Thursday, August 9, 2007

Solar Ice

Solar Ice in Florida's 90 Degree Heat! Click here for video!

My wife Camilla and I live in Orlando Florida where we have frequent, sometimes devastating hurricanes. When we get one, the electrical power always goes out, at least for hours, but more often for days or even weeks. For ecological reasons, we I don't like the idea of owning a gasoline powered generator, or having to deal with gasoline cans and mixing in messy oil or even owning a relatively cleaner burning propane generator. Aside from the impact on the environment, you have to keep the dangerous fuels on hand, store them in a cool well ventilated, safe place and replenish them when they run out. That could prove difficult or impossible under certain circumstances. On top of that you have to be sure that the carbon monoxide exhaust form your gas generator, running for hours on end, isn't sucked into your home by some means and ends up killing you and your family.

In an ideal situation, we would love to be totally off the grid, using only photovoltaic solar power to run all of our appliances, but with the price of photovoltaic panels, storage batteries, switching devices and inverters at the current time, that would be prohibitively expensive, even taking advantage of government subsidies. During a recent brain storming session on how best to survive a long power outage, we came up with a more cost effective and Earth-friendly alternative.

We will still use a propane grill for occasional cooking but need some way to store food in a cool environment away from the 90-degree-plus heat of Central Florida. We have a large cooler that will keep ice frozen for up to seven days (according to the manufacturer) but after 7-days we would need to either buy or make more ice. The solution is a solar powered ice machine. With our four 15 Watt solar panels connected to four deep cycle batteries for a total of 280 Amp Hours of power and two 750 Watt inverters, we have enough electricity to run our 3.5 amp ice maker and generate enough ice from solar energy, to keep food cold indefinitely. Cool eh?