ffj's early retirement

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ffj
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ffj's early retirement

Post by ffj » Mon Feb 16, 2015 6:49 pm

I am snowed in today and thought this would be a good opportunity to begin something I have thought about for a while. Specifically, a journal that focuses on not so much the struggle of achieving ER, but what happens once you get there. At least for me. My whole adult life I've dreamed of reclaiming my days and now that I've achieved that I would like to share some of it with you guys.

I retired last year pretty much on my 46th birthday. It was wonderful to say the least, and I have not regretted it a single day since. Some of you may know of my career in the fire service, which was a job you come to love but it has it costs. Perhaps I could share some stories of some of the memorable experiences sometime. I still work part-time in the fire service as an instructor which is very rewarding, and I volunteer on the side, which gets me out of the house about fifteen hours a week. Here's my last ride before I quit:

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I've been working on my house since I retired and one of the issues I've always hated about our house is that it didn't have a proper porch. I really enjoy being outdoors and a covered porch really extends your options for remaining outside. A local company here that specialized in metal buildings closed down 10 years ago due to a pending divorce of the owners. They finalized their divorce last year and I was able to acquire most of my building material for half price once they liquidated the business. It was a huge savings so I went big. I still remember my wife asking me what the hell I was doing. haha. Here's the house before I started building:

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And after I started framing:

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And here's the latest from today with a foot of snow on the ground (which is a big deal for us btw):

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I still have to redo the original deck that's falling down, which I'll do this spring. It's nice to have the time to this kind of stuff and not feel rushed. When I get tired or the weather is shitty, I put my tools away and do something else. I have found that if I work about 3, maybe 4 hours a day then that is a sweet spot for me. Anything else starts to feel like work.

Until next time.

rube
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Re: ffj's early retirement

Post by rube » Tue Feb 17, 2015 6:52 am

Thank you ffj. It is great to see what people do and experience when they are er(e).

And great porch!
I look forward to build my own house once I am er also.

sshawnn
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Re: ffj's early retirement

Post by sshawnn » Tue Feb 17, 2015 7:12 am

That porch looks strong!

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Dragline
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Re: ffj's early retirement

Post by Dragline » Tue Feb 17, 2015 7:49 am

Yes, nice work and nice pics.

jacob
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Re: ffj's early retirement

Post by jacob » Tue Feb 17, 2015 8:21 am

You still haven't burned those jigs? 8-)

leeholsen
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Re: ffj's early retirement

Post by leeholsen » Tue Feb 17, 2015 10:29 am

looks nice and very jealous.

I got the same idea to have a house about like that somewhere around Asheville north Carolina when I pull the plug and spend the rest of my days getting to know every mile of the blue ridge parkway and the appalachian mountains.

George the original one
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Re: ffj's early retirement

Post by George the original one » Tue Feb 17, 2015 2:45 pm

Thanks for the lovely update! Yeah, about 3-4 hours of project time, when you're feeling like it, is about right.

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bigato
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Re: ffj's early retirement

Post by bigato » Tue Feb 17, 2015 2:53 pm

looks good!
it is not very inclined, isn't that a problem when it snows?

ffj
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Re: ffj's early retirement

Post by ffj » Tue Feb 17, 2015 4:48 pm

@rube
Thank you

@shawn
We get some ferocious winds around here. I was determined this wasn't going to blow away.

@Dragline
Thank you

@jacob
The jigs were sacrificed to the fire gods months ago. I use that fire pit all the time. It's great to pull up a chair and stare at the fire and think deep thoughts. Or just thoughts in my case. hehe

@lee
I love North Carolina. If I didn't live here, I would move there. Probably the most beautiful state I can imagine. Ashville's a cool place too.

@George
Thanks. Everybody should work a 3 hour day. I love it.

@bigato
No, it's not very inclined. That's because I wanted to maximize my headroom on my porch. I built this thing like a tank, so snow isn't an issue. Also, it's rare we get as much snow as we did yesterday. It's been 17 years since it snowed this much before. It sheds rainwater jut fine so that's all I care about.

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theanimal
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Re: ffj's early retirement

Post by theanimal » Tue Feb 17, 2015 4:54 pm

Nice to see the end result. Looks good!

I'm looking forward to future updates.

ffj
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Re: ffj's early retirement

Post by ffj » Tue Feb 17, 2015 5:53 pm

Another snow day today. Here's my driveway after shoveling:

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Everybody around Boston is snickering right now. You call that snow? haha

Something that interests me is Tlud stoves or gasifiers. It's a really efficient way of burning wood and there are many models out there designed for third-world countries to help prevent deforestation. I built one of these a couple of years ago similar to the one in this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxODae_BS74

I can't find my design for the one I built but it varies somewhat from the video. There are three parts. First, a large can to house the burn chamber:

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The burn chamber:

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And the top which captures the smoke for re-ignition:

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Here's all three together:

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These are all readily available cans at the grocery store. I think the large one held tomato juice, the small one soup, and the top one chicken.

The fuel I used are wood pellets and with just a few ounces I was able to achieve a burn time around twenty-five minutes which is plenty of time for simple meals. I can purchase a forty pound bag of these pellets for six dollars:

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Here's a picture of it in use. Note the lack of any smoke:

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Thats because the top piece captures the smoke and it is literally burned just like the fuel below. Here's a picture of when the top piece is removed and the smoke is no longer captured:

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Something I would like to try is to monitor the carbon monoxide levels in a confined space when the lid is in place and no smoke is produced. I have access to a CO detecter from the fire department and hopefully here in the near future I can see what it produces.

Anyway, I am in the process of building a larger one of these to burn recyclable fuel made from sawdust and newspaper. I''ll keep you guys updated on my design and build here shortly.

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Gilberto de Piento
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Re: ffj's early retirement

Post by Gilberto de Piento » Tue Feb 17, 2015 9:39 pm

Does the stove work well with sticks and twigs or just pellets?

Alcohol stoves are also fun.

ffj
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Re: ffj's early retirement

Post by ffj » Wed Feb 18, 2015 10:08 am

@Gilberto

Oh yeah, some people take these things camping with them and just use whatever they can can find lying around to burn. I used the pellets because I have a pellet stove in my house.

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GandK
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Re: ffj's early retirement

Post by GandK » Wed Feb 18, 2015 11:54 am

Awesome, @ffj! Your porch looks great, and your retirement sounds even better!

Yeah, we're snowed in here, too. Third snow day in a row for the kiddos. When I can tell you how many rows of wheat they have planted in Minecraft, we've ALL been indoors too long.

ffj
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Re: ffj's early retirement

Post by ffj » Wed Feb 18, 2015 8:33 pm

@K

Haha, this is me after three days:

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And this is going to be me if the weather doesn't let up soon:

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And we all know what happens after that. hehe

Found the link to the wood stove I built:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0N2wwSS ... 65&index=2

And here's a good video of what these things are capable of:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWh21tjAe9g

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theanimal
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Re: ffj's early retirement

Post by theanimal » Wed Feb 18, 2015 9:15 pm

That wood stove is really cool. Thanks for sharing. I'm probably going to have to make one for myself now. 6 g of wood per min appears to be pretty darn good, especially since the pellets are so inexpensive.

For winter camping I use an MSR stove but this would be lighter and more versatile (and less expensive), since its able to burn twigs etc. I made my own alcohol stove for other seasons.

ffj
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Re: ffj's early retirement

Post by ffj » Thu Feb 19, 2015 6:03 pm

@animal

Glad you liked it. The beauty of it is that you can burn stuff just lying around. You don't have to chop a tree down to cook dinner.

ffj
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Re: ffj's early retirement

Post by ffj » Thu Feb 19, 2015 11:14 pm

I like being prepared; I think I've even got a little bit of prepper in me. Don't worry, I'm not the crazy type. But I like being able to handle short-term calamities such as severe weather, roof leaks, plumbing issues, etc. I still remember an ice storm we had a few years ago in which the entire electrical grid went down for a week. Since we relied on electrical heat and electricity for basically everything else we were pretty much screwed. I had no alternate source of power, heat, or way to recharge batteries. I basically took my family to my parents to stay and I literally camped out in my own house with candles for light and zero heat. I had to drain my waterlines to keep them from freezing and took showers at work. To make matters worse, since my electrical sump pump no longer worked in my basement, my entire basement flooded with melting snow and ice. Not a fun time. I still remember trying to buy kerosene and a kerosene heater. It was impossible within a 100-mile radius until after the power was restored. I did learn though, that if I slept under seven blankets I could sleep just fine in a freezing home.

Anyway, since then I've taken steps not to encounter that situation again. I now have alternate sources of heat, alternate methods of cooking, plenty of water storage, but what I didn't have until recently was an alternate source of electricity. I don't like generators because they require fuel, are noisy, and are the first things to get stolen when they become scarce, so I explored solar with a battery bank. After much research, I decided on this set-up for the battery bank and sine-wave inverter:

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The AGM batteries are 12 volt and are wired in parallel, and provide over 300 amp-hours of power. Currently, I keep them topped off with a battery charger until I buy the solar panels. The manufacturer of the batteries states that if the batteries are never discharged below 80% capacity, then I should get about 1,300 recharges out of them until they start declining in performance. As these are strictly for emergency back-up, I shouldn't have to replace these for a very long time.

The inverter is 1,000 watt sine-wave made by Powerbright, which allows me to run electronics, microwave, and other sensitive equipment without interference.

This is the site I plan on buying my solar panels from:

http://www.windynation.com

They are by far the most reasonable that I can find. Ironically, if I order their kits from Amazon, I can get free shipping. Here's the set-up I would like to get:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00HY6 ... 19FHI2Z5KL

This stuff is not cheap, but the prices are getting fairly reasonable for a 25 year warranty on these products. I thnk this system would power one of these tiny homes without issue. I'll have to post when the panels arrive and I get them installed.

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theanimal
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Re: ffj's early retirement

Post by theanimal » Thu Feb 19, 2015 11:50 pm

Their site offers free shipping as well. And unless I'm missing something, the same kit on their site is $100 less.

I'll be interested to see how these work out. I think I'll be getting some for myself at some point as well.

ffj
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Re: ffj's early retirement

Post by ffj » Fri Feb 20, 2015 9:08 am

How did I miss that? They do offer fee shipping and it is cheaper. Thanks Animal.

http://www.windynation.com/MPPT-Monocry ... IrcGFuZWxz

sshawnn
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Re: ffj's early retirement

Post by sshawnn » Fri Feb 20, 2015 9:38 am

Staging your off the grid set up as battery back up is :idea: !

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GandK
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Re: ffj's early retirement

Post by GandK » Fri Feb 20, 2015 11:01 am

@j, I thought of this thread today when I saw this:

Snow Removal

I can't wait for the day when G no longer works and we can move toward a more off grid lifestyle. I want to homestead and he wants to travel, but we both want to unplug. We talk about living in a camper for a few years and homeschooling our youngest. That may be pie in the sky... our parents are aging and may require our attention/care. But a future free of attachments is fun to dream about for both of us, and it's inspiring to see others move in that direction.

ffj
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Re: ffj's early retirement

Post by ffj » Sat Feb 21, 2015 11:15 am

That site is a lot of fun. Nothing better than absurd (and not so absurd) questions with practical answers. Great way to get your geek on.

Regarding unplugging, there is a lot of really neat stuff out there that opens the door to a hassle-free life. It's an exciting time to pursue that path.

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jennypenny
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Re: ffj's early retirement

Post by jennypenny » Sat Feb 21, 2015 11:47 am

ffj wrote:I like being prepared; I think I've even got a little bit of prepper in me. Don't worry, I'm not the crazy type.
Like me. :D

The AGM batteries are 12 volt and are wired in parallel, and provide over 300 amp-hours of power. Currently, I keep them topped off with a battery charger until I buy the solar panels.
DH wants to know how often you have to top off the batteries and if it's a pain to do it that way. (I think he's wondering if he should hold off on the batteries until he buys the solar panels.)

ffj
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Re: ffj's early retirement

Post by ffj » Sat Feb 21, 2015 6:13 pm

@Jenny

Not very often as these are for emergency back-up. I try to keep them topped off at 13 or 13.1 volts . Right now it simply involves hooking up a battery charger to them and turning the charger on.

There are mathematical formula's you can use to figure out how long these will last with various loads. I find it a lot simpler to just hook them up to whatever you would like to run and see how long they last at the cut-off of 80% capacity. My last test involved running my pellet stove and seeing what kind of run time I could achieve. Basically I plugged the stove in to the inverter and ran the batteries down to 12.4 volts, which is about 75/80% capacity. The pellet stove has fans and an auger that it continually employs while in operation and I was able to operate it for 7 hours straight. I wasn't crazily impressed by that but then I don't know the wattage draw of the pellet stove. It might be great.The spec plate is on the back of the stove and I can't get back there to record the numbers as the stove is mounted in place. I need to see if I can find the specs on-line.

Now if my power were to fail from the grid today, I would power my refrigerator instead along with my battery chargers for various things like flashlights and cell phones. I've got kerosene heaters for heat which would be more efficient than the pellet stove as long as I had kerosene on hand. I could also power Led televisions and Led lights for a long time. And of course my basement sump-pump.

I don't know if you noticed in the picture but I have a Led voltmeter hooked up to the batteries. I bought it for $7.00 off of Amazon and built the case for it from an electrical box. I would recommend this as you will always have a cheap and hassle-free way of monitoring your batteries.

I decided to purchase the batteries and inverter first because then I would have instant power and I reasoned I could top them off with a charger before any inclement weather occurred. I also have an another inverter that I can hook up to my vehicle that could power a battery charger. As long as I have gasoline in a vehicle I have a generator.

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