Available direct from the publisher here - green shopping
also as an e-book edition
Do It Yourself 12 Volt solar power by Michel Daniek, is the book for you, if you want to introduce alternative power supplies around the house and garden or even live totally off-grid in your boat, caravan or yurt. A practical introduction to solar power and 12 volt supplies.
I give this book 8 out of 10 acorns.
The last time I studied electronics seriously was when I was doing a course in Craft, Design and Technology (Technology) at school when sixteen. At the time, my teacher told my mother at a parents' evening that “he [which is to say me] has a lot of good ideas: he's just utterly incapable of putting them into practice”. As an Aspie who is almost as physically clumsy as he is socially inept, I have to admit that little has changed.
If I'm going to get off grid, I need this book. It assumes you know nothing, and moves on from there to show you how to set up the essentials.
The book begins by discussing the various types of solar panels currently on the market. The author debunks some of the myths (often peddled by the fossil fuel industry and its apologists) surrounding solar panels. He also gives you some idea of the necessary output to run some common appliances. Costs of solar panels, both the panels themselves and the inverters needed to run them, are falling all the time.
Solar power, of course, only produces electricity in daylight. There are several solutions to this. One is to use the electricity direct, for example to run an irrigation pump. Another is to hook it up to the National Grid (a more viable solution in some countries than in others). Stored micro-hydro and hot oil-Sterling engine systems are mentioned, but not properly discussed.
Importantly, however, the book does talk about obtaining batteries, measuring their output and actually refurbishing them. Most car batteries have a 12-volt output, which is probably ideal for our purposes. Solar and leisure batteries have other advantages, in that they don't lose their capacity as quickly, but systems using large inputs such as washing machines will need several running in parallel. Lead gel and deep cycle batteries also have their pros and cons, and decisions may have to be made depending on availability and cost. He also covers the more common smaller batteries that can be used as part of an array. The book was written before the advent of the Tesla battery, which may become the standard for the off-grid system, provided the price comes down.
It's not a good idea to simply charge a battery and take electricity straight from it. For a start the high charging tension from a solar panel can cause a battery to overheat. In addition you can have a discharge effect from the battery back to the panel. For this reason the book discusses the different types of regulators and how to install them (later he talks about how to make your own regulator, but I suspect this may be something I'd want to tackle with more skill and experience).
Then the book goes in to the details of calculating input and output for any given system, and the difference between parallel and serial connections. This was the bit I was quite good at. There is a brief chapter about the use of the multimeter to test these things.
I remember making a mess of a class at school when using the wrong diameter cable for a job, and there is one idiot-resistant page which would have been extremely useful at the time, with similar information on fuses, plugs and switches. With that out of the way, he then talks about how to actually connect up your system, and gives a number of examples of tools and other technology you can hook up to it. I can think of several more, such as a DIY nutcracker.
To run technology with higher demands you then need to convert 12V direct current to 230V alternating current. This requires and inverter, and the book shows you the different types of these and how to hook one up. My suspicion is that this is where a Tesla battery might really come into its own, but here is a discussion of how to do it yourself, probably considerably more cheaply.
In my view he spends too long discussing electrosmog. My suspicion is that most human response to this is most probably based on suggestion, but I've been wrong before.
Now you have your power, you can run all sorts of things from it, including just about everything the off-grid permie might want or need. He starts with lights (definitely), cordless tools (highly likely), solar grinders (likewise), circular saws (not ruling it out), sun following systems (a great use for an old bike wheel), music systems (not a bad idea, but this was written in the days before the millivolt MP3 player), and solar welding (no, really!). There are then chapters on battery testers and voltmeters, and on repairing old batteries and solar panels.
You will probably find you need a soldering iron at some point, and the 12V immersion heater is related technology. What I think may be the most useful tip is how to run a washing machine. Of all the things that I like a short cut on it's washing my own clothes. You can't do a spin cycle, or warm water, but the latter isn't really a problem with modern detergents, even lower-impact ones suitable for greywater systems.
What I suspect may be beyond me is the construction of a bench power supply or a home-made regulator. I can read the circuit diagrams (these are the only electronic circuit diagrams in the entire book, which is otherwise written to be non-intimidating to the complete amateur), but I remember from prior experience that, even if I try to make such a thing it won't work for reasons I can never quite figure out.
In conclusion, this book is written to not be scary to someone like me, who is more interested in plants then in technology, but recognises the need, or at least the use, for the latter. It performs, in short, as advertised, which for a slim 120 pages with plenty of drawings, diagrams and tables is good going. I think I could actually do this.
What it lacks is the means of hooking up other forms of renewable energy, such as micro-hydro and micro-wind systems. You can make a wind generator from an old bicycle wheel, and it's possible to obtain electricity from a very small head of water in a stream. It might be a stronger volume as 12-volt Renewable Power, which would extend the period of electrical input, but this is certainly a book for the shelf, and I hope it will become a well-thumbed one.
My question is, from 2015 to 2018, how relevant is this information now? I'm in the early stages of research on all that is off grid. I retain most everything I read so I just want to read current tech. Anyone else who wants to respond is quite welcome. Thank you in advance. I can do most things myself. Lifting is my major challenge. I use the power of leverage whenever I can.
Joseph Yarbrough wrote:Thank you Frank! I would like to get a small system to use at my home in Sacramento so that I can familiarize myself with the workings and get my newbie status out of the way before I go off grid. I want something that meets all the sine wave, monitoring, etc.. cause I don't know what I'm talking about stuff. I could start real small for a aquaponics system I currently have running 24/7. It's a 1/2hp motor plus I have a 40w bug zapper, but I don't need that on it. May I please get a recommendation?
This depends on your definition of small!
A 1/2 hp ac motor driven 24/7 is around 12kWh per day worth of consumption. As a comparison, we have off grid power and we cycle about 2.7kWh over 24 hours. That is overnight, all day plus losses total. With 1420w pv the system is reliable all year at michigan without running the fridge in deep winter and without a generator.... ever.
You would probably want 750ah at 48v for 2.5 day autonomy. This does not figure your sun hours not requiring storage, oversize of array or the most obvious leverage you could put in place, a dc circulation pump that might move 5-8 times the water for the same power.
You basically need a pv system size that would suit a conserving family home to run that pump, but its your groceries and or occupation, so....
How many gallons per hour do you absolutely have to have flowing in order to keep the fish healthy?
The pump could just relocate with the rest of the system easily enough.
Still, i have the same train of thought. Ac is ubiquitous and easy. We basically a seperate pv/battery system wit an accessory inverter that is for all dc loads, boiler pumps, communications radios, and personal (aa/aaa) battery charging, etc, and only use its inverter for when maintenance is being performed on the main system.
Probably, the book is great. You will likely not have a 12v system. The information should translate to most voltages just fine.
Joseph Yarbrough wrote:@Frank. Thank you! I have just two more questions. I read somewhere something about ac output being cleaned up for more efficient consumption. I think it was called a sine wave "converter"? Do you know what I'm talking about and does the book cover this? And, I want to support USA manufacturing. Does the book cover this?
Yeah, about that..... i didnt mean to creep into the thread! We should re-direct the question to the original poster.
I have not read the book, but should. Though i am somewhat a veteran installer, new information is always good to read and review to keep up knowledge. Books are inexpensive and durable. The book in the post should likely go on the shelf next to 6 or so more of the type and level of content just so nobody has only one source a d point of view.
Sine wave inverters will operate at higher efficiencies, generally. This has to do with harmonics und3r certain types of loads more that others, but also they are generally simply made of better components and in better electronic arrangements (design).
Biggest thing after meeting your system requirement for power delivery is standby load or consumption at no load. This can be a detriment, even on an otherwise great inverter. It might have high conversion efficiency, pure clean sine waveform, adjustable programing, etc., but if it soaks you for 30-50 watt constant even when not deli ering power, it can sap batteries in a day or 3 without sun and suprisingly low demand use.
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