Saturday, March 31, 2012

Powerline & water system update

So as I wrote previously, the springhouse power line has some new issues and we're working towards a replacement solution. After dreaming up a few variations and exploring them for both viability and feasability we've come to a few decisions. I'll attempt to outline a few of our options. For baseline of what I'm talking about, see my earlier post about the current state of the water system. 

Options we considered:

Restore overhead powerline to previous condition

This was the least palatable choice. 
  • Nothing about the powerline was to code. 
  • The guide cable was installed in a way that doesn't take all the stress off the wire, 
  • The blackberry is so thick around the base of the poles that we can't see how they're anchored other than the guy lines
  • There are a few more trees waiting to fall like the oak did.
  • It's ungrounded!

Install Solar PV setup on springhouse to power existing water system

This is clearly the most desirable scenario, use solar power to pump water. Though this is ultimately what we want to do, we're going to hold of. These reasons are:

  • Cost: The complete solar setup with panels, mounting the panels, batteries, charge controller, etc plus a new 48v pump and a cistern to pump the water into would be in the neighborhood of $5000 
  • In the process of exploring our options we discovered that the current springhouse is so close to the creek that it's in the flood hazard zone. This tells us that whatever future system we create needs to be further away from the creek. Installing a $5k solar system in a location that doesnt make sense long-term didnt seem like a good move. 
  • In addition, the location of the springhouse is the best for solar on the whole property but even if we had solar there we have no way of getting it back to the house. 
Which leads to our 3rd option

Run new underground powerline from house to workshop

We opted to start actively working towards this option today. We'll get a permit on Monday to start the work.

The springhouse actually gets it's power from the workshop right now. The overhead line in question runs from the house to the workshop where there's a relatively new subpanel and a new underground line out to the springhouse. So we'll dig a trench straight across the field, about 450' and bury a new powerline in conduit.

The bummer: it's not solar, yet. Even though we'll use this new trenched line to supply power to the workshop/springhouse now, in the future we'll hopefully use it for delivering solar power *from* the workshop to the house.

In the process of exploring the electrical work on the outside and inside of the house we realized that replacing this line would require a few electrical upgrades that in the name of safety would want to perform this summer before moving in anyway. This means that we're going to lump a few more to-do's into this permit:
  • PG&E upgrade from 125 amp to 200 amp service (modern standard)
  • Replace main panel on outside of house with something modern
  • Replace large electrical wire from main panel to subpanel inside house (current one lacks ground)
  • Upgrade inside outlets to 3-prong with real ground, GFCI in the usual places, and replace fixtures with grounded ones. 
So that's the plan. We'll do the service upgrade and work on the house mains first. Once that's done we could (might?) start work on the inside wiring and the trenched line at the same time. I'm thankful to have some smart friends helping out on this too :)

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