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Sneaky solar - renters solar

 
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Often you hear people that they can't install solar because they rent or because the local power monopoly has problems with it. Renting a house doesn't mean you have to forgo solar because the landlord isn't cooperating. You can still cover a lot of your baseload in a discrete way without anyone finding out with only 1 or 2 panels.
At the moment I'm renting short term but I have two solar panels, one facing east and one facing west. By doing this instead of a peak generation midday you're smoothing it out over the whole day.

Installation is dead simple. plug the panel in the micro inverter and plug the micro inverter in a socket. That's it. Keep in mind of course that the socket is out of the weathers way. This setup generates between 100-300W constantly on a sunny day, depending on the time of day. Not enough to cover large stuff like an AC but it takes quite a chunk out of your usage and your bill.
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Wow!  That's great.

How do you incorporate the Deadmans switch thingy into the system?  Locally if we have a generator (solar, wind, gas, whatever) hooked up to the house power, it needs to have a switch so that the power doesn't feedback into the grid during power outages and kill the repairmen that come to fix downed powerlines.  



I'm hoping to set up a solar charging station near one of the south-facing windows.  It would be a panel, controller and battery.  Then I can plug in USB and battery-powered gadgets (flashlights, camera batteries, ...) to charge.  
 
Johan Thorbecke
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Grid-tie solar inverters stop producing power when the grid goes down for that exact reason.
 
gardener
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Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but this works great as long as you are using the energy that is being produced by the panels.  But if there is excess power being generated (you're not running enough stuff in your house), that excess power goes back through your meter and into the power grid and you are charged for it, as if you were using it, not donating it.

We recently had our solar system set up and the sticking point was getting the power company (Southern California Edison) to install the two-way meter.  Until they did so, any excess power that we were generating was being charged to our bill.

I said, "We'll that's not a good thing, particularly because we installed a really big system that should provide for over 100% of our power need.

So just to make sure you're not screwing yourself, the next time you've got a really sunny day, turn off all energy using devices, lights, etc., and go check the electrical meter.  Is it spinning?  If it is, the power company assumes that you are buying energy from them, and not producing it for yourself.

Crazy, I know.
 
pollinator
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Yes, if you have a one direction meter you will be charged for power going either way. If the meter is more advanced and can detect the direction of current flow you are in even more trouble as it will flag the company. The only way you can do guerilla solar these days is if your utility still has the analog meters or the solar you generate never quite adds up to as much as you are using. If ac is a big user crank it up during sun hours so it does not cycle off and coast during evening time...
Cheers,  David
 
r ranson
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Feeding power into the grid - I understand this depends on where you are in the world.  Some places pay you, most places don't count it, other places charge you.  
 
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Whoa, i always thought solar involved electricians.
With a large enough inverter this is something you can slowly build up.

When you are pricing this unit also put a price on satisfaction.

Any more information you can add, please add.
 
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Hi R;
He's not receiving payment, he is slowing down his consumption. It's a win win. He uses less energy so he pays less of a bill.
The power company won't know and he isn't going to tell them why .... it's sneaky solar!

Of course this depends how your power company bills. Some "prorate" your bill to have a more consistent cost over the year. Others bill you for exactly what you use as you use it.
 
Marco Banks
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thomas rubino wrote:Hi R;
He's not receiving payment, he is slowing down his consumption.



I understand that he's not receiving payment.  But if he's still hooked to the grid and he happens to create more power than he's consuming, he will be billed for that power.  So it only makes sense if you are absolutely sure that you're using more power than you are producing.  

But lets imagine that he steps out for a couple of hours and isn't using the TV, lights or whatever.  If the panel is plugged in, that power has to go somewhere.  It will go back through the meter and into the grid.  Unless it's a two way meter, that meter will only spin one direction --- it will spin in the "you pay for these kilowatts" direction.  

Shouldn't the meter spin backward?  It should, but it doesn't.  The power company has no incentive to build a meter that does so.

So as long as it's a matter of just slowing down consumption, as you say, it's all good.  But the second you produce more power than you are using (which you very well might be doing on a warm sunny day in summer when you are at work or out away from your home doing something), you need to unplug the panel or you'll get billed for that excess electricity.

Counter-intuitive, I know.
 
r ranson
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It used to be, in Ontario if you had a generator (like solar panels) and produced extra electricity, the province would pay you money to feed that power into the grid.  It was a way of decentralizing electric production, encouraging alternative energy, and making local communities more sufficient.

Last time I looked, where I live, it's fine if you feed power into the grid, but they won't pay me any money for it.  I'm giving it to them as a gift.

Some places, you pay them to store your extra power then pay them again to get it back.  This is a way to discourage home production.  

It's good to find out what the rules are where you live as they are different everywhere - and in many places like Ontario, change quickly.  

That's why I'm thinking about the charging station.  I'm wondering what can I transform into battery power (lighting?) so I don't have to worry about the grid tie-in.
 
David Baillie
pollinator
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r ranson wrote:It used to be, in Ontario if you had a generator (like solar panels) and produced extra electricity, the province would pay you money to feed that power into the grid.  It was a way of decentralizing electric production, encouraging alternative energy, and making local communities more sufficient.

Last time I looked, where I live, it's fine if you feed power into the grid, but they won't pay me any money for it.  I'm giving it to them as a gift.

Some places, you pay them to store your extra power then pay them again to get it back.  This is a way to discourage home production.  

It's good to find out what the rules are where you live as they are different everywhere - and in many places like Ontario, change quickly.  

That's why I'm thinking about the charging station.  I'm wondering what can I transform into battery power (lighting?) so I don't have to worry about the grid tie-in.

to refine that explanation when you were paid by ontario hydro it was part of the micro fit program and was created to encourage green energy production. The first contract was 80 cent per kwhr the final systems put in were about 25 cents per kwhr to reflect the dropping cost of solar. You had a meter for paid to you and a second one for billed to you.
The new version is called net metering and although no money changes hands you can build up a bank of kwhr to be used within 13 months of production to help offset your consumption. the system will break even with 7 to 10 years which is a better rate of return then most investments... hydro quite likes net metering as it encourages an all electric home. ..
Cheers,  David
 
pollinator
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David Baillie wrote:to refine that explanation when you were paid by ontario hydro it was part of the micro fit program and was created to encourage green energy production. The first contract was 80 cent per kwhr the final systems put in were about 25 cents per kwhr to reflect the dropping cost of solar. You had a meter for paid to you and a second one for billed to you.
The new version is called net metering and although no money changes hands you can build up a bank of kwhr to be used within 13 months of production to help offset your consumption. the system will break even with 7 to 10 years which is a better rate of return then most investments... hydro quite likes net metering as it encourages an all electric home. ..
Cheers,  David



How they do it varies so much, what you describe used to be the way it was done here, but now you sell to the grid at wholesale prices, so on average you get around 5c per kwh (electric costs 34c/kwh to buy) But sometimes the price even goes negative for example on a windy summers day. Fairly obviously solar is not a popular choice here anymore, although  a HUGE system has been put in a few miles from me covering several acres. the payback time on domestic solar systems are between 12 and 15 years.
 
David Baillie
pollinator
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Skandi Rogers wrote:

David Baillie wrote:to refine that explanation when you were paid by ontario hydro it was part of the micro fit program and was created to encourage green energy production. The first contract was 80 cent per kwhr the final systems put in were about 25 cents per kwhr to reflect the dropping cost of solar. You had a meter for paid to you and a second one for billed to you.
The new version is called net metering and although no money changes hands you can build up a bank of kwhr to be used within 13 months of production to help offset your consumption. the system will break even with 7 to 10 years which is a better rate of return then most investments... hydro quite likes net metering as it encourages an all electric home. ..
Cheers,  David



How they do it varies so much, what you describe used to be the way it was done here, but now you sell to the grid at wholesale prices, so on average you get around 5c per kwh (electric costs 34c/kwh to buy) But sometimes the price even goes negative for example on a windy summers day. Fairly obviously solar is not a popular choice here anymore, although  a HUGE system has been put in a few miles from me covering several acres. the payback time on domestic solar systems are between 12 and 15 years.


Denmark is in an enviable position of having a majority of its energy from solar and wind. They probably dont have to offer as much incentive anymore to get people to install hence the lower rates.
 
Johan Thorbecke
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That's something I never understood about the American grid, all local power companies and you don't have a choice, and people accept dodgy schemes like that?
But perhaps let's siphon that discussion to another topic...

Anyway if you're unfortunate enough to have a dodgy power company there are inverters that can either limit their production so you never produce more than you're generating in house, or even distribute the surplus to a battery. If you're in an area that doesn't reimburse you or where you just wholesale price I would just let it flow to your neighbours, it isn't much that you're missing out on and you're helping to green and lighten the load of your local grid. See it as sharing some of your production with the local community. Solar is so cheap these days that you're ROI is lengthened by just mere months.

r ranson wrote:
I'm hoping to set up a solar charging station near one of the south-facing windows.  It would be a panel, controller and battery.  Then I can plug in USB and battery-powered gadgets (flashlights, camera batteries, ...) to charge.  

There is btw a more easy solution for this, you can get USB solar panels for not too much these days. Plug them in to a honking big USB power bank and you're good to go for between $40-100 depending on how large you want the system to be.

kevin stewart wrote:Whoa, i always thought solar involved electricians.
With a large enough inverter this is something you can slowly build up.

When you are pricing this unit also put a price on satisfaction.

Any more information you can add, please add.


For a large rooftop system you'd normally want to go for an electrician, you're dealing with higher power levels and DC voltages than a setup like this. The beauty of this setup is that you have one small inverter per panel. Plugs that come from the panel(MC4 they're called) are shaped in such a way that you can only insert them one way in the inverter and the inverter has a regular plug that you just stick in an outlet. There are mounting holes on the frame of the panel so just ziptie them to something sturdy(with UV-proof zip ties of course) and you're good to go.

IIRC the panels were €140 for 2 and the inverters were €200 for 2.  

MC4_connector.jpg
MC4_connector
 
pollinator
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r ranson wrote:Wow!  That's great.
How do you incorporate the Deadmans switch thingy into the system?  Locally if we have a generator (solar, wind, gas, whatever) hooked up to the house power, it needs to have a switch so that the power doesn't feedback into the grid during power outages and kill the repairmen that come to fix downed powerlines.    



How about NOT incorporating this device into the existing system at all? Incorporating the system to the local grid sounds really difficult to someone like me [without any kind of knowledge in electric systems] and potentially dangerous. But I could see several mini-systems, separate from each other, a mini system to keep my chickens warm during the winter for example, or keep water flowing, or keep the place lit at night. These devices exist/ used to exist for campers, trailers etc. that are not connected to the grid.
My husband is an anchor when it comes to using renewables. "It's just fine the way it is, we can afford to continue like this, it is expensive, so how long is it going to take to recoup the investment".
I'm sure you have heard all these arguments before. When you are married to one, it gets harder to make changes... but not impossible ;-) In the flat and partially wooded area where I live, I have investigated wind power. It turns out that the site would give us a mediocre result at best [too may obstructions]. but I have not given up on solar.
 
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Guys, as a Landlady here's a few quick suggestions to avoid conflict:
1. Be sure you ask the owner of the home/unit first.
2. Putting wiring through windows, screens or walls can damage the property. Windows won't close properly and screens bent so they don't fit properly.
3. Affixing solar panels to roofs or siding can cause leaks and damage and/or create space for pests to enter. In this case the panel is free-standing.
4. Damage can also occur inside as holes are drilled in drywall.
5. Tying into the power grid can open up a whole can of worms for both the renter, but ultimately it is us, the owners, who will have to pay for any damage or fees and penalties associated with an un-approved hook up. And trust me, it can be a sizable amount. Far far far more than your damage deposit.
Consideration and communication are the keys to successful co-operation.
I personally would LOVE for our renters to take such initiatives, however the apartment we bought has all 3 suites on one power meter, therefore power is included in the rent and they simply don't care about usage.
My husband's workshop, however, as a recent build, is fully self-contained: heat & power. Water is municipal as we live, literally, on a rock. Very few wells drilled here.
So great idea and keep in touch with your landlords!
 
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Cécile Stelzer Johnson wrote:
How about NOT incorporating this device into the existing system at all? Incorporating the system to the local grid sounds really difficult to someone like me [without any kind of knowledge in electric systems] and potentially dangerous. But I could see several mini-systems, separate from each other, a mini system to keep my chickens warm during the winter for example, or keep water flowing, or keep the place lit at night. These devices exist/ used to exist for campers, trailers etc. that are not connected to the grid.
My husband is an anchor when it comes to using renewables. "It's just fine the way it is, we can afford to continue like this, it is expensive, so how long is it going to take to recoup the investment".
I'm sure you have heard all these arguments before. When you are married to one, it gets harder to make changes... but not impossible ;-) In the flat and partially wooded area where I live, I have investigated wind power. It turns out that the site would give us a mediocre result at best [too may obstructions]. but I have not given up on solar.



That's what I have done, I purchased all the parts for a 1200w system including 5.7kwh of batteries for a bit less than the cost of just a grid tied inverter (about $2000US). My inverter has 2 outlets, and I've run my fridge, internet/wireless, fan, light, laptop, and chargers off of it when it's sunny, and less now that trees are blocking a lot of light (just mounted on the ground not the roof). If power goes out, I can still power the fridge and no risk of harming repair crews. I've even run my window AC unit (about 950w) off of it on hot, sunny days to test, but with a little dog depending on it when it's over 100F (we hit 114F last year) I leave that to grid power. If I were use the converted chest fridge and temperature adaptor instead of my regular fridge, power use would drop 1kwh per day down to 240wh per day from my testing, the fridge was $25 used and the adapter was also $25 off Amazon. If you add a battery that isn't drained too much overnight and then is charged back to full the next day, you're all set.

I  would note though that conservation is probably far more cost effective when you are already tied to the grid, than to build a full system to insert. As I have about 3 years till I retire off grid, I bought my parts to getting the battery learning curve out of the way with used batteries, so when I pick up the new, expensive batteries I'll hopefully have a smooth setup and will have a high enough capacity to go 4-5 days without reaching 50% DoD.
 
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Johan Thorbecke wrote:

There is btw a more easy solution for this, you can get USB solar panels for not too much these days. Plug them in to a honking big USB power bank and you're good to go for between $40-100 depending on how large you want the system to be.
===========================================================
Do you mean a Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS)? USB panels are small panels to charge portable devices. I have never heard of a UPS panel, any power source of the right voltage and frequency can charge a UPS. https://www.amazon.com/Computer-Uninterruptible-Power-Supply-Units/b?node=764572
 
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Doug Kalmer wrote:

Johan Thorbecke wrote:

There is btw a more easy solution for this, you can get USB solar panels for not too much these days. Plug them in to a honking big USB power bank and you're good to go for between $40-100 depending on how large you want the system to be.
===========================================================
Do you mean a Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS)? USB panels are small panels to charge portable devices. I have never heard of a UPS panel, any power source of the right voltage and frequency can charge a UPS. https://www.amazon.com/Computer-Uninterruptible-Power-Supply-Units/b?node=764572



RVers use USB panels all the time - here's an example - https://www.jackery.com/products/solarsaga-100w-solar-panel. These panels will charge a battery bank. Some RVers are now carrying around 1000 watts of solar panels, although 200-400 watts is more typical.

Granted, for typical household use, this is pretty darn minimal. But it's not trivial if you live in an area prone to power outages. Managed correctly, this amount of power will keep a CPAP operating and run a 12v fridge.

Grid-tied solar is a great technology, and more people should be taking advantage of it, IMNSHO. But it's not the only game in town.



 
Doug Kalmer
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jacque greenleaf wrote:

Doug Kalmer wrote:

Johan Thorbecke wrote:

There is btw a more easy solution for this, you can get USB solar panels for not too much these days. Plug them in to a honking big USB power bank and you're good to go for between $40-100 depending on how large you want the system to be.
===========================================================
Do you mean a Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS)? USB panels are small panels to charge portable devices. I have never heard of a UPS panel, any power source of the right voltage and frequency can charge a UPS. https://www.amazon.com/Computer-Uninterruptible-Power-Supply-Units/b?node=764572



RVers use USB panels all the time - here's an example - https://www.jackery.com/products/solarsaga-100w-solar-panel. These panels will charge a battery bank. Some RVers are now carrying around 1000 watts of solar panels, although 200-400 watts is more typical.

Granted, for typical household use, this is pretty darn minimal. But it's not trivial if you live in an area prone to power outages. Managed correctly, this amount of power will keep a CPAP operating and run a 12v fridge.

Grid-tied solar is a great technology, and more people should be taking advantage of it, IMNSHO. But it's not the only game in town.


At $3+shipping a watt, you can do a lot better buying a regular panel at $0.80 a watt, and use an inverter to get USB charging and 120AC.

 
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Its not a good idea to have loose solar panels, the wind or an animal can easily bump it and once a tiny crack starts that module is on its way to being trash ( or a recycling burden).
In the US you need to hardwired to a breaker, did you verify the wire feeding that outlet can handle the amperage your inverter puts out? What else is on the circuit?
As the landlady pointed out - dont run wires through a window or screen, its a bad idea for everyone.
Also the wires are in no way guarded from anything. What happens if someone trips and falls and lands on the wire? If the inverter works as it should it would turn off but you'll still get shocked by the DC which never turns off from dawn to dusk.

As for metering most meters are programmed (in the US) to count, the option to read inwards and outwards is an extra feature that the utility doesn't buy or install unless you tell them. The main reason to tell them is they safety check the system.
 
pollinator
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Johan Thorbecke wrote:Often you hear people that they can't install solar because they rent or because the local power monopoly has problems with it. Renting a house doesn't mean you have to forgo solar because the landlord isn't cooperating. You can still cover a lot of your baseload in a discrete way without anyone finding out with only 1 or 2 panels.
At the moment I'm renting short term but I have two solar panels, one facing east and one facing west. By doing this instead of a peak generation midday you're smoothing it out over the whole day.

Installation is dead simple. plug the panel in the micro inverter and plug the micro inverter in a socket. That's it. Keep in mind of course that the socket is out of the weathers way. This setup generates between 100-300W constantly on a sunny day, depending on the time of day. Not enough to cover large stuff like an AC but it takes quite a chunk out of your usage and your bill.



Again, in the aforementioned setup, panel plugs into inverter, inverter plugs into wall. No hole in walls, no wires through windows, no nothing. And the idea is sneaky solar, or guerilla solar, if you will. The idea is that you're flying under the radar, so it is presumed that one would take all necessary steps, most of which have been mentioned above, to avoid anything that would cause power companies, authority figures, or the Department of Making You Sad from noticing that you're producing your own power. That means either controlling your usage such that none feeds back to the grid by means of diverting excess to household storage or simply having a generating cap.

One idea I have thought about since I became aware of UPS systems, and even more so since the advent of the concept of the Tesla Power Wall (which I think is a terrific concept whoever popularises it or makes it, be it a big company or homesteaders with kit packages) is the idea of using the UPS or Power Wall as a primary energy source during peak usage, and then charging when rates drop in the evening. This is only some slight savings for homeowners, but if your business relied on using power during peak hours, it could represent serious operational cost savings.

This, however, is neither sneaky, nor geared towards renters, unless somebody has an idea for a semi-portable (or at least movable) Power wall. Though it occurs to me that there might be an intersection here between home solar and home electric vehicle charging. I mean, the electric car is just a battery bank on wheels with some seats in it.

Great conversation, though. I look forward to seeing where it goes.

-CK
 
Doug Kalmer
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Chris Kott wrote:

Johan Thorbecke wrote:Often you hear people that they can't install solar because they rent or because the local power monopoly has problems with it. Renting a house doesn't mean you have to forgo solar because the landlord isn't cooperating. You can still cover a lot of your baseload in a discrete way without anyone finding out with only 1 or 2 panels.
At the moment I'm renting short term but I have two solar panels, one facing east and one facing west. By doing this instead of a peak generation midday you're smoothing it out over the whole day.

Installation is dead simple. plug the panel in the micro inverter and plug the micro inverter in a socket. That's it. Keep in mind of course that the socket is out of the weathers way. This setup generates between 100-300W constantly on a sunny day, depending on the time of day. Not enough to cover large stuff like an AC but it takes quite a chunk out of your usage and your bill.



Again, in the aforementioned setup, panel plugs into inverter, inverter plugs into wall. No hole in walls, no wires through windows, no nothing. And the idea is sneaky solar, or guerilla solar, if you will. The idea is that you're flying under the radar, so it is presumed that one would take all necessary steps, most of which have been mentioned above, to avoid anything that would cause power companies, authority figures, or the Department of Making You Sad from noticing that you're producing your own power. That means either controlling your usage such that none feeds back to the grid by means of diverting excess to household storage or simply having a generating cap.

One idea I have thought about since I became aware of UPS systems, and even more so since the advent of the concept of the Tesla Power Wall (which I think is a terrific concept whoever popularises it or makes it, be it a big company or homesteaders with kit packages) is the idea of using the UPS or Power Wall as a primary energy source during peak usage, and then charging when rates drop in the evening. This is only some slight savings for homeowners, but if your business relied on using power during peak hours, it could represent serious operational cost savings.

This, however, is neither sneaky, nor geared towards renters, unless somebody has an idea for a semi-portable (or at least movable) Power wall. Though it occurs to me that there might be an intersection here between home solar and home electric vehicle charging. I mean, the electric car is just a battery bank on wheels with some seats in it.

Great conversation, though. I look forward to seeing where it goes.

-CK


I bought a Chevy Volt a few months ago, it has an 18.4 kilowatt hour battery that will feed the 12-volt battery to keep it charged. If the 18.4 kilowatt-hour traction battery runs down, it will start the engine to charge them both up. The maximum you can take out of the 12-volt battery is 1500 watts. I just bought a 1500 watt pure sine wave inverter so that I can run my critical loads if the grid goes down. I have a 4.6 kilowatt solar array that produces more electricity than our home uses. The Volt is back up along with a 5000 watt Honda generator I can hook into the whole house wiring.  Meanwhile even out here in the boonies the grid is very reliable and I am delighted with the deal I've gotten from TVA to reimburse me for the electricity I put back into the grid.  It has paid me more than I invested in the system,  so now I have all the electricity I want and I am getting paid to use it.
 
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Tesla is having issues, but I will avoid the political discourse.

Musk however does have a grand strategy that actually makes some sense.

* Solar tiles to gen power and build a factory to make those tiles.
* Have that customer buy a power wall unit and build a factory to supply them.
* Have the customer buy a Tesla vehicle and he built the factory for that.

Planned right, one would not even do grid tied solar. It would be solar --> powerwall --> Tesla. That's the idea, execution is the issue.
 
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So if one wanted to generate power just under the normal usage is there an easy way to monitor that? I guess I want to see how many watts are always being used at any moment in my house, not average usage or peak usage.
 
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Maybe I missed it, but no one is mentioning a controller or a DC disconnect box between the panel(s) and the controller, or the panel(s) and the batteries (which should never, never happen), or the panel(s) and the appliance.  Just sticking an inverter there to change it to AC, doesn't make it safe in any respect.  

If there is a fire, and electrical circuit that isn't grounded, a circuit that gets too much demand for power on it, can start a fire.  The wire can't handle the load, it starts to smoke, things start melting at both ends and it can burst into flame.

A DC disconnect is CRUCIAL to disconnect the panels (that are sending in the power in DC, not AC) in case anything starts to happen.  If the house starts on fire for any reason, firemen are put in jeopardy if they are the only ones in there trying to disconnect panels they can't get to.  There needs to be a switch to disconnect  the panels IMMEDIATELY, because panels are ALWAYS ON, unless it's dark.  

A controller is important because it tells you how much power is coming in, and limits the panels if need be.   If power is going to batteries, the state of the batteries has to be controlled and displayed on the controller, because batteries CAN EXPLODE.  They also need to be in a place where another type of spark, say from a gas heater with a spark igniter on it, could cause an explosion from the Hydrogen gas coming off the battery(s)

Going straight from a panel (DC) power and going into an AC appliance will destroy that appliance.   Even going into a DC appliance is dangerous without the proper controller in the middle, and a Disconnect box to stop power in an instant from going into the inverter in case something happens.  Inverters blow really easily if the voltage coming to them is too high for what they are set for.

There's a very serious reason why solar electrical systems (both AC and DC) needs to be understood and controlled 24/7.  

Just because those panels look innocent, and look like they are powering whatever it is you are running, doesn't mean it isn't electricity, doesn't mean it won't start a fire or burn up the appliance, doesn't mean it won't follow the rules of all electricity and how it works.

If anyone has ever tried to use the wrong power cord, from an old computer, on a new computer and it was too much power going into the laptop, they've experienced the smoking/melting/blowing of the circuits in the laptop.  And those are not even large amounts of power.


 
Cristo Balete
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Another important bit of info:

- Never wear a metal wedding ring or any kind of metal ring while working with electrical or solar connections.  You can lose a finger.

- never have on metal eyeglasses when working on electrical or solar

- never have on a metal belt buckle or metal jewelry like bracelets or necklaces

- no metal buttons, snaps on the front of a shirt.

- never sit on a metal folding stool or metal garden chair while working on electrical or solar equipment or batteries

You can see where this is going....

 
Doug Kalmer
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kelly purdue wrote:So if one wanted to generate power just under the normal usage is there an easy way to monitor that? I guess I want to see how many watts are always being used at any moment in my house, not average usage or peak usage.



Just search- "home power monitor"
 
Cristo Balete
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So we all know that "monitoring" is very different from "controlling" when it comes to electricity?

A monitor would tell you what the wattage i s that's being used, but it can't control it, stop it, or shut it down.  Something like WattsUp can tell you that your crockpot is using 50 Watts an hour on High, as an example.

A controller, that is meant for solar, allows only a certain amount of power to come from the panels into the batteries because it's getting information from both, and allowing only what works.  

As an example, on a really sunny day my panels can send in 800 watts at a time, but the controller gets the feedback from the batteries that they have gone through their 3 stages of charging, are almost full, and don't need that much, so it will shut down the wattage input down into the 150 watt range until the batteries are full, then it shuts it down completely, until, say, the refrigerator uses enough power from the batteries, and the batteries signal the controller, hey, we need more.

But a controller has no ability to disconnect.  It's merely a gateway for the watts coming from the panels.
 
Doug Kalmer
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Cristo Balete wrote-
"Going straight from a panel (DC) power and going into an AC appliance will destroy that appliance.   Even going into a DC appliance is dangerous without the proper controller in the middle, and a Disconnect box to stop power in an instant from going into the inverter in case something happens.  Inverters blow really easily if the voltage coming to them is too high for what they are set for."
=================================================================
I have several systems that take DC from the panels and go directly to a motor with no controller. This type of setup has been well tested and proven. The one on my solar water heater has been working fine on my roof since 1990.  Also, microinverters are placed right on PV panels, changing DC to AC with no controller or disconnects in between. This is completely legal and according to code. Inverters properly sized to the panels will not blow. Doug

DC Direct-http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/WaterHeating/DougsSolarWater.htm

Microinverters- http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/PV/DougEnphase/DougEnphase.htm
 
Cristo Balete
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Doug Kalmer wrote:

I have several systems that take DC from the panels and go directly to a motor with no controller.  



One reason I said all those things is because the original remark in this thread was from a renter who seemed to think that a panel is an independent source of power that you can just  hook up to an inverter (that grey box in his post) then plug into an appliance or a socket in the wall.  It's just not safe.

There still ought to be a way to shut off the panels from everything with one flip of a lever, a DC disconnect.  

Either you have a DC motor, or you have an inverter changing the DC to AC that is sent to the motor.  Not sure which is the case.   If something happens to one of those panels, it stops putting out power, and your motor is asking for power and not getting it, it will burn it up.  Not necessarily start a fire, but the motor on our refrigerator wasn't getting enough power and it burned out, asking and asking for power and not getting any.  I sure don't want any appliances running on unknown amounts of power coming from panels.  

Someone else here said, don't tie it to the grid.  Well, the other alternative is batteries, and that's when a controller is crucial.



Doug Kalmer wrote:  Also, microinverters are placed right on PV panels, changing DC to AC with no controller or disconnects in between. This is completely legal and according to code.  



"Micro" is the operative word there, very small amounts of power, not enough to run household appliances that use much more than 100 watts in very low-voltage situations.

Still, those are just inverters, not controllers.  Controllers tell you what's going on.  Microinverters aren't to code in a household setup where I am.  

This thread is about telling renters how to get "sneaky power," and leaving out all of the middleman equipment that keeps it safe.



Doug Kalmer wrote:   Inverters properly sized to the panels will not blow.  



So there's a lot of equipment between the panels and the inverter, or there should be,  like the DC disconnect, the controller, the batteries or the grid-tie controller, another disconnect, and then the inverter. THEN the house has it's own breaker panel that disconnects.  If someone who isn't familiar with batteries and electricity, hook up the batteries wrong, that can blow the inverter.

But same thing can happen, if the panels are going straight to a microinverter (a 12V or 24V inverter ought to have a controller in the middle and a DC disconnect) and something happens to the panel or panels, then the appliance asking for power will struggle and struggle, and will eventually burn out.

12V, 24V, 48V inverters have alarms on them for just this reason, to alert us to changes in the system that could damage our very expensive equipment.

I recently found little birds sitting on the wire that goes from the panel into the shed where the equipment is, and their little talons were cutting through the coating of the wire, and it came very close to being exposed to the elements and being disconnected.  Then that panel, which was quite new at the time, would have stopped working, and I wouldn't have suspected any change in its functionality.

You just never know what's going to happen when we beocme our own power companies.

 
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Where I'm at (Oklahoma) the power companies charge a monthly fee if you use grid-tie solar because you're introducing energy into their lines and grid that they haven't planned for.

A decent portion of my energy consumption consists of things that can be separated from the grid, (charging batteries for outdoor lighting, and ventilation/cooling devices that only run on-demand and typically during the daytime) so if I build a solar system it will probably be off-grid and easily packed and moved.
It helps to categorize your energy use into things that need constant power, and those which you can utilize off-grid.
 
Doug Kalmer
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Cristo Balete wrote-
"Either you have a DC motor, or you have an inverter changing the DC to AC that is sent to the motor.  Not sure which is the case.   If something happens to one of those panels, it stops putting out power, and your motor is asking for power and not getting it, it will burn it up."
================================================
My DC motors are always "asking for power", and as the panels power output decreases due to sunlite decreasing, they just run slower then stop at a certain low voltage. Been doing it for decades.
 
Doug Kalmer
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Doug Kalmer wrote:
Also, microinverters are placed right on PV panels, changing DC to AC with no controller or disconnects in between. This is completely legal and according to code.  


Cristo Balete-
"Micro" is the operative word there, very small amounts of power, not enough to run household appliances that use much more than 100 watts in very low-voltage situations.


Doug-  I have 20 230 watt panels, each have a micro inverter, in my 4.6KW array. There are micro inverters for 330 watt panels.
 
Cristo Balete
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Doug, I'm glad your motor works that way.

I think this thread is about renters who are paying for the infrastructure to be already in place.  They want to run household appliances/computers, etc., without having to pay for the electricity, and they are hooking things up in unsafe ways.
 
Cristo Balete
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Doug, with all those panels, are you tied to the grid?  
 
Doug Kalmer
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Cristo Balete wrote-
"So there's a lot of equipment between the panels and the inverter, or there should be,  like the DC disconnect, the controller, the batteries or the grid-tie controller, another disconnect, and then the inverter.  If someone who isn't familiar with batteries and electricity, and they hook up the batteries wrong, that can blow the inverter.

But same thing can happen, if the panels are going straight to a microinverter (a 12V or 24V inverter ought to have a controller in the middle and a DC disconnect) and something happens to the panel or panels, then the appliance asking for power will struggle and struggle, and will eventually burn out.

===========================================================
There is nothing between panels and microinverters by code, it's perfectly safe. Microinverters will produce the proper voltage, or shut down., not burn out appliances. I installed my PV system and have been living with it for 8 years.Doug
 
Cristo Balete
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Doug,  so you've probably got 23 microinveters, one for each panel?  No batteries involved?

Not sure where you are, but DC disconnects, and AC disconnects are the code where I am.   The fire department and the county require it.   When I've had to work on panels, or work on batteries, like replacing them, the disconnect boxes are really great to have for safety reasons.

I've used my solar setup for 20 years, it's using batteries, not tied to the grid, so the controller keeps track of everything when it comes to the state of the batteries, and lets me know that all of the panels are working.  



 
Doug Kalmer
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Cristo Balete wrote:Doug,  so you've probably got 23 microinveters, one for each panel?  No batteries involved?

Not sure where you are, but DC disconnects, and AC disconnects are the code where I am.   The fire department and the county require it.   When I've had to work on panels, or work on batteries, like replacing them, the disconnect boxes are really great to have for safety reasons.

I've used my solar setup for 20 years, it's using batteries, not tied to the grid, so the controller keeps track of everything when it comes to the state of the batteries, and lets me know that all of the panels are working.  




As I said above I have 20 230 watt panels, so 20 microinverters.
I'm in TN, all of my installation is to code and passed inspection the first time.  I have AC disconnects, just saying there are systems with PV panel direct to inverter.
This explains my system-
 
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