ELECTRICITY, SURVIVAL BASICS

Q: What is electricity, exactly? It shows up in nature as a spark or a lightning bolt, but the electricity challenged are used to taking this for granted, flipping the switch and the lights come on and the appliances work, but the HOW of this is a mystery to most, certainly to me. I'm one of the electricity challenged, and don't I know it.

In a wish to be technically correct, I will be using some notes I prepared. Please bear with me on this.

I will answer by talking about the basics. Electricity is just a flow of electrons. Electrons are a very small particle with a negative charge. Electricity is a particle flow. It is analogous to water flow.

You mention lightning bolt as a spark in nature. Some people think these electrons are created at the point o f the spark. This is not the case electrons are in everything. They are in the clouds and in the air. When they get pushed in a direction say between clouds with enough pressure they produce the spark you see.

Current is measured in amperes. One amp is 63 with 17 zeros after it of electrons flowing in a conductor past a given point in one sec. This number is not important to remember. The main concept to remember is one amp is a large quantity of electrons flowing past a given location in one sec.

In the water analogy this would be the same as counting the number of water molecules that go past a given location in any one unit of time. This again would be a very large number so we typically measure this in cubic feet per minute or more practically buckets full/hour.

No one likes to work with large numbers so in like manner the word amperes has been assigned a given quantity flow of electrons in a unit of time. Now rather than count electrons each time we use them, we can measure them by the number of buckets full/sec or by simply by saying so many amps.

Voltage is analogous to pressure. In the water analogy the height of water determines the amount of pressure. Take the case of the old fashion water tower that used to be prevalent in cities long ago. The height of the tank provides the pressure. Those living in lower areas get more pressure. Pressure in water is measured in lbs per square inch. . In like manner Voltage is the amount of pressure behind any given electron to cause it to move along the conductor. A typical car battery for example has a pressure of 12 volts.

One Volt is the amount of pressure necessary to force one Amp of electrons through a resistor of one Ohm producing one Watt of power. We have all felt the heat from a 100 watt light bulb. So we have an idea of what one watt would approximately be.

Ohm is a unit of electrical resistance equal to the resistance between two points on a conductor when a potential difference of one volt between them produces a current of one ampere. What this is saying is when you can take a wire and measure one volt from one end to the other with a current of one amp flowing you have a wire that has a resistance of one ohm. This is just an arbitrary amount of resistance based on earlier defined terms. In the water analogy the smaller the pipe the larger the resistance to flow. In like manner the smaller the electrical conductor the larger the resistance.

Now back to your "mystery of flipping the switch and the lights come on". When one takes a very small wire of tungsten and forces lots of electrons to go through it, what happens? The resistance of the particles flowing cause heat and this heat has to escape some how. For any given wire a low flow might give off heat as a toaster does in the infrared range. A larger flow would give off light as light bulbs do in the visible range. An even larger flow would melt the wire. This is what happens in a fuse. No mystery here, just small particles that are not able to be seen with the naked eye that are flowing doing work for us.

A watt is the product of the voltage in volts and the current in amperes or amps. 1000 watt is one kilowatt. One watt load that is powered for one hour will consume one Watthour of power.

DC stands for direct current and is a flow in one direction. AC stands for Alternating Current and is a push pull flow, at the rate of 60 times per min.
The following simple formulas result for DC circuits.
V (volts) = I (Current in amps) * R (Resistance in ohms)
P (power in watts) = V (Volts) * I (Current in amps)
Watt hours = watts * hours of use
Ampere-hours = Amps flowing from a battery * number of hours it flows
These simple formulas are very valuable for determining what is needed in a circuit to make it work correctly, for understanding batteries, and power sources.

Does this answer you questions on this subject?

Q: Alternating Current? Why wouldn't all electricity be just Direct Current? This seems a more, um, direct approach. Are both systems being used, in the world of electrical appliances? Is this something I need to be aware of? What are we getting now, in our service from the electric company? Are setups either/or, either DC or AC? In particular, what does this mean for life after the coming pole shift? I found something on the Troubled Times pages, in the Energy Section.

Pros and Cons
The AC that we use in our homes leaves the source - generation plant - with a voltage of many thousands of volts. It is then distributed to a series of substations which, using transformers, ultimately reduce the voltage running along the power lines along the street to several hundreds of volts. Finally, to your normal 115-120 volts AC that comes to individual houses.

Were DC used at the generation plant for distribution such a long distance, huge power lines would be required. Therefore you would have very much higher voltages coming into your home, [a dangerous situation].

Edison first lit parts of New York City with his new electric lights using DC. Death rates were enormous because of very high voltages hanging over the streets and sometimes falling and going into homes where accidents happen.

If one does accidentally get hold of a high voltage DC line, one can't let go; where with AC the opposite is true. Westinghouse developed AC and went into competition with the Edison Electric Company and in short order DC was relegated to low voltage battery applications.

DC devices such as made for camping require less push because the DC source, the battery is only a few feet away. DC conserve energy, especially when the production and use are same locale. DC camping lamps and heaters and whatever use 12V.

Tomas Edison the inventor of the light bulb championed DC or direct current that flows in one direction only. During the same time frame Nikola Tesla championed AC or alternating current a push pull of flow from the generating plant. AC won out because it had advantages of using transformers for distribution. At higher voltages AC is little less dangerous than DC. AC is easer to step-up to a higher voltages using step-up transformers to allow it to be piped over a longer distance than DC. DC will not work with transformers. DC is easer to store as chemical energy in batteries thus used for portability. As a result today we only get AC from our electric companies. We can convert this to DC as needed to charge batteries. Batteries give us energy storage and portability.

I believe power after the coming pole shift will mostly take two forms, 12 Volt DC and 115 Volt AC. 12 volt batteries will be used for storage. 115 volt AC will be used for those items we have that will not run directly on 12 volts. A DC to AC inverter will be used to convert form 12 Volts DC to 115 AC when needed.

Plan on having several inverters each with a different power rating. Use the one with the lowest rating that will work at the time. This saves power usage in the long run. The ones with lower power ratings draw lower amounts of current when idling with inverter on and with no AC power is being used.

After the PS the use of existing 12 Volt car batteries for some will be the only thing available. When preparing before a PS, select and purchase 6 large 2 volt cells and wire them in series to produce 12 volts. This gives the most economical maintainable setup.

For portable batteries, use AAA through D size rechargeable NI-MH or NI-CAD. NI-CAD holds less and has a slower internal leakage so it will stay charged up longer. NI-CADs can be use in clocks and things that don't use much current over time. NI-MH works good with portable communication devices or where light weight and more power is needed.

Does this answer you questions on this subject?

Q: How do batteries work? How can chemistry hold electricity? And why do the electrons move from one side of the battery to the other?

There is something on the Troubled Times pages, that implies different metal on one side from the other side, so there is a natural flow of electrons in that direction. It seems these different types of metal, zinc and iron, are not touching, but a fluid is in between them. So maybe one metal has an attraction or pull for electrons, and the other normally has an excess or natural push for electrons, perhaps.

This quote from the Boy Mechanic describes a home made battery, and it emphasizes that the different metal types should not touch, using plaster of Paris and paraffin to prevent this. so a flow starts between them via the fluid, only. I guess the poles, positive and negative, of the battery are attached to the different metal types. Let me quote:

The following is copied from The Boy Mechanic
The high cost of dry cells has encouraged many to make and use homemade cells of various kinds, and the one described has the merit of cheapness and efficiency, as well as long life. For the battery jar, an old can about 6 in. high and 4 in. in diameter, is used.

A porous cup is required, and this is made by rolling a strip of blotting paper around a stick, 1 1/2 in. in diameter, and securing the ends with melted paraffin. The bottom of the cup is made by standing it on a smooth surface which has been greased with Vaseline, and pouring in plaster of Paris, or melted paraffin, to a depth of about 1/2 in.

When completed, the porous cup is stood in the center of the can, the outside space is filled with chips, borings, and turnings of IRON, and a strip of ZINC is placed inside the cup, as shown in the drawing.

The battery solution is made by dissolving caustic soda (powdered lye) in water in water until it will take no more; a saturated solution, in other words. The cell is filled with this solution to within an inch of the top, and connection is made with the zinc strip and the can by means of the binding posts, [positive and negative poles,].

Owing to the caustic character of the battery solution it should not be allowed to come into contact with the skin or clothing. Such a cell has a VOLTAGE of about 1.2, and will deliver approximately two AMPERES on short circuit, depending on the purity of the chemicals and the fineness of the borings and turnings.

The internal resistance of these cells is high, and best results are obtained by connecting a battery of them in parallel, if a large amount of current is required. However, one or two such cells will give good results for light service, such as a doorbell circuit.

This example that you read about can be visualized simply as a plate of Zink and one of Iron with a strong base of Lye for the fluid in between. As explained it produces 1.2 volts. In actuality any two different metals can be made into a battery. All that is needed is a strong acid or sometime a strong base. Some metals work better than others and some acids or basic solutions work better than others. This is all a given. However, in a primitive environment you have what you have as a result of scrounging. For example Sulfuric acid can be made from the sulfur found around volcanic activity. Yellow sulfur melts in super heated steam form underground and comes to the surface where it cools. To make Sulfuric acid Sulfur is burned with lots of oxygen and the fumes passed over or through water. Use preferably distilled water. The water near volcanic activity can also contain sulfuric acid. It can also contain other salts that are not good for a battery to hold a charge. A primitive Lye can be made from wood ashes as a result of a camp or forest fires.

The other thing one needs to know about batteries, is the more the surface area for each plate the higher the amount of stored energy. The current capacity is directly related to surface area of the plates.

Each type of battery has different chemistry some works better than others. Within a chemical reaction, there is stored the pressure of pushing electrons. When discharging occurs the chemical reaction is going into a lower energy state and forcing electrons to be pushed out of the negative plate in a battery with a given pressure or voltage.

Chemical reactions are basically ions or compounds that have a charge when in solution. They move in the solution to the plate they like the most, and in the process put pressure on the electrons in that plate. When they get to the negative plate they put pressure on electrons to flow out of that plate. When they get to the positive plate they want to pull electrons into it. An important concept is electrons are not being created in a battery; they are only being pumped or pushed from one plate to the other because of the stored chemical energy.

The direction of electrical flow is determined by the element and compounds used in each plate. The reaction is usually reversible - one can pump electrons in the reverse direction to charge the battery and store energy as a chemical reaction.

An example is the Lead-Acid Cell. A fully charged cell has the negative plate made of spongy lead. This is to give it more surface area. The positive plate is made of lead Peroxide. The electrolyte is mostly sulfuric acid. For a fully discharged cell both plates are made up of a coating of lead sulfate and the electrolyte is mostly water.

The cell discharges when at the electrolyte or acid becomes water and the positive plate or lead peroxide is used up. The negative plate for this cell is more to complete the electrical circuit than anything else. The cell charges when lead sulfate goes into solution making sulfuric acid and the positive plate becomes lead Peroxide again.

Batteries are often rated in Ampere-Hrs. This is the number of amps that can be delivered in one hour. It is a figure of merit that gives a measure of the number of electrons able to be pushed down a wire by the battery over a given time.

Does this answer you questions on this subject?

Q: So, you were saying something about putting batteries in a series, so the flow is stronger? What if one of the batteries goes bad, does it drag the others down? I suppose there are ways to test if a battery is good, and what does it mean for a battery to go bad, anyway. Does the metal get eaten up? Does the fluid have to be acid or alkaline? Sorry to be such a dummy.

When cells or batteries are connected positive terminal to negative terminal they are end to end they are said to be in series. For a water flow analogy consider an output of one fire truck connected to the input of another fire truck. Can you predict the result? The last fire truck can shoot water much higher than any one truck. It would be the same amount of water but with much more pressure. This would have application for a fire in a tall building. So to answer you question yes this increase in pressure could be considered to be a stronger flow.

Batteries wired in series make for more voltage. One adds up the voltage of each cell to get the result for the series connection. The current flow is still the same as any one battery in the string.

If one battery cell [in a series] stops working then the flow is stopped or slowed down for the rest.
Remember this when it comes to 12 volt batteries for they are made up of 6 cells of 2 volts/each in series.
When cells or batteries are connected with positive terminal to positive and negative to negative they are said to be in parallel. For a water flow analogy, consider 4 fire trucks in parallel side by side all pumping there water on a fire. One adds up the quantity of water from each to get the total volume flow.

Each is limited to the pressure that can be generated from only one truck so the pressure is the same for each. This would be good for a large low building fire. For batteries so connected the current adds up to be the sum of each. The voltage ends up to be the same as any one of them.

After several years of working with 6 and 12 volt batteries at a seldom visited remote site, I have finally learned a few valuable lessons worth sharing. When building and using a battery bank for remote power the following practical general rules apply.

General Rule: 1) Do not connect a number of 12 volt batteries in parallel to make a long term use battery bank. We found this is a good way to kill off good batteries in short order. Sooner or latter there is enviably one weak cell in the bunch. This week cell will drain the charge of the rest of the good batteries and untimely make them all bad.

A weak or bad cell is one that losses its charge rapidly (due to internal leakage) the resulting individual 12 volt battery becomes around 11 volts or lower if allowed to set for a week or so. Excessive internal leakage can be a result of over sulfation in the cell.

Most 12 volt batteries are sealed on the top and do not allow for measurement of individual cell voltage. To find a bad cell in a parallel connection of many 12Volt batteries, one has to charge the parallel combination and then disconnect all batteries and let them set for a few days to a week. The batteries with bad cells will ultimately show up with voltages below 12 volts. In a low tech survival environment where one needs to use the batteries daily this becomes impractical.

A better approach is to use one battery at a time for power. From time to time completely charging it and rotating it out to then use another. Watch the voltage of the ones sitting idle to get an idea of how good or bad they are. If you really are on top of it and watching it and need the extra immediate power then go for several in parallel at the most. Try to match up batteries that have the same internal leakage or self discharging rate when doing this. Don't leave it hooked up this way for the long term.

Bottom line it is better to let a good battery set idle when charged than to put it in parallel with other 12 volt batteries. The weakest one will pull down all the rest and make the majority go bad before there normal life time is up. Thus the rule --- do not connect 12 volt batteries in parallel to make a long term use battery bank.

Rule: 2) The deeper the discharged state of a battery the shorted the time one should wait to charge it. If one leaves a 12 volt battery discharged for a month or longer it will not fully charge due to sulfation. This sulfation promotes dead or leaky cells. The longer it is left in a discharged state the less capacity it will have if it holds a change at all.

If a battery is only partly discharged at say 70 %, then the battery can set for much longer (Say 6 months) before it sulfates very much. Sulfation forms when a cell is discharged. Non-reversible sulfation results when the battery sits for too long a time in a partly discharged condition. The sufation crystals become hard and irreversible with time. As a result they then do not go back into solution during charging. The battery is considered to be sulfated.

A sulfated 12 battery can sometimes be cured by over charging it for over a week or so at a minimum of 15 volts. Due to lack of power this can be hard to do in a primitive survival situation. Another way is to drain the battery acid and put distilled water in the cells. Let it sit for one hour. Charge at about 4 amp rate until hydrometer readings does not change over a period of time. This attempts to redissolve most of the sulfate crystals back into solution.

Then drain and save this new wash acid. Wash the sediment out of the cell with more distilled water. It you use non-distilled water it can introduce salts that cause the battery to lose charge rapidly. Replace with new acid if you have it. If in a primitive environment, boil down the wash acid to make it stronger and then combine the original saved acid with the newly created wash acid and continue to slowly boil it down to an amount that will just fit back into the original battery.

Use a non-corrosive or glass container to accomplish this. If the specific gravity gets between 1.25 and 1.3 then you have enough acid left to do the job.

Rule: 3) If you are making a long term use battery bank use 6 high capacity single 2 volt cells in series to make a single 12 volt battery. Get one extra cell to replace one that may go bad in the future. Chose an amp-hr rating that matches your charging capability. If you use a wind-mill and only get a small amount of Amp-hours out of your wind don't chose a high capacity battery bank. You will never keep it charged, the internal leakage will too much.

The advantage of this method is one can from time to time measure the voltage of each of the single cells while in operation. This is done by compare the voltage of each. The one with the consistent lowest voltage is the one most likely to go bad. It will be the one with the greatest internal leakage.

Rule: 4) When using a gasoline generator and a battery charger --- determine you're charging rate in amps and divide that into the amp-hour ratting of the battery to get how many hours you need to run your generator. For example 40 amps divided into 200 amp-hours for a battery = 5 hours for a full charge. From time to time say every month or two over charge the battery bank to balance out the cells. This is called equalization. This insures each cell is fully charged. Cells become unbalanced with respect to state of charge with time, if never fully charged. This is due to different internal leakage rates of each cell.

Rule: 5) Determine your state of charge by measuring voltage for a battery in a resting state. This is a state of not being charged and not discharging and has not been actively being changed for more than 12 hours. Bottom line, wait 12 hours or more after charging and turn off all load and measure the voltage. A voltage of between 12.6 and 13.2 indicates a full charge and 11.4 to 12.0 indicates discharged depending on local temperature and age of battery.

Do not bother to purchase expensive meters that measure state of charge. They end up from personal experience being more trouble than they are worth. A simple low cost digital volt meter from Harbor Freight will work fine. Search for item 90899 for \$2.99 or item 30756 for \$9.99. Both are a "7 function multi-tester" and will work fine.

Internal leakage and sulfation are the prominent variables that determine useful battery life time that one needs to become familiar with and watch for. Batteries do wear out with repeated charging and discharging. When this happens the negative plate mostly still there as lead the positive plate is usually eaten up and there is a lot of lead sulfate down in the bottom of the cell.

A PDF composed ready to print file can be downloaded from the Troubled Times files area for the TT-forum, under the folder "Batteries and battery power". The file "Batteries Lessons learned" has all the details of what I just discussed plus graphics.

With respect to your question on "Does the fluid have to be acid or alkaline?" The answer is NO there is such a thing as salt water batteries. There are Sea water batteries patented that utilizes sea water as the electrolyte, metals such as aluminum or magnesium as the positive terminal and solid insoluble chlorides as the negative terminal. A typical combination is silver chloride as the negative plates and, for example, magnesium for the positive plate. One can also use lead chloride, cuprous chloride or a lead chloride/cuprous chloride for the positive plate. A very simple construction that produces about .5 volt can be made from a penny and a Zink plated screw put in salt water. 8 of these cells in series are enough to run a led night light. Copper and Aluminum will produce a .3 volt cell. In a survival situation one should try other metals that might be available to see what one can get.

Does this answer you questions on this subject?

Q: Survivors can grab car batteries, dry batteries from stores, and maybe other types of batteries to use. But these run out. If a battery is worn out in the Aftertime, after the pole shift, how can we replace them? Can they be repaired, the acid replaced, or rebuilt?

There are always options. There is the previously discussed batteries where the electrolyte is Salt water battery, strong base, or strong acid and the use of any two dissimilar metals. How to make acids and basic solutions was discussed earlier to some extent.

To some extent Lead-Acid batteries can be rebuilt. The first thing to try is the desulfation using distilled water trick described earlier. As a last resort. One can salvage the sulfated lead plates from the negative plates and reset them up in a container using half of them as positive plates with a week solution of sulfuric acid and start charging. One should reverse the charge on the plates for a few cycles then settle down with one polarity. This is basically how the first Lead-Acid batteries were made. You could burn in oxygen some lead and then try pasting some of the newly formed lead peroxide and Lead oxide on to the positive plate and use battery strength sulfuric acid. Run it through several charge and discharge cycles. This basically a simple explanation how modern batteries are made. However, there is a lot of patented know-how in doing this. A good book for the survivalist is called "Secrets of Lead-Acid Batteries Essential knowledge for Alternate Energy Applications" by T. J. Lindsay

Does this answer you questions on this subject?

Q: OK, we've got our batteries, the grid is down, but we can't keep the lights on forever from batteries. We need to generate power, if only to charge the batteries. Assuming that wind mills and water wheels will be some of the most reliable sources, and gas powered generators unlikely to be fueled after a cataclysm like a pole shift, what does this take? Let me quote from some stuff you've written in the past, Mike, for Troubled Times.

Bike Gen power
A stationary supported normal bicycle or an exercise cycle can be used to generate electricity and charge a 12 volt battery. The unit can be made from commonly available parts with not much time needed for assembly. The sustainable output power is between 10 to 45 watts with the peak power at about 100 watts. Low cost commonly available cordless drills can be used as the generator.

Take the front wheel off and mount the remaining yoke on a stable platform made of wood. Use the same bolt holes that held the wheel on. Raise the rear wheel so that the rear wheel turns freely, and bolt this to the [platform].

Take the [rear] tire off the rim and use the grove of the rim as a pulley. Use the pulley already on the generator and install a long belt around these pulleys. Because of the size difference the generator will turn many times to that of the bicycle rim.

One body pedaling is not going to produce much power. 100 to 300 watts is my current guess. Don't figure on running anything but essentials. Takes too much labor-energy. It takes battery storage and a DC to AC inverter to run most well pumps. Incandescent lights will run on 120 V DC. This would take 10 charged batteries in series. Florescent lights will not work on DC, so an inverter would be needed.

Gasoline or diesel generators will be used until the fuel runs out. These will be used to charge batteries for a while. Gas generator power output should be matched to the maximum charging rate of the battery bank to minimize run time and save fuel, target to only need to run it maybe once every week or two.

Charging batteries and generating power over the long term will be by using, windmill wind power such as AirX or Arogen6 that sells for about \$1000 with tower included. Micro-Hydro power, hand cranking battery powered portable drill generators, water powered portable drill generators, and bicycle powered portable drill generators will be other methods of generating power.

The value of Micro Hydro power should not be under estimated. An off the shelf water pump that has an induction motor to run it can actually be converted into an AC generator. One runs a pipe up stream to get enough head pressure to turn this pump at close to rated speed.

One adds a few AC capacitors to tune it to 60 cycle resonance. Then start it turning and a quick zap with a bit of DC to get the magnetic field going and viola you have micro-hydro power that can actually produce 60 cycle alternating current. It can produce as much voltage as the pump is rated for. This could be 120 volts 240 volts etc. This is in common practice in developing countries like India. For how to implement this pick up a copy of
"Pumps as Turbines A user's guide" by Arthur Williams and
"Motors as Generators for Micro-Hydro Power" by Nigel Smith

Does this answer you questions on this subject?

Q: How does the round and round of a wind mill or water wheel or big gen translate into an electron flow? Electro-magnetic power generation? The electrons chasing the magnet, in the direction of the round and round? You provided some stuff for the Troubled Times pages that included using an electric drill to convert the round and round to an electron flow into batteries. I was fascinated. The drill part was replaced with a crank or a connection to the round and round, and the electricity ended up coming OUT of the wires that you plug into the wall. Here's what you said about that:

Hook up 2 cordless drills to charge a 12 volt battery. A bicycle driven emergency battery charger can be made rather simply from two cordless permanent magnet drills and commonly available parts that will produce from 10 to 45 watts charging capacity. This can be used to charge 12 Volt storage batteries or a modified NiCad battery pack.

There is a basic know observation or fact in electricity that if one passes a wire though a magnetic field electrons will begin to flow. The faster one moves the wire the higher the pressure or voltage on every electron in the wire trying to push it out the end of the wire. Note that there is the more resistance to pushing it through the field when it is pushed faster. What is happing is we are converting mechanical energy into pumping the electrons in the wire in one direction or another. The shape and design of the motor or generator allows for maximum change in magnetic field strength across a coil of wire. A simple AC generator might be pictured as a hoarse shrew magnet with a coil of wire rotating around on a shaft between the north and south poles.

In like manner a typical alternator or motor has field coils around the outside of an armature that rotates on the shaft. These field coils draw current to make the strong magnetic field that the wires in the armature cut through. If in place of these coils we place a set of permanent magnets then we do not have to waste any of the generated current to produce this field. Thus this becomes the design of most permanent magnet (PM) motors. Any PM motor can be used as a generator. All one has to do is to keep it turning in the same direction as the motor would be turning to produce the same plus and minus polarity across the output wire leads.

Battery operated hand drills are designed to be light and portable. Thus they use PM motors which can be used as a generator by simply turning it. Test this for your self take the battery pack out of any battery operated hand drill and hook a couple of jumper lads to a volt meter or an amp meter then hold the trigger down and see what you get while turning the chuck by hand. If this generates electricity then the unit has a PM motor in it.

PDF composed ready to print files can be downloaded from the Troubled Times files area for the TT-forum, under the folder "DC Power". There are 4 files that have all the details of how to make DC power with these potable drills along with graphics.

Does this answer you questions on this subject?