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Solar power, and its foibles

ricksfolly

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A friend of mine had solar panels installed and contracted the seller to turn it into electricity. It was then he found out that they only produced DC power and had to be stored in batteries before it could be converted into AC. There was no way to hook it to his circuit breaker panel, or go through the walls, so he ended up with a long distributer box and a dozen extension cords...

Fortunately his existing power system wasn't affected so when a cloudy day cut off his solar power, he still had power.

ricksfolly
 

Harry Guerrilla

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A friend of mine had solar panels installed and contracted the seller to turn it into electricity. It was then he found out that they only produced DC power and had to be stored in batteries before it could be converted into AC. There was no way to hook it to his circuit breaker panel, or go through the walls, so he ended up with a long distributer box and a dozen extension cords...

Fortunately his existing power system wasn't affected so when a cloudy day cut off his solar power, he still had power.

ricksfolly
Your friend failed to research what type of system he needed.

When you want to remain connected to the grid but also want to supplement your electricity with solar/wind, you need a grid tie system.

It comes with an inverter to covert DC to AC.
Although with that kind of system, when the grid goes down so does the solar/wind system because it feeds the excess electricity back to the power line and power companies don't want their workers electrocuted.
 

ricksfolly

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Your friend failed to research what type of system he needed.

When you want to remain connected to the grid but also want to supplement your electricity with solar/wind, you need a grid tie system.

It comes with an inverter to covert DC to AC.
Although with that kind of system, when the grid goes down so does the solar/wind system because it feeds the excess electricity back to the power line and power companies don't want their workers electrocuted.
I just checked my own circuit breaker to see if there was a way to add parallel wires to the back of the circuit breakers... No way. The panel fits too close for additional wires. Of course it's over thirty years old, and newer ones could have a different set up. Check your own to see if it's possible.

ricksfolly
 

Goshin

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I just checked my own circuit breaker to see if there was a way to add parallel wires to the back of the circuit breakers... No way. The panel fits too close for additional wires. Of course it's over thirty years old, and newer ones could have a different set up. Check your own to see if it's possible.

ricksfolly

A friend of mine runs his house on solar power. He designed and built his own system.

Solar panels feed into a charge controller, which feed into his battery bank. The charge controller makes sure the actual voltage the batteries get are what they need to keep topped off.

The battery bank feeds an inverter, which converts DC to AC. This in turn feeds into his household electrical system with no need for drop cords.

His battery bank will hold enough kilowatt-hours to run his house for a couple of days, so he has electricity at night from the battery bank, which charges off the solar panels during the day. A moderately cloudy day only reduces the power the panels generate by a modest margin; even on a totally overcast day, the panels still generate a fair bit of juice.

It would have to be overcast for most of a week to seriously inconvenience him.

The difference is my friend learned as he went, started off small and expanded his system. By the time he was ready to go fully solar, he knew exactly what he was doing and exactly what he wanted.

It works very well.
 

Harry Guerrilla

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I just checked my own circuit breaker to see if there was a way to add parallel wires to the back of the circuit breakers... No way. The panel fits too close for additional wires. Of course it's over thirty years old, and newer ones could have a different set up. Check your own to see if it's possible.

ricksfolly
A home does require some updating, if you are going to set it up to run any supplemental power.

In terms of efficiency, you best bet is to reduce your overall power consumption.
That is the best money saver.

After that green energy sources rate from micro hydro > small wind > solar.

The best places for wind are the areas around Utah, North/South Dakota and other Midwest states.
Study the wind maps before you ever decide to set up a small wind system.
It wouldn't hurt to set up a wind gauge before hand to measure your average daily wind amount.
 

Harry Guerrilla

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A friend of mine runs his house on solar power. He designed and built his own system.

Solar panels feed into a charge controller, which feed into his battery bank. The charge controller makes sure the actual voltage the batteries get are what they need to keep topped off.

The battery bank feeds an inverter, which converts DC to AC. This in turn feeds into his household electrical system with no need for drop cords.

His battery bank will hold enough kilowatt-hours to run his house for a couple of days, so he has electricity at night from the battery bank, which charges off the solar panels during the day. A moderately cloudy day only reduces the power the panels generate by a modest margin; even on a totally overcast day, the panels still generate a fair bit of juice.

It would have to be overcast for most of a week to seriously inconvenience him.

The difference is my friend learned as he went, started off small and expanded his system. By the time he was ready to go fully solar, he knew exactly what he was doing and exactly what he wanted.

It works very well.
I've studied this for a few years now and I hope I can do a total off grid set up when I retire.
Preferably before I retire.

My motivation is my general hate of monthly bills.
 

Goshin

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Does that include an automatic gang switch that turns on when the sun is shining and switches back to standard power when the sun goes down?

ricksfolly
Not necessary if you're doing a proper solar power setup. You run off batteries with an AC inverter at night. They store the power the panels generate by day, if you're using a sufficiently-powered setup.

The main drawback of a proper system is actually the startup costs: they are high. Once it is up and running, costs are all but nonexistent unless a part goes bad (quality parts being a plus).
 

Harry Guerrilla

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Does that include an automatic gang switch that turns on when the sun is shining and switches back to standard power when the sun goes down?

ricksfolly
What Gosh says is what fits the bill.

It supposed to be automated so you don't have to worry about flipping switches and the like.
Like he said though, system costs are high.

The best way to start before you buy your first panel/battery/cable is to cut you usage, as much as possible.
Try to live with the cuts in usage for a while and then start to build your system.

A good inverter runs high and you want a true sine wave, not a modified sine wave.
 
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