Looking into solar

Discussion in 'Off Grid Living' started by maverickxxx, Feb 25, 2012.

  1. maverickxxx

    maverickxxx Monkey

    I'm looking at possibly getting setup with solar. Im building a house this summer. I know it's going to be a decent amount just to get grid power to where I'm building so I'm looking at my other options. I don't know what my exact power needs are going to be yet. I am planning on running a diesel generator for my power needs for my shop not sure on that size yet. I'm somewhat of diesel mechanic so I can pickup a broke engine n fix it. I do have an extra 27 hp engine kicking around so I'll prolly be using that. Any way the generator is more for powering aircompressor welder an various other shop tools an charging batteries. I'm trying to do everything for cash so gaint system outta the gates not going to happen. It's just me an my daughter n she's only half the week though. So my power needs are not going to be great mostly a few hrs at night with tv an fridge running constant. I'm building a masonry heater so nothing as far as that I'll have a pump to pump water from the pond but agin minmal usage.

    I would like to build a system that is easy to add to more next than this year. So I am looking for suggestions on a basic system not minimal but with potential for much expansion. There's a stream there but I'm not going to fool with that yet or wind.

    I read threw a bunch of threads in this forum so I have a vague idea now

    Also I haven't seen much on the size of people's battery banks how many how there separated etc.
  2. Nadja

    Nadja RIP 3-11-2013 Forum Leader

    Ok, lets start with just how much power you really wish to have. Don't be vague at all. If you want your refer on 24/7 and your tv on ? Also, how much power do your appliances actually draw ?
  3. maverickxxx

    maverickxxx Monkey

    Well basically it'll be refer running all the time it'll be a new one most effecitent I can afford. An tv at night I don't maybe three four hrs between me an baby. I do most of my Internet stuff on phone. It'll be a gas stove prolly just basic so I don't imagine that'll be much maybe one two meals a day on it. As far as pump for water I'm thinking I'm going to pump water water out of the pond maybe build a cistern for a resivor that I fill up as needed I have a couple two an three inch trash pumps that can pump lots of water quickly that would prolly do away with expense of having well drilled an powering a pump. Hot water I have an outside wood boiler I'm going to use to heat my shop an maybe my house depending on how far I am into masonry heater if that's not dun I got an extra wood stove. As far as hot water I'm not quite sure yet I do know it's not going to be electric. As far as lights a few on my daughter is two so there will be some on all the time for her.other than that I don't really know what else. I'm gone most of the day an half the week I spend most my time that I don't have baby wrking so that'll be outta the house. I do excavation so moving dirt building sistern etc are basic just material costs. I plan on generator for the shop for now. I have 600 gallons of veggi oil sitting to fuel that so should last quite awhile. Also I can use that to charge batteries during no sun times an any massive uses of electric at house
  4. Nadja

    Nadja RIP 3-11-2013 Forum Leader

    Depending on what you feel comfortable spending, I would tailor my needs for future growth. In other words, you will need a charge controller and an inverter. For the best and most efficient on the market, I would look into the brand "Outback" As far as solar panels, you might want to pm rsbhunter as he got a pretty good deal on 8 - 225 watt , 24 volt panels for around $3,000.00. Batteries are going to be one of the biggest expense's you are going to run into, but would go with the 12v. "golf cart" type and size myself. Trojen's being one of the best, but can shop around and find better deals on them. I would recommend about 16 of them to make a really nice battery bank. These are only suggestions, but you can start here.
  5. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    Just a NOTE,here be very careful with Veggie Oil in any diesel fueled Engine, especially if you live north of the Mason/Dixon Line. Also you had better plan on LOTS of very good Fuel Filtering, for such a system fueled using that fuel. I generate ALL my own power, via diesel Gensets, and in my country Veggie Oil is like Crisco, most of the year. ..... YMMV.......
  6. maverickxxx

    maverickxxx Monkey

    I'm aware of the veggie oil as it gets cool I plan on keeping it in my shop an prolly run a heated line from the boiler into it. I got lots of cool fabrication tools so that end isn't a big deal. I also have a scrap yard close that I go pick from when I need differnt things as I need them. I also have some really good contacts as far as electrians mechanics plumbers etc....
  7. maverickxxx

    maverickxxx Monkey

    Well that's kinda what I'm looking for is starting point well exactly what I'm looking for. An yes it's definitely on my mind the idea of expansion of system. I am kinda looking at a minuim basic system to start up but at the same time I don't wanna be so small that it's another job to charge batteries worry constant if I'm wearing them down to much
  8. CATO

    CATO Monkey+++

    In addition to "how much juice do you need," I would ask you first and foremost, "what is your budget?"

    From what I've learned on here recently:

    • solar is expensive and should be considered a luxury
    • solar requires a complete change in lifestyle
    • only consider solar after all other preps (food, security, water, heat, medical) have at least a deep supply
    • be knowledgeable before you even think of buying

    Check out some of the "budget quotes" for off-grid living on this site:
    Index of /files
    (The guy really needs to reset his security on that folder)

    IMO...kind of pricey for just having a freezer and couple of lights. I realize that you could do this yourself for much cheaper if you had the know-how...but, I guess my point is there are cheaper alternatives.

    So, for me, the solar question is one of "how much do I have to spend?" That will dictate everything. If you don't have $10k+, you're not going to be doing much with solar IMO.
    TnAndy likes this.
  9. maverickxxx

    maverickxxx Monkey

    On the batteries I know they make the really large ones an have more capacity etc.... So I would need less but am I just trading money for size to get the same results for smaller batteries
  10. ColtCarbine

    ColtCarbine Monkey+++ Founding Member

    A starting point would be to find out what will it cost to bring power to the house, if it is $20-$30K than you might want to consider solar. As mentioned, this will not be a cheap venture by any means.

    I hate to say there is no way around not having to spend a decent amount of money to be able to do much with solar. Even if you do it yourself, it is not cheap.

    Being off-grid cost more than a grid tie solar system because of the battery bank needed and probably other stuff. Which is what you will be off-grid with no power to the property.

    I am not trying to discourage you by no means just letting you know what I have found out the hard way. $5-$10K does not buy you much power off-grid at all, as a do it yourself.
    Guit_fishN, TnAndy and BTPost like this.
  11. maverickxxx

    maverickxxx Monkey

    Well I was thinking of around 6-7 tops but that was a number I pulled outta the air. I know it's going to be fairly expensive to get power there so if I could get basic needs of power met to start with I could add on also add on other luxsuries. I can prolly add on a little more to that budget.

    So let me ask this being I'm going to have a genie it will prolly end up being way more than I need would it make more sense to concentrate on battery bank from get go an plan on running generator daily to charge them since I'll be running it for my shop anyway. Then adding more panels as I match panels to the system.
  12. Nadja

    Nadja RIP 3-11-2013 Forum Leader

    For the most part colt carbine is just about right on the cost. It will be in the range of about $10,000.00 to get into solar with a decent startup. Yes, you can go cheaper, but will only be cussing yourself out if you do.
    On the system I described above, you would have about 1800 incoming watts on a good sunny day, with a 2500 watt inverter, pure sinewave, which will run most things in your house with power to spare, you could cut the solar panels and batteries in half, which would save you a couple of grand, but would most likely be low or out of power when you needed it the most, like in the middle of the night when your refer kicks on.
    You could do as I do , and put your refer on a timer, going off at night and coming back on in the morning, which greatly reduces the power you need.
  13. Nadja

    Nadja RIP 3-11-2013 Forum Leader

  14. maverickxxx

    maverickxxx Monkey

    Oh I would rather hear it from people that have dun an tried then someone who dosnt know. Like I said I don't mind being unconvinced for a year but don't want it to be difficult or second job to have solar. I m looking at my options
  15. ColtCarbine

    ColtCarbine Monkey+++ Founding Member

    BTPost, Nadja and TNAndy can answer this stuff way better than I, they are the ones to put me straight on this stuff and given me the education on electricity and solar power.

    I'm just a plumber/pipe fitter and jack of all trades that has bugged the crap out of them about solar. They are probably ready to kick me to the curb. :D
  16. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    You need to determine what your Shop Power requirements are for a nominal daily use of the shop. then add enough Genset, to cover that, plus how many KwHs needed to keep your House operating for 24-72 hours depending on how long you need for Low Sun days. That will determine the genset size. Then you use a that little extra power from the Genset to keep your Solar Off-Grid Batteries charged whenever the Genset runs for the shop. Diesel gensets are very Linear in the Fuel/KwH Ratio, once you get the machinery rolling over. More Power Used, more fuel thru the Genset. This way if you have plenty of sunshine, that day, running the Genset doesn't use much fuel to bring the Batteries back up to float. If you have no sun that day, then you use a bit more fuel, to recharge the batteries. All pretty much self-governing. Battery Bank size in AMPHours and Loading will determine how long you can go, without any charging, from either Sun or Genset. Usually folks figure 36 hours, but some, fudge that one way or the other. All these Design Criteria, should be decided before you spend a Penny on Hardware..... ...... YMMV....
  17. rsbhunter

    rsbhunter Monkey+


    When i bought my panels, they were going for $1.19 a watt for the Canadian Solar CSP6-235's...for 10 panels it ran with shipping just under $3000.00......I don't know what the per watt price is now, it seems to be going up.....and with gas/fuel prices going up, shipping will go up also.....might want to either buy now, or hope that in another 8-12 months the prices go down....but's it 's a gamble either way....rsbhunter
  18. maverickxxx

    maverickxxx Monkey

    Yea that's where I'm at planning stage an everyone is bringing up Alot of the things I need to figure out which is what I'm trying to do. I already have a couple 5 k genartors gas but have no intention of using them for powering the shop. I'll recheck my power bill from my current shop some months it's only basic service charge others I think 60$ was highest so I know it wasn't much. But I imagine my mig an arc welders would draw battery bank quick.

    It's going to be a little while before I buy any panels. Next month I have everything paid off. So every thing I make can be put into building house an power. I'd like to have my plan 90% figured out down every nut an bolt before I spend any money. The exact step I'm at is lays ing out where I'm building my house. So I can mesure distances etc... That will determine my pump if I don't build sistern etc... My current thinking is my panels will actually be one of the last things I'll buy. I read somewhere where it's bad to add batteries as u build system the old ones will cut the life of the new ones so it seems like it might be easier to buy batteries that I would need then add more panels as more money comes maybe I'm wrong. Let me know. Cause I'll have genie to charge batteries anyway so it won't be a big deal to charge. If it came down to I would have to buy two or three panels a month after system is built.
  19. CRS762

    CRS762 Monkey

    Go with the batteries first, maybe 500 Amp Hr or more 1000 would be better. Also on your inverter i would go with the highest dc voltage you can, 48 volt if possible. Will save you money on charge controllers later. You can add panels breakers and charge controllers later as money permits. Batteries are a large expense. Check on your tax rebates for your state, federal is 30%.
    I have 370 Amp hr ( 8- 12 volt in 2- 48 volt banks) with grid tie and recharge during the night, running satelite tv and internet, refer, tv in evening, some lights, network router and wireless hub and some internet surfing. My depth of discharge is about 50%. My inverter charges 100 amps max on bulk charge. Battery vendors will tell you not to mix different age batteries, they say they charge differently.

    Go to web sites that sell off grid systems and study the components in those systems. You can learn alot from there. What kind of voltage are you off-grid guys running. 24 volts is probably a good voltage to consider for off-grid, think about how many panels (watts) you may end up with in the end. If i had to start over i would go with the Outback 80 amp charge controller. Sometimes i max out my 60 amp charge controllers. You want room to expand but not have extra capacity you will never use.
  20. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    Battery Bank Voltage is usually decided in the Design Stage, and it is determined by Inverter Input Voltage, which is mostly figured on Inverter Power capabilities. You really should keep the Input Current, at Rated Load of the Inverter to less than 150 AMPs. So, the following is a basic "Rule of Thumb":

    Maximum Power for Battery Bank Voltage
    12 Vdc = 1.8 Kw
    24 Vdc = 3.6 Kw
    48 Vdc = 7.2 Kw

    This "Rule of Thumb" will keep you in the ballpark, in the design area.
    .... YMMV....
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