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Subject Cabin in the woods that needs power
Author Sascha Deri
> I am energy-aware, but ignorant. I have an 11x26 cabin in woods that needs
> power. I saw on cable tv a story about an island residence that provided
> power by hooking a generator (which I can afford) to car batteries (which I
> can afford) to provide house electricity (which I cannot afford). Can you
> help???


Yes it is true that you can use a generator to charge batteries and power any household appliances that use DC electricity. DC appliances are used in boats & RV's so they are not as common as standard 120 volt AC appliances but they are available. You also need to use a standard automotive battery charger between the generator and the batteries since the generator produces 120 volts AC and the batteries store DC. You can actually run the generator to directly power any 120 vac appliances but this means that any time you turn on even a light bulb you have to listen to the generator running. Operating your loads off of batteries means that you just run the generator at whatever schedule you need to keep the batteries above 50 - 80% discharged . A third option is to use an inverter/charger in conjunction with the generator and batteries - the charger portion acts as your battery charger and the inverter portion coverts the DC electricity stored in your batteries into AC electricity to run standard appliances that are cheaper & easier to find than DC. You can also go with a simpler version of this third option which involves using a standard automotive battery charger to charge the batteries whenever they get low and just get a small inverter at Sears or something that will run a few small loads at once.

The cheapest inverter/charger we have that works well with a generator is the Trace DR series

Trace DR1512 Inverter

We also have a smaller Trace Tiger Series inverter but the charger in it does not work well with generators. If you are going to do an automotive charger & inverter you can just get them locally along with your batteries.

You should try to spend a little more money on deep cycle marine or golf cart batteries rather than using car batteries. Car batteries will not last very long because they are not deep cycle which means that you can take a lot of power out and put a lot of power back in which is what happens in a home situation. Car batteries are only meant to be shallowly cycled. You can always start with car batteries for your first set and then just replace them with deep cycle batteries after you learn how to live with them.
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