggies maybe. If it were me, I'd be putting in a bigger heater. I heated with wood and no backup for many years and believe me, it's easier to cool a bigger heater down than it is to heat a tiny one up :-) Our friends have lived in a stationary Airstream for 25 years here in N. Ga. Yup, we're down south but the elevation is 2000'. They have a small wood heater (bigger than yours) and a small wood cookstove too. They keep water all winter but have moved the water lines inside the living space to keep them from freezing. My wife and I will be living in our '76 31' AS pretty soon here. We'll be using a smallish propane heater and fire up the AS furnace only if the water lines get threatened. We'll have electricity too.

You're going to have a great time doing this. Even the hard parts will be good. We lived in an 18' X 24' log cabin I built with no electric, kerosene for light, wood to heat and cook and a privy. We did have running cold water because the spring was uphill of the cabin. We weren't high tech at all. We just lived like everyone once did. My oldest daughter was 12 the year we got an inside toilet. It'll make you two closer! But do think about the small size and short fire duration of that little heater. And don't pay too much attention to what the mfg says about burn time. If it ain't burning good it ain't keeping you warm.
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Old 11-16-2008, 04:35 PM   #42
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howdy folks,

things are going pretty well here. We've had a few cold and snowy spells so far, but it keeps on warming back up. no woodstove yet... but it's promised to arrive before we get back from our 6-week christmas break. the chimney is all installed, ready and waiting. the stainless steel heat shield is lying in the shed in its various parts... getting that screwed into place is the next project.

we got our first propane bill last week - $22 for 7.2 gallons since August. so that gives us a little confidence. the solar electricity has been working amazingly, so far we haven't dipped below 89% even with 4 consecutive days of mostly cloudy weather.

this has been a really rainy and humid week. the other day we got back to the trailer at night and there were condensation drips all over the vinyl and metal around the vents. we sopped it up with a towel and grimaced... our first serious encounter with the misty mistress we may end up knowing too well...

we had a hookah party yesterday with 12 people... it was pushing the limits on airstream entertaining, but it was fun to have a bunch of people appreciate our little home.

okay, have a nice week everybody, thank for caring!
chester
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