Newt's Story

This is one from the history vault courtesy of our longtime customer, Newt, reflecting on his time in the very remote backwoods at Yellow Pine Bar on the Salmon River. We want to thank Newt, and Greg Metz,  as well as, the communities out on the Taylor Ranch, Grangeville, Yellow Pine Bar, and all in the Cascade HC83 or 85 location for being such loyal and committed customers after all these years. We know your inspiring story will encourage others to live the dream of an energy independent backwoods lifestyle!! 

Newt writes:

After living in the “Back country” for 30 years, we made a move to town for age/health reasons and to be closer to family. Wanted to thank all you “guys”, for always being there when anyone had a problem. Here is our story:

In 1988 we buried wire from a 1250 KW generator to shop/cabin. Then in 1989 we purchased a 9’ satellite TV Dish, one battery and a 600W Heart inverter (to run the receiver for 48 hours every month to catch signal). Tried to run a freezer with a motor/generator and some “good used” 2 volt telephone batteries, later some “good used” golf cart batteries (took more power to run it than we used). 

The hydro we were using was a “home built”, running an old motor by a belt from a small Pelton type wheel (very inefficient with lots of friction drag from bearing and the belt)-at best it put out 6 amps -12volt.

We then put 3 solar panels up and ran some lights and a VCR. Later put 8 new golf cart batteries in line with a trace 1500W modified wave inverter. The “big” generator was upgraded to a 1500KW and we added 2 more batteries to our bank and installed 3 more solar panels. After much thought (as we didn't have much water-a 3/8” nozzle would run us dry), we installed a two nozzle brush type Harris Hydro, (a two nozzle, so we could have the option of running different size nozzles without taking the thing apart).

Then the fire of ’03 that burnt the holding tank and most of our waterline, we replaced the line from 1 ½” to 2”, including the line to the hydro. Had to replace the 1,000 gallon tank, we put in a new one about 20’ higher than our old one. We now have a new “bank” of 10-235 amp batteries, giving us 1175 amps total, and running a 2000 W Prosine (true sine wave inverter). 

Over time, we have gone electric! Got rid of all propane lights, don’t even own an oil or Coleman lantern anymore and we are now able to run an electric freezer and an electric refrigerator (both off the shelf-normal units). All our lights are electric ballast compact florescent, we have both satellite TV and computer and are able to run other small appliances and some tools in the shop. To boost the battery bank and run large motors in the shop we fire up the generator. We also only do the wash and vacuum when the generator is on, so, what we have has evolved over time with lots of changes.

We now have a 12 volt system, with 6 solar panels, giving us about 17 amps, a brush type Harris Hydro giving us about 20 amps with a 5/16” or 26 amps with a 11/32” nozzle, 900’ of 2” poly pipe, with about 160’ drop (wish we could go higher). Our bank consists of 10 Trojan golf cart batteries, with a total of 1175 amp hours. Our last bank of batteries lasted almost 9 years-larger batteries (L16’s) should last longer.

Our inverter is a Prosine 2,000 with a 3 stage built in charger. The original Heart 600 is now isolated and only runs the computer. The solar is run through a “backwoods” controller, while the hydro has a trace controller with an air diversion load.

Up to this point, the only thing we would change is to upgrade to a brushless alternator hydro, giving about 25% more power and without the hassle of taking the whole thing apart every year to change the brushes. I have just changed them again and it looks like next time the collector rings will also need to be changed, requiring a press and some crossed fingers! The cost of going brushless would be well worth the “extra” power and the lack of headaches!!!

The community out where Newt and his wife lived still continues to live the backwoods lifestyle relying on one radio patch network to communicate with. Newt’s old home is now the home of Greg Metz and he says that, “Things are still running along here regarding the power system. Power output is not as high as Newts numbers but no biggie.  We did install a new brushless alternator for the hydro - nice not to have to change those brushes every 10 months. +/-.  (We) buried new copper line instead of the old aluminum. (The) battery bank is 11 years old now and still holding in there (knock on wood), but I am currently looking at a new bank of batteries. The solar panels are supposed to put out 18 amps but we have only ever gotten 6 amps at the most on a good day. Would like to replace them and add more soon.”

All the homes in this community use renewable energy systems designed and built with components and help from Backwoods Solar. At times technical assistance was required for over 4 hours on the phone/radio patch and Newt reiterated how thankful everyone was to have that kind of personal attention when they really relied on it.