Amateur radio and alternative energy. A great combination.
I became a amateur radio operator in 1991 and will document some of the fun I've had as a "ham" here. You will be able to read about how I enjoy the hobby, and maybe some of this will inspire you to try some of the radios, antennas, and alternative energy sources I am using.
My home is in the Arkansas Ozark mountains. I moved here from Miami in 1979. A wonderful ham site at 2200’ elevation and clear 360 degree horizon. My home is surrounded by 10’s of thousands of acres of hardwood forest. And located about 1 mile from the electric power lines. All electrical power is generated by 1000 watt solar array, and a 300 watt wind power generator. Large storage battery banks are maintained by automatic charge controllers. Electrical loads range from the 12v refrigerator, 12v lighting, and fans, to AC power inverter loads like the satellite TV, VCR, and color TV.
Life without a telephone was fine for awhile. The phone company was asking $3,700. to hook up my house. So in 1984 I installed my homemade radio telephone system. I was only able to afford to bring the phone wires to within a mile from the house. At that location the house was obscured by almost a mile of trees. I got the cheapest cordless phone off the shelf from WalMart, and opened it up. Finding the antenna connection and ground, I attached several feet of RG58 Coax cable. Then made a 12v DC connection, and placed the base station circuit board inside a project box. Instead of the little whip antenna the base station now was fitted with a 2 element quad beam antenna, up on a 10’ pole. The base station was powered by a 12v battery charged by a small solar panel.
Over at the house, the handset was fitted with a length of coax cable, that ran to another quad antenna on the roof. Both beam antennas were aimed at each other, and bingo! Dial tone!!
I'm still amazed that the tiny 100mW FM signal could make it all that way through all those trees.
Years later the telephone company decided to run a line out to my house for free! They told me later that it took 7,200’ of wire to reach me.
I like to brag to my ham radio buddies that I was "QRP" (low power) before I was a ham. When you are running off battery power, you tend to use power efficiently. Nature will provide only so much and batteries are not 100% efficient, so there is little room for wasting energy.
Naturally the house takes advantage of solar energy. Its heated by wood. Its a conventional house with a mass wall 8’ deep into the Earth, that is part of the 1st floor. This is sometimes called the "Earth Wick" technique of natural heating/cooling. It really works.
I started out with 3, 32w panels in 1980. Adding afew more from time to time, from closeouts and sales. They are mounted on slotted aluminum angle stock, and the angle is adjusted in spring and fall. I considered Sun tracking mountings, but due to windy conditions on top of the mountain I never tried that. Large copper cables run the photovoltic power to the house.
Alternative Energy powers everything since 1980
Electricity from the Sun
The wind charger was installed in 1993 at my towers 50' level. Its 330w at full power, but puts out some power at lower wind speeds. Winters when we don't get allot of Solar power, we often get a good battery boost from the long windy nights. Its nice to wake up to bright lights on those dark winter mornings! Its the Air Marine from Southwest Windpower.
Electricity from the wind
Battery banks, 2.5KW DC>AC power inverter, & charge controllers
I started out with recycled telephone central office batteries in 1980. These large lead acid cells can often be had as scrap from your local telephone company. Ask at the Engineers office, if you'd like a cheap back up power system. They change out battery banks at regular intervals, and your timing may be good. Explain that you need them for your ham radio station as back up power. In the early 1990's I upgraded from recycled batteries to new gel cells from GNB. There is one battery bank for the house, with its own solar array, and charge controller. Plus a separate battery bank, array, and controller for the 12v refrigerator. The fridge is the biggest electrical load, and gets its own stand alone system.
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