Living Off the Grid

Discussion in 'Off Grid Living' started by Nadja, Sep 26, 2010.

  1. Nadja

    Nadja RIP 3-11-2013 Forum Leader

    Lets talk a little bit about living off the Grid. I have for about 15 years and am very willing and able to help you achieve this also. I have 12 - Kyrocera 80 watt panels, which I started with only 1 15 years ago. From there , they go into two Xantrax ( used to be Trace) C-60 charge controllers which safely put the incoming 12 volt solar power in a bank of Trojen T-105 6 volt golf cart style deep cycle batteries. That power now goes into a very large fuse and then into my Trace 2412 Mod. Sine Wave invertor, which then goes into my breaker box or service center which ever you want to call it. I also run a Swea 500 watt 12 volt Wind Generator which I only got up and working about 3 months ago. I am NOT happy with its performance , which is my fault as I ordered the wrong unit. I have since orderd a Hurricane Cat 4 Wind Generator which is designed and built here in the U.S. for the specific wind area I actually need. I run my entire house off this system, and also a couple of gas powered back-up generators which I use from time to time .

    I also have two used kyrocera 120 watt x 12 volt panels on hold for a week or so until I can pay for them which I got an incredible deal on. These will be my next edition to my working now and always system.

    If you would like a little help in doing this same thing, I will be happy to help you out in any way I can. I am retired and have nothing else to do anyway, as due to the economy I really have very little money to do anything with. But, I can help you do it right the first time, which I have not always done, but did learn a lot from my mistakes, and will pass this info to all that want it.

    Do NOT even think of buying Chinese Junk or blems or seconds. You are just wasting your money right off the bat. Instead save up and buy one of the top solar panels and it will last you about 25 years on the minimum end of the scale. Not to mention, the junk panels you will find all over the net will never reach the capacity stated. It will always read "Max RATED Watts" which means , if every thing were perfect you MAY get UP TO this much power , but don't even count on it. Most are actually only about 1/2 of their rated max level of output. Sounds good though and makes you want to chunk down your money and get busy. Waste of time and money. Your time and money. Nadja
  2. Nadja

    Nadja RIP 3-11-2013 Forum Leader

    Pics of Solar working as we speak

    Well, here goes. I hope they come through for you to see.
    Solar 001. Solar 002. Solar 003. Solar 004. Solar 005. Solar 006. Solar 007. Solar 008. Solar 009. Solar 010. Solar 011. Solar 012. Solar 013. Solar 014. Solar 015. Solar 016.
  3. Nadja

    Nadja RIP 3-11-2013 Forum Leader

    Well, I just picked up 4 more kyraceras at 120 watts each and that means about another 25-28 amps on sunny days. I will be several days getting them mounted as I have to re configure my exsisting panels to take advantage of the usefull sun light. Can't have any of them blocking each other. So, will be re wiring, changeing mounting frames etc. Will keep you informed of how it is going.
  4. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    This is getting more interesting to me even tho' sun can be really scarce up here, and there are enough trees that no matter what time of day, part of the yard and roof are shaded. (For now, we can ignore the snow cover from December well into Feb and I'll need to add capacity to keep the batteries warm.)

    -What is your total generating capacity in full sun and how long does/will it take to fully charge the batteries? (When the new panels are installed.)
    -How many amp hours can you store up? (Or KWH if that is easier to get at.)
    -What is your household load, max, and what all are you powering? (Dryer, well pump and so on as well as lighting and comms?
    -How much capital will get tied up to get to full build out?
    -Have you calculated pay out?
    -How much degradation of the panels do you expect; i.e., how long until replacement is necessary?
    -Battery life; i.e., how long should they last in "normal" use? Replacement costs factored into payout?
    -How long can you go if the sun doesn't shine for days on end? (You don't have that problem where you are, but up here, we must consider it.)
    -Do the controllers put out a true AC sine wave?
    -Do you have 220/240V AC available? (I need it for the well pump.)
    -What wind loading can the panels and mounting take?

    Yeah, I know, some of that is nunna my business, but any of it will help the decision making process.
  5. Witch Doctor 01

    Witch Doctor 01 Mojo Maker

    I too have a few questions...

    Where do you get your supplies from?

    Is there a good distributer in the southeast?

    What direction to you face the panels to get optimum light?

    can you sell any power back to the utilities?

    Can you use Obama's green energy
    Initiative to help pay for your installation?
  6. Wildcatbn

    Wildcatbn Monkey+

    Survival man has a great series on youtube about going off the grid I would recommend anyone watch that that is thinking about doing it.
  7. Nadja

    Nadja RIP 3-11-2013 Forum Leader

    First of all, it is your business, as I posted here that I would try and do whatever I could to help all of you from a practical / user standpoint of view, and sir, I shall do my best to carry that out.
    OK, Figuring that I have about 12 80-85 watt kyacerias which put out about 5.2 amps max. and now am about to add my 4 used kyeracera 120 watt panels which put out a max of about 7.2 amps each , doing the math, this gives me a total amp output of about 70 amp hours from say 11 am to about 4pm.

    Generally , I reach green or float by about 12 noon in the summer and about 11am in the winter. Yes , they work even better in the winter when it is cold. Less resistance to deal with. Also, when it snows, I clean them off with a long handled broom and they go up to about 80 amps, which is sorta like the edge of cloud effect on radio signals .
    #2, during the day, I am powering the following: 10cf fridge/freezer, chest freezer, to desktop pc's , 1 - 29" crt tv., Lights, stereo etc as nec. My fridge and freezer's on on their built in timers as normal. My desktops as right now are both on at the same time. Normal things. My water pump is a demand type and it is a shurflow which really uses a lot of power, but again , it is intermintent, or as needed. Keep in mind I also have a wind generator, which this time of year doesn't do much.
    #3 I don't have a well, yet, but if I did, I would simply buy a step-up transformer and they cost around
    $400.00 to go from 110 to 220. Dryer must be the propane as well as the cook stove and heat or you could heat your house with a wood stove if you wanted
    #4 Capitol, tied up ? Well, I have done it a little at a time, but the 12 , 80 watt panels are around 400 ea , while the 120 watt are around 600.00 each. I bought my 4 USED 120 watt panels for 225.00 each and am doing the happy dance about that. I bought both of my trace invertors used for around $400.00 each. Charge controllers, trace c-60's, I paid about $165.00 each. I have 18- trojen T-105 6 volt golf cart batteries, which I paid about 120 each for , and my buddy just bought brand new ones in the valley (phoenix) at a golf course for 75.00 each. I think I am gonna kill him ! LOL
    #5 Batteries should last about 7 years, maybe more. I just replaced mine last year and they are doing well.

    #6 Panels do start to lose a little bit, but not much when you go to a quality unit. Should be good up to about 20 years or more.

    #7 We are on our third straight day of almost no sun. I fire up my back up generator for an hour or two. The controllers , only control the amount of charge you are putting into your batteries, nothing else. Your invertor changes the dc battery power into ac household power. You can buy pure sinewave invertors , but they will set you back a lot of money. My mod. sinewaves work just fine . I have no grid avail anywhere close to me, so , it matters not what it cost me as I need it or have nothing anyway. My mounts for the panels are home made, cost me about 40.00 for steel and we have been clocked up here at 112 mph on wind speed. They are still there. I live at almost 6,000 ft by the way. I am up on the mountain tops, and the nearest ski resort , as the crow flies is about 40 miles from here. As far as trying to calculate how much power you will need, How ? Do you always use the same amount of power every day at the same time ? Of course not. Open the curtains during the day, and you won't need lights on. By flat screen moniters for your computers, and you will save about 80% usage there alone, as they really suck the power up. Turn off computers at night if pos, and only run them during the day to avoid wasting power. When you leave the room at night , turn off the lights. Hope this helps out a little bit. There will be much more in the very near future. I am working on a couple of large sales right now, that when and if they get done will carry us through the entire winter. Nadja
  8. Nadja

    Nadja RIP 3-11-2013 Forum Leader

    There are places to buy all over the country. I would recommend that you fill in the blanks and tell my what you would like to do and I will try and answer your questions more accurately. But do not buy solar panels from ebay, as they are almost all chinese junk, will not hold up and really won't get anywhere near "max rated power" . Just a selling term . The govt. is giving a lot of tax deduct. on solar right now, but it is in the form of about 30 percent per year on your tax forms. Also , some states are doing it also. You face your panels due south at all times for the best sun, and only tilt them down in the summer and stand them up a lot more in the winter to catch the sun's arc.
  9. Nadja

    Nadja RIP 3-11-2013 Forum Leader

    By the way, in my avator, you may notice the wind generator with the rainbow behind it That is my generator and right now , there is no sun , and it is suppling all of my incoming power. Just a little insight
  10. hedger

    hedger Monkey+

    Solar Easement


    Thanks for the great info. Back in the late 70's, the legislature here in Colorado set up a law for solar easements. If someone has a tree that shades your solar equipment, it has to be trimmed. Also, if you have solar equipment, neighbors cannot build additions that affect your access to the sun.
  11. Nadja

    Nadja RIP 3-11-2013 Forum Leader

    I find that really interesting. I live 26 miles from the nearest town, and what neighbors I have are a long way's off. The only trees that are in my way are mine, and my wife won't let me cut any of them down. They do restrict my access to the sun and also my wind generator , but I will just get more to make up the difference.
  12. TnAndy

    TnAndy Senior Member Founding Member


    Good thread...thanks.

    I used to live in Springerville, AZ

    I don't think those step up transformers will run a 240v well pump....I believe they don't put out a dual phase 240.....just take 120 and step it up to 240v single phase, where the well pump motor needs 120v on two phases to run....but I haven't studied them closely, and could be wrong on this......but I'm pretty sure those transformers are meant to be used on European single phase stuff that is set up for their standard 220v.

    On my system, I run a two Outback inverters in a "master-slave" setup that does produce a true dual phase 240vAC output.

    For all:

    Panel prices are down a original Solarworld 175's were over 800 bucks each

    I just bought 10 more Solarworld 245 watt for 628/ea.

    SOLAR PANELS | Home & RV Solar Panel Systems
  13. Nadja

    Nadja RIP 3-11-2013 Forum Leader

  14. fireplaceguy

    fireplaceguy Monkey+

    Lotsa ways to skin this cat...

    The step-up transformers work fine. Well pumps are 240v single-phase, so all they need is 120 on two legs. I don't design systems this way, but I put one on a friend's system a year ago when one of her old Trace (now Xantrex) inverters blew.

    The transformer was intended as a stopgap, but insurance wouldn't cover the blown inverter and she's been unemployed, so the inverter wasn't ever repaired/replaced. No problems running the well pump - you just have to watch simultaneous large loads a little more closely with half the inverter output MIA.

    If you're starting from scratch, and only building a modest system, I'd recommend a 24v battery bank and a 24v Sunfrost fridge. Refrigeration is one of your larger year-round loads (particularly the starting load) and by eliminating that from your AC load calcs, you may be able to go with a significantly smaller inverter. That, and on a cost per watt basis 24v PV modules tend to be less expensive. You can do the same thing with a 12v system and 12v fridge, but as voltage drops, resistance increases and cable sizes go way up. Your overall savings [smaller inverter, cheaper/fewer modules, fewer batteries, lower cabling costs] might just buy you the fridge.

    (All the above goes right out the window if you're building a system big enough to run a well pump, because by then refrigeration is an inconsequential load. It also wouldn't work well for a system like Nadja's, as the batteries are remote from the house and cabling for a DC fridge would be prohibitive.) You still ought to look at a Sunfrost, but an AC model. Those fridges run forever and use very little power. They keep produce fresh for weeks, too - almost like a root cellar.

    If you need to run a well pump, another path to consider is to run it an hour a week with a generator (which you'll need anyway, as a backup) and pump a week's worth of water into a large storage tank. From there, a much smaller DC pump will pressurize your pressure tank and feed your house. That way, you reap big savings across the board on the whole system, even more over time as you start replacing batteries.

    Good topic, Nadja!
  15. Nadja

    Nadja RIP 3-11-2013 Forum Leader

    Fireplace Guy. I didn't ever even consider a 24 volt system for the reasons I stated in my earlier post. But I have reserched the sunfrost refer's. At the time, they were way out of my price range, and I bought a used propane refer for around 300.00. After going through several about 4 years ago or so, I went to home depot and bought a standard refer / freezer which draws about 5.2 amps. They make them now that only draw about 2 amps. but I don't have room to install it, unless I blow out my kitchen aways. Thanks for the info on the transformers, as I may purchase one just to have the power of 220 when I need it. Hows your weather up there in Colo ? We are getting ready for the white stuff, as it was likely showers in Showlow last night. Nadja
  16. fireplaceguy

    fireplaceguy Monkey+

    So you're near Show Low? Must be beautiful - I'm guessing similar to Flagstaff or Payson??? I've been as close as Payson but most of my Az trips were either to the Paulden area or to Phoenix racetracks - Firebird mostly but PIR as well. Weather is cool here, we've had one hard freeze but no hint of snow yet. But, I'm out on the front range plains at 7000 feet. Just heard on the radio that the first Colorado ski area of the season is opening this weekend, but didn't pay attention to which one it was.

    Glad to hear you're off propane for refrigeration. Understood about the price of the Sunfrosts. That purchase is getting harder to justify since the rest of the manufacturers got serious about efficiency. (And yes, I caught why you didn't consider a 24v system. That's why I said "if you're starting from scratch"...) Also, I didn't know there was a 2 amp AC fridge out there these days - do you remember what brand that is and any details?
  17. Nadja

    Nadja RIP 3-11-2013 Forum Leader

    I tried to answer this one yesterday for you, but the site was doing funny things on my. As far as the 2.2 amp very large refer/freezer's are concerned, I don't remember the brand, but looked at one at Home Depot, and a friend of mine has bought one. Will check with him as to the brand. Nadja
  18. Nadja

    Nadja RIP 3-11-2013 Forum Leader

    Well, yesterday, I added 4 new panels, (new to me anyway) They are Kyrocera 120 watt panels, and tested each one out at 20.3 volts before connecting them. I only added to with my exsisting panels as I would be overloading my c-40 I was using on that bank of my array. Will be gone for a couple of days, but planning on changing out the older c-40 and adding yet another c-60 and then will connect the remaining two new panels. The four panels that I added will give me about 28 amps total, but adding them to the bank of existing 4 85 watt panels which ususally go up to about 22 amps would put me over the 40 amp max on the c-40. Will be posting more pic's if possible before the snow falls very soon.
  19. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Make sure your transformer will work with the modified sine wave output from the inverter. It will lose some efficiency at least, and may not put out a motor friendly usable sine.

    Also, what do you figure your kwh (AC or DC, the conversion is easy) use is over a month? The old so-called standard was 500 kwh, which is long shown to be WAY lower than most households use. Even knowing you use propane and other liquid backups, it would be useful to approximate from there to what the rest of us might have to deal with. TIA.
  20. Nadja

    Nadja RIP 3-11-2013 Forum Leader

    Hello Ghrit. I will be honest and tell you right up front, that I have never even tried to figure out what we use monthly or even daily. If I run out of power for serveral months or so, then I just figure that I need more incoming . I don't do everything on a schedule that would be anywhere easy to keep track of. If my wife and I are both on the computers one day, and not the next , then maybe me one day for 8 hours and not the next day. Do you see the problem I have when people ask me what we use monthly ? I am retired, and therefore not on any kind of reg. schedule. I do what I want when I want it and my wife is the same way. I don't know any thing about your lifestyle , so therefore, it would be impossible to tell you what you would need up front. However , if it is say, just you and your wife, then I can sorta corral it a little bit for you. Are you going to try and fire up a five thousand sq. ft. house or a cabin.

    Lets try this approach. It may make it a little easier for everbody interestd. I live alone with my wife and two dogs. We are very consertive on power uses most of the time ( at least we try to be ) I have aprox 1,450 watts of solar power coming in when things are at their best which actually works out to about 85 dc amps, according to my c-60 chargers which are going into my bank of 18 - 6 volt batteries. During any given day, both my fridge/freezer and chest freezers are on all the time. Also, my 27" crt tv is on about 5 hours with the news etc and at least one of my desk top computers. Buy closing down my computer at about 3 in the afternoon, we can watch tv all night (9:30 as I'm old) LOL with cpl on and never run into a problem. My refer and freezer are on timers so , they are not running all night. No kids opening them up snacking etc. Everbodys needs are different, and therefore , I can only give you an idea.

    A friend of mine in the same situation about two miles from me, as triple the amount of solar , double the wind gen. and uses about 5 times the amount of elec. So there you have it as best as I can explain it without far more details , at least for the moment. Nadja
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