Sunday 18 November 2012


When we work on the details for going off-the-grid, one of the most difficult problems is how to accommodate a welding machine.
Self-sufficient living demands the ability to repair as much as possible,
and on the homestead, repairs are part of each day's routine.
The welder may not be used everyday, but I couldn't imagine dealing with repairs without one.

There are many types of welding machine.
The most common unit found in the back corners of barns and shops everywhere is a simple AC welder.
These are fairly limited in terms of weld technique variety, but for basic repairs and fabrication,
they get the job done as well as any other type.
Also, they come cheap if you're on the hunt for one.
Free in many cases.
The unit pictured draws a maximum of 45 amps from the electrical panel.
On the output side is a max of 225 amps, which is plenty for most tasks.
The 45 amp peak draw is modest compared to many appliances such as the stove or space heaters.
It's a lot of electricity in one short pass, but it only lasts a moment, unlike baking a cake which draws for the better part of an hour.
The actual draw of this welder would depend on the size of the material being worked on, and in most cases would be much lower than the advertised peak.

When I talk about welding there is a line that I always use:
More than half of the skill of welding is the ability to select the right electrode and correct settings on a machine.
(The electrode in this case is the 'rod' or 'stick' that is consumed during the process and has a number stamp which identifies it's properties.)
And though I don't wish to diminish the complexity and depth of the trade itself,
basic at-home welding is easy to master once you understand how to adjust settings and which electrodes to choose.
These AC machines will only work well with a small selection of electrodes, so once you have found the type that you prefer, any further challenges will have more to do with the repair jobs themselves and have less to do with the welding rigging.

On a busy homestead, you cannot be held back by the inability to make simple welding repairs.
A well placed machine will solve a major problem in mere minutes.
Even if it's not a proper repair, simply getting out of a jam is often what is really needed.
Or maybe it's a special tool that you need right away.
Keeping metal scrap and junk around can turn waste into valuable technology with some creative innovation.
But you need to have the welder on hand and prepared.
Make sure the welder is at the outside edge of a shop and not in the back corner.

As for going off-grid?
I would be sure to have a diesel (bio-fuel) generator available for short bursts of high current electricity that typical solar or wind systems don't have the capacity for.
A welding machine plays a key role in keeping equipment going and making the best use of metal waste.
No farm or homestead should be without one.
There will always be a place for the highly skilled tradespeople who specialize as welders.
But for the quick fix that can save you time and money,
basic welding equpiment and skills are invaluable.


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