Southwest Tour: [Mikey Sklar's] homestead

While on our southwest tour, we were sure to make some time to go visit [Mikey Sklar]. He’s been a friend of hackaday for a long time, both as a writer and as someone who sends us cool projects. As you may have noticed from some of the posts we’ve done on his projects, [Mikey] lives in the middle of the desert and is attempting to lead a fairly self sustaining life style. He and [Wendy] showed us their gardens, the hot spring on their property,and some cool building materials they’ve utilized. We got to tour [Mikey's] workshop and check out how his solar system was set up. It was pretty cool seeing “da Pimp” being used to revive old batteries. [Mikey] even mentioned that he’s building in a lot of safeguards in the next revision based on the feedback he got online.

What I really enjoyed about talking with [Mikey] and [Wendy] was that they didn’t act like they had it all figured out. They’re approaching this whole lifestyle as a learning adventure as you can hear when [Mikey] talks about their bees.

Geeks living off the grid are hard on batteries

Many of you will remember [Mikey Sklar] from the multitude of times he’s been on hackaday. What you may not have noticed is that he is an ubergeek, living off the grid.

He has Solar PV battery bank, three electric vehicles, a shipping container loaded with battery powered tools and a small army of iRobot Roomba’s for cleaning. Getting the maximum lifetime out of a battery by removing sulfation is essential to keep expenses down.

Keeping expenses down is nearly a full time job when trying to live the homestead lifestyle. Our current culture makes it extremely difficult to survive completely on self made/grown things and bartering. They seem to be doing pretty well though. One way he can reduce his costs while still getting to enjoy some modern gadgets is to get longer life out of his batteries.  He does this by using a capacitive battery charger and desolfator that he designed and affectionately calls “Da Pimp”. He also brings in a little bit of income by selling kits!

 A capacitive charger behaves like a constant current power supply dynamically adjusting the voltage to get over the batteries internal resistance. Plus there is a pulse from the AC/DC conversion. This allows for old batteries to last longer and for dumpster dived to be used as replacements. Capacitive chargers are small, silent and super efficent (up to 60% more so than cheap transformer based chargers).

Of course, [Mikey] is a supporter of sharing information so you can also go to his site and download the schematics,bill of materials, gerber files, and files for the housing,  to build one yourself.