A small experiment with solar

100 watt panel using timber mount

Becoming carbon-conscious, obviously inclined to unsubscribe, and seeing the falling costs for components, I was curious to know if I could put together a Tiny solar PV system on my own.     Having experienced a few blackouts this summer and expecting more later on I was also curious about Giving a small Number of backup power for key items.     Here is the story of my own very first foray into off-grid renewables.

This informative article in Do The Math (an Outstanding blog you must read regularly) where Tom Murphy explains his little, off-grid system really got me started on the Entire thing.     I’m not a physics professor, but after reading it and doing some Extra google looking, it looked simple enough to get a lay-person armed using a small Quantity of reading.     An invaluable source (also provided by Tom’s blog) is your Solar Living Sourcebook, available in the Regional library, which provides all the basics on what solar PV is, how it functions, important safety tips, and alternatives for installation.     Additionally, I learned a couple of things from assorted youtube videos and normally google searching.

The machine I put together is 12 volts, which appears really common for little, off-grid setups.     It’s basically only six things: a solar panel, a charge controller, a battery, an inverter, along with various cables and fuses.     The solar panel system provides the electrons, the charge controller controls how those electrons flow into the battery (and also makes sure it does not overcharge), the battery stores electrons, and also the inverter turns the battery 12 volt DC power into 110 volt AC power so it can be used with regular household electronics.     The cables and fuses connect stuff together and offer safety.

Now You Can purchase comparatively affordable panels in Amazon or even Home Depot in many wattages and sizes.     I picked a 100 watt panel that appeared to get great reviews along with a website that indicated the business might be around for a short time.

Charge controller showing all systems go!

The other pieces of the machine (inverter and charge controller especially) come in a Enormous Assortment of prices.     After some reading, I determined it might be better to invest a Bit More on a charge controller, as most people had complaints regarding cheap models, and keeping your battery life is significant (the function the cost controller plays).     I Bought a 30 amp controller out of Morningstar, which I presume could power up to 300 400 watts of panels if I expand the system later on.     The battery is rated at 80 amp hours, and it’s sealed lead acid.     I purchased it in a local battery store, and its a discount version.

A bad photo of this 80 amp hour battery

So what do this thing power you ask? That’s a part of how far the panel generates, just how much the battery stores, and just how much amperage I could draw at one time in the battery and inverter.

According to your assumptions I pulled from NREL’s PVWatts instrument, the panel might generate 400 5 hours Each Day (100 watts X 4 hours equivalent of 100% generation) in the peak season and maybe 210 in the low season (November), even though I’ve seen greater numbers in other areas.     The battery is large enough to store all that every day generation and much more (80 amp, X 12 volts = 960 5 hours).     In fact, it will take a half to 2 two and a half of sunlight to fully charge your battery life.

In the winter, the daily generation of this panel would probably be sufficient to power several lights (the LED number), an efficient notebook, a lover, and also a little TV for a few hours.     It will not conduct a hotplate anything but the tiniest air conditioner, a heater, or even a fridge, not continuously.     The battery and the inverter could probably handle it (among these things), however the panel would not Have the Ability to keep up.     Just as a backup power supply, this setup would power my fridge for about 12 8 hours and our 8.8 cubic foot chest freezer for about 24 16 hours.     That’s assuming a fully charged battery the panel couldn’t keep up with the lure from those appliances for more than a day.     These are just my quotes, I don’t have some real world results however, but will report again soon.     At this time I have the chest freezer plugged to the futon and I’m going to time how long until I get the low battery warning.

Things I’ve learned so far:

  1. It’s all the other things that costs money.     At this stage, the panel itself only accounts for 20% of the Price Tag.     When I added 2 three additional panels (which would probably max out the charge controller) to economize, the panels would still only be 40%  51% of the price tag.
  2. I want scale to “spare” money.     At this time my costs per watt are about 76% greater than what I have been quoted to Set a grid-tied, full size system on my roof.     When I pumped out the charge controller with two more panels and got another battery, I will bring my costs in line with the experts (again, on a per watt basis).     Whether this would continue to climb I kind of uncertainty, since batteries get expensive and I would get into more severe electrical work pretty quickly.
  3. I want a different battery (or 2) for large things.     High amperage appliances, like a vaccuum, Appear to be within the wattage Assortment of the inverter, but my battery isn’t only 80 Ah.     The internet tells me I must only run things that are 10-12% in amps of that capacity to prevent shortening the battery life, and really I got a low battery warning when trying to conduct the shopvac.
  4. You should think hard about where to locate a panel before you embark on This Sort of job.     I’m still squeamish about getting into roofing for fear I will Make a leak, along with others in my household disagree concerning the aesthetics of a home-built wooden framework.     My goal in the very long run is to receive that onto a roof somewhere.