Shielding the Power System with Garbage

By , January 30, 2020

Ever since I installed a breaker box for our off-the-grid power system in 2015, (see Hangover), it has had a flaw, an Achilles’s heel, if you will: the breakers in the breaker box have been vulnerable to inadvertent switching.

The three breaker switches, which can cut off power flow to or from the battery, the controller, and the solar array, can get bumped, disconnecting any or all of these components.

Had I thought about it a bit more, I likely would have installed these switches upside down (are you old enough, gentle reader, to remember the old “Upizoff” joke from our childhood?) but I didn’t.

One or more of those switches has been accidentally switched every great now and then over the last 4+ years, especially since we put totes holding warm weather gear and work gloves on the old battery box.

off-the-grid power breaker box

You can see here that the breakers are vulnerable to clothing and other gear flipping them inadvertently (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Recently, our power levels got very low. Worrying about when or if we’d get enough wind or sun to recharge our battery became a major issue here. One night, we got a good charging wind, but we got no charge to the battery. As usual, we went to bed, assuming the wind would fill in during the night, and charge the battery.

As it happened, I got up about an hour later, and looked at the system again. I discovered that the breaker for the battery had gotten flipped inadvertently. I put away a pair of rain pants earlier in the day, and probably snagged the switch then.

Obviously, we needed something to guard against this. I imagined a manufactured guard, maybe a plastic bubble on a hinged bar. The bar, ideally, would have an adhesive strip that could be stuck to the face of the breaker box, so that the guard would hang over the switches, or flip up as needed.

No one seems to carry anything like this. So, I made my own, using garbage.

off-the-grid power breaker box

The “garbage” sourced shield should keeps them safe, and provides maximum visibility! (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

I took a plastic “clam shell” in which salad greens had been purchased from the recycling bag (it’s winter here, after all, and moose are eating anything left of the garden!) and cut the lid to fit. I then made a hinge with a short piece of duct tape.

Problem solved. It’s not very attractive, but we shouldn’t need to worry about flipping breakers when we toss a wool hat onto a tote lid in the future. If I can upgrade to something better, I will, but at least now I have a proof of concept!

2 Responses to “Shielding the Power System with Garbage”

  1. Mark Zeiger says:

    Ekij, this is almost exactly what I was looking for, before I gave up and made my own. Thanks for the lead!

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