Building your first solar system

Discussion in 'Blogs' started by Nadja, Feb 20, 2012.

  1. Nadja

    Nadja RIP 3-11-2013 Forum Leader

    Where do you start ? Well, from my experience, it is best to start with the planning stage. How do I do that ? Well, you need to sit down and decide what you wish to run now, and then try and figure out what you would add if you have the money and time.

    For instance, do you want a system to only work for short term emergencies, or for the duration of time. Once you have decided on how you want to go, then we will have to figure out how much power will be coming in and how many batteries to hold this power for the many long nights.
    Nobody can tell you exactly what you need, but can get fairly close to it by what you say you want to run and aprox. how many hours a day.
    Lets start with refers. My refer/freezer is a normal sized kitchen type, which uses about 1.1 amps while running. It doubles that on start up , but only for a second or two. So running time is about 12 hours a day (cycles on and off) day in and day out.
    Now, you can do like I do, and put an appliance timer on it, so it only runs about 5 total hours a day. Mine is off in other words from about 7pm until 7 am every day. Also, my chest freezer is the same on running and power.

    So, I can use other electrical things at night without to much of a drain on my system. You see, I don't like my batteries to go below 80% capacity ever.
    During the day, they are on as well as my two desk top computers and sometimes also the tv.
    One of the biggest draws I have is my Shur-Flow rv water pump. Yes it runs my showers , and other faucets just fine. However, it draws about 12 amps when it is running. Fortunately, it doesn't run that much. But, but taking your showers especially in the afternoon about 2 pm, you still have time to not be running on your batteries much.
    Every little thing you can do to conserve will only pay off in saved solar panels and batteries later on.

    For instance, not running lights if you can see well enough without them. A lot of people just automatically turn on a light when they go in a room, when they really don't need them. Just an old bad habit. These type of wasting power need to be addressed. Also, every light in my house is compact fluorescent and have been since day one about 16 years ago, when I purchased my first one for the tune of about $18.00.

    Lots of things like this I have learned over the years, and therefore it has made my life much easier. You will need to live within your solar means, as it will NOT learn to live with you.

    Lets start with the solar panels. You need to decide what voltage you want to run. There are 12v. , 24v. , and 48v, which are the common voltages for the average user. The larger the voltage, the more power on smaller wire, and the more your charge controllers can handle. Both of these factors will save you money that you can use for more solar , batteries or whatever. When looking at panels, do not consider the homemade variety that so many people tell you how good they are. Not many people have the super soldering skills needed to do all the soldering necessary to make a good panel. Try and buy panels with good warranties right from the start.

    Inverters. Unfoutuneatly, there have been a lot of changes in inverters in the last couple of years. Some really good and some not so good. It used to be Trace was the name to buy when I started up. Mine are still working. The guys from Trace sold out to a company renamed Xantrax. The guys that designed them went along with the sale, for awhile. Then Xantrax started wanting to cut corners and then they got bad. The guys quit Xantrax, walked a couple of blocks down the street and rented/bought another building and started up a new company and called it "outback" and that is the good news.
    These are for the time being, the name in top line equipment.

    However it is like comparing a Kia to a Rolls Royce. Once may last you a year if your lucky, while the rolls will last a lifetime.

    Charge controllers are the same way. Xantrax , ok, cheaper, but are not as versital as the Outbacks are. Outback charge controllers are a lot more pricey, but man on man do they work. They can be reconfigured to do all kinds of neet things, like combing more solar to keep the amps down, and they even so a "spin up " on incoming power. In other words they actually increase the power your panels are creating by about 7-10%. Again, saves you money.

    Batteries. As usual, a lot of people seem to think that the 12v. rv batteries are good. Mostly people that have never really had to depend on solar to live a normal life. They are not ! You need a good deep cycle lead battery if you want to get longivity from them and also performance. There are two basic brands that really have held up to the test of time. These are Trojen's and The Rolls Surete. Make no bones about it, they are expensive, but in the long run well worth the gold pieces you will need to shell out for a decent bank of batteries.

    Ask questions on the forum and we will do our level best to answer them for you. None of us here to my knowledge sell anything in the way of solar , so it is from living this life style that we base our answers. Good luck with your systems !
  2. rsbhunter

    rsbhunter Monkey+

    Again, another example of the depth of knowledge, and willingness to help others that makes this site , "the place to be" for off grid solar and others....rsbhunter
  3. Yard Dart

    Yard Dart Vigilant Monkey Moderator

    Great posting! Been thinking about a solar and wind combo for off grid supply. Is there any conflicts with both units generating at the same time? Do you need to run this thru some sort of ATS unit? So many things to learn on a great resource!!
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