This blog is about our travels in our solar powered "Airstream" and living off grid, in our passive solar home, near Bancroft, Ontario, Canada.

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Friday 6 September 2013


Wednesday night after the girls returned from their paddle down the lake we were all busy working inside. Leanne was on her desk-top finishing up her assignment, Davie was on the sewing machine, Mary was making tea and I was on my laptop. Everyone was using power from our batteries but they were at 73% so .... no problem.

Then Mary plugged the kettle in to heat water for her tea and the lights went out, total blackout, it was unexpected, never had that happen before.

When you are off grid no one is coming to fix the problem, you are the service man, the owner, the solution. First find a flashlight then think before you start tearing things apart. What caused the power failure and why?  We had lights and everything was working one minute, then total blackness the next, why? Once I realized the power went out when Mary plugged in the kettle I suspected the heavy draw made by the kettle probably pushed our numbers below the safety set point on our inverter. 

I had reprogrammed the inverter in the morning after talking with Mike our solar guy. Obviously I had inserted one number incorrectly causing the inverter to shut down and turning off the lights. The inverter has a LBO (Low Battery Off) safety switch that shuts down the inverter so our batteries are not drained too low and damaged. Batteries are expensive and must be treated properly in order to last, so the LBO is a good sensor to have. 

Once I reprogrammed the LBO the lights came back on and everyone could resume their work. 

That was our first unexpected power shut-down since we started using our solar system last October. Fortunately it was a quick easy fix once I realized the probable cause. You may be wondering what I would do if I couldn't find a solution. Good question. If that happens, next step would be a phone call to Mike. That's why it's wise to buy locally and from someone who is reliable. I can drop by Mike's office and get advice or parts whenever necessary. He is ten minutes from home and very willing to help. If you are thinking of solar give Mike a call at "Solar Depot" in Bancroft. His number is 613-332-2427. Tell him Art said to call.

Yesterday the SOC (State of Charge) for our batteries was 64% at 9:30 a.m. That was expected. We've been busy using our power over the past few days and those days were cloudy with some rain, so no surprise that our batteries were low and the generator kicked on as it is programmed to do. At 10 a.m. I manually turned the generator off as by then the sun was on our panels and the forecast called for a sunny day. Why use the generator when the sun will do the job for free? At 4:30 when the sun was no longer high enough to power our panels our batteries had reached 94%. This will give us a very comfortable margin going into Friday which should be another sunny, battery charging solar day. 

For the inventors reading this blog there is a golden opportunity to cash in on an assured money maker. All you need to do is create an automatic switch that will turn the generator off once the sun reaches the solar panels and allow the sun do what the generator will do at the high cost of burning some type of fuel. Any suggestions?

Thanks for stopping by and save travels Bob.

1 comment:

  1. We are also two retired Canadians, living in Bancroft...and contemplating offgrid vs on. Tough decision!!! Would love to chat and get a real world view of pros and cons, problems and solutions. Plse contact me at

    Steve and Diane