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solar in northeast (america, canada) efficacy. what was your experience?

 
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I was hoping to get insight from people who live in michigan, ontario, quebec, new york, ohio, illinois area, who use solar as their main electricity source find it. Are you happy with power production? Is it worth the cost? Do you produce enough energy to run your house?

I plan on heating the house with a rocket mass heater and investing in led lighting. Its just me and my girlfriend and we dont use much power, but if we get a incinolet toilet im guessing 4000 kwh per year. My original plan was to use a gas generator and a battery for power but that need much more research. I was hoping to get some insight on others on if solar is worth it for them. Right now my only realistic options are honda generator, solar, grid or a combination.

Any insight is helpful as I read tons of conflicting information.
 
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I think the incinerating toilet will use a huge amount of electricity, so if you can do any other toilet system that doesn't require generating high heat, then it will be easy to generate enough solar electricity for your other power needs.

There are so many composting toilets now, that require no power, or just a fan, which is a fraction of the power of incinerating.

In planning for solar power, the important question is, do you have a good unshaded southern exposure?
 
C. West
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thanks for the response rebecca, if i can power the rest of the house using nothing but solar and a batery i will, and if the incinerating toilet uses too much power i will just hook it up to the generator and do house on solar. ill have to do more research. and yes i will have some good southern exposure for the solar panel
 
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Even with the cost of solar arrays coming down in price, your cheapest cost will be grid-based. Following that will be a small generator. I am not saying either is the best way, as the hardest/best way to do something is typically the most expensive, but gasoline generators are cheap. They are not exactly clean power though, so you get what you pay for. If you go with an inverter you could get clean power, but the price is somewhat higher than a typical gen-set.

If your place is close to the grid, that will be have a low initial cost, lowest cost per KW, and have the cleanest power.

A generator will be cheap to get, have the highest cost per KW, and will not be clean power

A solar array will have the highest cost, be mid-range in cost per KW (battery banks need replacing remember), and medium in clean power
 
pollinator
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con west wrote:I was hoping to get insight from people who live in michigan, ontario, quebec, new york, ohio, illinois area, who use solar as their main electricity source find it. Are you happy with power production? Is it worth the cost? Do you produce enough energy to run your house?

I plan on heating the house with a rocket mass heater and investing in led lighting. Its just me and my girlfriend and we dont use much power, but if we get a incinolet toilet im guessing 4000 kwh per year. My original plan was to use a gas generator and a battery for power but that need much more research. I was hoping to get some insight on others on if solar is worth it for them. Right now my only realistic options are honda generator, solar, grid or a combination.

Any insight is helpful as I read tons of conflicting information.

Off grid is completely viable in our part of the world. You can expect about 1.5 hours of array production per day as an average at this time of the year so plan accordingly. Invest in an inverter with a charger because there will be times you will need the generator for a top up. Solar panels are relatively cheap right now so get all the array you can afford...Why the incinerator toilet? Is there some reason it is a must? They usually start at several thousand dollars... They do come in propane models not just electric; more efficient then running a genny  to heat an element. A composting toilet or a humanure sawdust toilet will do the same functions for a fraction of the cost so those are worth looking into.
David
 
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I use about 3kWh per day.
So a 1kW solar panel array with 4hrs of sunlight would cover my needs. (4kWh per day minus power loss)

Other folks use 30kWh per day, they would need a 10X sized system.
 
C. West
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thanks for all the replies, the main reason we want the incinolet is convenience. we like the idea off self suffinciency and off grid, and its the best option iv seen for our needs. a septic is too expensive as well as other problems, being attached to municipal water likely wont be an option, and composting/churning/outhouse is just a little too "involved" for our needs. i dont want to play with my poo (at this time, maybe in the future i will). pee doesnt bother us nearly as much and we will be peeing outside. my current plan i think is each using the incinolet once a day for poo, peeing outside or in a chamber pot for her, and running all our power on solar, and the incinolet on a generator. just flick on the generator to flush, turn it off when done. and yes ill have to get an inverter for when solar doesnt cut it during mid winter/high power use days.

thanks again for all the input, iv lurked on this site for years and have learned a decent amount on here.
 
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I used to read the solarhomestead.com blog and enjoyed learning about solar in Eastern Canada. It was not as easy as Arizona that’s for sure and he had a engine driven alternator to bulk charge his batteries in Winter. Then he said he was ill. Then the blog stopped. I hope he is ok!?
 There’s a electrical engineer in Quebec who has redesigned solar and is doing one of the most carefully designed system I’ve seen anywhere. He wants to go 100% solar and 100% DC and goes by Electrodacus.com. If I had not already invested in other technology I would consider the technology he has developed.
 
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ill look into him jeremy
 
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I recommend you look into Joe Jenkins and the Humanure Handbook. If you want to be self sufficient then incinerating all that natural fertilizer you and your girlfriend produces each day at great cost seems crazy to me. If you follow the Humanure Handbook each adult will produce one cubic yard of   high quality, safe fertilizer for your gardens and/or fruit trees.

Even with an incolet you will need to deal with your grey water, even in the winter time.  In a northern climate,  I found the cheapest and easiest  solution to deal with grey water that I could get my local authorities to accept is a septic tank.  If I ever decide to sell I can just hook up my toilet again and Im good to go.
 
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Jeremy Baker wrote:I used to read the solarhomestead.com blog and enjoyed learning about solar in Eastern Canada. It was not as easy as Arizona that’s for sure and he had a engine driven alternator to bulk charge his batteries in Winter. Then he said he was ill. Then the blog stopped. I hope he is ok!?
 There’s a electrical engineer in Quebec who has redesigned solar and is doing one of the most carefully designed system I’ve seen anywhere. He wants to go 100% solar and 100% DC and goes by Electrodacus.com. If I had not already invested in other technology I would consider the technology he has developed.



I am running my tinyhouse on an SBMS100.

Lots of upsides. Dacien is amazingly responsive. Ie, the customer service puts others to shame. Very innovative designs. Cheap for what they are. The thermal storage aspect offered by his newer gear is very permie IMO.

There are a few gotchas. Not being MPPT, you get less power than more expensive MPPT with the same array; I agree with his take that it is cheaper and better to buy more panels, but this does not work well if space is tight.

His controllers are designed for a relatively low voltage, so you are looking at a fully parallel array. This means you can end up spending a lot on wiring if you need to get the panels any significant distance away from your dwelling.

24V and 8 cell max.

I am a believer in LiFePO4 batteries, but the up front investment is big, and your options are basically limited to expensive batteries from china with little prospect of warranty support, or very very expensive batteries from a reputable company..
 
David Baillie
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D Nikolls wrote:

Jeremy Baker wrote:I used to read the solarhomestead.com blog and enjoyed learning about solar in Eastern Canada. It was not as easy as Arizona that’s for sure and he had a engine driven alternator to bulk charge his batteries in Winter. Then he said he was ill. Then the blog stopped. I hope he is ok!?
 There’s a electrical engineer in Quebec who has redesigned solar and is doing one of the most carefully designed system I’ve seen anywhere. He wants to go 100% solar and 100% DC and goes by Electrodacus.com. If I had not already invested in other technology I would consider the technology he has developed.



I am running my tinyhouse on an SBMS100.

Lots of upsides. Dacien is amazingly responsive. Ie, the customer service puts others to shame. Very innovative designs. Cheap for what they are. The thermal storage aspect offered by his newer gear is very permie IMO.

There are a few gotchas. Being PWM, you get less power than more expensive MPPT with the same array; I agree with his take that it is cheaper and better to buy more panels, but this does not work well if space is tight.

His controllers are designed for a relatively low voltage, so you are looking at a fully parallel array. This means you can end up spending a lot on wiring if you need to get the panels any significant distance away from your dwelling.

24V and 8 cell max.

I am a believer in LiFePO4 batteries, but the up front investment is big, and your options are basically limited to expensive batteries from china with little prospect of warranty support, or very very expensive batteries from a reputable company..

Thank you for the insight on the SBMS100. It is nice to see a startup in the solar world think things out a little differently. I personally would never go back to pwm chargers as I lived through my first 3 winters off grid watching near zero production from the array for weeks at a time due to low panel voltage and off angle radiance. You cannot substitute more panels with a pwm and get equivalent power production on cloudy days period... The MPPT controllers were the game changer for more northern climes and winter generation. Hmmm the other thing that comes to mind is voltage control is critical for lithium so pulse width modulation is not a good idea unless he is choking his voltage which cuts production. I would probably use the BMS functions and bypass the charge controller functions. Hopefully a future version will go MPPT because his design looks solid.
Cheers,  David
 
D Nikolls
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David Baillie wrote:

D Nikolls wrote:

Jeremy Baker wrote:I used to read the solarhomestead.com blog and enjoyed learning about solar in Eastern Canada. It was not as easy as Arizona that’s for sure and he had a engine driven alternator to bulk charge his batteries in Winter. Then he said he was ill. Then the blog stopped. I hope he is ok!?
 There’s a electrical engineer in Quebec who has redesigned solar and is doing one of the most carefully designed system I’ve seen anywhere. He wants to go 100% solar and 100% DC and goes by Electrodacus.com. If I had not already invested in other technology I would consider the technology he has developed.



I am running my tinyhouse on an SBMS100.

Lots of upsides. Dacien is amazingly responsive. Ie, the customer service puts others to shame. Very innovative designs. Cheap for what they are. The thermal storage aspect offered by his newer gear is very permie IMO.

There are a few gotchas. Being PWM, you get less power than more expensive MPPT with the same array; I agree with his take that it is cheaper and better to buy more panels, but this does not work well if space is tight.

His controllers are designed for a relatively low voltage, so you are looking at a fully parallel array. This means you can end up spending a lot on wiring if you need to get the panels any significant distance away from your dwelling.

24V and 8 cell max.

I am a believer in LiFePO4 batteries, but the up front investment is big, and your options are basically limited to expensive batteries from china with little prospect of warranty support, or very very expensive batteries from a reputable company..

Thank you for the insight on the SBMS100. It is nice to see a startup in the solar world think things out a little differently. I personally would never go back to pwm chargers as I lived through my first 3 winters off grid watching near zero production from the array for weeks at a time due to low panel voltage and off angle radiance. You cannot substitute more panels with a pwm and get equivalent power production on cloudy days period... The MPPT controllers were the game changer for more northern climes and winter generation. Hmmm the other thing that comes to mind is voltage control is critical for lithium so pulse width modulation is not a good idea unless he is choking his voltage which cuts production. I would probably use the BMS functions and bypass the charge controller functions. Hopefully a future version will go MPPT because his design looks solid.
Cheers,  David



A newer iteration has a model with just the BMS stuff, solar removed, so this can be done economically. There are other standalone BMS options now, but these were not available when I bought my unit and I have not looked into them..

Yes, production on very cloudy days is poor to nil. Cloudy but brightish will give usable power. Don't have an MPPT controller to compare to directly, yet.

With currently 7x300w panels, I have enough panels to get a lot of juice on a single sunny day, and enough battery capacity to get through to said sunny day, thus far..

Later I intend to run at least one small array on a dedicated MPPT controller, wired for the SBMS to shut it off as needed.
 
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