Small steps to going solar

Discussion in 'Alternative Energy' started by ihedrick, Nov 26, 2006.

  1. ihedrick

    ihedrick Can't stop thinkin'

    Messages:
    1,267
    Joined:
    May 15, 2005
    Location:
    Virginia
    I'd like to get off grid, but I don't have lots of money to sink into it. I've seen small solar panel "kits" that offer a certain number watt of power. Would this be good to start with and try using that solar panel to run, say, the tv, and build onto it as I learn more? I have two generators, one portable for short term power outages, and a larger one if the power is out for days on end. So they would be a back up for when the sun doesn't recharge the batteries.
    I've also began a power budget to see exactly what my family is using and how much power I'll eventually need to collect.
    Any other tips/advice on making the transition on a tight budget is appreciated.
     
  2. 12vman

    12vman Offgridkindaguy

    Messages:
    793
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2004
    Location:
    Out in the Boonies.. In Ohio
    I've often suggested taking one room/area and build a small a "Solar Lab" to learn with.
    Start with maybe 50 watts of panel and a good grade controller. (C-12) At this level, A large marine battery would be fine. This would give you around 14 amp hours a day to play with.. And you won't break the bank with a fine learning tool..

    The C-12 controller can be configured using the low voltage disconnect function so you won't hurt your battery by draining it too low. Nice little controller, IMO..

    Start with some low voltage lighting with known properties (current demands) and keep logs on usages. Get Ohm's Law out and tatoo it to the back of your hand. (hehe)
    You'll be using it a lot! Perhaps a small TV with a small inverter. Study your usage and ALWAYS remember what level of battery storage you have..

    Find some small items in your home with wattage/amperage ratings and plug them into this calculator. The system suggested above is at 12 volts D.C. Most big systems use a higher voltages (24,48) but stick with 12 for now untill you understand how this stuff works..

    http://www.angelfire.com/pa/baconbacon/page2.html (Possible pop-ups, dangit!)

    Insert 1 of 2 known properties (amps, watts) and your base voltage (12 volts) and it will tell you wattage or current.. The unknown property..

    Don't make it difficult. Take your time and don't be discouraged if things don't work out just right. A 50 watt system is very limited but you can learn a lot from it. The most important thing is to make it fun!!
     

  3. Cyngbaeld

    Cyngbaeld In Remembrance Supporter

    Messages:
    28,248
    Joined:
    May 20, 2004
    Location:
    SE Missouri
    First thing to do is reduce usage. Check your lite bill and see how much you used each month over the past yr. Then start working on gertting that down.
     
  4. Fire-Man

    Fire-Man Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    5,485
    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2005
    Location:
    South Carolina

    I Started out with a solar yard light---used one to charge my two rechargeable AA batteries for my small flash light. Then I moved Off Grid---Started using my golfcart batteries and a inverter to run the tv etc, but I was Charging the batteries with the golfcart charger that was in my shop---On Grid 1/2 mile away. Then I got a small boat trailer and put some batteries on it--------Charged them again with a on grid charger-----Then I got 4, 80 watt solar panels and a charge controller,($1350) built a home-made tracker----Thought I was SOMEBODY Then----LOL. Then I ran Across a Great Deal---Got 1180 watts of solar panels--8 T-125 trojans--2 big inverters(3500 watts con)------I Got ALOT (to much to mention)in a $2000 deal. A Deal of MY Life. Always looking for another deal. I watch the Local Recycling place for batteries-------I found 5 good as new golfcart batteries some time back--They replaced all 6 batteries--------Only one was bad. My Gain!! I only have one 15 watt panel where I live to run my 12 volt lights, but I am not in there burning lights all day. The 15 watt panel keeps the battery charged. My Other 1485 watts of panels are hooked to my battery bank to run all the 120 volt things through a big inverter. I wanted my lights seperate so if the inverter happens to shut off or I have to work on the battery bank------I always have lights. Have Fun with it!! Randy
     
  5. 12vman

    12vman Offgridkindaguy

    Messages:
    793
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2004
    Location:
    Out in the Boonies.. In Ohio
  6. Fire-Man

    Fire-Man Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    5,485
    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2005
    Location:
    South Carolina
    12vman-----------Yea I was lucky on that deal------8 of those panels were 100 watt plug-n-play(is that name right?) Then 2, 120 watt and some smaller panels. I got what I mentioned above plus 2 c-60 charge controllers 16 more smaller batteries like the telephone company use. There was 2, 12 volt attic fans--I got lucky------Just two much to mention------I figured all the prices at new------There was $13,500 worth of things not counting all the 4/0 battery jumpers, disconnects and disconnect boxes, wire---2 good size boxes of connectors etc------------yea I am still Amazed that I was that lucky-------I gave a used 4 wheeler that At The Most--I might have been able to get $2000 out of it-----------Even Swap. I Am Happy!!!! I am Still Happy About the DEAL----LOL. Randy
     
  7. mightybooboo

    mightybooboo Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    11,301
    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2004
    Location:
    So Cal Mtns
    Yep,I remember that story.I got mine used at 50% off and am happy as it gets.In my case I pretty much bought the batteries,the controller,remote,panels,rack,fuse,wiring and inverter/charger were free.

    Even used that stuff goes for pretty much retail,but the bargains are extremely rare.
    Got mine out of the recycler,fellow moving from a Ranch to the big city,he needed it gone,hence the deal.Ive seen that kind of deal exactly once.

    You ever see a deal,jump on it,dont care what you have to do to get it.

    BooBoo
     
  8. 12vman

    12vman Offgridkindaguy

    Messages:
    793
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2004
    Location:
    Out in the Boonies.. In Ohio
    I'll never find a deal like that around here. I get excited when my friend that does a trash route brings me a solar lawn light. This stuff isn't popular around these parts. I'm one of a very few..
     
  9. ihedrick

    ihedrick Can't stop thinkin'

    Messages:
    1,267
    Joined:
    May 15, 2005
    Location:
    Virginia
    Thanks for the info. I really want to go off grid, but slowly, and just feeling shaky about it all.
     
  10. Ozarkguy

    Ozarkguy Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    196
    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2003
    Location:
    Right HERE, of course!
    .

    "Get Ohm's Law out and tatoo it to the back of your hand. (hehe)"

    I wrote it backwards with magic marker on my forehead. Now every time I look in the mirror I read it. :p

    Affordable solar...aint no such animal. But starting off with baby steps is sure the right idea. I use those solar outside lights in my house as night lights. :) Silly, but an inexpensive way to "play" with solar. You're sure at the right place as LOTS of solar minded folks here. eh 12vman? :)

    gotta love those hills.....

    Ozarkguy

    .
     
  11. Runners

    Runners A real Quack!

    Messages:
    327
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2003
    Location:
    Near Callands, Virginia
    HOMEPOWER.COM has a web site and magazine we've subscribed to for many years, and they have CDs of all the back issues. It has a political slant (liberal), but, the articles are DOCUMENTED with real results and information.

    I work in Telecommunications. We throw away battery strings on 3 year cycles. These are four - 12v batteries, of the 33ah to 105ah non-spillable, sealed Gell-cell type. There is a lot of usable LIFE in these batteries, and since they are basically maintenance free, you don't have to add water. They are PERFECT to learn how to charge, discharge and care for, or build your starter system - and they're FREE!

    I said that to say this: One of our former neighbors, invested in a small wind turbine, solar panels, charge controller, etc., built the whole system and stuck some nice Rolls batteries on it. Because he really didn't think battery care was more than charging and adding a little water now and then - his batteries were SHOT about 1 1/2 years later. Abuse! So, after that $$$ lesson, he bought golf card batteries - and did the same thing again, killed those in about 14 months. Learn how to take care of the batteries, because the replacing those nice big ones is real expensive! Learn on the CHEAP ones - this other guy is still replacing strings every couple years.

    At our place, we have multiple strings of these freebe batteries, set up in 12v, 36v & 48 volt strings, 250-850ah. They provide emergency power through several UPSes and inverters to our incubators / hatchery. When they aren't being called upon, they are being maintained by rectifiers, set to precise voltages to get the maximum life - and desulfinators to prevent & reverse sulfation.

    Anyone can get these batteries for free, usually with a few phone calls or talking to a outside plant technician that works for the phone company, cell phone, cable TV, etc., they're used all over the place.

    As of today, I have 17 of the 69ah Johnson Controls gell cell type I need to get rid of, they look like a car battery with bolts on the top instead of posts. Nothing wrong with them, I just had to make space for a bunch of larger batteries. I hate to just recycle them when someone could put them to use.

    I'll be home from Dec. 16 through Jan. 1 and we live near Danville VA. If nobody picks them up, they go to the recycler Jan. 2nd.
     
  12. speedfunk

    speedfunk Rock On

    Messages:
    166
    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2005
    Location:
    upstate , ny
    I'm not sure if this is any news to you ihedrick. If you've been looking into kits you might have allready found this. I got my solar from harbor frieght, I've heard the controller isnt' that good ..but if you want to play they are good deal.

    3 , 15Watt panels , a couple 12volt cf lights and the controller 200 bucks.

    http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?Itemnumber=90599

    I've played with them a very little bit, here is a couple of pics. I was in the same boat as you so maybe this might help! This setup powers a small cabin.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]