A New Guy with a house purchase on solar, not knowing anything about it

Discussion in 'Off Grid Living' started by Nadja, Jul 7, 2012.

  1. Nadja

    Nadja RIP 3-11-2013 Forum Leader

    When heading into town about a week ago, there was a man waiting in front of the grocery store. He said he had been waiting for me for about an hour. Never met him before, and first thought was was I still in shape to fight ! Well, turns out he is a very nice guy with no knowledge of solar at all. He is running 4 panels, and 8 - L16 batteries He can only tell me what kind of inverter he has by the color and size. He does not have enough power, so he asked me to come over and help him hook up his newest 4 panels and 8 more l-16 batteries. Does he know what size system he has ? No, He doesn't even know what voltage he is running. But the local solar store sold him 4 new panels, not even knowing if they will work for him.

    If he has a 12 volt system as I do, and most around here, and they sold him 24 volt panels, then he will either need to exchange them or up to an outback mx series charge controller for those 4 panels. And why on earth would they sell him 8 more l-16 batteries, when he told them his on line right now are only 1 year old ? These are just some of the reasons, I hate to see people just go into a store, listen the the used car salesmen and buy what they tell him to buy.

    Since he and his wife use a refer and only watch tv a couple of hours a day at most, their computer is a laptop, and only a light or two now and then, do you see the problems ?

    Without even looking , I can pretty much figure out that he doesn't have enough solar coming in to charge the batteries he has. My 2500 watt system would be hard pressed to keep them full. Right now, we are in the monsoon season, which means more clouds then sun. Stay away from the solar stores until you really know what your looking for. And even then, most everything needed can be found on line cheaper by far.
    Cephus and Guit_fishN like this.
  2. HK_User

    HK_User A Productive Monkey is a Happy Monkey

    Stay away from all alternate energy huksters.

    Spend the time and money to learn the skills to the point that you understand what is needed and why the NEC is used.

    Check with a loca lCommunity College or contractor groups that have the basic classes taught to pass the NEC for a license in your area. If you don't have these skills then you do not have the information to even hire a contractor you can trust.

    The very least I would recommend is an experienced commercial electrician with a license that owns a set of current NEC Handbooks.

    In my area I have, with luck, prevented an improperly engineered wind system and a POS Solar system from being purchased by the foolish who in better times are my friends. Why do I say that, well nobody likes to admit they screwef up, but they did ask! But they'll get over being mad at themselves and then we'll design what they need..

    If you don't have the skills to buy and install it properly then you better have the money to hire an installer with the certs that fit your needs.

    If it was simple then anybody could do it.

    Being in the country doesn't mean you don't need to follow NEC, it does mean that your house may burn down if if you don't.
  3. DKR

    DKR Raconteur of the first stripe

    Another note - ensure the electrician has a fitness card annotated for DC work.

    We hired some yahoos to work on a remote comm system and they caused 61 outages in two weeks. Never done any DC work - it IS different.
    Brokor likes this.
  4. HK_User

    HK_User A Productive Monkey is a Happy Monkey

    "fitness card annotated for DC work."

    A licenesed electrician in the US would not hold such a card.

    Anything less than a Licenesed Electrician needs to be shown the front gate.
  5. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    sounds like a Union Man..... Just because a Yahoo, has a JourneyMan Card does NOT a Good Off-Grid Designer/Installer Make.....
    Most JourneyMan Electricians, that come up to Alaska, every summer, to work in the Fish Processing Biz, can barely bend conduit,
    let alone wire up Industrial Plants, without an Engineering Drawing..... I would rather have TnAndy, Nadja, or even Kingfish, help
    me with my system, than any of the these "Hot shots from down south" Experience means a lot more than a JourneyMan Card....
    ...... YMMV.....
    Nadja likes this.
  6. HK_User

    HK_User A Productive Monkey is a Happy Monkey

    Never been in a Union in my life. But I do know that a track record that includes the experience of willing to learn all sides of electrical work, design, installation (hands on)and willing to be tested is worth the time and money.

    I do hold more than one level of Licensed Electrician cards that are issued by either a state or city. Requirments are to pass both a written and have provable background experience under a person more advanced than your test level.

    Marine electrician's? Should be able to pass the Coast Guard Inspection Cert, if it still exist or hold a Marine Electrican's Billet Card from the Coast Guard. I've not done Marine Electrician for many years and few are still out there that are fully qualified to install and repair shipboard gear. Loss of the US Shipyards is the cause of this. Lots of wanabes out there that can't even install romex correctly. If you find someone you trust use 'em.

    Conduit Benders> If that's all you want then you can pick them up at the local bar. But if they can't do calculas they can't bend to exact tolerences.

    Experienced electricians won't be coming to Alaska for "Summer" work.

  7. Nadja

    Nadja RIP 3-11-2013 Forum Leader

    The point I was trying to make is that there are hucksters everywhere. The pro's in the stores, have a tendancy to rip people off, just to make a buck. What everyone should do is to read everything they can , sit down and design a system and THEN buy, but not before. I don't care 'bout no stinking cards man ! I just like practical experience.
    BTPost likes this.
  8. HK_User

    HK_User A Productive Monkey is a Happy Monkey

    "I don't care 'bout no stinking cards man !

    And the point I was making is that a Qualified experienced electrician will be in possesion of a License of some type, just like an air plane mechanic, pilot or others that have spent the time to learn their profession and can be trusted to do at least the minium work for a safe installation.

    "The pro's in the stores, have a tendancy to rip people off"

    Counter men sell what you ask for, more or less, and the price can exceed the intelligence of the buyer so the buyer picks the wrong parts and then blame the seller.

    Seen it a thousand times.
  9. Nadja

    Nadja RIP 3-11-2013 Forum Leader

    [​IMG]Here is a graphic example of two people that did not know what they were doing !!!!
  10. ColtCarbine

    ColtCarbine Monkey+++ Founding Member

    Not knowing a ton about electricity, I'm going to guess that wire size gauging is different for AC versus DC. Correct?
  11. Nadja

    Nadja RIP 3-11-2013 Forum Leader

    Colt Carbine. I am going to go out on a limb here and say amps are amps. However, when working with dc. really be careful on your distance and what your working with. Lets say that average wire for most houses will be 14 ga. while a little heavy circut would be 12 or even 10. those would not carry your batteries to your inverter or even to each other for more then a very few minutes before heating and melting. Why don't you tell us what you are planning to do and lets see if we can guide you in the right direction. TN Andy would be the best for this part I think.
  12. HK_User

    HK_User A Productive Monkey is a Happy Monkey

    "let alone wire up Industrial Plants, without an Engineering Drawing"
    I note that you have one of them new fangled Aeroplanes in your avatar.

    So I was wondering if you fly it without charts or instruments?

    Normally I would just consider this statement of yours above a bit of "bait" from a disgruntled plant manger that could not afford proper documents and prints to keeep their plant in order.

    But I don't know you so I suspect you are just not aware that proper prints can reduce down time by 75%, this with a trained electrician that knows how to read prints and use meters.

  13. Kingfish

    Kingfish Self Reliant

    dc voltage should be transferred using large Copper braided wire like Welding cable or Battery cable. Ever notice how thick the wire is on a set of jumper cables? AC runs on single strand wire no problem just match # 14 to 15 amp circuits, #12 to 20 amp circuits and #10 to 30 amp circuits. I dont know the size for DC but its large even for 12 and 24 volt. The more strands the better for DC. and stay away from aluminum wire for DC. Battery and Inverter techs will know the proper wire for the application. KF
  14. HK_User

    HK_User A Productive Monkey is a Happy Monkey

    There is a lot more to proper sizing of conductors. The link below is a short example of what is taught in a NEC class and the information will be tested on in any License Test that I have taken.
    http://mjobee.com/projects&news/NEC Art 310.15.pdf

    The NFPA is a non profit group.

    Proably more than most want to know but it works for all of us.

    http://www.nfpa.org/itemDetail.asp?categoryID=144&itemID=18968&URL=About NFPA/Careers

    """"About NFPA

    1 Batterymarch Park
    Quincy, Massachusetts
    USA 02169-7471

    Tel: +1 617 770-3000

    Sales/Member Services+1 800 344-3555 or
    +1 617 770-3000

    Fax: +1 617 770-0700
    The mission of the international nonprofit NFPA, established in 1896, is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education.
    The world's leading advocate of fire prevention and an authoritative source on public safety, NFPA develops, publishes, and disseminates more than 300 consensus codes and standards intended to minimize the possibility and effects of fire and other risks.
    FWIW, the National Electric Code is used world wide and is a document that saves lives and structures. Written by equipment and builders of basic electrical gear(cable, motors, breakers, etc.) and hashed over and written to allow a safe design document for safe insrtallations""""""

    To go Bull Headed into a field that can kill you at a moments notice is only for the fool.

    Yes I have seen young men go all Macho on installations and use the old "Can Do" pioneer attitude, but those are the ones that die or burn down other's buildings.

    There are no old bold electrician.

    Learn or Die, your choice.

  15. HK_User

    HK_User A Productive Monkey is a Happy Monkey

    BTW, NEC is only one of many publications produced by the NFPA for what is known as LIFE SAFETY CODES.

    Good information for those who care to learn.
  16. Nadja

    Nadja RIP 3-11-2013 Forum Leader

    HK, I am sure that when doing residential or commerical wiring you would be a good person to have. However, if you notice the header here, we are mostly dealing with off grid dc power. I am not trying to slight you, nor is anyone else, but as a retired house framer, I have seen quite a few instances where "licensed electictians" have missed the boat. We on dc current cannot afford to miss the boat as inverters, solar panels, charge controllers and especially batteries cost a lot of frn's which most of us cannot afford to repleace.

    The original intent of this thread was to point out how people are taken advantage of by "store salesmen" at times. For instance on the guy whose house I am going to this week, he bought 4 new panels, and 8 new L-16 batteries, because he could not keep his refer running at night with the solar installed by a pro installer.
    Now, most I suspect of what is wrong, is that he has far more batteries with is original 8 L-16's then solar amps/watts coming in to charge them . Also, he doesn't even know what voltage his system is, so , how can an idiot in a store sell him panels ? They really do need to match, much as a 220v ac motor won't work very well if at all on a 110ac circut. The result for this man would be most likely a fire in either his charge contoller or his inverter. Also, possible irreversable damage to his panels
  17. HK_User

    HK_User A Productive Monkey is a Happy Monkey

    "However, if you notice the header here, we are mostly dealing with off grid dc power."

    Then if you check the NEC you will find a section that covers what you call OFF GRID power. You see you have assumed that the NEC is a very limited, in scope, publication and that Licensed Electrician means only only thing.

    Also , and we have covered this before, the counter sales guy is limited in two ways. One is in what the buyer ask for and Two in the legality of doing "design" work over the counter.

    Blame who you want but the Counter Guy is not on sight and surly is not a Master Electrician.

    Me? If I was in Alaska or anyplace else and was not fully qualified.

    I'd find a real MASTER ELECTRICIAN that is bonded and will stand by their work.

    I do suggest that you and others look on line for updated Ref: to the NEC and Solar Power Installations such as below.

  18. TnAndy

    TnAndy Senior Member Founding Member

    KF.....the size of the wire depends on the amp load ( mostly....temp can also play a role ), system voltage and length of run. DC versus AC isn't a factor, unless you start into MILES of run....then AC wins.

    George Westinghouse won that battle ( AC for long distance transmission from large, central power plants ) over Thomas Edison, who envisioned small, local, DC based power plants, way back when the grid was still a dream.

    The reason a jumper cable is so large is due to low voltage (12v), and high amperage ( potentially several hundred amps, batter to battery )

    The reason wire sizes are so large on most AE systems on the DC side is because you're often running LOW VOLTAGE......like 12 or 24v.

    Solar panels that are grid tied only often use VERY high DC voltage by running 6-10 panels in a single string....many times in the 300-500v range ( lot of grid tie inverters won't even fire up until the voltage from the panels hits 250v or so ), and they use very small wire ( #12 or 14 ) from the panels to the inverter.
  19. Nadja

    Nadja RIP 3-11-2013 Forum Leader

    Well, I have been there and seen what he has. He is on completely off grid. 1-C40 charge controller, set to 48 volt. ,4- sharp older 123 watt panels in 12volt, 1- Zantrax 12v inverter -48 volt, pure sine wave, 3k output, and 8 - L16 batteries. My way of thinking says, way more solar panels needed to correctly charge the huge battery bank he has.
  20. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    Sounds like he started out with the C-40, a 12Vdc Battery bank of some kind and a 12 Vdc Inverter.... then got sold on a Bigger inverter, 3Kw @ 48 Vdc, and the L16 Battery String and then rewired the C-40 to 48Vdc, along with the Panels..... If he has the room, and the bucks, Triple the Solar, and get him an Outback MPPT MX80 Charge Controller... That should just about come out even.... in the Aridzona sunshine.... Then he can keep the 12 Vdc Inverter and C-40 for a Backup System, with some kind of Car type battery, or maybe a 8D Battery.... ..... HMMV....
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