Two Girls' Product Reviews and Recommendations


Books and Resources:

"Solar DIY Projects" by Eric Smith, Philip Schmidt, with Troy Wanek - This is one of my DIY Bibles. It is a simple, easy to follow guide to setting up a variety of solar power arrays. You'll learn some simple electrical knowledge that you need, plus step by step guides to many useful solar projects. I mastered my own little system with this book, and I had zero electrical knowledge.

"Wild Edible Plants of Texas: A Pocket Guide to the Identification, Collection, Preparation, and Use of 60 Wild Plants of the Lone Star State" by Charles W. Kane - Sometimes Trump scares me so bad that I have an irrational thought about living off the land, but practically speaking, this is a fun botany lesson. Never stop learning, y'all.

"Essential Oil for Beginners: The Ultimate Essential Oils Guide for Beginners" by Olivia Banks -This book is free with a Kindle Unlimited subscription. Other than that nice bonus, I have to say that we use essential oils for cooking, perfume, baths, soothing nervous dogs, and even ridding the house of that funk others leave in their wake. 

Off-the-Grid Must Haves

Generator - I recommend a dual fuel portable generator that can run on propane or gasoline. I then recommend only running it on propane because it's much cleaner, and you won't have to mess with a dirty carburetor.  I purchased the Sportsman GEN4000DF. It has 3500 running watts and 4000 starting watts; which is enough to run a small window unit AC all night. However, I'm going to rate it 3 stars out of 5 because after about 5 runs, it won't start. If it's the spark plug, I'm bummed because that sucker is hard to get to. The upside to this generator is the price. It's a great entry machine coming in at $318. Plus, it's giving me the opportunity to hone my mechanical skills; which I'll share with you as I learn them.

Renology 100 Watts 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit - This is Amazon's Choice, and it's mine, too. This kit includes a solar panel, charge controller, and MC4 connectors. If you don't know what all of these things are, please get the Solar DIY book listed above. That book will tell you monocrystalline panels are more efficient, and that a 30A charge controller is plenty of oomph for a reasonably good solar set up. I run lights, fan, my computer, and charge my phone all day and night, and I barely move the needle. This set up keeps two 75 Amp Hour deep cycle batteries fully charged with ease. I think I could put a third battery into the array with no problems.

Power Inverter - When drawing electricity from a solar array into your house or cabin, you have to invert DC (direct current) to AC (alternating current). DC is a battery, AC is the light switch in your house. To run a setup like mine, get at least 2000 Watt Pure Sine inverter. It's pricey, but think of this as the transformer that gives you light and comfort. Then as you add up the cost of all of this off-grid project, start subtracting a monthly electric bill. You'll feel much much better about this. I don't have a brand recommendation on a power inverter, so do your homework and research, and pick the one you feel good about. I see a lot of BESTEK inverters with good ratings.

Rainwater Collection Tank - Think about how much water you use every day. If that's too nebulous in concept, try this: think about how much water it takes to to fill a bathtub, or kitchen sink, or flush a toilet, or brush your teeth. If conceptualizing isn't your thing, fill a container with the amount of water you use to brush your teeth. I want you to visualize your water use. What you'll find is that the 50 gallon rain barrel at Home Depot will not get you through a day. Go bigger. Polymart tanks are pretty much sold everywhere. We have a 500 gallon Polymart tank catching water off the cabin room via gutters. I won't totally endorse Polymart because the weight of the current 250 gallons in the tank is causing the plastic drain caps to leak very slowly. I tried Flex Seal. It's no match for the water and gravity. As I learn how to avoid leaks, I'll share the info. In the meantime, expect to pay $250+ for a tank big enough to be meaningful. Amazon has better prices on the tanks, but shipping will eat up your savings. Try to find a tank locally. They're light, and fit in a pickup.

Shurflo Water Pump - This tiny, quiet pump produces some serious water pressure when coupled with a small Shurflo pressure bladder. These are RV pump products, but they work great when connected to a rainwater collection tank. There a variety of pump sizes, but I have the tiny 4008 model, and I'm more than pleased.

Ecotemp L5 Portable Outdoor Tankless Water Heater - This little water heater is powered by the same propane tank that attaches to your grill. This is so easy and convenient to use. It's fairly lightweight, so it can be hung just about anywhere. I hang mine on a post in the shower stall. And I'm warning you right here. Do not turn the heat up very much. In fact, try it at the lowest setting first because the water gets very very hot very very fast. And THAT means this little, inexpensive heater gets hearty thumbs up from me. Read my blog entry on rainwater plumbing and how to set it up.