My off grid solar experiment

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 Creeky’s solar system:
Or how I live the life of Riley off grid
Check out the coming Solar posts for more information about how I built my solar system.
Background:

When I started building my solar system in 2010 there were very few resources available in my part of the world. So I took the “build it and hope” approach.

  • First I built a solar shed with a rack that allows the solar panels to be easily adjusted for spring/fall, summer, winter, and big wind storm in the forecast. You can read more about the shed in the shed post.
The first cladding of the solar shed is complete. Let the rains come.
The first cladding of the solar shed is complete. Let the rains come.
  • Then I got some good batteries configured for 12 volts
12vbatterypack
These are Crown 395s. I have 6. 3 sets of two, in serial, in parallel strings. Works for me. And gives me about 1200 amp hours at 12 volts or 15kw of power. Which, with lead acid battery packs means about 3kw of reserve power.
  • I installed 1kw of solar panel power. Panels were in the 4 to 6 dollar a watt range. I was very fortunate to find high quality mono crystalline panels for $2/watt from a solar provider clearing inventory of demo panels.
    • As I’ve grown my needs I’ve upgraded to two mppt controllers so that I can have 2 kw of panels to charge those batteries. Currently (ha ha) I have 1.5 worth of panels
The solar shed
This is me spring of 2012. 1kw of panels working away.

Continue reading My off grid solar experiment

My off grid life: Dealing with Critters

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Love your critters

Off grid life has it’s moments. I love my critters. I know some folks are afraid of racoons and skunks and even ground hogs. But I’m not. We don’t have rabies in my area and I have found that a real “live and let live” ethos exists between these guys. And now between these folks and me.

Sometimes though, sometimes you need to get creative.

off grid racoons
Dealing with racoons to keep the corn in the pot.

TBS inverter: a review

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Inverter review

Winter 2013 I ran into trouble. Two bargain finds combined to create a power overload that tripped the circuit breaker and blew the inverter. The inverter still inverts, I can hear it working, but it won’t output power, instead displaying a “OLP” error.

I went cheap starting out on my solar experiment. So this time I thought, get an inverter that has specifications that matched my environment.

The new TBS 1600 inverter. Better temperature and voltage handling, low idle power make this a great off grid choice.
The new TBS 1600 inverter. Better temperature and voltage handling, low idle power make this a great off grid choice.
Match your need
  • For my climate I needed to operate well into the -°C. Like minus 20.
  • My battery bank when cold regularly needs 15.5 v in absorb charging. And I equalize once a month. Voltages can exceed 16v. So ability to handle a wide voltage range is required.
  • Voltage spikes, harsh conditions, I needed a tough inverter that was built to handle worst case scenarios.

After some shopping around I realized I would be spending twice the money I had originally planned for. 

This led me to the TBS-1600.

Continue reading TBS inverter: a review

The solar shed: Part One

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Building the shed

Your first quandry with any solar system is where the heck to put it.

Using a hybrid timber frame / regular wall I built an 8x8x10 frame for my shed.
Using a hybrid timber frame / regular wall I built an 8x8x10 frame for my shed. She’s solid as a rock boys.

You have to hang panels that are 3 feet by 5 feet in my case and weight 50 lbs each. You have to store batteries: 720 lbs of lead for me. And you need a safe dry spot for your charge controller, your inverter, your combiner boxes. And, if you’re like me, cheap, you have to do it on a limited budget.

What do you do? Here’s my solution:

Continue reading The solar shed: Part One