Off Grid Home Forums Technical Discussion Power Systems beyond generator…

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    what do you want to know?

    I design such systems for a living.

    How much power are you generating?

    What voltage and current is your system.

    How do you plan to store the power you generate?

    This forum has limited capacity for extensive replies but I can provide some quickie answers right here.


    i’m looking more for a basic tutorial, nothing against your trade, but i’m more a do-it-yourselfer… i’m looking more towards information about what kind of components go into the electrical system and the ways the sub-systems interact.


    Can anyone point me towards information about building the actual grid system for your home system. meaning, i want to know what to do with the power coming off of my generator. i’ve been experimenting with a stream behind my house, and now that i’m ACTUALLY getting power from it now, i need to be able to distribute and maybe charge a backup battery… any help would be appereciated.


    I realized you are a DIYer but the questions I asked are so basic that if you do not know the answer then you should not be attempting the project. If you do not know the voltage or current coming out of the generator how will you know what to do with it? If it’s AC you can’t just connect a battery or you will damage it and even if it is DC but too high a voltage then you will still damage the battery. If it is too low nothing will happen and you will become frustrated wondering what didn’t work.

    A complete tutorial will run to many pages far exceeding the capacity of this forum text box. There are so many possible tutorials already available on the internet its hard to guide you without knowing what your present level of expertise is. Since you managed to build a generator I assumed you already had some of the fundamentals. The question becomes where do you want to go with the knowledge you already have. Distribution is simply a question of breakers or fuses, some bus bars and switches. As for whether or not you can maybe charge a back up battery. That all depends on what the answers are to my questions. Do you know what voltage and current is coming from the generator. Is it DC or AC?


    … i’m looking more towards information about what kind of components go into the electrical system and the ways the sub-systems interact.


    In a nut shell you need over current protection in case of a short circuit. You may need protection against electric shock hazards that could kill you if the voltage is high enough.

    If you plan to run multiple devices you need to know something about load management unless this generator is far bigger than I think it is. If it is really big you need protection against electrical fires etc.

    As for components you need meters, breakers, bus bars, switches and enclosures. Not knowing what part of the world you are in its hard to tell you what supplier is best bet for getting the right parts.


    Dingo3X wrote: “i’m looking more for a basic tutorial,i’m more a do-it-yourselfer… i’m looking more towards information about what kind of components go into the electrical system and the ways the sub-systems interact.


    The above question is probably what many DIYer asks themselves. The answer depends on so many variables its hard to define in an article of 1500 words or less. Broadly speaking hydraulic generated power falls into two catagories. AC voltage usually at a level close to mains voltage or DC voltage close to battery voltage levels. Either way the power must be conditioned before use. There are any number of controllers available to handle the task. Low voltage alternators may include a fixed voltage regulator inside the casing as for example in an vehicle. AC voltage has to be regulated to something that can be used without harm to the load being connected. This can be accomplished electronically and is not recommended for DIY construction except by experienced electronics circuit builders. Close regulation is essential to avoid destruction of the loads connected to this self generated power. For example continually low voltage will cause inductive motors for fans and pumps to burn out. Excessively high voltage will cause insulation to break down and cause a fire.

    If the generator output is DC it must be closely controlled to prevent boiling dry the battery or if too low, it is not going to deliver a charge to the storage battery.

    When storing power a third requirement comes into play. What happens when the continuously running generator delivers excess capacity? Either the generator has to stop or the output is diverted elsewhere. The wind and solar industry has provided solutions for many years, so even a cursory perusal of their product offerings should give the newcomer a good idea of how to deal with that problem.

    Unless the installation is located in winter climates one possible solution is to pump up water into an elevated tank for later use in washing, irrigation or even run through a small water turbine for additional power generation. This concept is called pumped storage and is used extensively in places like the Niagara Falls area as well as in other parts of the world. It is even possible to use this technique for seasonal storage but this involves structures far beyond the capabilites of the average off-grid individual.

    From the above it should be obvious that a reliable and sometimes complex regulator or controller is required as a first stage beyond the raw generator powered by the waterwheel.

    Beyond the regulator box power, distribution takes on a familiar look. For AC the typical home panel with breakers or fuses mounted in a metal enclosure will suffice. For DC a fuse panel or circuit breaker box like those sold for RV vans or boats will do nicely.

    It may come as a surprise to newcomers to learn low voltage DC wiring often requires larger diameter wires than AC wiring. This is necessary to avoid excessive line losses.

    However that should be the subject of an entirely new thread.

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