Info & Resources

This is a collaborative resource - the page is a wiki so you can add your own ideas.

  • appropedia an excellent wiki for sustainablity and 'appropriate' technology
  • 12volthandbook.pdf a text focusing on 12v systems for boats
  • free networks our other website which covers free communication networks as well as alternative energy

Wind Power

A wind generator

Pedal generators

Car alternators have often been used but they are a bad choice as they give no voltage at low speeds and so needs gearing. Belts from tractors ( UK supplier for the tractor belts) have been used between the rear bike wheel and the alternator. However DC motors give much better results. These can be bought new but are relatively expensive. Car windscreen wiper motors could possibly be used.

tims pedal generator using dc motor and cycle training stand

For a mini version, stepper motors from printers will give power at very low speeds. It can be interesting to play with leds and turning the motor by hand. They have multiple sets of coils, which is why they have so many connections, and you will need to experiments to find which pins can be connected together to

Hub dynamos

Hub dynamos are small generators in the centre of a bike wheel, used to create power whilst cycling, which traditionally was done by a DC dynamo in direct contact with the tyre. They often produce AC and are usually used for powering lights, but can also be used for other things, such as charging devices.

Solar panels

Photovoltaic panel Solar panels are a simple and robust power solution but their production is energy-intensive and polluting. They can be stolen quite easily but there are roumours that some contain hidden chips which can be used to track their position.

Maximum power point tracking (mppt) regulators are the more efficient but expensive. Normal regulators will allow the battery state to determine voltage which may not be the most efficient for the panel. MPPT regulators use a control circuit to 'search' for the voltage allowing the highest power output.

Note that with the right regulator it is also possible to charge 12v battery from 24v panel (eg: morningstar sunsaver mppt) or a 24v battery from 12v panel (eg: emponi sol1).

Of course when using solar panels it is better to use electrical appliances during the day when more power is available. The cheaper regulators will even cut out and stop charging the battery when the voltage goes too high (when its very sunny), so its good to have something connected if this is the case.

Soldering without mains electricity

12v DC soldering irons, which can be run from batteries, are available. But for situations where you do not have enough power to use an electric soldering iron, a butane gas powered soldering can be used (eg:'Power probe'), which can be refilled just like a butane cigarette lighter. A simpler, but considerably less effective solution could be just to heat nails in a fire and use pliers to hold them for soldering.

It is also roumoured that pine tree sap can be used to make flux, which is used to make solder flow more freely.


Often batteries can be improved simply by adding distilled water. Batteries which appear sealed can often be opened by forcing open a plastic panel to reveal little lids to the individual cells.

Old batteries which will no longer hold a charge can be often rejuvinated by pulse charging them, provided they have not shorted out as a result of a buildup of lead deposits in the bottom of the battery.

As a last resort, it is possible to use old car batteries which no longer will charge to 12v (which you often find discarded) as 9v batteries, which can power, for example, 3 led bike lights soldered together in series (2xAAA batteries=3v) to get the last bit of power from them.

Large 180ah truck-style batteries can often be found in tempory traffic lights used for roadworks. However there are roumours that these sometimes contain chips so that their location can be tracked if they go missing.

Electric wheelchairs usually use very good sealed batteries. It could be a good idea to try asking at shops and companies who sell or service electric wheelchairs for old batteries.

Security and fire alarms also often have batteries as backup power, these can often be found in abandoned buildings or try asking manufacturers for old ones. They will power LED lighting for a useful amount of time and are small enough to carry in a rucksack to charge elsewhere, so perfect for when you have several people sharing one solar panel.

Alum batteries

Alum is the stuff deodourant stones are made from. It is also sold as a food additive used to keep pickles crisp. Apparently it can also be used as a water purifier. So it is less environmentally damaging than sulphuric acid. Some people (notably John Bedini) have reported emptying the acid from batteries and refilling them with alum solution. There is some controversy on internet forums about the advantages of alum batteries, it seems it is an area which needs further experimentation. Some say that:

  • acid batteries discharge slowly to begin with, then at a greater rate. alum batteries reach a low voltage plateau where a small current can be taken for a suprisingly long time.
  • Alum batteries have a lower power density than acid batteries. (A disadvantage)
  • Alum batteries charge faster than acid batteries.
  • The terminals of alum battteries will never corrode (a common problem with acid batteries)
  • Alum batteries can be discharged deeper without reducing their lifetime.
  • Alum batteries have a longer lifetime. This can be because the lead is not corroded (eventually resulting in a short circuit caused by lead deposits). Also possibly because sulphation of the plates does not occur.


LEDs can be cheaper when bought in strips, for example '5630 SMD' white LEDS can be bought in rolls of 5 or 10m, for 12v systems use multiples of 3 LEDs.

When using headtorches, remember when replacing the batteries that they discharge irregularly, the light will go dim when just one of the batteries is low, so test them with a volt meter and usually you will only replace one of them.

Thermoelectrical generators

Small heat powered electrical generators that can be attached for example to a wood burner. They dont produce a lot of power but could be useful for powering electronics stuff.


'Capturing heat' is an excellent guide to stove designs and making the most of heat.


  • Algae fuel on appropedia - algae can be grown in containers and used as a fuel.

Water wells

Water pumps

Hydrualic ram pumps can be used where there is flowing water to use the water pressure to pump a comparitively low amount of water upwards.

Electronics repair/salvage/desoldering

Other stuff

info.txt · Last modified: 2015/01/15 22:31 by · [Old revisions]
Recent changes RSS feed Powered by PHP Valid XHTML 1.0 Valid CSS Driven by DokuWiki