• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • paul wheaton
  • Mike Jay
  • Anne Miller
  • Jocelyn Campbell
stewards:
  • Devaka Cooray
  • Joseph Lofthouse
  • Burra Maluca
garden masters:
  • Dave Burton
  • Pearl Sutton
gardeners:
  • James Freyr
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Daron Williams

Looking at options (help, I don't understand anything about off grid electricity)  RSS feed

 
pollinator
Posts: 239
Location: Otway, Ohio, USA
43
food preservation forest garden goat homestead cooking pig
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We have an opportunity to buy an already off-grid farm. We were thinking of putting in solar on the long south-facing roof, but realized snow in our area is going to be an issue. So grandma thought of wind. I wanted microhydro which is doable because of the creek in back. I have read dozens of books on alt energy and still can't grasp how it all works. I get more or less that sun, wind, and water can all make electricity; but how do I choose one to start with and should I aim for redundancy with multiple sources of power? Where do I start and how can I figure the cost before I have the house? How do I figure this out?!

 
gardener
Posts: 1924
Location: latitude 47 N.W. montana zone 6A
217
cat pig rocket stoves
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Ryan;  That's a big subject!
I'll give you my 2 cents worth for what its worth and I'm sure others will as well.
Start with solar,  most panels are black these days. The snow will come off.  They are the simplest of the three. The easiest learn about and to regulate.
Wind is good, depending on your location. It is also very noisy. It also requires a large tower that tips slowly down to work on the genset.
Hydro is most dependable of them all. 24 hours a day it is always generating. It has a high cost and tech savy is needed for optimal setup and output.
Batterys are the biggest part of any system , you can't go to large. Think 2volt industrial ...
An inverter generator should be on your must have list as well.

Cost ? well its cumulative.  No power bill every month, but periodic replacement of batterys and electronics.

A bare slate and if you want it all quickly ...  $30,000 + easy
A slow start...  well a panel , a battery and a light could cost you $500   Pick a number.

 
pollinator
Posts: 1318
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
311
books forest garden rabbit solar tiny house woodworking
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We are totally off grid and use solar panels/battery bank/back up generator. While I don't need to be concerned about snow, I do have issues with the panels accumulating volcanic dust. So rather than having roof mounted panels, we have them on a ground rack. They are far easier to clean and otherwise maintain on the ground.
 
pollinator
Posts: 653
Location: Pac Northwest
98
building chicken earthworks forest garden homestead hugelkultur rocket stoves solar trees wofati woodworking
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
A lot of people going off grid put all their eggs in one power source basket, then wonder why they aren't producing enough power.

Solar, wind, micro-hydro are the perfect combo. If you can do all 3 then you are golden. Now price might keep you from doing them all at once, but if you can plan for them all and add as you can afford it then do so.

The reason the 3 work well is each fills in the gaps the others have. Solar is a great power source, when there is sun, but 1/2 the day there isn't or when there is a storm etc... Wind usually picks up where solar leaves off. As in during a storm the wind is really producing. Even the change from day to night often brings some decent wind. Micro-hydro is constant but tends to produce less volume. It makes up for this by never really stopping unless there is a mechanical issue. But the good news is it is a very resilient tech. So once set up, with a little maintenance you have a very reliable power source that you can use as for running specific essential things.

As Su Ba said, ground mounted solar tends to be the better way to go. I am in Eastern Wa and get some decent snow. Had 2 ft drop in just one night. I have to go out and scrap the snow off my panels regularly in the winter. While a light dusting will melt off any significant snow needs to be removed. Same with dust or leaves. Anything will reduce you power if it is even just partially shading your panels. Youtube has some great videos showing how just a little shadow over a panel drops the power significantly.


Solar does tend to be the typical 1st power for most folks. But it isn't too hard to add a wind turbine as well, they have gotten pretty affordable for a decent little one that can augment your solar.

A big thing to really plan for is 12, 24, 36, or 48 volt system. 12 is the typical small scale hobby system and the mobile systems. A lot of people like it because there is a lot of 12v DC appliances and lights etc. 24 tends to be the intermediate. 36 tends to get forgotten by most folks and they jump right up to 48.

The reason I say you need to plan this part is charge controllers and inverter tend to be only one voltage. The higher voltage systems tend to be higher priced, but there are big benefits for having higher voltage if you have high demand for power. There is a lot of technical stuff involved in figuring what is right for you. So I will give a link to a site discussing it. This is just one of many that say pretty much the same thing and you can do a search to find more info if you want. https://pangeabuilders.com/what-is-the-advantage-of-a-24v-system-over-a-12v-system/ here is another that is based more for the homesteader and specific about the battery side of things. http://solarhomestead.com/best-battery-bank-voltage/

Something else I try to impress upon anyone new to going off grid, don't expect power on demand like on grid unless you have deep pockets to install a big system. I suggest you look at all the things you tend to use, and ask do I really need to use electric for that. Find other methods to do things that used to be handled by electric. Learn to conserve electric with better appliances, self control, and alternatives. Hunt down phantom loads, this is power still being used in things that are "off". Like anything with a digital clock, or light when plugged in, and some things just still suck power with no indication. There are little phantom load detector gadgets to trace what is pulling a little load when off but plugged in. You can use surge protectors to turn off there rather than letting the device continue to draw power. It might amaze you how many things draw little bits of power when "off" and that does end up adding up to a decent reduction if you can eliminate it.

That said, you might end up finding you have surplus power during say a high wind storm, or on really sunny days in summer. And rather than just let the power go to waste, you will want to use as much as you can while you are getting such a surplus. Being off grid ends up making you very aware of your consumption and what is being produced.

*edit to add, oh something else I should mention to you. There is a million different opinions on how to do off grid power. Pretty much everyone seems to have a different idea of what is right and wrong. There is a lot of debate and disagreement between folks. A lot of this is many people forget to consider application. There is no one size fits all solution with off grid power. Pretty much every set up is a unique individual solution to that specific place and need. And the need might change over time to require a new set up, especially if future needs were not considered in the beginning. So while yes ask for help, listen to advice, do research also accept that there can be more than one right answer and that what is right for one person might not be what works for your situation. In the end, especially for someone with little understanding, it can all be pretty overwhelming and the best thing you could do is find a respected local expert to help guide you. Someone who can visit the site and understand exactly what you need to supply what you desire.
 
Ryan Hobbs
pollinator
Posts: 239
Location: Otway, Ohio, USA
43
food preservation forest garden goat homestead cooking pig
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Okay, so solar panels on ground mounted frames; large voltage for batteries, charge controller and inverter; and reduce energy use until we can afford more power sources?
 
Ryan Hobbs
pollinator
Posts: 239
Location: Otway, Ohio, USA
43
food preservation forest garden goat homestead cooking pig
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Update, went and checked out the property today, Dad went with us and he is in the HVAC and industrial appliances business. He said the gas and electric and septic are not up to code. We still like it but would have to get things fixed up for the loan folks. And speaking of the electric, the house is wired but was wired in the 1940s and needs all new wiring to be safe. So it may as well not have any. Maybe selling the copper would help pay for new wires.
 
Devin Lavign
pollinator
Posts: 653
Location: Pac Northwest
98
building chicken earthworks forest garden homestead hugelkultur rocket stoves solar trees wofati woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for the update, always nice to hear back and see how things progress.

Ouch on the stuff not being up to snuff. But awesome you got someone who knows what to look for and give the sound advice.

I was so happy to have a stepfather who is an architect and planner to help me with the buying process for my land. I literally just told him, your in charge I want the land get me the best price you can. And he did. I would have been lost as I have never owned property and of course had become emotionally attached to the place.

Just be wary of the place becoming a money pit.If things are that old and not to code there could be other issues hidden. You might want to have someone really look the place over before committing on it.I would hate for your dream to become a nightmare.

As for having to get things fixed up. I know when my brother sold his house, it was his responsibility to get a bunch of things fixed before sale. Are there those sorts of rules in your area for that type of property? Or is it so old that it is just buyer beware?
 
Posts: 98
Location: Nomadic
2
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
What is the creek like???  That’s the first thing I would look at. I have several solar energy systems and it gets techy and a bit geeky. But it’s a practical hobby I enjoy. A simpler way but much bigger scale project for the creek in the OP is a big AC induction motor hydro generator. No batteries, no inverter, no big cables, no charge controller, no solar panels.....I like solar but this is an interesting alternative. Of course this hydro only approach would require a predictable and reliable water supply not often found or useable due to “red tape”.
 
thomas rubino
gardener
Posts: 1924
Location: latitude 47 N.W. montana zone 6A
217
cat pig rocket stoves
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ahh Jeremy;  A/C induction motor run by hydro !!!  That's the stuff of sweet dreams!  If Ryan has enough water to run that and can legally do so that would be beyond awesome!
 
Jeremy Baker
Posts: 98
Location: Nomadic
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Yes, it’s like manna from heaven. I was impressed to read a small induction motor essentially provides for light for a entire village in Kenya. Fifty or so families if memory serves. I’m assuming LED.
Thomas, regarding the OP again and the subject of snow; a thought came to mind that, as you mentioned, the panels are black and will melt snow.  It can take a while so maybe it can be speeded up by installing a strip of heat tape along the edge of a panel. Perhaps it would only need to be on for a few minutes to expose some of the dark surface which would heat up and melt the rest of the snow quickly.  By doing this daily or several times a day perhaps a thick covering of snow could be prevented.
 Also there is a solar testing device that literally heats up the entire solar array. Then they take a infrared thermal image and a electroilluminescense image looking for faulty spots. But if these heaters could be built into the solar systems it would speed up the snow melt and testing both. Isnt that permaculture stacking of functions?? I’ve often wondered if my solar arrays are functioning properly and there is no easy way to test each string.
 
pollinator
Posts: 521
Location: Michigan
36
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Jeremy Baker wrote:Yes, it’s like manna from heaven. I was impressed to read a small induction motor essentially provides for light for a entire village in Kenya. Fifty or so families if memory serves. I’m assuming LED.
Thomas, regarding the OP again and the subject of snow; a thought came to mind that, as you mentioned, the panels are black and will melt snow.  It can take a while so maybe it can be speeded up by installing a strip of heat tape along the edge of a panel. Perhaps it would only need to be on for a few minutes to expose some of the dark surface which would heat up and melt the rest of the snow quickly.  By doing this daily or several times a day perhaps a thick covering of snow could be prevented.
 Also there is a solar testing device that literally heats up the entire solar array. Then they take a infrared thermal image and a electroilluminescense image looking for faulty spots. But if these heaters could be built into the solar systems it would speed up the snow melt and testing both. Isnt that permaculture stacking of functions?? I’ve often wondered if my solar arrays are functioning properly and there is no easy way to test each string.



This reminds me of Midnite Solar's classic charge controllers when they first came out the company advertised that you could press a button and defrost the array(s)! Ahh but that would be too cool. They retracted it shortly after the statement.

Does anyone know if it is damaging to the arrays?, or is it just not worth the battery power to do?

Im in Michigan and i only sweep my arrays occasionally during a long 7 month winter......only when battery soc is low and i need it, otherwise i just sip coffee and snow and ice is gone before any major production is lost.

I absolutely love to be able to look at the snow covered arrays and have people ask about this, because i can shrug it and they frown quizically.... "but its something you could get and are missing out on" to which goes the shrug!
 
Ryan Hobbs
pollinator
Posts: 239
Location: Otway, Ohio, USA
43
food preservation forest garden goat homestead cooking pig
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I checked out the creek. Making a floating water wheel is the best option due to sandy banks not being great for a dam and stationary wheel or turbine. The rate of flow and volume are high right now, but I don't know if it is always that way or just during this season. I think it may be seasonal because we always get a lot of snow and rain in March and April. I won't know if we can do hydro until/unless we see the creek for a year.

 
Jeremy Baker
Posts: 98
Location: Nomadic
2
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ryan. That creek sounds like a nice asset. Ive been thinking about designs for undershot waterwheels. I’m not confident about getting a lot of power from one. Maybe a dual fisher paykel motor (from junk washing machines)would generate enough to be worth it.  Perhaps a 30:1 gear ratio to the PM alternator would work.   A overshot water wheel has gravity pushing on the bucket all the way down so a lot of torque and speed is gained. A undershot is different. The water is simply pushing through at the speed of the current. In the old days they would build a weir and flume and divert some water to get more power.
Here’s a link to a floating water wheel
http://www.hydro-electric-barrel.com/index.html
Your post brings up a good topic for hydro design which is planning ahead at least an entire year and doing flow measurements at high, low, and average stream flow. Ideally talk with someone who knows the stream over years to learn about stream flow events. Stream flow can be checked quickly by timing a floating object over a certain distance. Repeat several times to make sure no errors were made. In small streams a 5 gallon bucket can be used at a small drop to measure the flow.
 
Jeremy Baker
Posts: 98
Location: Nomadic
2
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This is a link to the Fisher Paykel Smartdrive washing machine motors that are being used as alternators
https://www.powerspout.com/collections/complete-smart-drive-pmas

Frank, I don’t think the solar arrays are damaged by reverse testing if not over powered past the level they can rated for. They come with a 600 volt rating. But I’m no expert. If they already have hot spots one would need to turn the power up slowly and watch them. One tester I saw went up to 3000 watts. They need to be able to plug into a ordinary wall circuit to test most system quickly.
 
Ryan Hobbs
pollinator
Posts: 239
Location: Otway, Ohio, USA
43
food preservation forest garden goat homestead cooking pig
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Update: We have notified the seller that we intend to buy and to expect our offer in writing in April. We have to finish changing our debt to income ratio to check and see if we can go higher than $88,000.

I'm putting together a to-do list of things to do to fix up the place. I have to patch siding, replace flashing on the porch, remove a broken oil burning furnace and replace it with a RMH, remove outlets and switches and plug the holes with plaster, put a starter solar electric system in the add on, and a number of other minor things not worth mention. All of the repairs are going to cost about $40,000. But, that is over a long period of time. I have left over sheet aluminum from building a coffee roaster that will more than adequately repair the hole in the siding and replace the flashing on the porch, and those are the only immediate concerns.
 
Jeremy Baker
Posts: 98
Location: Nomadic
2
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Fantastic Ryan!! Best of luck with your offer and moving forward with your permaculture dreams. When will you share more about the site?
 
Devin Lavign
pollinator
Posts: 653
Location: Pac Northwest
98
building chicken earthworks forest garden homestead hugelkultur rocket stoves solar trees wofati woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I will be keeping my fingers crossed for all to go through smooth and your way to be clear for this endeavor.
 
Ryan Hobbs
pollinator
Posts: 239
Location: Otway, Ohio, USA
43
food preservation forest garden goat homestead cooking pig
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Jeremy Baker wrote:Fantastic Ryan!! Best of luck with your offer and moving forward with your permaculture dreams. When will you share more about the site?



Thanks Devin and Jeremy. I am trying not to get my hopes up too much in case it falls through like the last time. But at the same time, I have to make preparations under the assumption that it will work out. So I have to pick your brains on subjects of importance to the property before I know if it will work. It makes me a little crazy. Once we have a contract of sale, I will post a bunch of pictures of it and you all can see what I'm talking about. I don't think the average commenter would snatch the place from under me, but the forum is open to the public and I really don't want to loose it.
 
Ryan Hobbs
pollinator
Posts: 239
Location: Otway, Ohio, USA
43
food preservation forest garden goat homestead cooking pig
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I read a book. I get how this stuff works now (at least for 12v). I just had to get a book that explains it like I'm five. (Book pictured below.) Also, I found by checking the AH of all the things I want to run that a 12v 10A system is plenty. My rice cooker won't run on it for long, but there are 12v rice cookers available for under $20. My most important sppliance is my coffee grinder and it operates well below the limits of such a system and for its brief use is not a problem.

IMG_20190315_220448.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20190315_220448.jpg]
 
Posts: 11
1
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm a master electrician with thirty years in the trade.
If the creek is constant......and adequate to power a micro (or larger) turbine it is hands down your absolute best source.
If you have adequate fall (100' or more between hydro units) you can reuse the same water multiple times thru multiple hydros. if you have a massive flow you can power a massive gen set,
20 KW is adequate to power any task on the farm. Most of them concurrently.
If you have adequate volume, no nonsensical DC battery bank, inverter, or the mental, and schedule, contortions of balancing output, vs charge times, equalizing batteries, and a host of other minutia that keeps micro power such a headache.
Small Flows? still far simpler (and constant) than Solar.
Bad weather? a hydro unit only needs an adequate screen to keep floating trash out and it will create voltage thru darkness, storm, freezing, and fire(if your source dam is deep enough!).
So here's what you need to make a reasonable decision;
1;  Gallons per minute (or acre feet per hr) flow rate at the low water time of the year. (August - September) 20 GPM @ 6'drop will make usable power. (Without going into the micro power routine)
2; Maximum achievable fall between a reasonable dam site (one on YOUR property that YOU control) and if possible a site to put the genset near point of use. (2.6 foot drop = 1 lb pressure) Running wire from far away to point of use is possible, but wire (size and length) is the second largest limiter in the system.
3; Legal right to use the water from the creek, in Western States most of the surface water has been ceded to the tribes if it flows into any major river or stream, or if the creek flows across multiple owners properties, previous landowners may have rights to so many acre feet that by the time it gets to you in a drought year, flow will become inadequate.

Solar sounds wonderfull......especially if you have remarkably deep pockets, and enjoy fighting with your spouse/kids about energy conservation if you have a kid you WILL become the energy Grinch and your deep pockets will be lightened every seven to ten years,
The Obama EPA brought such brutal restrictions on lead into play that its smelting has almost disappeared in America, scrap batteries are rising in value yearly, and rifle  bullets are an average of thirty percent higher in 4 years, batteries do not last (except NIFE batteries ( not efficient but never obsolete!)).
Where Solar really shines is in passive design, think water heating, space heating (space cooling! if your clever or educated!)
Wind is a hit and miss, unless your site is ideal, but water pumping is a good application, (if you have adequate storage!)
Obviously if you have an ideal sight (equatorial for solar!) or unobstructed high winds , the costs start to balance out. One thing never taken into account is wind is remarkably destructive old windmills hang in tatters all over the west and leave any building for a few years unattended and roofing will blow loose!

Overshot wheels make torque, Undershot wheels are a distant second choice (OK its only my humble opinion!) Turbines make use of pressure efficiently, and if you are extraordinarily fortunate to have adequate drop, a Trompe will generate power and compress air concurrently.
 
frank li
pollinator
Posts: 521
Location: Michigan
36
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Bill Haynes wrote:I'm a master electrician with thirty years in the trade.
If the creek is constant......and adequate to power a micro (or larger) turbine it is hands down your absolute best source.
If you have adequate fall (100' or more between hydro units) you can reuse the same water multiple times thru multiple hydros. if you have a massive flow you can power a massive gen set,
20 KW is adequate to power any task on the farm. Most of them concurrently.
If you have adequate volume, no nonsensical DC battery bank, inverter, or the mental, and schedule, contortions of balancing output, vs charge times, equalizing batteries, and a host of other minutia that keeps micro power such a headache.

Small Flows? still far simpler (and constant) than Solar.


Solar sounds wonderfull......especially if you have remarkably deep pockets, and enjoy fighting with your spouse/kids about energy conservation if you have a kid you WILL become the energy Grinch and your deep pockets will be lightened every seven to ten years , batteries do not last'



Hydro power is a grail of sorts, kindof like hunting bigfoot or snipe or.... holy grails, in that if you find it someone probably owns the area or governs its use in such a way that makes it unobtainium to 99.9 percent of homesteads.

Then there is the infrastructure. A 10kW or 20kW generator is an expensive machine and the supporting spillways and foundations etc, would be cost prohibitive to most even if they happened to acquire a free generator.

Even a 1500-2000w machine which cost maybe 2000 dollars would need another several thousands investment of material and labor at many sites.

The thing about pv (solar is quite general and encompasses hydroelectric, geothermal, direct thermal, wave power, photovoltaics, wind and arguably biomass) is most everyone could employ it on some scale and with cheap module prices the systems are cost competitive with utility power at many sites, even off grid.

The reason batteries are seen as a weak link is in the design and budget section, not in the cost vs utility or some belief of the tech being up to it.

Batteries are reliable and long lived if sized appropriately.

There is no hassle to operating our battery based pv charged off grid power system. The power is just reliable and with the system in place we will spend way less on providing it, even if i had to replace batteries every 5 years, than buying utility electricity.
I check electrolyte level and top up 3-4 times a year, thats it... i have not even had to clean cables! If you are not sloppy filling them and charge appropriately you will not have that corroded mess i see from time to time.

There are quite a few myths about pv and batteries that need to be addressed within the community because the echo chamber will not let go and this discourages adoption of appropriate technology and slows its deployment to our detriment.

Its an "itis" a malady where one is too cautious to step forward and so they are static doing nothing untill the module prices go back to $3/w! Which is in the works industrially now. And all your "smart" frriends will echo the warning that its too expensive, battery tech isnt ready, it will probably rain and then if it snows the lights will go out and nobody will be able to watch sitcoms or youtube when they want to.......................m

Meh. For $1000 or less i can have reliable lighting, communications, power tool use and water delivery up and running at many of the types of homestead people are striving for and it gets you out there where you want to live.

That is a budget for a kid mowing lawns for a summer! That people fight to stay in the dark or keep others there, never stops amazing me!
 
garden master
Posts: 2232
Location: Greater Houston, TX US Hardy:9a Annual Precipitation: 44.78" Wind:13.23mph Temperature:42.5-95F
687
books forest garden greening the desert tiny house transportation urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I found a couple of good playlists on YouTube that I think would be helpful.

This is a playlist introduction to solar electricity.



This is a playlist on designing an off-grid solar system.

 
frank li
pollinator
Posts: 521
Location: Michigan
36
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Exactly, Dave. Alte Store educational materials are a great resource. I would have reference materials on hand, text and graphics also. Vids are great and much can be gleaned. Reading cannot be replaced.

Is does not speak to your post, but is a caution to people to look outside of youtube to gain real knowledge and understanding.

If i see another drone-on "hi youtubers this is our solar system and what you should do" video my eyes might stick in place where they rolled up to!

The equipment specifications and basic electrical fundamentals are what is required and then tutoris on technique. Wire terminations and routing, lug and terminal compatibility, how to properly crimp cables, etc.

Truth is renewable energy installations are a tour-de force of skilled trades application. Electrical, plumbing, fabrication and construction, ground works, mechanics, manners with tools and materials and doing each task at least in a solid manner will yeild a superior sysstem every time.

Its how i make my living. Electricians are generally (not always) poor builders or mechanics and even worse plumbers. Roofers are rarely good electricians and they largely see cross training as a brick wall and incorporating renewable sources as alien.

I showed some really good plumbers bare un-insulated heat exchange, storage, circulation and collector loop plumbing in series with a gas water heater and they scrinched their eyes together and asked what the heck it is!

These guys do boiler rooms and real nice work, but could not wrap their heads around the heat and electricity coming from sunshine to do the work!

This is common. I ask tradesmen all the time, "are you guys doing renewables, solar"? They turn grey and dodge it questioning why anybody would want to, even though they are turning all the same screws and twisting all the same wires.

I try to help, but still dont get how that wall stays up firm against solar technology....... best resistance industry can buy and they spend a mint discouraging us from just doing it.
 
frank li
pollinator
Posts: 521
Location: Michigan
36
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
In fact, we could replace the battery here every other year and still not pay out as much as the cost of utility power!
 
Ryan Hobbs
pollinator
Posts: 239
Location: Otway, Ohio, USA
43
food preservation forest garden goat homestead cooking pig
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I priced two solar systems made from parts available on Amazon. The light use system was $591. The average use system was $967. Tools needed in adition to what I already have were $60. The light use system is upgradable into the average use system. My plan is to build the light system and upgrade when I can afford the extra batteries, panels, and a 12v refrigerator.
 
Bill Haynes
Posts: 11
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ten Thousand Pardons,
Sorry to trouble you.
 
frank li
pollinator
Posts: 521
Location: Michigan
36
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Bill Haynes wrote:Ten Thousand Pardons,
Sorry to trouble you.



I wouldnt know who you are troubling. This is a great forum for adding to from anybody with practical and advanced experience. And in electrical especially.

Dude a 20Kw generator churning it out at whatever rate constant and clean would be a main economic and utilitarian leverage for most any home or homestead.  And like you say, no batteries...... farms are potential extreme demand/use facilities with power usage sometimes on par with a small apartment building.

A hydro system would have low down time and likely be low maintenance if done well.

Large standing loads for hours and days on end is rough territory for all but the most industrial equipment, especially a battery, but with a hydro plant, a battery would be a buffer and backup power during maintenance etc.

Grid intertied systems on farms are proven to lower and stabilize cost of operation as with most any home or comercial facility.

A homestead is a different usage profile generally than a farm (silos, combines, machine shops, huge water demands for livestock and irrigation, dryers incubators, chillers, freezers, heaters oh my, a real industrial production farm) or even a common large family home profile.

They may have all of these things on a homestead, but in usually a different capacity and im sure you can imagine.




 
Dave Burton
garden master
Posts: 2232
Location: Greater Houston, TX US Hardy:9a Annual Precipitation: 44.78" Wind:13.23mph Temperature:42.5-95F
687
books forest garden greening the desert tiny house transportation urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Ryan Hobbs wrote:I priced two solar systems made from parts available on Amazon.



Please may you post links to the parts for the systems, because I think that would greatly help with putting together the solar systems.
 
Ryan Hobbs
pollinator
Posts: 239
Location: Otway, Ohio, USA
43
food preservation forest garden goat homestead cooking pig
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Dave Burton wrote:

Ryan Hobbs wrote:I priced two solar systems made from parts available on Amazon.



Please may you post links to the parts for the systems, because I think that would greatly help with putting together the solar systems.



Sure! I might be missing a few minor bits, don't know the size of the battery terminals so I didn't list the round end connecters for the leads on the battery. The wire gauges are approximated for the sake of estimating a cost to build, but are not nesesarily the final size. I won't know that until I build the power cabinet and set up the panels. I may need thicker or thinner wire.

12v POWER SYSTEM
Battery $290
https://www.amazon.com/VMAX-XTR27-110-Marine-Battery-Performance/dp/B072QTMVRT/ref=sr_1_24?keywords=12v+marine+battery&qid=1552688673&s=electronics&sr=1-24

Battery Leads $10
https://www.amazon.com/BNTECHGO-Silicone-Flexible-Strands-Stranded/dp/B017TGYW3S/ref=sr_1_3?crid=2NA6VTQMYCYYU&keywords=10awg+wire+black+red&qid=1552752399&s=electronics&sprefix=10awg+wire+%2Celectronics%2C182&sr=1-3

Wires $27
Red and Black, multi strand
(will not know appropriate lengths and guages until distances can be measured)
https://www.amazon.com/BNTECHGO-Silicone-Flexible-Strands-Stranded/dp/B01AAX65ZK/ref=sr_1_4?crid=3L5GMRDXQS4PY&keywords=14+awg+wire&qid=1552747550&s=hi&sprefix=14A%2Ctools%2C188&sr=1-4

Spade End Connectors and Round End Connectors Assortment $18
https://www.amazon.com/EL-SKY-Terminal-Connectors-Assorted-Electrical/dp/B01LA82M8S/ref=sr_1_2_sspa?crid=2Z1GQPQI1NVM5&keywords=spade+end+connectors&qid=1552752500&s=electronics&sprefix=spade+end%2Celectronics%2C269&sr=1-2-spons&psc=1

Terminal Connector Blocks $12 per 2
https://www.amazon.com/Ninth-City-Position-Connector-Electric-Terminal/dp/B019DXZO1E/ref=sr_1_13_sspa?keywords=12v+bus+bars&qid=1552697663&s=electronics&sr=1-13-spons&psc=1

Fuses (included with fuse box)

Fuse Box (includes Bus Bars and fuse assortment) $20
https://www.amazon.com/Faylapa-Holder-Marine-Automotive-Stickers/dp/B07GCMKHW2/ref=sr_1_5?keywords=blade%2Bfuse%2Bbox&qid=1552747810&s=hi&sr=1-5&th=1

2-pin Switches (SPST) $11.50 for 5x
https://www.amazon.com/Rocker-Toggle-Switch-Position-Waterproof/dp/B07HGZQ718/ref=sr_1_5?crid=2LJVIF2WE9MC9&keywords=12v+15a+switch&qid=1552700261&s=gateway&sprefix=12v+15A+%2Caps%2C178&sr=8-5

Bus Bars (see Fuse Box)

12v outlets $6 & $19
https://www.amazon.com/Electop-Charger-Cigarette-Lighter-Adapter/dp/B01FJ8OXX2/ref=sr_1_5?keywords=car+lighter+socket&qid=1552696798&s=electronics&sr=1-5
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00XDDGCOE/ref=sspa_dk_detail_1?psc=1&pd_rd_i=B00XDDGCOE&pd_rd_w=o0G&pf_rd_p=80559f3c-f83b-49c1-8a72-40f936e9df7a&pd_rd_wg=8wFt1&pf_rd_r=9KJ8F6FFHPSN1K0YEK3W&pd_rd_r=04b47b60-4785-11e9-9de2-693c92ff5548

Voltmeter $6
https://www.amazon.com/LtrottedJ-Digital-Ammeter-Voltmeter-Panel/dp/B07CRR6D5Q/ref=sr_1_17?keywords=12v+inline+voltmeter&qid=1552699891&s=gateway&sr=8-17

100W 17v Solar Panel $86ea
https://www.amazon.com/ECO-WORTHY-Watts-Volts-Polycrystalline-Solar/dp/B00HTSVDAM/ref=sr_1_12_sspa?keywords=100w+15v+solar+panel&qid=1552700006&s=gateway&sr=8-12-spons&psc=1

Inverter, $70
https://www.mouser.com/ProductDetail/Tripp-Lite/PV375?qs=sGAEpiMZZMuA3R93OldqB2zjbZ5Uk43TdQs%2FZIDUc8U%3D
$339.99
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0769HGMYZ/ref=sspa_dk_detail_0?psc=1&pd_rd_i=B0769HGMYZ

Light $15.79
https://www.amazon.com/Vstar-PAR36-Lenses-Concentration-Bright/dp/B01FQ4O776/ref=sr_1_73?keywords=bright+LED+12v&qid=1552701242&s=hi&sr=1-73

Components Subtotal
$591 using cheap inverter, 1 battery, and 1 Solar Panel
$967 with cheap inverter, 2 batteries, and 2 Solar Panels


TOOLS
Wire Crimper/Stripper $20.25
https://www.amazon.com/Klein-Tools-1010-Crimper-Stripper/dp/B0000302WX/ref=sr_1_28?keywords=electrician+tool+set&qid=1552698347&s=gateway&sr=8-28

Multimeter $40
https://www.amazon.com/Klein-Tools-69149-Electrical-Test/dp/B00J9Q5FCE/ref=sr_1_9?keywords=multimeter&qid=1552699327&s=gateway&sr=8-9

Tools Subtotal
$60.25


TOTAL
$651.50
 
Jeremy Baker
Posts: 98
Location: Nomadic
2
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The fun starts, designing energy systems. I still think if you go with a 24 volt system you can have the option of expanding bigger and more economically than a 12 volt system.
Beware of that voltmeter. I’d be worried about it starting a fire. What is that bare wire on the back. Is that some kind of current measuring shunt?
 I’ve let the magic smoke out several high frequency inverters similar to those. Make sure there is no moisture or leaks anywhere near. Or high temperature locations. Try to locate your battery where the temperature is stable. Cold battery’s are sluggish and can lag. But they can live longer.
We had one nice system with expensive components out in the woods stolen. They took their time and unbolted all the panels also. And the 80 lb inverter charger and batteries. So if it’s a remote place beware. Where this theft occurred was an area near Concrete, WA known for a lot of Tweekers.
Sorry to sound negative, most often a there are not issues like this. Just be extra careful. It looks like you’re fusing and going to be careful. It’s normal for the wiring to be a bit untidy when one is learning. It takes practice to learn the relative placement of the components.
 And it’s normal to want to cut corners when on a budget. But keeping the system small and basic like this helps. Some of the big bus bars I’m looking at currently are over $100. My friend reminded me saying “it’s not a boat, it doesn’t need to be coast guard approved” as I tend to oversize everything.
 
Devin Lavign
pollinator
Posts: 653
Location: Pac Northwest
98
building chicken earthworks forest garden homestead hugelkultur rocket stoves solar trees wofati woodworking
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I was wondering how you got to such a low cost, then saw your items.

Single solar panel. Single battery. No charge controller (you definitely need one)

I see your shopping car inverters, while you can use those I would suggest you look at inverters designed for solar and with a bit more watts. The watt on your inverter is how much draw you will get from the appliance(s) you plan to plug in plus allow for some safety magin.

Here is an example of a 400w panel system which is what I would say is likely the minimal off grid that is functional, literally the 1st I saw and clicked searching Amazon for "cabin solar kit"

https://www.amazon.com/WindyNation-VertaMax-Inverter-Battery-Off-Grid/dp/B01BBDC9GC/ref=sr_1_7?crid=28HQPMX1RASU7&keywords=cabin+solar+power+kit&qid=1552929783&s=gateway&sprefix=cabin+sloar+%2Caps%2C240&sr=8-7

Complete kit includes: (4pcs) 100 Watt Polycrystalline Solar Panel, 30-amp P30L Solar Charge Controller (w/ LCD Display ), 40 feet of UL Listed 12 AWG Solar Cable, all necessary MC4 Connectors, all necessary solar mounting hardware + 1500 Watt (3000 Watt surge) VertaMax DC to AC Power Inverter, 2 pcs of 2 AWG Battery Cables for connecting the inverter to a 12V battery + 4pcs BattaMax 100Ah AGM (Maintenance Free) Deep Cycle Batteries with 2/0 AWG Interconnect Battery Cable.


Designed for RVs, cabins, homes, boats, back-up and remote power use

Note this does uses AGM batteries which tend to be a little more expensive and this package comes in at $1,859.99 without batteries it is $739.98. I personally would suggest you source batteries locally, due to them being heavy and hazardous the shipping for batteries is always going to raise the price a lot, even if it says free shipping that cost is in there.

For my 400w system my inverter alone cost as much as the above without batteries. But I got a 3000w inverter I could grow into rather than going small and cheap then having to replace it quickly. I also have 6 12v batteries that cost $300 each. I opted for them since they were more than double the amp hours of typical solar batteries.

What I would really suggest aiming for since you are adding this solar set up to a farm building is a minimum of 1 kw system, you don't have to do it all right away though search Amazon for "1 kw cabin solar power kit" for some ideas, but aiming to achieve that goal or more will help you size your battery bank, choose your inverter, pick your charge controller.

 
Ryan Hobbs
pollinator
Posts: 239
Location: Otway, Ohio, USA
43
food preservation forest garden goat homestead cooking pig
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I only need to charge device batteries and run a coffee mill. 3K watts seems like overkill. I was even thinking I might give my electric coffee mill to my parents and buy a hario hand cranked mill. I used to hand grind and only got the electric one because it was inexpensive after I had broken my even cheaper unknown chinese brand hand cranked mill. That leaves charging batteries. I have a dremel, a drill, 2 phones, a radio, a tablet, and a laptop. I don't charge all of them every day. They get charged when they get down  to about 60%. I charge my tablet every day, and everything else (except the power tools which are monthly)about once or twice a week. (I regret opting for the tablet model where you can't put in a new battery when the factory battery goes to hell.) I don't watch tv or play video games. What on earth would I do with a system that cranks out so much power?
 
Devin Lavign
pollinator
Posts: 653
Location: Pac Northwest
98
building chicken earthworks forest garden homestead hugelkultur rocket stoves solar trees wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
To clarify, I suggested a 1kw system, and not right away but to grow into.

What about lights? How about a fridge? Vacuum cleaner? Water heater? Washing machine and drier? Air conditioner or fans for summer? How about a router for your computer so you have internet? How about the internet access?

Now I am not saying you aren't planning to get by minimally. I sure am for now getting by with 400w system, though I still have to run a generator a lot more often than I would like.

I am just suggesting that there might be other appliances you haven't accounted for. For a typical cabin or small house 1K of power is actually pretty minimal supply and you will still need to make sacrifices of not using electric for all your needs.
 
thomas rubino
gardener
Posts: 1924
Location: latitude 47 N.W. montana zone 6A
217
cat pig rocket stoves
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Ryan;  
Don't forget propane...   You can have a propane fridge and a propane water heater (Paloma on demand, no power needed) and a propane oven. There even are propane deep freezers, although I don't recommend one.  

In 1983 I bought my first solar panel... leaned it up against the wall outside and ran a piece of romex wire thru the window.   A sears die (hard not deep cycle) battery ,a car stereo and tiny b/w tv.
I went several years with that alone.  Lights were keroseen lanterns.  I've improved things slightly since then.  


Start slow , learn to live off grid , its not as romantic as it might seem, rather its hard work.   Invest in a harbor freight predator invertor generator. Convert it to propane (easy,easy) You will need one.
 
Ryan Hobbs
pollinator
Posts: 239
Location: Otway, Ohio, USA
43
food preservation forest garden goat homestead cooking pig
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

thomas rubino wrote:Hi Ryan;  
Don't forget propane...   You can have a propane fridge and a propane water heater (Paloma on demand, no power needed) and a propane oven. There even are propane deep freezers, although I don't recommend one.  

In 1983 I bought my first solar panel... leaned it up against the wall outside and ran a piece of romex wire thru the window.   A sears die (hard not deep cycle) battery ,a car stereo and tiny b/w tv.
I went several years with that alone.  Lights were keroseen lanterns.  I've improved things slightly since then.  


Start slow , learn to live off grid , its not as romantic as it might seem, rather its hard work.   Invest in a harbor freight predator invertor generator. Convert it to propane (easy,easy) You will need one.



Free natural gas from a well on the land. I was planning to use a unique brand gas fridge and the water heater is already gas. For things that need cool but not cold, there is an insulated cellar.
 
thomas rubino
gardener
Posts: 1924
Location: latitude 47 N.W. montana zone 6A
217
cat pig rocket stoves
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ryan;  FREE natural gas well!!!   That's very cool !  
 
Jeremy Baker
Posts: 98
Location: Nomadic
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hey Ryan, Propane fridges do work. They can consume a bunch of fuel. Again I’ll suggest going with better solar and all electric. The propane fridges are dang reliable. I’ve know people to run them for 20 years. If they are a electric/propane combination they can use a lot of power on the electric setting also. All fridges can greatly benefit from a insulation jacket added.  Except one I’ve found. It’s the small fridges which have the coils embedded under the sheet metal sides instead of behind.  
 
Devin Lavign
pollinator
Posts: 653
Location: Pac Northwest
98
building chicken earthworks forest garden homestead hugelkultur rocket stoves solar trees wofati woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Ryan Hobbs wrote:Free natural gas from a well on the land. I was planning to use a unique brand gas fridge and the water heater is already gas. For things that need cool but not cold, there is an insulated cellar.



Well that is a game changer, a resource like that would have been helpful to mention at the beginning of the thread.

With free NG, you can actually run a generator off it, have gas lighting, and so much more. Homestead Rescue TV show actually did this for a homestead that had an old well on their property. Though they had trouble with pressure drops and so had to fill a large tank to ensure they could get consistent pressure.

If your getting enough gas, you could honestly not even do solar, wind, or mico hydro. Just run everything off the gas, either direct or through a converted generator for things that need actual electric. Now me personally I would still slowly invest in the other alt energy options, but the need for them would be much lower and I would take my time doing it, building up pieces slowly to reduce the up front cost of putting it together. For me, I just don't like having all my eggs in one basket, so would still do the others eventually. But up front I would go to town on the NG option, getting that set up as my primary source of energy.
 
Ryan Hobbs
pollinator
Posts: 239
Location: Otway, Ohio, USA
43
food preservation forest garden goat homestead cooking pig
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Devin Lavign wrote:

Ryan Hobbs wrote:Free natural gas from a well on the land. I was planning to use a unique brand gas fridge and the water heater is already gas. For things that need cool but not cold, there is an insulated cellar.



Well that is a game changer, a resource like that would have been helpful to mention at the beginning of the thread.

With free NG, you can actually run a generator off it, have gas lighting, and so much more. Homestead Rescue TV show actually did this for a homestead that had an old well on their property. Though they had trouble with pressure drops and so had to fill a large tank to ensure they could get consistent pressure.

If your getting enough gas, you could honestly not even do solar, wind, or mico hydro. Just run everything off the gas, either direct or through a converted generator for things that need actual electric. Now me personally I would still slowly invest in the other alt energy options, but the need for them would be much lower and I would take my time doing it, building up pieces slowly to reduce the up front cost of putting it together. For me, I just don't like having all my eggs in one basket, so would still do the others eventually. But up front I would go to town on the NG option, getting that set up as my primary source of energy.



I mentioned the access to gas in my second comment, though not it being free.
 
Posts: 70
Location: Western central Illinois
21
hunting rocket stoves solar trees ungarbage wood heat
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ryan,
Sounds like quite the endeavour. In looking at your list of parts I wanted to make a couple recommendations based on my own recent experiences in solar.
While AGM batteries have their advantages, for long term use consider Golf Cart deep cycle batteries, typically 6 volt cells so you need 2 in series, as their chemistry is better suited to the charge/discharge cycles you typically see in solar setups. With proper maintenance and usage within rated limits they can last a very long time. Personally I'm going lithium based, but that is literally a different thread.

On the inverter, watch out for parasitic loads from the inverter. Some are worse than others. The ones you listed have a stated no load/standby draw of 7.8 Watts and 19.5 Watts. Not huge, but every watt counts on solar.

Also, I didn't see the charge controller listed. You need one of these and of all these parts it's the one I would say to go big with. Not crazy huge, but don't box yourself in on that one. Get one that is MPPT and can handle more than you think you will ever throw at it. Personally I'd take a hard look at something like one of these Renogy units. It can handle 12V or 24 Volt systems. So if you decide down the road you need to go to a 24 volt setup you already have a good charge controller in place and it would be one less piece of hardware to replace. They make them in 20A, 30A, 40A and a big 100A model. For a 12 volt system you are going to be at 30 Amps with 360 watts of panels.

On general sizing of your system,
375W @ 12V = 31.25 Amps. I'd consider heavier than 10 AWG wire between the battery and inverter/fuse block.

5000W @ 12V = 417 Amps. That's a lot of angry pixies. Remember to size the wires and connectors are sized accordingly. This was something I nearly overlooked in my original design on my system. I have since gone to 24 V and an 800 watt Pure Sine Inverter.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. There is no one "right" way to do it, except your way as long as it works.
 
Look ma! I'm selling my stuff!
177 hours of video: the 2017 Permaculture Design Course and Appropriate Technology Course
https://permies.com/wiki/65386/hours-video-Permaculture-Design-Technology
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!