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Old April 30, 2019, 10:26   #1
cotter
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Off Grid Solar?s

So with my coming of retirement age soon (and in reality being 10 or so years away) I have been considering my options for retirement. Not ready for the rocking chairs in Florida or equivalent yet (or in 10) I have kicked around the idea of a more rugged location. I am not a heavy user of electric and have recently went to an outdoor wood boiler for heat, would do that again in a heartbeat. I know there are few off-grid members here, so ...

How much cost for a moderate system? Current average 7-800 KwH a month I think
What maintenance is involved? Threat from lightning and other weather?
How long can the system be expected to last? Batteries and panels
How much sun is needed to run full production? Currently thinking about the area around Daniel Boone Natl Forest east of Lexington, Ky.
What do you know now that you wish you would have known when you first started in the solar game?

Thanks
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Old April 30, 2019, 11:28   #2
wilson180
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After much research I found it would be very expensive to power my house off grid. Most of the cost is in batteries.


Here are links to sites that provide some information to answer your questions.

https://www.solarpowerauthority.com/...for-your-home/
https://www.wholesalesolar.com

Last edited by wilson180; April 30, 2019 at 12:47.
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Old April 30, 2019, 11:38   #3
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I found this site years ago when I lived in my motor home and was thinking of a full-time solar setup. Lots of info here with load calculators and such. Their prices weren't the lowest, but maybe their products are better. http://www.newenglandsolar.com/index.htm

Maybe some reading there can help, although I'm sure you have read some already.
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Old April 30, 2019, 17:23   #4
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Solar Systems

Try backwoodssolar.com They have 40 yrs experience. In off grid systems
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Old May 01, 2019, 05:51   #5
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Bought my first four 12v 60 watt panels from these guys:

https://sunelec.com

I think they smoke everyone still in price per watt but could be wrong.

I spent heavy on solar system equipment upgrade last year. Needed to but 30% of the cost I was able to deduct from Federal Taxes. I will spend heavy on it again this year.

I kinda dont care about cost though ( if that makes sense) because I want power when the grid is down.
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Old May 01, 2019, 10:41   #6
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Well one big one is you don't want shadows cast on panels. That means no trees anywhere in the vicinity of an array

Another killer is phantom loading
You have anything with an active indicator light or clock it's drawing juice 24/7
Another real bad one is anything ran off a plug in transformer. Whether the item is on or off the transformer is always eating juice

Trees play hell with wind plants as well

Some folks in the deep woods up here run Diesel Generators to float a battery bank. A few of these are sophisticated operations. The generator self starts once the bank slips below a set level. This can also be done with propane.

Cost ?
Always figure on needing more juice than you think you will
A lot of gear can be had on the cheap, for example older Trace full sine wave inverters that were well over a grand new can be found under $200 if you shop.
Batteries are a stinker. I never cared for lead acid, either Edison Cells or industrial NiCd is the way to go. Up here the back up systems for NG pipelines coming down from Canada are ran on quite large NiCd banks and are often tossed or given away after a couple years of virtual non use.

Wood boilers...well if it's not set up to thermo syphon to circulate you have a small pump that will run 24/7 in heating season. The only way around that steady juice draw if you want a pump is one of the thermos electric powered pumps. Those were developed in Iceland to use in remote locations to circulate hot water tapped from wells to heat buildings. Last I checked maybe a decade ago there was still no North American vendor & boiler folks really didn't see the economy in them

As you are starting out I suggest you register up here:

https://www.homepower.com/

That's the access point for the entire Homepower magazine archives, over thirty years of knowledge. It's free to register and download for individual use. HomePower has been the only magazine worth a shit on the topic. Started off kinda Hippy in the 80s, I mean over the years they covered about everything in small scale power generation...PV, micro hydro, wind, wood gas, Hydrogen, Bio-Mass, you name it. Loads of tutorials on engineering systems, installations, safety, rebuilding, ect.

Understand the companies folks listed are decent outfits but they are in it to make a buck mostly selling packaged set ups with the latest Wizz Bang technology which often isn't much if any improvement over 5 year, even older New Old Stock components
My advice is to take their advice on systems needed with a grain of Salt until you spend some time in the Archives. The magazine was in circulation up until last November so there is plenty current data there.

RE is one of my great loves in life but like I tell folks you better know your system inside out. If something fails you won't be calling Bill the Electrician to sort it for you, nope you are pretty much on your own unless you have some nearby RE contractor.

Figure on redundancy in your build as well, Make certain you have at least one spare matching inverter. If you are running Nickle Iron Edison or NiCd cells ditto, make sure you have spare functional cells in case of bank failure.

Remember a fair number of peoples into PV end up replacing panels, inverters, ect when the newest more efficient one comes out. That often used to end up in the classified section of HomePower magazine. Today probably Craigslist or Ebay. Just took a glance at Ebay, just a ton of even NOS high end RE inverters.

I'd likely go through the Archives and check out proven sytems/installs they have covered since say 2000. Generally articles list off the componentry, pick one and follow the shopping list on Ebay and Craigslist. You should be able to piece together an excellent system for a fraction of the cost.
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Old May 02, 2019, 07:35   #7
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Thanks, some good links above.

Wind is so out in my book... I have a 100 foot tower and reminants in my front uard now, kond of my middle finger to the green industry. I have very little doubt that the green in my wallet is the only green they care about. That's why I came here to my friends.

I now see solar as my better option, unless I would be able to go hydro but that seems very expensive. I guess I can now say that I have begun assembling components... Last week I bought 2 Gaia Power Towers. Had never heard of this but it popped up at an auction. Still pretty well draws a blank in online searching but I would call it a grid tied critical load backup system. One is setup for 220vac, has 2 5500w inverters synced and 8 agm batteries to provide the 2 legs of 48vdc. The other has 1 5500w inverter and 8 batteries to get the 48vdc (parallel/series). If I can save 2 or 3 of the batteries it would cover what I paid for the setups. I have never run electric to my barn so I may just play with a ground mount array now to see how well it works. Just a lucky find that will save a ton on the inverters.

Not opposed to backup genset either and in all reality I would say it's a requirement unless in sunshine states. Load management seems to be a key for any system to work well.

Keep the info coming
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Old May 02, 2019, 10:29   #8
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I am using industrial/telecom NiCad batteries now. Price going in is not cheap but when battery is still working 20 years later it's a big win.
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Old May 02, 2019, 11:06   #9
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Have a few gensets and have a few storage batteries to directly power my 12,24v DC items.

When it comes to buying PV panels the local solar system sales people have been trying to sell me panels that have their own inverters.

My system is somewhat a convertible system that will power both the inverters and be able to charge the batteries more directly.

Have wanted to complete this to be independent from the evil PG &E for a long before the fire.



Ping..
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Old May 02, 2019, 15:07   #10
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batteries are the biggest maintenance and costs

Folks lived off grid for about 9 years. It all burnt down on Bunker Hill on Lake Orville last year. ( 2nd time PGE burnt down their property in 19 years. They are done- no more lake living


They always had to run maybe a 2-3 hours on generator to top batteries off during summer mornings from draining overnight

Winter the gens ran about 8 hours.

The system was undersized and they were not efficient on their appliances/electrical use.
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Old May 02, 2019, 16:52   #11
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I dabbled in this solar stuff a couple of years back for "boondock" RVing. Small scale stuff, 3X100 watt panels and a couple of golf cart batteries. It worked ok but I finally realized for my camping purposes I could run my little Honda every 2 or 3 days for a few hours on eco-mode and do just as well. And without the hassle and worry of dinking around with panels.

There is some neat stuff out there now for fixed installations ($$$$$$$) but it seems doable. I think finding a reputable and knowledgeable dealer/installer might be key. Which of course goes against the grain of us DIY types.
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Old May 03, 2019, 09:09   #12
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Trick is to leverage everything you can. Now my batteries charge off the grid or my generator. That said have a mix of multiple solar panels sourced from wherever found one used or damaged. Clean, repair, install and test then goes in the storage shed. Have three home brew and one damaged commercial wind generator that was on a boat and kept getting in the way plus was not enough to keep even a couple of medium batteries topped off reliably. House is on steep hill leading to lake and just past fence line a big natural drainage ditch begins.

Piped all the downspouts from the gutters to feed into that drainage and did some grading to divert more water that direction around house which keeps front yard at less of a flood stage in heavy rain. Where have max flow and velocity before system intrudes on Corp of Engineers land. None of the systems will provide enough significant power to keep batteries charged but if sun is Brite then solar panels do an o.k. job and of raining usually have wind so the combination of wind and small hydro station pushes enough power to batteries to keep my BiPap ASV, some of the less power demanding intrusion alarm systems and a couple trance Iverson on low transmit cycle.

While have the whole house generator assume there could be situation where noise from generator would attract hungry people looking for a meal. Have two 2,000 watt inverter generators in garage that can run single or in tandem using a pairing kit since are same size/design. One running in the sound proofed generator shed with doors closed and cannot be heard past fence line. Can actually run them in basement with exhaust attached to pipes that vent through wall into generator she'd and then even both running together are so quiet cannot be heard outside of house. The two small generators are like the big unit with tri-fuel kits allowing me to feed them off natural gas, propane or gasoline.

If pull the solar panels, generator unit for hydroelectric flue, wind generators and deploy all feed enough power can run my BiPap ASV and seismic sensor array without generators most of the time. If get a lot of rain and wind the bigger wind mill makes a lot of power but sounds like a twin engine turboprop airplane chopping the wind. Need a better set of professionally engineered vanes to run quieter and get more power out of available wind. As a DYI project made from used car parts it is a lot of power potemtial.

Noise of three wind mills and neighbors is why all three came down first, worrying about hail and lighting every thunder storm decided keeping solar panels in shed was better idea as half of them got for free after damaged by hail and repaired myself using tempered glass. Two were lighting struck but repairable. Got to thinking about all my offline emergency power equipment being up when EMP hit combined with keeping solar panels clean, maintain wind and hydro units put in shed with Faraday cage and grounded them till actually need them to survive. Float batteries off grid and generators during quarterly generator test run.

My system has a ton of telecom batteries from sealed AGM size of motorcycle batteries to 130 pounds and NiCads all tied in matched groups. Have a Frankenstein system using repairesd inverters from server farms and even some purchased off Craigslist, etc. Best thing added to date was a pair of 48 volt DC/DC capacitors from a train locomotive. Used them to rig a DC/DC buck and boost system to help keep batteries running long as possible when voltage drops below normal save voltage. Batteries can keep showing their full 12/48 volts on inverter side even when drop down to about 9.5 volts.

Everyone needs a buck and boost system to allow use of batteries when they drop below 11 volts as devices will start shutting down based on manufacturers design parameters. Most of my batteries can take down to high seven/low eight volt range without doing permanent damage but if devices like inverter shuts down it doesn't matter. A DC/DC rectifier can greatly extend your run time. If I was living in desert southwest would be piling up solar panels like fire wood. Last bunch I purchased came from a government auction where they upgraded the panels that supplied power to every station that monitors streams for over flow wherever a bridge known to flood was built. Some had cracked glass and other damage but all worked.

Am always looking for DC motors in the 70 to 120 volt range as when spin below designed rpm range using wind, water, bicycle or trained gerbils can still get 13 to 50 volts to run through buck and boost in other direction and safely top off batteries. If lurk around Indestructibleso and a host of wind, hydro and solar DIY sites can learn what to look for now even if not ready to build your system. Would hate to be like me remembering a time when had access to several tons of DC rectifiers, variacs and other equipment that had I known what it was at time could have bought for $500 and sold for over $10,000 easily on fleabay had I not stored for day I needed for alternative power system. All the big industrial grade UPS's from server farms that replaced and could have been repaired with $100 in parts from Mouser dot com or similar.

If plan on a Frankenstein DIY setup educate yourself now and start looking for parts whenever on Craigslist, estate sale or industrial auction, etc. Learn what things you need look like and even if broken drag home. Big DC capacitors, DC motors can use to make DC power if turn the shaft somehow, government auction sites and if go buy new turnkey systems out of a box will never recoup your money but will simplify the process if can afford it.
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Old May 06, 2019, 09:04   #13
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I inspect three to six new PV systems a week. Panels are now 300 to 400 watts apiece now and have a design service life of fifty years. System sizes range from 4K to 12K watts. Most systems use a central inverter or two, the rest are micro inverters (inverter on each panel). Maybe one out of fifty has a battery bank. Saw one recently that had three Tesla banks. At $7K apiece it’ll take many years for the system to amortize. Leasing a system is a fools game. Best to buy or lease with a buyout option after a year or two. YMMV.
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Old May 06, 2019, 11:24   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alphadog58 View Post
I inspect three to six new PV systems a week. Panels are now 300 to 400 watts apiece now and have a design service life of fifty years. System sizes range from 4K to 12K watts. Most systems use a central inverter or two, the rest are micro inverters (inverter on each panel). Maybe one out of fifty has a battery bank. Saw one recently that had three Tesla banks. At $7K apiece it’ll take many years for the system to amortize. Leasing a system is a fools game. Best to buy or lease with a buyout option after a year or two. YMMV.
Larry
And most systems are now interties with the grid...yeah no batteries because the owners are suckers.
Grid shuts down, guess what you are toast with out storage
That isn't powering one's home
it's Commie Greenie garbage.
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Old May 06, 2019, 23:19   #15
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Cool

Sorry it's taken me so long to respond.

My homer is offgrid and has a very small system. (Going on 4 years now.)

1,290W of solar.

Another 1996 era 60W Pannel to run my cistern pump.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cotter View Post
So with my coming of retirement age soon (and in reality being 10 or so years away) I have been considering my options for retirement. Not ready for the rocking chairs in Florida or equivalent yet (or in 10) I have kicked around the idea of a more rugged location. I am not a heavy user of electric and have recently went to an outdoor wood boiler for heat, would do that again in a heartbeat. I know there are few off-grid members here, so ...

How much cost for a moderate system? Current average 7-800 KwH a month I think
I use 1-2KW/day, system <$5k

What maintenance is involved?I
I run a geny to "overcharge" the batteries to knock the " rust" off the lead batteries a couple times a year. Toop off batteries, wash pollen or both snow off.

Threat from lightning and other weather?
grounded. Hail I guess...

How long can the system be expected to last?
That 1996 pannel is doing fine

Batteries and panels
How much sun is needed to run full production? Currently thinking about the area around Daniel Boone Natl Forest east of Lexington, Ky.
Your fine. Less sun in winter, but my chest freezer is in the garage so needs less.


What do you know now that you wish you would have known when you first started in the solar game?

Thanks
My system is 12V.
I should of done 24 or 48V.
I get by because it's just me, not worth redoing as if rather spend the money on my NEXT system\house same property which will not be 12V.)

You got quetions, I got answers. A few may be correct answers.
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Old May 08, 2019, 08:26   #16
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Off grid is very doable but being an old fart you should have plenty of backups so you aren't forced to dig yourself out of a bad situation with back breaking work. I'd look into wind, hydro power, and backup generators too.
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Old May 09, 2019, 15:40   #17
cotter
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I said retire, Not quite old yet , don't mind a little back breaking work, enjoy a little of it keeps me in shape.

Will keep reading and learning, perhaps the cost will come down more in the mean time.
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Old May 09, 2019, 17:33   #18
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This isn’t the input you asked for, but I am starting out with 3 renogy 100watt panels, a 40A mppt controller and 3 group 31 AGM batteries (for a class B RV, but an 8x10 shed could run off of this setup.
It runs a 12V norcold fridge, 12V TV, some lighting, water pump for the sink and an H2O heater.
The AC unit drains a battery in 4hrs, so I will use it sparingly.
The RV has the benefit of shore power or a generator or engine power to top off so this is how I’m learning.

It is coming in well under $1K - maybe a good place to start by outfitting a workshop to learn?
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