Setting Up a Solar System and Debarking Logs

Reader Contribution by Manuela And Frank Mueller

Which solar system will it be?

Well, of course we did a lot of research on solar systems before we decided to start building our log home, but if you’ve never dealt with it hands on and know what to focus on things are really confusing.

We decided to check our average usage the years before and then contact companies to ask for a quote based on that information, letting them know that we needed it for an off grid residential log home, set up on a ground mount system and we intended do the installation ourselves. Doesn’t sound that hard, you’d think!

Five companies, five different quotes, starting at 20,000 up to 80,000 can. Dollars! But they all provided information we learned from and made us set up a 48 V system with: 30 panels at 260 W/each and 12 deep cycle batteries (each with a capacity of 300 amp/hours=3600 amp/hours)

The system also contains a charger controller, an inverter (converting 48 V into 240 V), an AGS (automatic generator starter) that automatically fires up the 17 kw generator  with its 100 l diesel tank as soon as battery voltage drops under a limit that can be set by us, but shouldn’t be below 50 %.

In total the system provides 5000 W/hours under ideal conditions before the AGS starts and that is more than enough to run all of our appliances and power tools.

We decided to go with energy efficient appliances vs. special off grid as, i. e. the difference in price for a comparable fridge would allow us to buy about 10 more panels! Those would easily run a standard fridge and supply a lot more energy for other appliances too.

Setting up the ground mount system wasn’t that hard after figuring out the direction and the basic angle we want to have it on for now. We did do a lot of reading and it didn’t hurt that Frank has some technical knowledge but generally it’s not too hard to install a system like that.

People who have not had anything to do with solar energy yet are always quite amazed when they see the system and hear what it’s capable of providing. We will be living off the grid but not having to sit there with a candle in the evening when we want to read. The system even proved itself when a piece on our backhoe broke and Frank had to use our big welder to weld it on again with no problem at all. Nice thing is that we can always add panels and batteries in case necessary.

And here a video of the usage during welding.

Debarking logs in the winter. How do it best?

Debarking fresh cut trees is almost like peeling a banana but not so much if you try to do it in the winter when the sap and the bark is frozen solid. We had decided to go with red pine for our log home and after cutting 46 trees each about 50 ft. length, de-branching and transporting them to our place, we still faced the challenge of getting the bark off before spring, to avoid the logs getting infested by bugs.

After starting out with a simple draw knife we quickly realized that that would really be hard to accomplish, especially with the bark on the red pines being so thick. So we did some research after a friend told us about a chainsaw de-barker he had heard of and found the “Log Wizard”.

This was the perfect solution for us. It is really hard on the arms and shoulders as you need a fairly strong and therefore heavy chainsaw and the attachment isn’t lightweight either, but the razor sharp blades of the planers just dig through that frozen bark.

Here a short video about on how the debarker works.

After “getting in the groove” it took only 5 hours to debark one log. As it was winter there was just enough daylight to get one log done a day, but we were really happy to have found a solution to get the bark off in time before spring.

Next time: “How to cut a nice strait sill log without a proper work place or equipment.”

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