When we upgraded our off-the-grid power system (see Power Shift: The Plan in Place) I also took the time to upgrade our documentation.
Handling documentation slowed progress on the upgrade significantly. If you read back through the Power Shift essays, you’ll see a lot of references to searching for system specs, redrawing diagrams, and recalculating figures that should have been written down in the past.
Before I improved the situation, we stored our electrical papers in a stuffed-to-overflowing file folder. Any time we pulled this out to use information from it, we inevitably spilled papers and manuals all over. We eventually began to avoid it, which led to guessing rather than checking documents, a dangerous practice when dealing with electricity.
I shopped our local secondhand stores until I found a catch-all binder of the type that seem to be popular these days. The one I chose included an accordion file section, a 3-ring binder section, and a few extras, such as net pockets and CD envelopes.
I went through the old file, sorting our documents. Part of the paperwork problem comes from my desire to preserve the history of our “homestead.” I hung onto all the documentation the original owner passed on to us, even when that meant keeping several copies of publications, or preserving manuals for old equipment we no longer use. I tossed the worst of it, put the rest in a file marked “History,” and moved anything useful for our current system to the binder.
I put all of our bound equipment manuals into the accordion file section. I punched holes in any loose papers. These included my trusty “DC Cheat Sheet” (explained here) instruction sheets, invoices, hand drawn diagrams, and documents like the azimuth chart (see Power Shift: Charting the Sun Path) and our power consumption estimates. I made separator tabs for “wind,” “solar,” and “system” (for anything that addresses both solar and wind, such as the batteries) put the CD-ROM that came with the charge controller into a CD envelope, and stashed my Backwoods Solar catalog (see Power Shift: Sizing the PV Array) in the back cover’s pocket.
I now have a bookshelf friendly over all reference manual for the power system, ready to hand whenever needed. This helps me follow my own advice (see Make Your Belongings Last—Read The Instructions Often!) and keeps us safer and happier.