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First Year Off-Grid


Our First Year Of Solar

1.) The start of the journey was some simple advice given by a friend. He said the fateful words “Find a need and fill it”. After 6 months of filling our needs for portable Amateur Radio operating, we decided to build a system capable of powering our Amateur Radio Shack needs, then our home needs.

2.) The most important part is that I had forgotten Ohms Law. I recommend a close relationship with a quality Volt Ohm Meter, or VOM.Wire size  and power handling charts abound on the internet.

3.) OUR very Biggest mistake was underestimating appliances. The Kill-a-Watt tool solves this very easily. Measure, and write the amount used on the side or bottom somewhere. Also, one the other mistakes was over-estimating need.

4.) After the first installation, we found that stationary panels are not as efficient as either tracking panels, or the use of an MPPT charge controller. Upon starting to use MPPT at all 3 systems, we found 25 to 40 percent gains were common.The 6 panel tracking system is in place now,and gains appear to be 30% or greater using it.

5.) So, when I stopped trying so hard to save money, I found out that the extra I spent was usually worth it one way or another. The inverter we bought for the house was to run the 110 volt swamp cooler….. I ended up designing and building a window-hung passive swamp cooler that drops the incoming air 20+ degrees. I recommend that a new user make a game plan of needs and how to meet them, and then chat with somebody that has already been there.

6.)During our introduction to 12vdc we also found out that we wasted a lot of energy before by running desktop computers, lights, fans, refer, freezer. With the addition of pure sine inverters inside, our Laptops are cool running, quiet,and power friendly, as are the newer computer monitors. Now, instead of noisy window fans drawing air, we use quiet fans to draw cool air across the house. We found that we were lighting areas we didn’t occupy, nor were we going to in the near future. When we use florescent lights, we leave them on until not needed, but incandescent or LED lights are off when not being used. One of the largest “scab” draws is all those little power scabs on 110vac. I plan now to use a smaller pure sine inverter to run those 24/7 also. The usage total is 65 watts power.

7.)We learned to be conscious of power available, and to marshal our resources wisely. An UN-necessary light left on now, costs you hard earned electrons. Battery technology is growing by leaps and bounds. Careful use of this resource will assure having it later.

8.) One of the strongest lessons learned was to use money as a tool when you are attempting to save money.

10.) So this total journey was a bit longer than a year, but the main portion happened over the span of about a year. +/-. The point of this missive is that 2 people refreshed their knowledge, learned massive amounts, and were made immeasurably better by the journey. We actually love watching the voltmeter as the electrons fight each other to fill our storage. We run our jacuzzi solar heater system off a motor home water pump and 40 watts of panels+ battery. Smirk!!

Mark & Terry 2017

systems description:

Primary bank 6ea 100 watt poly-crystaline panels,controlled by 40amp MPPT controller,feeding 600ah AGM batteries to power refrigerator and other needs. [on tilt swivels]

Both tertiary systems are 280 watts poly panels feeding 250ah batteries through 20 amp MPPT controllers. One system runs a Ham radio station and office/computers and lighting,and the other runs another Ham radio station plus office, and the garage freezer.