Installing a small solar system

Discussion in 'Off Grid Living' started by kckndrgn, May 25, 2011.

  1. kckndrgn

    kckndrgn Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

  2. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    A Good Article, and the guy presents real world experience. I noticed that he also has a PE Stamp, so he has the education, to make the comments he does, in the article. It gives the reader a basic understanding of Small, or Starter Solar System design, and Installation. He keeps the system simple, by staying with 1KWH Total Power. good for a small BOL, or Cabin, designed for two or three people. A good system to get your feet wet in Solar Power. Nothing in this system design precludes the builder to go bigger down the road as they find the need arise. I like that, type of design. My opinion.... YMMV....
    hank2222 likes this.
  3. VHestin

    VHestin Farm Chick

    I so misunderstood the thread title at first...was thinking about astronomy...
    beast likes this.
  4. beast

    beast backwoodsman


    nice article, thanx
  5. hank2222

    hank2222 Monkey+++

    As Bruce pointed out he gives the best idea system for a person is starting out and it the best system to learn on and make your mistakes on ..

    as he point's out to everyone it a matter of learning to take care of the system and growing with the system and the lesson you learned before moveing onto a larger sysem

    as i and other here on this board it is a learning curve that you have to learn somethings the hard way to get the skills you need to live off grid
  6. hank2222

    hank2222 Monkey+++

    As bruce has pointed out it a good system to ge you feet wet but alot of people still have this idea about sizing a system to run a house and when you sit down with them and explain the basic cost of something like that can run into the price range of $70,000.oo dollars or more they go why ..

    you have to sit them down and explain to them that each item you add to the list means more power from the battery bank and that means a bigger bank to handle the power need and also mean bigger chargering system in a three area of solar --wind--fuel drive genny set up ..
  7. Nadja

    Nadja RIP 3-11-2013 Forum Leader

    Here is something to think about before buying and/or installing. I also went with the 12 volt system, starting about 16 years ago. With 12 v. you can add one panel at a time, helping to reduce the heavy costs that will go with an entire system Also, I can add two batteries (6v) at a time, although this is not a good way to go. I do however disagree with one thing in this and that is the morningstar cge controller in the 30 amp size. Mine burned out with only two 85 watt kyrocera panels (12v) within the first year. I would really recommend that you go with either the xantrax C-60 or the outback mppt 60 amp charge controller. Yes , they do cost a lot more, but can also handle a lot more. One of my Trace (xantrax) C-60's is now almost 15 years old and still works as good as the day it was made. What you really want to do before you lay out the cold hard cash, is to be really honest with yourselves and try and figure out where you want to end up with solar. Ask yourself , and your family where do they want to go with it. Heating units of any kind , requiring elec. need to be eliminated right from the start. Appliances, computers , tv's etc should be upgraded to the new energy saving types and by all means read the elec output of everything before you buy it. My wife and I never go for the "prettiest" appliances etc but the most conservative appliances. In this respect, newer is almost always better. Our highest power hog would have to be hands down the water pump. Heat and pumps cost money and power. You want to keep those down as much as possible.

    Over the years my wife and I have learned to take our showers etc before 4 pm if at all possible as the incoming sun to solar panels maintaines rather then depleating our batteries. Planning is everything when it comes to this. By doing things like this, at night, we have the tv, refer and freezer to watch, keep our food cold and whatnot rather then running our battery bank down with late showers. Common sense will always prevail when it comes to living off the grid.
    hank2222 and BTPost like this.
  8. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    Nadja makes valid points, here.... The Charge Controller is the critical GLUE that beings any PV Solar System together. This is ONE place where it doesn't pay to scrimp. Also, learn the differences between MPPT, and non-MPPT Charge Controllers, and understand the flexibility that an MPPT will give you, as you grown your system and need to make Array and DC Buss Voltage Choices. You need to make these choices, BEFORE you plunk down your hard earned Cash. Educate yourselves, ASK Questions, and get answers, either here or from some other REPUTABLE Source. Not just the first Yahoo, that has a fancy Website, and good spiel. ..... YMMV.....
    hank2222 and Nadja like this.
  9. Nadja

    Nadja RIP 3-11-2013 Forum Leader

    And, as ususal , Bruce has a very valid point. Anyone can create a website in a matter of minutes if desired. I could build a website to sell solar by the end of the day , and you would think I have been doing this for years. You copy and paste other peoples info from their sites to yours and presto, you are a 20 year expert in solar/wind. Be aware of these places. Ask here and any other sites your familiar with about any particular site you are thinking of buying from. Could save you tons of money in the long run. Solar panels are like socks, they come in all sizes and shapes, and something else you may not be aware of , it that they come in grades also, even in the companies that make them. Factory seconds are sold rather cheaply and all over the net and ebay etc.
    They may look the same, but I assure you that they are not. Especially the longevity factor. ASK
    hank2222 likes this.
  10. hank2222

    hank2222 Monkey+++

    As both Bruce & Nadja has pointed out about the diff websites out there to help you buy the products for building a off grid solar & wind for your place..

    Ask alot of question intill the point they are driven up the wall by the question after all it your money you are spending so get the answer before you layout the money ..

    Work along side of them learning how they did & the reason behind the reason they did that way because somewhere down the line your going to have to trouble shoot the problem and have a basic knownage of how the system work is the best thing for you ..

    Also here is some tips to help you with the basic of life when liveing off grid


    As Nadja said take your showers in the afternoon or morning like i do at my place

    I fill up a glass & the sink with water one is cold water and other is hot water for shaveing in the morning ..Plus given the fact that i'm one of those people who can not stand a beard on them ..

    So i shave everyday along with still haveing some business dealing where it better to be clean shaven because of the people idea of business dress code. ..

    The glass of water is use with the toothbrush for bushing of the dentures and us to clean the dentures & gums with cleaners & toothpaste and then spit & rinse as need into the shower drain system ..

    Also after eating i fill up the glass to hold the water instead of letting the water run that way i save water & power

    Also i completely shave my head and face so it easly to do everything at the sink before takeing a shower..

    I take my main shower in the morning and if i been sweating like a pig in the summer a quick rise off to get clean that only really happens more in the summer months in Az before going to bed ..

    tip 2 meal cooking

    Since i make 5 meal a day because it better for me my two biggest meals are breakfast & late afternoon meal i try to make them as far in advance in that day in the morning ..

    So that way i'm only useing the mircowave oven for a 30 secs to reheat the meal up ..

    tip 3

    As Nadja has said buy the best up to date appliances for your place to get the best out of them ..

    Think about what goes into your system and how you are going to use the item in the power grid ..

    This is the biggest one of all the tips

    one-- yes it going to cost money to get a good system from statch but remember this statement about buying cheap things..

    open your wallet once and cry once when buying good items for the system cheap and you going to be opening your wallet alot and crying alot when putting out the money to replace the items that failed in the system ..
    STANGF150 likes this.
  11. My wife and I are just starting into the self sustainability world. We both have our areas of knowledge and expertise which has made some of this experience great but what we lack is any working knowledge of power related systems. Our goal this year is to put both of our freezers onto a solar system since we do not have any power in the barn where we are locating our freezers. Knowledge and experience doesn't come cheap in my opinion and we are more than willing to work/pay for someone to help educate us in our endeavors. Seeing some of your responses in this thread has made me wonder how you find a qualified individual that isn't out to drain our bank but rather is focused on helping us achieve our goals. Any suggestions? Just stumbled into this forum and am very excited to start the journey.

  12. TnAndy

    TnAndy Senior Member Founding Member

    I don't know how you find them either. I'm a residential electrician, among other things......but this was a whole nuther thing to me.

    First, I bought some of my stuff from a local "guru" ( in his own mind ) that was supposed to help me hook it all up. He sold me some of the wrong stuff, not enough of the right stuff, and basically overcharged me for all of it, lied to me, and finally dumped it out on my porch and left.

    So, I stumbled around, and figured out most of it myself.

    Then I contacted another solar guy couple counties away, and wanted to get him to come review what I'd done before my final connect to the utility ( the electrical inspector had NO clue on solar )...he wanted 75 bucks/hr from the time he left home to the time he returned. I thought that was a bit steep, and declined.

    I connected up.

    Then I went over to Appalachian State in Boone, NC and took a NABCEPT certification course ( for solar installers )...and learned about some of the things I'd done wrong initially on my own system ( and I was one of two folks in the class that even HAD a system out of about 40 people ), so I came back, changed some things around, and now feel pretty good about what I have.

    I just installed my first system for someone else a few weeks ago, and it went a LOT smoother and quicker than the one I did for myself.

    My suggestion is this: Learn it yourself. Forums like this are REALLY valuable sources of good advice and free info IF you use them correctly.....that is, step by step learning, and don't try to bite off TOO much info at one time.....take it slow.

    Also, get a good PV book like this one: Photovoltaics: Design and Installation Manual (9780865715202): Solar Energy International: Books

    It's the one we used in the class and is a great reference manual that leads you step by step thru the process.

    Start your questions with: "I want to do this, or do I go about it, in general terms ?"

    For example, you started with "we want to put the freezers in the barn on solar". questions back to you are: it that going to be a totally off grid, stand alone system, never to be tied to the grid ? And if off grid, how many days do you want to be able to go without sun ? Will you have generator backup ? How much power do the freezers use now ? ( that kind of thing )

    The more info you can supply, the less we will have to "pull" out of you to guide you in the direction you want to go, understand ?

    And this process will go a lot smoother. :D
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 26, 2015
    hank2222 likes this.
  13. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    WP H -
    Andy is The Man for good practical advice. Also Nadja and BTPost are more than a little knowledgeable on solar. Dig into their posts and look at the stuff that applies to your situation. There are a couple other guys that are off the grid, but those three come to mind right this minute.

    The more pertinent question is "What do the nameplates say?" You really need to size that system (only two appliances) for both of them running and fully loaded at the same time. There is no diversity factor that can be applied, as can be done with a regular household that runs everything part of the time. When/if you start adding other electrical stuff in the barn (and you will) the picture will change, so keep it in mind that you might, just might, want to expand the system.
  14. Thanks for the quick replies to my query. I definitely respect the value of forums and the individuals that offer their knowledge and advice so before I waste anyone's time, I am definitely going to start to backtrack all the various threads on here and start TN Andy's recommended summer reading.

    Duly noted on all the advice given and will make sure that as I begin to post on here I include as much relevant information that I can to ensure my questions and information stay on point.

    On a related note, good to see a fellow Volunteer on here! I live in Middle TN!
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