Doing much with little.

Discussion in 'Off Grid Living' started by Big Ron, Oct 8, 2017.

  1. Big Ron

    Big Ron Monkey++

    I have slowly over the years learned a lot about solar battery setups through others and the good and bad of their plans. (So many bad setups)
    I know a lady now who once spent thousands on her setup.I have not seen it. She told me it will not do what she thought it would do.She actually thought it should run a washing machine.It is now used mainly for a small TV set.It isn't reliable for this even. She also has a 400-watt windgen setup.
    Her problem now is replacing batteries that are dying and using RV batteries that just are not up to the task. Sealed batteries seem to die. Especially expensive ones. I like non sealed batteries and keep a schedule for inspections and maintenance.Make sure they are not brought down too much.
    My plan is to use a 130-watt panel to charge up small batteries. AA and AAA. Communication devices. Through a large battery with a charge controller. I learned a lot from using this setup to run a chicken coop with an electric fence.It saved my chickens a few times.Very stunning when I got zapped myself!
    For rooms, I also have smaller systems with batteries hooked up to LED lights meant for cars. I try to keep it simple. And have extra setups to back everything up. If I had the cash I would get a large battery setup like they have for electric forklifts. But I do what I can.
    From what I have seen people expect too much from their setup and are disappointed. consider what it would be like if all your battery's let you down. It seems to be the trend for solar setups.
  2. Dunerunner

    Dunerunner Brewery Monkey Moderator

    A properly designed "Off Grid" system is very reliable, but... I would want a suitable standby gen set for those really dark winters.
    Cruisin Sloth and chelloveck like this.
  3. duane

    duane Monkey+++

    My limited experience in solar has been that the batteries and associated electronics, charge controllers and inverters, seem to be the biggest problems. The panels are fairly cheap, last a long time and take very little care. The batteries are heavy, expensive and have a limited life if well cared for and can literally be destroyed in days by over discharging them. Cheap controllers don't seem to last, don't seem to maximize the output of your cells, and don't seem to protect your batteries. That said, I use a cheap system in my greenhouse for limited power, almost all at 12 volts, and to keep my 12 volt batteries topped off for my tractor etc during the winter and love it. My personal bias is to buy a small cheaper set now and get your feet wet and if you like it buy a better system and put the small system away for SHTF or gift it to someone else to learn on. There is no free lunch, saving 50 watts in load is a much better investment than 50 watts of additional solar cells.
    Dunerunner and ghrit like this.
  4. arleigh

    arleigh Goophy monkey

    I have been using 6 volt deep cycle golf cart batteries for years, pared for 12 volts. 3 sets at the shop trailer and one set at the house.
    They tolerate a lot of abuse, and I take off of one one 6 volt battery for 6 volt LED lights in the house, the pair also run the 12 volt lighting and 12 volt fans in the house .
    If push comes to shove, I can wire 3 together in series for 18 volts an run my lap top, and charge that off it's own solar panel.
    Deep cycle Boat batteries and golf cart batteries I believe are still the better investment, until the newer batteries have actually proven them selves.
    Because controllers are built for specific watt loads if you add more panels the watt load is changed so the need for a better controller is required .
    I went to an antique automotive controller/voltage regulator significantly larger than most solar systems ,This because I can adjust it as needed, just keeping voltage below 14.8 volts.
    Take some time and learn about the electricity you make and use .
    All too often people think that a watt rating is black and white , thats false .
    Just as there are variables in the suns exposure to the earth , there are variables in the panels capabilities because of that fact and the batteries for that matter as well.
    Every single component has hidden variables you won't know without observation.
    That's why I have switches and meters for every component . 2 volt meters, 2 amp meters, 15 component 3 position switches.
    I had gotten a faulty panel and was able to replace the Diodes that had failed and put it back in service.
    That's another thing . my panels are where I can get to them for service or replacement as required . some are over 50 years old.
    Sounds funny to say that but photovoltaic solar has been around 100 years now.
    Tempstar and duane like this.
  5. Kamchuka

    Kamchuka Grease Monkey

    Are you "off grid"? I would pull my hair out trying to manage all those independent little systems. I use a fork lift battery and i can do laundry on it. My dryer is propane but still consumes upwards of 40 amps. Anywho, I got my bank used for 800 and turned in my trojans for scrap at 200, making my bank 600 bucks! He guarantees it for a year and will replace bad cells for a hundred bucks. I could not be happier! we do not have a lot of money either and our system is not robust. I have 700 watts P.V. that i will boost when I have some doe, and a 60 amp mppt charge controller, magnum 2k msw inverter. For the record I dont do laundry on my inverter but I have just to see. I am a hustler and take my time but heres my price list.

    magnum 2k, didnt want to risk a used or cheep one $1600
    4x75w panels, used, $200
    2x200w 6 month old used panels w/60amp mppt CC $500
    1000 ah? used forlift battery $600

    thats just my P.V. I have to use my genny (8k izuzu) to keep my batteries from stratification. The 35 amps solar wont float them. every 3-5 days for 4-6 hours depending on DOD and usage. All in all I'm very happy with this system! I scraped up most of my parts, my panels are on poles to chase the sun, made from old hollywood bed frames and scrap steel. Most of my wire came from the motorpool dumpster before I left the Army LOL...I make all my own cables, the right way! not janky crimped doohickies. I solder and shrink wrap everything. It can be done inexpensively, not cheeply..
    I see some people with really robust expensive systems and for me it kind of defeats the purpose. I was talking to a guy the other day and he said it was going to cost 12k to get power to his house so he was "going off grid". I was like....."just pay it!"
    BTPost likes this.
  6. Kamchuka

    Kamchuka Grease Monkey

  7. Big Ron

    Big Ron Monkey++

    Kamchuka, that was a good find with the batteries. I have never seen used batteries for sale like this. So where did you come up with the batteries? One problem I see is people thinking their system can do everything. Not sizing the system to what they plan on doing.
    Something I failed to mention was people having problems with codes and permits. The building cops usually want a set of engineered plans and then strange storage and panel locating methods.I have heard of mega daily fines for not having your ducks in a row.
  8. Kamchuka

    Kamchuka Grease Monkey

    commercial battery in spokane. All he does is forklift batteries. When you buy a battery it has been tested and is ready to work. I got his name from a local guy near me, My propane dude. Hes off grid and has had one of his batteries for 5 years and going strong.
    I couldnt talk on codes. We bought our place in a county that pretty much leaves you alone. It also helps were 6 miles up a goat trail!
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