Pedal / Solar / Wind Tour Bus System - need advice / recommendations to particular products

Discussion in 'Off Grid Living' started by omingnome, Mar 8, 2016.

  1. omingnome

    omingnome Monkey

    So, I have converted an old shuttle bus to be a tour bus for my band. So far the 'Caterpillar' as we call her has treated us well and made it through a national tour and a regional tour.

    Now we are thinking more long term and want to be more self sufficient and sustainable.

    I am thinking of making a pedal, solar and wind combination system. Here are some questions that I cannot find a clear answer to :

    FIY I am planning on installing one (maybe two) solar panels on the roof, making a pedal system with old bike parts and a generator, and making a DIY wind turbine. Cost is surely a factor for us musicians on a budget, but we surely do not mind spending extra money on components that will last longer or are less prone to failure. The system would need to be large enough to run a laptop, recording interface, some lighting, a guitar amp and charge some phones - I would possible run the bus's interior lights, a space heater, and rice cooker off of the system if it ends up being mighty enough. And if it ends up being really mighty it would be incredible to have the ability to run a full band set up off of the system (a band usually can run off one 20 amp AC circuit) (In terms of AC circuits - I would be looking to ideally have the power of a standard 15-20 amp circuit - I am still learning how many / what types of batteries, etc would be comparable)

    **When it comes to charge controllers - are there any particular models / types that would serve the system I have in mind best (one with 3 power sources - solar, wind, pedal)?

    **When it comes to batteries what is the best and second best options for a system like this / Do any batteries handle different amounts of input power, outputting power, and just overall handle less stable cycles better (as in not always being fully charged before being used, etc)? - lithium ion? Unsealed batteries? Sealed?

    **Solar Panels - DIY vs buying one - any suggestions to articles, DIY links, etc would be greatly appreciated. - I have found some great resources, but would love to see some more.

    ** Wind Turbines - any DIY links would be appreciated.

    Any insight would be so very appreciated. Is it wise to work with 3 power sources or should I think more simply.
    Motomom34 likes this.
  2. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    Forget the PeddleBike/Generator concept.... It is a Fools Errand... Even the BEST Professional Biker can only generate about 100 Watts, on a Continuos Basis... (say just a few Hours) and will be completely exhausted at the End....

    Batteries.... good old L16HD's or T105's are your best bet.... LiIon are Great, if you can afford them, but you had better have a VERY Good Fire Insurance Policy Rider on your Bus, as they tend to catch Fire, and burn the Thing, to the Ground.... and If you try and use Water to put out a LiIon fire, you get a Nice BIG Explosion.....

    Solar is Great as long as you have Room, and Live where the Sun, Shines a lot....

    My suggestion would be to, Add a second Alternator, to the engine, that just charges the Inverter Battery Bank, AND, OR add a Used Onan RV Generator to supply all the power you need, for ANYTHING that you might need... You can find them on Craig's List, every Day of the week, usually for $500 or less... Many have very LOW Hours on the, as they come from Wrecked RV's...

    Inverter/Charger and Charge Controller go with OutBack Power Systems... quality and been around for a LONG time...

    I am sure @Cruisin Sloth will chime in with his Opinion, soon....
    Tevin likes this.
  3. Tevin

    Tevin Monkey+++

    @BTPost speaks the truth. Human powered bike generators make for interesting experiments, but that's about it. They are not practical for everyday power. You also have to consider that sweating on a bike to get a few watts might not be the best use of your time even if you do get a workout from the deal.

    Charge controllers...I'm going to take this opportunity to be a shill for my own blog and refer you to a recent article I posted about solar charge controllers: What You Need To Know: PWM and MPPT Solar Charge Controller. - Off Grid Ham

    There is also a two part article about inverters. You did not specifically ask about them but you will need one to run your 120 VAC devices.

    Solar panels, DIY vs commercially made: You can get really nice commercially made solar panels for less than $2.00/watt and in some cases around $1.00/watt. If you think you can make your own for less than that, then go for it. Along the same line of thinking as bike generators, making your own panels might be a fun experiment but there is no practical or financial advantage to it.

    Wind power: Commercial wind mills are a lot of money for the power they produce; DIY models are fairly easy to pull off using car alternators, but you are not going to get a lot of juice out of them. I am in the process of making a hombrew wind mill and will post an article about it on my blog later this summer. In the meantime, YouTube has tons of helpful DIY vids.

    Overall, I think you are expecting a lot out of your plan. The top of a bus only has room for maybe 1000 watts worth of solar, which is pretty good, but then you need corresponding batteries and other hardware to go with them, as well as the technical skills to keep it running. Going off the grid means a lot of compromises. You are not going to live the same way as those who are plugged into commercial power.
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2016
    AD1 likes this.
  4. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Taking a flight of fancy, set the bike generator up in the middle aisle and let the passengers pedal between gigs---
    BTPost likes this.
  5. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    That would make for a very tired Band, at the end of the drive, likely to tired to Play music... We could ask Seacowboys, and see how he would fare in such an arrangement...
  6. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Would also help keeping in shape --
  7. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    Naw, wire the bike generator to a TV. It only plays while you pedal.
  8. omingnome

    omingnome Monkey

    C'mon sloth - this forum as a whole seemed great as I skimmed through with minimal negativity / pretentiousness - no need to be a dream killer- Any advice would be appreciated - this is what this forum is for - you do not need to be rich to make some incredible things happen - 'low budget' should not be a 'strike' - perhaps, let me know where I should splurge and where I can save

    Budget is $600-1100- plenty to make something happen, as many people have

    As far as power consumption / needs I did mention that I would be looking for the equivalent of a 20 amp AC circuit. I probably would never some close to 2400 watts, but I thought it was a good reference point.

    I could have been more specific - but am mostly looking for great reads, videos, great discussions in this forum or others, etc

    thank you - what do you think of this - 60 Minutes On This Bicycle Can Power Your Home For 24 Hours! I am still researching, but I feel with proper gearing you could really get an alternator up to 3,500 RPMs and with 30 mins of pedaling get some decent power to a battery bank
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 9, 2016
  9. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    It is NOT about Rpms, It is ALL about Energy, and the amount of IT (Energy) that a Human can Generate, Physically over a defined amount of time... As I stated above, even a World Class Bicyclest can only produce about 100 Watts for any length of time... This is a Physilogical FACT, Well documented, in Tests used to validate the Bicycle Powered Flight System used to win the Kremer Prize... SO, if you have a Bus Load of World Class Bicyclest Band Members, that can peddle for say three hours each, they can generate 300 WattHours of Energy, each, and you would need a minimum of eight of them to go 24 Hours, which would only give you 2400 WattHours and basically a Pooped Out Band...... and THAT isn't a whole Lot of Power.... Do the Math...
    Ganado and chelloveck like this.
  10. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    That article says an hour will power a house for a day. Maybe, but first you need to know about the house and the loads. If you have a very limited appetite for power, you might make it.

    First things first, then. As CS said, you need to supply a hell of a lot more information before realistic recommendations are possible.
    chelloveck likes this.
  11. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    As Ghrit says, 100 WattHours of Energy will not run a Single 100 Watt Incandesent Light Bulb for a Single HOUR, Due to losses in the Charging, Battery, and Wiring... So just how much are you planning to use on your Bus... Forget the Bicycle Geneator, it is a nice Toy, but NOT a practical Energy Source...
  12. techsar

    techsar Monkey+++

    As someone that uses solar on a daily basis and as a sound engineer for a band (never expected THAT combo to come up!) you would be better served to get a generator.
    There are a lot of losses involved with charging batteries and inverting back to house current. These must be allowed for in addition to not over-discharging the batteries.
    Yes, it can be done....but not on your stated budget.
    BTPost likes this.
  13. arleigh

    arleigh Goophy monkey

    I am on a battery system and use the grid, solar, wind, generator, and engine/alternator.
    And one of these days I will also have a TEG system as well
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