This Guy Is Living The Solar PV Dream!

It would be more accurate to say that this guy – LaMar  Alexander – is living one possible solar PV dream.  He became homeless in the late 90’s and decided that he was going to build his own off-grid 14′ x 14′ cabin using cash and recycled materials, so that he would be debt free.  The cabin is pretty basic but provides a modern lifestyle for a fraction of what most people are paying now, while allowing him to live without a mortgage or utility bills.  If you’re interested in learning more about how to live a more independent energy lifestyle on a tiny budget, this guy is the one to watch.  He did it for himself and has spent years sharing this information with others.  You can check out his website or view his videos on his youtube channel.   One of the things he figured out is that PV isn’t actually enough in most parts of the U.S. – you probably need to install some sort of wind power to get energy during the winter months.  Most people seem to build these tiny off-grid buildings in rural areas like Mr. Alexander seems to have done, but this can be done in the city, too!  I visited an off-grid house in north Saint Louis city some years ago though I can’t find any reference to it online now, but I’m sure there are an increasing number of people doing this in the city, too.  So you probably have choices you don’t even realize!  How much would YOU like to live without a mortgage?  The right solar equipment might help you do that.

Low Cost Lighting, Cell Phone Charging and Radio – KA340 Emergency Lantern

I recommend this device!  I bought a Kaito brand device, KA340, for about $34 from my usual online retail overlord (  and it has a surprising number of features for the low cost.  One issue is that, so far, low cost has meant low amount of power generated and stored. The paperwork included with this device claims it has about 8.5 watts of power storage built in, but  I haven’t been able to verify how much energy this device will store IRL.  The paperwork claims that it’s enough for 14 – 16 hours of light, presumably on a full charge.  If you are able to put it in full sun on a clear sunny day and charge it using the built in .5 (yes, that’s one half) watt solar PV panel, with about 5.5 “peak sun hours” (not the same as daylight hours) in the summer (in Saint Louis, MO USA), you’d only be able to pick up about 2.75 watts of energy per day….so maybe you’d have to charge it for 3 days to fill the tiny batteries???  How in the world do they get away with such tiny PV panels and battery packs, you ask?  If you charge it all day, in good sun, that’s still enough for several hours of light, which most people will accept.  It probably takes about 5 watts to charge a cell phone, so if you want light AND cell phone charging you are going to spend a very long time using the hand crank as an energy input.   Beware – there’s no indication that this is waterproof – keep it in a sealed ziploc bag if there’s any chance it could get wet – rained on, spilled on, etc.    Please check out this review – this guy does a pretty good job of describing the features.