The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

an untrained electrician on logbooks and safety

I've spent a day in an epic adventure to install a Xantrex C-35 charge controller in the old solar powered house that I am trying to fix up. It seemed it should be easy, there are only 4 wires to connect to it. Hah! After hours working by kerosine lantern light last night, and more hours this morning, it's hooked up and working well, though not in its final configuration.

charge controller temporarily badly installed

I have left the details of that adventure to my own blog, but thought I'd guest post here some more general thoughts of a mostly untrained electrician working on concrete floors way up in the holler, miles from any help.

I'm only mostly untrained because I did study electronics in high school. Sort of. Much of it didn't stick, and I mostly get by with what I intuited about electricity playing with batteries, wires, and motors as a kid.

What did stick, and what I kept thinking as I worked near potentially fairly high voltage from a PV array today, is the safety mantra of my teacher: "Use only one hand!" I also wore gloves, and insulated shoes. I've had one 120v AC shock through my body at 13, and one DC electric fence grab shock around 8, and either was more than enough.

Of course I also threw breakers when I could, but I needed live wires whose voltage I could check during some of the process of untangling the house's existing wiring. That included figuring out what the unlabeled wires went to, and what labels were wrong.

As I pulled open wiring boxes, disconnected breakers, and generally simplified the existing rats nest until I could understand where to hook the charge controller up to it, I found it very helpful to keep detailed notes and drawings of how the system was when I found it, and what I observed and changed.

I've also started a solar logbook to record data from the charge controller, since it's not an expensive model capable of recording data for download to a computer.

battery bank layout

With the charge controller hooked up, I've enjoyed a sunny day with plenty of power to use, and a good start at topping up the battery bank.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Good tip! I'll have to keep that in mind if I start working with high voltage, since I'm a lot more untrained than you are. :-)
Comment by anna Tue Sep 21 16:34:05 2010

Instead of what would Jesus say, I offer: what would WILLIAM say??

Insulated shoes?? happy Equinox--momy

Comment by adrianne Wed Sep 22 06:58:39 2010
If you want to check wires without getting shocked then hit all the breakers, and use a resistance meter and a piece of wire to close the circuit.
Comment by Roland_Smith Wed Sep 22 13:46:29 2010

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