Do It Yourself Home Energy Audit

Winter is here. Much of the country is experiencing windy bitter cold days that can sap the energy right of not only you – but your home as well! But on the bright side, you can actually take advantage of these frigid days to conduct your own DIY home energy audit. And it can cost you nearly nothing once you know where to look!

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DIY – How to Convert an Electric Golf Cart to Solar Power – Part 1

If you have an electric golf cart, follow along to convert it to a solar golf cart and you might not need to ever plug it back in to charge again! If you don’t have one (yet), I am finding it super handy, affordable (and stealthy!) way of getting around the property. I highly recommend one!

Continue reading DIY – How to Convert an Electric Golf Cart to Solar Power – Part 1

DIY – How To Build A Solar Generator (3,000 Watt) – Part 1

Note: The original design of this diy solar generator used a 2,000 watt inverter. We have upgraded it to the new 3,000 watt model in the latest version along with several other improvements. Before you build the solar generator following our how to plans, be sure to watch the updates video below for the recent changes!

Introduction

Solar Generators (also called Solar Powered Generators) are extremely useful tools. I started looking into some of the largest portable solar generator units on the market because the idea of a completely silent generator that can run large power loads while never needing gasoline is a really cool concept. Whether you want to run a portable table saw, or go tailgating  / camping where the noise of a standard generator would be irritating, these solar generators are really handy.

I soon realized I could build my own — getting to pick the components that best match my needs, and even better save approximately half the cost vs buying a manufactured solar generator. This post will show you step-by-step how to build your own weatherproof indoor/ outdoor diy solar generator!

Part 1 of our DIY video series on how to build a large solar generator. In this step we will be demonstrating the load ...

Solar Generator Build – Quick Links

Part 1 – Component Overview – (current step)
Part 2 – Component Testing

Part 3 – Mounting Internal & External Components
Part 4 – Wiring the Solar Generator
Part 5 – Plexiglass Cover & Design Updates
Part 6 – Solar Panel & Battery Bank Expansion

After seeing what was available, I found myself wanting to design my own solar generator for many reasons. For one it will be a lot cheaper. Second, I can add several features I wanted to add that are not in to the manufactured units. Finally, because it will be an enjoyable project!

By building your own, you will learn all about small off-grid solar setups, and also be able to fix the individual components if you ever have problems with it down the road. You can also easily modify the plans to build a permanent style off grid solar power setup for a cabin or camper.

Continue reading DIY – How To Build A Solar Generator (3,000 Watt) – Part 1

Loading Tractor Tires Quick & Easy

Loading your tractor tires with windshield washer fluid is an easy upgrade giving more traction, better hill stability, and additional weight / ballast. This is also helps with using a front end loader. I decided to use  windshield washer fluid since it is inexpensive, easy to obtain, will not freeze, and will not corrode the wheels like calcium and some of the other wheel ballast options.

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Restoring a Kubota B20 Tractor – Part 7

Video progress update!

First startup after initial 30-minute run-in and head bolts re-torqued. Now starting to apply load to break in the engine and seat the piston rings.

This is the first time the tractor has moved under its own power in many years! Entire chassis has been split, separated, cleaned up, restored and painted.

Also talk about some of the remaining issues that still need addressed in the steering column, and the front gear case on the left side wheel.

Continue reading Restoring a Kubota B20 Tractor – Part 7

Solar Generator – Final Version and Final Design Updates

The finished large solar generator featured in our DIY How To Build a Solar Generator series. If you are getting ready to follow our video tutorial and build your own solar generator, make sure you watch this video first so you know about the design updates!

In the video below we go over the solar generator features, solar panel kit specs, and our DIY battery bank expansion units. In addition, we show how to upgrade / improve several aspects of the original design including a higher power AC power inverter (3,000 watt continuous, 6,000 watt peak), fully waterproof external switches, mounting improvements, and a better way to store accessories inside the solar generator main case.

Continue reading Solar Generator – Final Version and Final Design Updates

Kubota B20 Moves Under its Own Power!

Video progress update!

First startup after initial 30-minute run-in and head bolts re-torqued. Now starting to apply load to break in the engine and seat the piston rings.

This is the first time the tractor has moved under its own power in many years! Entire chassis has been split, separated, cleaned up, restored and painted.

Continue reading Kubota B20 Moves Under its Own Power!

Adding Solar Power to a Camper or RV

We purchased an ’86 Travel Villa 29′ fifth wheel camper as an inexpensive means to travel out west with our dogs. The camper is an older model, but it has served us well. After building the solar generator, I have found that I  always want to bring it with us when we travel as we typically boon-dock without hookups.

I have decided I would like to add a dedicated solar power system to the camper. This way the camper will always be ready to go, and the dedicated solar panels will also keep the camper’s existing deep-cycle battery topped off when not in use.

Continue reading Adding Solar Power to a Camper or RV

Restoring a Kubota B20 Tractor – Part 6

Spring is knocking at the door, and I am not ready! I have several projects already lined up that I want to use this tractor for, so I need to get it finished up! That said, I still want to paint it since it is disassembled and it is a new skill I want to learn.

I separated all the orange bits from the blue bits, so I could cut down on much of the masking and do a better job at the transitions. I had to figure out a way to lift the loader off without being able to use its own hydraulics (which is how they always seem to be removed on YouTube). I put it in a sling with a ratchet strap and lifted with my engine hoist. I put the rear tires back on the tractor, a rolling hydraulic jack under the front, and rolled the chassis out from under it.

Sidenote – I am not sure why I always end up doing these things in the least efficient order! If I had just removed the loader in the very beginning 1) the tractor would still had both axles and rolled out from under it much easier and 2) removing the front axle / engine would have been so much smoother not working around the loader arms.

Then I welded up some scrap steel to support it using the wedge bolt pin holes. I had to add a strap to keep my support pins from wanting to walk out when working on it, and another to keep the main arm cylinder from wanting to expand & tipping my support stands over.

Kubtat TL420 Loader
Kubota B20 Chassis

These machines have a lot going on under those fenders!

Kubota B20 3 Point

Now I am sanding out as many of the blemishes as I can. I have some new decals on order, and hopefully will soon be laying down some nice shiny new paint.

It’s been several weeks since the last update, and I really was hoping the next update would be a running engine. Unfortunately I had a setback on that, which I will get into shortly. This one is going to be a double update!

First up is that the engine and chassis painted up very nicely. I painted the engine and each of the disassembled chassis sections separately, and then again after having them re-assembled. This allowed me to get better coverage on each section, and then the additional coats after assembly took care of the scratches from re-assembly that are bound to happen.

Painted Kubota D950 Diesel Engine
Painted Kubota B20 Chassis
Painted Kubota B20 Chassis

The cherry picker / hydraulic shop crane has proven invaluable for this project. Besides the normal engine pulling / installation, I have been able to use heavy ratchet straps to sling larger assembly’s like the entire front end loader and the front axle / chassis sub-frame. With careful control of each ratchet strap, I was able to pitch the assembly just how I needed and then line up the frame bolt holes for assembly completely by myself. Even with the aid of several big guys, I do not think that could have been done very easily without it!

Assembling Kubota Chassis with Shop Crane

Once the engine and chassis were all bolted back up, I wanted to test fire the engine before assembling it any further.

Kubota B20 prepping for engine test

I hooked up the minimum connections needed in order to get fuel to the injection pump, and power to the glow plugs and starter. I did not have the radiator installed yet, so I would only be able to run the engine briefly. I also had a scrap piece of wood handy to suffocate the intake with, just in case I did not get all the governor springs inside the injection pump reinstalled correctly.

I bled the air out of each of the injection lines, energized the glow plugs, and cranked it over. Sadly it wouldn’t start. I gave it several attempts and re-bled the injector lines just in case they still had too much air. Eventually I gave up for that night. Later I took the injectors back out for a compression test. I was seeing compression of about 200 psi on #1 and #3, and only 90 psi for cylinder #2. I double checked the valves were adjusted correctly, as that can also give low compression, but all was good there.

I began to suspect the head was cracked from overheating. I know the engine had a history of overheating before it was taken out of service 9 years ago, and likely ran without coolant on at least one occasion due to the cracked T-stat housing I found.

When I had it apart, the cylinder head was warped (about 8 thousands out). I was able to re-surface it myself following YouTube videos, and brought back to within 2 thousands of being flat, which is the workshop manual spec. I also lapped the valves, and was not able to visually see any cracks at that time.

It did not really make sense to have it sent into a shop to be magnafluxed, as the #2 cylinder was pretty eroded, and these heads are cheap enough that if it was cracked a new head from eBay would likely be the same cost or less than repair work on the head. Given that, and the eroded #2 head area, it would not make sense to spend a lot of money repairing this head. But since I didn’t see any cracks at the time, I was willing to invest in a head gasket to give it a shot.

Later after it was all assembled and I had painted the engine, I noticed a crack on the external surface of the head. It appeared to be only in the water jacket area, so I put epoxy on it and tried to forget it was there to ease my mind! But now that my compression is low, the most obvious answer is there were additional cracks that I had not seen.

The good news is I was able to pull the head fairly quickly, without needing to remove the entire engine again.

Kubota B20 Engine Head Removed

I stripped the old head and cleaned it back up for a second inspection. I used a brighter light and a magnifying glass this time. I did find there are at least two cracks in the combustion area, between the valve seats and web to the recessed combustion chamber. Here is a full shot of the head, and even knowing where to look in the photo, I can’t see the cracks. You can see the large pitting / erosion of the #2 cylinder though, which is why I didn’t want to invest in any machine shop work for this head.

Kubota D950 eroded cylinder head

Here is where I epoxied the external crack I had mentioned in the previous post.

D950 external head crack

This is the first internal crack I found. It runs well into the valve recess, across the hardened valve seat, along the lower corner of the valley and down into the recessed combustion chamber. This one actually shows a little better in the photo than it does in person. The camera flash must catch it well.

Kuboto D950 internal head crack

I also discovered this one as well. It crosses the valve seat, and then continues straight into the valley between the ports. It’s harder to see, but its there.

Kuboto D950 internal head crack

I have purchased some penetrating dye and developer to make finding these kinds of issues at home much easier in the future. I may test it out on this scrap head when it comes in just to see what else shows up!

In the mean time I have ordered a Kumar Bros aftermarket replacement head for this engine. The reviews I could find were mostly positive, and it is quite a bit less expensive than a genuine Kubota one. Hopefully the next update will be a running engine!

Click here for Part 7 on the Kubota B20 rebuild.