Tuesday, July 20, 2010

One Small Step.....

One of the things that people moving down to Mexico do not know sometimes is that you can blow your living expenses way out of line by using too much electricity. The National electric company call CFE for La ComisiĆ³n Federal de Electricidad, is the only supplier of electricity.
Well that is not true.
There is the Le Commision De Electricidado De Tancho.

After we built our house we assumed that everything would be cheaper in Mexico and subsequently designed the house as if we were living in Northern California.
Big Mistake, partially.

After several months of CFE bills, we discovered the electricity was very expensive. The way I planned my water system was we would get gravity flow from the water source to a bottom 2500 gallon tank and simply pump it up to the 2500 gallon tank on the top of the property which was about 250 ft higher. This difference in elevation would give us constant water pressure which would be just fine......
Except that the 2.5 horsepower pump eats up the salary of the average Mexican each month.
Not a wise thing., But that didn't bother me, since I was still working and a few dollars to run the house when I had funds coming in was a pain but not insurmountable.
Then after a year or two, what happened is we ran out of water and the pump's automatic fail safe preventing it from pumping got bypassed by our ranch hand, and it damaged the pump, so then it took twice as long and twice as expensive to pump up the water.

So we tried to do a few fixes. We asked the water company if they could run a new line to the top of the property, "Sure, no problem". But it will cost about 40,000 pesos.
Well, the payback was still doable, and they run the pipe. Unfortunately they did not understand that there is a resistance to the flow of water especially when you run long length like we needed. The length was about 2 kilometers. And it was a gravity feed.....bad.
Our original line that I ran was about 1.25 km, and I purchased 1.5 inch pipe.
Their experts said 3/4 pipe would work just fine. They didn't consider a few elevation differences and unless under lots of pressure, water has a hard time running up hill.
So we abandoned the pipe in the ground, and by now it has probably been dug up and sold somewhere.

( 6.1 amps as indicated on the controller is 2 panels wired up  in parallel, more than enough to power a water pump)

So, my solution was to replace the 2.5 hp pump with a solar 24volt submersible pump which I bought along with a few solar panels.
In my old communications business I had been familiar with solar, batteries and stuff. We have several mountain top communications installation running solely on solar.
I installed the system which has now been operational for many years and only a few times during it's operation have we had any issues. Those issues were caused by not having any battery backup to power the pump when there is no sun for 3 or 4 days.
So....now I am designing a back up system that will act as a backup to the solar to pump direct system, with an pump that will run on batteries or CFE power if need be as a last resort.
I am now buying some more parts to build a back up to my all solar system.

There are a few manufacturers of DC pumps. The one I just purchased to use as a backup is a Floject, which will provide about 5 gallons a minute. So in one hour we will have about 300 gallons of water, which is more than we use each day. Our present storage capacity is about 10000 gallons so even if we had to fill the whole shabang back up we are talking of less than 40 hours. But better yet, we don't have to pay for the power, only for the investment of solar equipment.
The battery controller runs between 150 and 250 bucks, depending on if you can get it wholesale or not, panels to run the pump will average about 700 dollars for both, and a few batteries add another 200 bucks, then the last puzzle , the pump.  The pump you see on the picture retails for between 2 and 3 hundred bucks, but if you shop around you can snag one for around 125. Cheaper if you look for a used one. For some reason, I am always looking to be non dependant on external sources, So with the water system, the back up we are in pretty good shop for water, at least until our source runs dry, which is not expected.
Should that happen, we will simply channel our run off and use rain water, filtered like many people do in the rest of the world, and we all know that in Patzcuaro you can get sufficient rain , you just need the storage.
On this trip I have also picked up a few Pure Sine wave inverters , rated at 3000 watts each. I have some extra solar panels, so my next project is to separate our CFL ( fluorescent ) lights in the house to a separate solar run system.
There has been talk about CFE sponsoring solar upgrades for people, and if that ever comes to pass, I will be the first ones to get a grid tie system. Those are pretty neat, especially when you see the meter run in reverse, which gives you a credit for the power.
If anyone would like more info, just email me, we have had solar equipment operational for over 25 years at our radios sites, and I would be more than happy to help with info.


Steve Cotton said...

You are the man. I admire anyone who can engineer and build contraptions.

Tancho said...

Thanks Steve, I have always enjoyed doing stuff with my hands, I left the intellectual things up to guys like you!

Calypso said...

Tancho - I too use solar assist over here on the east coast. People covet the panels - need to be sure they are secure. I haven't lost any but my next-door neighbor was robbed of two panels - ugh!

Good info - thanks.

Tancho said...

Calypso; What are you running with yours? The most common and easy is doing assist for water heating.
I am planning on doing a crude batch water heater to put before the gas heater. I think if people knew how simple it really is, there would be more of them. The simplest form is what many people already do is that of just using the water that is in their tinacos during the warm season.
There are several security devices, one of which is security bits that at least slow down someone stealing panels, at least the people that only bring a pair of pliers or screwdriver to the party. But if they really want them they will be gone, but often damaged.
I only wish that I had used more solar in the original design of the house years ago. Now it seems like a patch job, but anything helps!
I would have loved to have built a earth covered house, and still may do a small model as a guest house on the property.....

Felipe said...

My God, I got dizzy just reading this post. I didn´t move to Mexico to think so much.

Regarding solar, it´s just a matter of months before I have a nice solar water system on my roof. Made by Rotoplas.

Anonymous said...

Tancho - you have to admit that it IS nice to be able to walk into Fry's and get whatever you think you might need... Any chance they might open a branch down south?
Cheers! Dan in NC

Tancho said...

Dan in NC.
Maybe, after all Costso, Sam's Club, and a plethora of other merchantopoli have come down, we can pray.
While here in California, I go to some of the surplus electronic places and grab parts that I may need in the upcoming projects. Stuff like diode bridges, heat sinks, regulator assemblies on and on. This time also I am bringing down some more satellite dishes, solar panels,etc and a lot more lighting arrestors for myself and friends. Hopefully we will get the "green light"!

Jerry L said...

Must be nice for Felipe to "just order" his system. If he only knew how simple they are, he could use the extra funds to buy lost of Cafecitos. He should also knock off all that caffeine, it's making him way too dizzy.

Tancho said...

Jerry, we are dizzy here because of the lack of oxygen at 8500ft elevation. Felipe enjoys the good life without having lots of projects like we do, I actually enjoy tinkering around making things. Anyway if I didn't do them I way drink way too much coffee. As a matter of fact, I probably do anyway.....

Don Cuevas said...

Tancho; when you get back, could you please give us a hand in attaching a new, under-cabinet fluorescent light fixture?

Left to us, it may never happen.

Don Cuevas

Calypso said...

Tancho = I operate computers and lights with solar panels. I have a couple sinewave inverters.

Looking into "crude" batch water heaters - however a 3/4" 100' length black garden hose filled with water will get a shower on a sunny day. We have two hoses that are exclusive for showers.

Also we compost toilet - composting here is like magic - happens really fast in this climate.

One other thing we use a solar oven - very handy device to save on propane.

Thanks for the security device info - will check it out.

Tancho said...

Don Cuevas, But of course I would be happy to do that. Preferable just a little before dinner time....