Life at the end of the road

January 18, 2015

It feels like home :-)

Filed under: daily doings, life off grid — Tags: , , , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 9:05 pm

Well our deluxe residence at Torran on Raasay is really starting to feel like home now, indeed I’ve caught myself on more than one occasion calling it so. I guess we’ve been in here a couple of weeks and more altogether but this will be our tenth night in a row in the ‘Old Schoolhouse’ at Torran and we’re all getting quite settled now into the routine. It’s been hard with the weather and lack of phone but we’re getting used to the ‘wee quirks’ of living in a ‘bit of a mansion’ half a mile down a rough track. In fact I’d go quite as far as to say that we’re actually enjoying it, for we can’t get away from each other in the ‘great hall’ that serves as kitchen, living and dining room Smile Also the shower room upstairs is warm, the water pressure brilliant and the view awesome. Not that I’ve had that many showers here, I tend to take mine on Hallaig after work and get changed there.

One thing for sure the place will never have seen so much ‘STUFF’ since it was built some 150 or so years ago. Not only have we introduced a TV here for the first time. I arrived home from work today to discover MiL ironing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

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Having the TV forced upon me was bad enough but an iron and ironing board too, what next, a sun bed?

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I never said anything but just watched the Studer inverter panel in horror as the load increased into the yellow every time the thermostat kicked in. It says something about this Swiss made inverter and the Rolls batteries, in that it never complained once, and as you can see the voltage quickly recovered. I have only two gripes with this ‘Studer Compact C2324’ inverter, one is that it is a nightmare to program as the instruction manual is written in gibberish, the other is that you actually need to buy the above bit to actually change any of the settings Sad smile That said, and considering this house is a holiday let used by numpties, it is brilliant. It’s only rated at 2.3kW but quite happily runs the whole of this huge house, and despite MiL’s best efforts with the washing machine drier and iron, the generator has never been on yet.

I’m kind of just assuming you all know what I’m talking about there but just in case, let me explain. Like our old house and our new one, all the properties at the north end of Raasay are ‘off grid’. Torran, Arnish and even Fladda had the opportunity of an electrical supply in the 70’s via 95% EEC grants but ‘fluffed it’. Personally that suits me just fine for the lack of electricity made this part of the world more desirable to me as I’d lived without it for years prior to moving here. A grid connection makes you a slave to the ‘big six’ who charge you a fortune for something you can pluck out of the air, shines from the sun or pours on your head. I am of course talking wind, solar and hydro.

Now the Daily Fail and Torygraph may tell you that these technologies are expensive, intermittent and unreliable but when was the last time you had a power cut and how much do you pay PA for gas and electric Smile Me, well I’ve had half a dozen in 25 years and all of those have been for minutes not days. All the mains electricity for this part of Scotland comes from dams built by government schemes after the war. They paid for themselves ten times over in the last 50 years yet the inhabitants of the west coast pay more for their grid supplied electricity than the coal fired south, you really could not make it up.

Of course the reason your electricity is so expensive is because of all the wind turnips, the huge grants they get for being installed and the money they receive for NOT generating anything when its windy. Aye right, what the Fail, Torygraph, Fox News and Sun neglect to tell you is that ALL generators, be they wind, solar, coal, gas or nuclear get paid for not producing in times of low demand.

Sorry, ‘went off on one’ there and got distracted, where was I Smile

Sunday

Saturday was a long enough day with a late sailing for just one foot passenger but I arrived home safely at 22:00 and after one good coffee topped up with Bailey’s went to bed. Sunday arrived around 7:30 and I left Torran an hour later in daylight for the first time.

 

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After a brief sojourn down to Brochel I continued onto work and our day of ‘silent running’ on the Hallaig. Sunday being the day that we sail in ‘Battery Only’ all day.

After the first sailing, the ‘Big Breakfast’ and the usual fire drill and maintenance I settled down to trying to get some sense out of Vodafone http://forum.vodafone.co.uk/t5/Network-queries/Why-don-t-you-LISTEN/td-p/2341950 . Of course it took me the best part of two hours to actually ‘log on’ but I got there in the end and managed to post this

 

Well, I’m sorry if I sound a little abrupt but that’s me a full five weeks without a signal at home IV40 8PF at the north east corner of Loch Arnish. We have no landline, there are 4 Vodafone users at the house with different phones and there is not even the tiniest infinitesimal signal in, around or near the house. There has been a good signal here for ten or fifteen years and we NEED the phone. Our only way of contacting the outside world is via a poor satellite broadband link which will NOT support my Suresignal. We are half a mile down a track with no vehicular access and getting severely annoyed.

Trying to get hold of you chaps at Vodafone is a joke, the website won’t load properly on my satellite link and when it does the ‘Live Chat’ will not work. Obviously I cannot phone and you don’t give an email address, or if you do you hide it well. Eventually I managed to spend the best part of a Sunday morning in a nearby caravan with a better internet conection having a ‘Live Chat’ with ‘Mack’ who was absolutely no help despite doing his best.

"What is your postcode"

"I’ve just given it to you"

"Can I phone you back on another phone"

"There are no other phones, I’ve just told you I have no way of contacting anyone other than email"

"Do you have a landline"

"NO" (fortunately you cannot shout in a ‘Live Chat’)

"I see you have a ‘Suresignal’ can I use that"

"NO the internet protocol is only good for texts"

"OK, I’ll get an engineer to phone", whereupon Mack ended the chat.

Feeling a little dejected I had to wait until Tuesday when I was 40 miles away and had finally got a phone signal. The usual half and an hour going around in circles with exactly the same questions and answers followed. Only this time there was a promise of an engineer to phone back within 30minutes. I waited for an hour and the best I got was a text from the customer care department asking me to rate their response to my complaint. Despite being in a blizzard at the time I stopped in the middle of the road and spent the next twenty minutes replying. That would have been Thursday night I guess and I’ve still not heard a cheep, despite now having full service at work ten miles away and a weak one at IV40 8PF half a mile from my house.

I am not complaing because it’s inconvenient, it’s more than that, we are COMPLETLY reliant on a phone signal and if you look at my records you’ll see I’ve used about 9 minutes this month a probably less last month.

Could someone please LISTEN or at least READ and not just keep following ‘the script’

Thanks to Patrick I also managed to email Jeroen the CEO, doubt it will have done any good but you never know. My good mate Andrew from Finisterre managed to give me Dido Harding’s email and that worked wonders Smile

16:00 came around soon enough and once more we silently headed to Sconser

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this time into the setting sun.

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12 Comments »

  1. That,s probably your best shot of an answer from Vodafone sailing off into the sunset Paul. They are all the same using the same.script, they probably all go to the same training school. Stan

    Comment by Stan — January 18, 2015 @ 10:59 pm

  2. My main gripe with ‘communications’ companies is their lack of communication skills. I moved business premises 14 weeks ago and still not got a landline in, and it is lack of communication not only with me but between the engineers and customer service which is causing the problem.

    Comment by Alistair — January 19, 2015 @ 9:13 am

  3. Maybe you should send a copy of the letter to the communications regulator and the BBC Radio 4, “You and Yours” or the like.

    Comment by Steve — January 19, 2015 @ 1:31 pm

  4. Post the CEO email and I’ll heckle them from this side of the planet.

    Comment by drgeo111 — January 19, 2015 @ 6:31 pm

    • Reading your posts backwards so now I see the info requested above. Never mind. Send up a flare when your service is restored.

      Comment by drgeo111 — January 19, 2015 @ 7:05 pm

  5. Your Vodafone comments reminded me of this post I received the other day.
    http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2015/01/please-go-away.html
    All the best

    Comment by willie — January 19, 2015 @ 9:06 pm

  6. Paul – I enjoy your blog from an off-grid house on an island off Ireland! Just have to pass comment on the Studer 2324. I have one also that has been powering my house for 10 years plus without a major problem. It is outstanding. There have been small issues with fuses but nothing you wouldn’t expect over time. One doesn’t realise how loose connections can become, with big loads, if not checked and tightened.

    By the way I operate with a Bergey turbine, Solar PV and the wonderful Powerspout.

    Am hoping to get to Eigg sometime to see their setup. Perhaps a trip to Raasay has to be included?

    Keep up the excellent work and persist with the writing; it is well regarded.

    Cheers, David Andrews.

    Comment by David Andrews — January 29, 2015 @ 3:36 am

    • Good morning and welcome David, yes, I’m very impressed with that Studer too, I bought a smaller one of eBlag as a spare some time ago and mounted it alongside ‘just in case’. It has only ever been used once just to check it worked, and when it did, it ran the whole house including the washer/drier no problem. What size is the Bergey? and how has that fared to the Atlantic weather?

      Cheers, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — January 29, 2015 @ 7:11 am

      • I have the 1 kW Bergey. As you know whole books can be written about this stuff that we have installed but to be brief the Bergey is now the base load generator to the system and copes with the wild atlantic winter weather with few complaints. Fortunately the blade profile is constant over its length and simply by cutting off 80 mm from each blade the tendency for the machine to roar in high winds was mostly reduced. Oh for a cheap mechanical brake. Otherwise the Bergey is a very simple machine and therefore within my engineering capabilities to service and fix. This was the deciding factor in its purchase 13 years ago.

        I’m lucky to be able to make use of water, wind and sun so each generator is of a similar output and their combined productivity means very limited use of the diesel backup ( 2-3 hours per month ). There is only the two of in the house for most of the time but we have all the usual white goods clutter.

        In this part of the world there are regular power outages in bad weather ( the aged distribution system is really on the edge of failure ) and the first thing we notice is the lack of lights around the island at night and sit there rather smugly.

        Here’s the question I have: Are Lithium ion batteries the answer to domestic storage situations? I have experienced lead acid and gel types and there has to be a better, more efficient method.

        Slainte, David.

        Comment by David Andrews — January 29, 2015 @ 6:31 pm

      • Seriously considered LiFePO4 when designing the new house system but decided against it in the end. They’re certainly more efficient but way too expensive just now and require either a complex ‘battery management system’ or none at all!!! depending on who you believe on the Internet. We have 216 of them on the ferry and after a years ‘cycling’ they’re still 98% efficient. They do ‘have their moments’ though https://lifeattheendoftheroad.wordpress.com/2014/12/31/the-office-party/

        Cheers, Paul

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — January 29, 2015 @ 8:33 pm

  7. Paul – have been reading about electric car LiFe battery packs that are replaced when charging capacity reaches 70% of maximum. Perhaps there will be a resale market for these packs to the RE sector and someone will come up with a control mechanism for the battery?

    David.

    Comment by David Andrews — January 30, 2015 @ 5:55 pm


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