Skip to comments.Anyone use solar panels? Tips? Recommendations?
Posted on 09/06/2012 3:07:23 AM PDT by djf
Harbor Freight has a 3 panel 12V 45 watt solar power setup for under 200 bucks, and I was wondering about peoples experiences with solar. Any tips on batteries? Inverters? Basic setup?
It takes planning. Here’s a good prepper video to start
Quality is important when selecting a panel. I don’t know if I would get a no-name from Harbor Frieght.
Make sure to keep your eyes open for the readily available coupon that takes the price to $150
PRICE is $12,999 plus instalation.
COSTCO 5170 link:
Please note that this system is eligible for a federal tax credit equal to 30% of the total cost including installation. Additional rebates and/or incentives may apply on a local level. To learn more about solar related incentives in your area, visit:
NOTE: The body of the email response follows: You could fit a fairly large system on your roof, my estimate is up to 10 or 12 KW. What is your average monthly electricity usage in kilowatt-hours, and what percentage of that do you want to cover? Average payback time for a 5 KW kit in North Carolina is currently six years, so that is the size I would recommend in most cases. That system would generate approx. 6200 kWh a year, a bit over 500 per month. Here is a link to that system on Costco, so that you can get a ballpark idea of the cost (SEE my initial paragraphs)>|.
Point of Contact is - email@example.com - 541.349.9000 x 21
HYPE: Grape Solar is the #1 E-Commerce leader for solar PV panels and kits. Our products can be purchased around the world in retail outlets such as: www.costco.com, www.homedepot.com, www.amazon.com, www.pricesmart.com, www.globalindustrial.com. Grape Solar also designs custom systems to meet your unique needs for grid-tied and off-grid applications.
Thanks. Did some Googling, the only coupons I could find expired in Nov 2011
I’ll keep looking, though!
Morningstar Sunsaver charge controller,
Trojan golf cart batteries,
ML Solar for the panels
Thanks! Pretty much way out of my price range, plus, living here near Seattle, I wouldn’t want a major investment in something that might not yield that much.
But with batteries and an inverter and a couple of the kits, I think I could get enough out of it to run a few lights, computers, maybe a tv...
NRA publications always have harborfreight coupons in them.
The Rifleman and America’s First Freedom. Could save you some $.
I have two of these kits mounted on the roof of my hunting cabin. They have been installed for three years now. I have to say that though they are not enough to power a modern electric home that they are more than adequate for my remote needs. I power the four fluorescent lights that came with the two kits, my radio, my satellite radio receiver, recharge the battery in my laptop, and run a small fan off of a single 12V deep cycle battery and a 500 watt inverter.
I cannot speak for the longevity of the panels but so far they are exceeding my expectations. I do have to keep a close eye on the state of charge of the battery at all times though but it is fairly easy to do with the included controller.
100 watt system using GOOD stuff cost me;
85 for the Morningstar controller delivered,
180 for 2ea 50w panels delivered,
90 for two used 6v Trojan 210 AH batteries
I went to a golf cart service/dealer, he had a few batteries that the terminal posts had melted off because they were improperly tightened. Just drilled and tapped for brass bolts. Works fine for low power connections.The ones I got are 2011 manufacture and go for 170 + 25 core charge each new. I paid 90 for two, 50 of which is core charge, so 20 each.
Then there’s wire, brackets, wire nuts, etc that adds up.
So say 375 for a high quality 100 watt system. I can add another 100 watts of panel with my existing 20 amp charge controller, and I’ll snatch up a couple more batteries next chance I get.
I would look at places like http://www.backwoodssolar.com/ who actually know something about living off the grid. They had a good deal a few months ago on American-made panels, I don't see it now. But to get started, look at solarworld or similar quality, then look at some AGM batteries to keep your computers and small appliances going after the power fails. If you want to run more than that (e.g. HVAC, hot water, etc) forget about solar and just get a generator.
Forgot about the inverter. Get a large high quality inverter. Again, backwoodssolar will have good advice on those. I got one of theirs (1000W) about five years ago and it handles a full sized fridge. But my next inverter will probably be 3000W.
That is a very low power setup, probably meant to trickle charge a 12V battery. You won’t be able to run much with 3 - 4 amps. Also, I would think it’s pretty low quality. Try an RV dealer or camping store.
Do it yourself, I did
Magnum ms4024pae 24 volt 4000 Watt/240 volt pure sine inverter $2000
6 175 watt 24 volt Solar Panels, Craigs List $175 each
8 Trojan T105 Batteries $100 each
miscellaneous wire,boxes,breakers... $500
Runs my Well, any lights and TV I want, refrigerator....as is will provide basics plus a little extra. All is needed is to add panels and batteries and will run a modest home,(in progress) add another inverter and more panels and batteries and will run an average size home.
I’m thinking more now a sort of “try-before-you-buy” deal where I start out smaller and learn from my mistakes..
I mean things like if I had solar panels, where exactly would I even mount them?
Good advice, though. Thanks.
The bigger the inverter, the more power it consumes. Best to size your converter to about 120% of your planned load.
I went el cheapo with the inverter (harbor freight) cause they’re super common consumer type item that’s easily replaced, not really part of the core system.
Think I paid 30 for the 400/800w Harbor freight unit.
200w system will run 2 computers about 5-8hrs a day assuming good sun. Gotta get in the habit of turning them off when your not using them.
“6 175 watt 24 volt Solar Panels, Craigs List $175 each”
Good deal on the panels.
Why did you need the true sine inverter?
Xantrex C60 Charge controller $100
This is a pretty basic and small system that with upgrades is a real powerhouse for those times in need. total cost about $6000. no credits,incentives, all out of pocket and nobody but you and your family know about your preparedness, especially your Power company which by the way has RIGHTS to your SOLAR ELECTRICITY if you pursue Government Incentives to offset costs, which also doubles initial out of pocket costs.
Purchase the items I listed and you will be pretty well off to start. The guy on craigs list has an endless supply of panels but he is in Long Beach, Ca.
A sine-wave (SIW)inverter creates AC in a smooth form without sharp on/off square-wave (SQW) effects like the cheaper inverters; SQW is essentially like flipping a switch back and forth. I.e. a square wave has sharp changes in phasing from positive to negative whereas a sine wave has smooth changes in phasing. Many electric motors and sensitive electronics will fail on SW power source as its hard on them.
If you plan on running any kind of electronics, you better get a “Pure Sine” inverter. Inverter is The MOST IMPORTANT part of your System, this one is a Grid Tie or Stand Alone, Have Generator back up also, 105 amp built in charger fully charges batteries in 2 hours with 6000 watt generator, also with control module add-on and generator auto start option, it will start generator for those times needed. Also I needed 220 to run my Well Pump. I did a lot of research and searching to put together a system for about half the price of a 1000 watt system, and this system will run 2 computers FOREVER, All the Water I want as well as TV,lights,basic cheap fridge(nothing fancy) FOREVER, limited use coffee maker, microwave, ,... Am going to add 8 more Batteries and 4 more Panels next week, then I won’t need generator very often. Microwaves and coffee makers use the most power,as does the Well Pump, but the rest is NEGLIGIBLE.
Don’t forget your lighting! Even though the new mini-florescents are often derided, a few years back, one of the local drug stores had a sale and I picked up a boatload of the 60 watters for about a quarter apiece.
Light-wise, a regular 75 or 100 watt incandescent seems more natural to my eyes, but if we go into prepper-survival mode, I’ll be using the minis!
I’ve been really happy with the Goal Zero products (www.goalzero.com). They have a wide range of solar power products, from charging up a cell phone to running a field hospital. Really.
They’re also doing ‘road shows’ at Costco’s across the US this month. They bundle ‘extra’ stuff’ into their packaging when you buy it from there. The products are durable, and the panels can last 20 years (per their web site).
I bought the low-end version (Nomad) a couple of months ago. It’s great for a bug-out bag. I’m getting ready to pick up either their Escape series, or maybe even their Extreme series - all depends on what kind of deal I can get from the Costco road show tomorrow.
Rapid setup-teardown and portability are very important options. As one sees needed, of course!
>> I went to a golf cart service/dealer, he had a few batteries that the terminal posts had melted off &etc
Thanks for the good idea!
Why do you use golf cart batteries?
If you look at post 7, you will see that a commercial system generates, over a one year period, an average of about 6% of its rated power. This is because the sun only shines during the day, and is often blocked by clouds. The battery charging, discharging, and inverters also loose efficiency. In your case, that would be 6% of 45 watts, or about 3 watts. That means that you could run a 3 watt night light continuously all day, or a 60 watt light bulb for an hour each day. It would be less than that if you had a run of rainy days. You might get a half an hour a day in a medium sized highly efficient LED TV, or a computer, but not both.
Trojan T605 (6v 210ah) deep cycle, $20 ea + core. 2011 manufacture.
A big part of me asking the question is to figure out the sizing. I have an 1800 watt generator and know what it can/can’t run, so I’m trying to get ideas.
Haven’t had any issues running computers on “modified sine wave” inverters. The capacitors in the computer’s internal power supply smooth the sharp corners of the waves as they convert the AC to DC.
Motors, though, need the clean sine wave.
What size is your well pump? What kind of surge do you see starting?
Well Pump pulls 85 amps DC, as currently configured battery bank is 400 amp hours, going to double that next week then add panels if necessary. currently it is always fully charged.I think it is 3hp, 220 volt but is 385 feet deep. no problems with surge at all, 10,000 gallon tank for storage and well only runs at most 1 hour per day. Have set to 300 gallon cycles, which takes about 30 minutes. which is about 10% of battery storage.
Sounds crazy, right? Trust me, I'm an electrical engineer :-)
Unless you have a tracker setup, the panels will not be at an optimum angle to the sun most of the time. So, they will put out less than max voltage. Plus, there is voltage drop when current is pulled from the panels. A switchmode charge controller (like my Morningstar is)can accept a higher voltage, up to about 40V, and adjust it down to charge the 12V battery faster.
My solar setup can completely power my ham radio room / lab, including lights (12V LED). I have large marine battery and an 800W inverter.
How do they stand up in a hail storm? We had baseball sized hail here a few years ago, and later a 4 inch thick ice storm, then a 2 foot snow storm.
And I won’t mention the wind storms that blew down tree limbs along with trees several times.
another place for DIYers is Instructibles.com, I use it all the time, including making home-made welders and ball-mills.
so it’s gonna cost ys 200 bucks. how much is is=t gonna SAVE you? how long is the payback period? how long will the unit last before it needs maintenance or breaks down? most solar panels die long before they finish paying for themselves.
I’ve considered those panels and system as well. It is designed to provide backup lighting and probably battery recharging capability - not big enough to seriously go off grid, but is good for a short term energy bridge. Plus there are the expenses for the battery bank necessary. There are some websites that have been mentioned and I’d recommend reading them first because the big answer is just what do you want to power and for how long. Here’s a couple of other sites to consider -
I bought a Harbor Freight solar panel for emergencies before conducting much research. I would not do that again.
The Harbor Freight panels are not as cost effective as they should be. They are thin-film amorphous silicon panels that will not last nearly as long as crystalline wafer silicon panels. Compare prices on eBay, for example: item #
The Harbor Freight charge controller is minimalist design and not as efficient in charging a battery as a MPPT charge controller. Again, study eBay: item #160871594102 and read the description.
I luv Instructibles.com. I made me a emergency lighting system that works when the power is off and the power that runs it is free! I luv that! (No it doesn't use batteries or solar charges or anything else like that.)
Local HF has them on sale for 169.
Like I said, I am more in kind of a fact-finding phase now.
Thanks to everyone for their hints and tips!
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