Shed of the year 2012 Finalist – Kevin from the Solar Shed has written a guest post about powering your shed – this is something that I get asked a lot so better ask the expert!
Shedding some light on the issue!
Over the years, Shed men and women have often pondered as to how to power up their wooden edifices, and be able to see when its dark, stay warm in the winter when preparing the ‘plot’, make a brew and all the other things that shed folk would like, to make life easier.
There are two main locations for sheds and shelters, Gardens and communal allotments.
We’ll start with the communal allotments. Now, as attractive the idea of a allotment is, and with rising food prices and people conscious of ‘food miles’ more and more Brits are growing their own. A couple of years ago, more seeds for food were sold in the UK than flowers.
This says something about our environmental credentials than anything else. But at certain times of the year, or even the day, you may not want to out on the land and who can think of anything better than an hour sitting down drinking herbal tea freshly picked from the plot?
So, our first line of energy has to be HEAT. This itself is simple and if you’ve ever been camping in a field, you’ll know how to do this. A simple gas stove and a tin kettle is all you need. I recently took possession of an old Shepherds stove, which is a mini wood burner.
It would have had a life in a stone or wooden shelter and would keep the shepherd dry and warm during a down pour or cold winter on the Fells or Hillside.
A simple stove can heat water and cook food which in turn gives you the energy that you need to keep going when working the land. On my old allotments in Sydenham, South London, we would meet for breakfast around the sheds of an old Jamaican guy called Alvin. He would pick some black mint, brew up and then start on the food.
Fresh fried onion, cabbage, potatoes and a few fresh leave sprinkled on top and bingo, eat your heart out Gordon Ramsey. Simple living made easy. But what about lighting I hear you ask, the Council allotments don’t always allow electricity to be piped into the shed or even water in many many cases. So, as water is so essential to the food grower, there are two simple methods for collection.
One is to place butts around the shed and collect from a down pipe from the roof. By linking several butts together, you can easily get enough water to last between downpours. By adding a simple mesh plug, covered with the wife’s nylons, you can filter out the nasties and get fairly fresh water without the bits that make it go green and smelly. And boiled water will kill any bugs as well.
If you have a big plot and don’t fancy carrying watering cans to the far end of the plot, try suspending a 1 meter sheet of clear plastic (stronger the better) over 4 wooden stakes, with a small hole in the plastic to allow the captured water to fall into a butt placed underneath. Water is life, not only for you, but also the plants and food you grow!
When it comes to lighting, there are many methods to get free light into your shed. The first, more costly method is by fitting a simple Solar lights systems. These can be purchased from many outlets, but by going for one with at least 5 l.e.d.s, you will not have to worry about buying more than one or two. These are simple systems which consist of a small solar panel that attaches to the light unit.
Mine switch on automatically when i walk into the shed, which could also scare a would be intruder as well! I have placed a mirror close to the light to reflect even more light to the dark corners! The panels charge the battery in the light unit during the day and then you use the energy when its needed at dusk or nightfall.
For those with dark sheds, even during the day, you can cut a hole in the roof and place a water filled plastic bottle into the hole. Light transfers through the clear plastic and water and gives free light underneath. By putting a small spoon full of bleach into the water first, will keep it clean and clear for years to come. Remember to ‘seal’ the bottle and hole to avoid any damp getting in and rusting up any tools left on sight.
Garden sheds and offices.
Depending on use and aspiration, garden sheds can become more like weekend retreats, just have a look through the entrants of this years Shed of the Year and see the inspirational sheds at the bottom of the garden. Rigging up a simple extension lead from the house is one solution to getting your energy but for the more environmentally conscious among us, you may be thinking ‘Green’
This will indeed cost more money but everything CAN be done without costing the earth. Again, think solar. Having panels feeding electricity into a battery is simple enough and there are plenty of demo videos out there on youtube and the like.
As I work within the Renewable energy industry and I have a large shed, I have had 8 x 250w panels fitted which are connected to the grid. This gives me free power during the day and I also earn money from the Feed In Tariff scheme that has driven solar sales in recent years.
Simpler ‘Off-grid’ systems require a certain level of know-how, but if you are good with wires and batteries anything can be achieved.
When you have free electricity and free water it is amazing what you can do. Now that we are in a Drought and have a hose pipe ban, I have placed an 800 liter water butt to my Solar Shed and placed a water butt pump inside.
It is connected to a hose that has several diverters connected to it. I have attached various hoses to the ‘rigg’ that allow me to water, soak, clean, and use as much water as I can harvest from the roofs without using mains water.
As the panels produce a lot of electricity, and the pump uses 350w p/hour, I always make sure I am producing more energy than the pump requires so as to maximise my set up without using any ‘normal’ electricity which is getting more expensive by the day it seems! I have now placed timers on my water pumps so I only use the energy I generate at the peak of the suns power.
It costs me nothing to water a half acre plot which gives us about 75% of our fruit and veg over a year. Free water, free electricity and other than a few seeds and many hours of pleasurable toil on the land, it really is cost free living.
Shedlife is becoming more and more of a socially acceptable leisure activity and by thinking green, living green you can have the good life without going back to the dark ages.
Kevin Holland left the Police after 17yrs to become an environmental consultant. He has reduced his domestic bills to next to nothing, is a now a net exporter of electricity and uses very little grid tied utilities.
You can follow me on Twitter @TheSolarShed