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Old 02-17-14, 11:37 PM   #1
philb
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Default Temporary PV solar hookup

I found myself in a predicament. The price of propane went up to $4.00 per gallon. So my little 250 gallon tank would have cost $1000 to fill. We use propane for heating and cooking. My intention is to save as much propane as possible until the price drops to affordable levels.
I am in the middle of constructing a new house from shipping containers and I'd already bought two pallets of solar panels and laminates. Also 4 charge controllers and two Outback 3500 watt inverters. I had everything I needed except a sheet of plywood. The installation is in no way perfect. It already is a major difference in propane usage.
First came the box to house the electronics. It's about 2 feet square and 4 feet tall.

Electronics tend to last longer if they are kept cool. I put 3 vents in the floor and 3 more just under the top. A fan can be added and controlled by the charge controller if its needed.

The batteries have their own box. The lid has a 1 inch gap for air to circulate and allow hydrogen to escape. These are Eveready GC2 6 volt golf cart batteries.

The solar panels are propped up on one side with 8x8x16 concrete blocks. This allows water to run off and is about the correct angle for optimum summer usage. Wind doesn't have nearly the effect when they are this low. Shading is a problem in the late afternoon. I installed diodes in the wiring to help eliminate any issues with panel heating.

It's a crude setup, but it works well.
I've connected 2 panels in series to get ~80 VDC, then paralleled 4 sets to get 32 amps. 2280 Watts of PV solar is sure handy!














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Last edited by Daox; 02-18-14 at 08:15 AM.. Reason: adding pictures
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Old 02-18-14, 03:56 AM   #2
jeff5may
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How much did all this cost? What are you running with solar power?
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Old 02-18-14, 07:02 AM   #3
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Cost? about $3400 before rebates.

During daylight, it should run everything except the electric hot water tank. But for now, I'm running lights and electric heaters in the winter and an air conditioner and lights in the summer. The system payback, very conservatively, is 3.8 years. I think realistically, 2.3 years.

The last set of batteries, which I murdered, lasted 6 years. My batteries lasted 9 hours past sunset last night. They cut out at about 70% charge. So, I'm on grid power for about 5 hours. That makes a big difference in the propane and electric bill. A pallet of PV panels can be had for 80 cents per watt if you shop around.
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Old 02-18-14, 07:38 AM   #4
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So when your batteries get down to 70% you manually switch over to grid power?

What kind of AC are you running in the summer?

thanks
Austin
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Old 02-18-14, 07:48 AM   #5
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Phil,

You beat me to the punch as I am about to put PV panels here (Arcadia). From whom did you purchase the PV panels from?

Steve
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Old 02-18-14, 12:14 PM   #6
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Sun Electronics is the cheapest retailer of panels that I've seen bar none:

Solar Panels, Systems, Inverters | Residential & Commercial

They buy panels from manufacturers that have filed chapter 11 and sell them individually or in pallet lots (usually 20 to 25 panels to a pallet). I've seen them sell perfectly good panels at 50 cents a watt in pallet size orders. Be forewarned that their service is reportedly terrible, but you aren't paying for first class service.

Their prices on things besides panels are only average.
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Old 02-18-14, 01:20 PM   #7
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dablack - I have a transfer switch made by Midnite solar that I use to manually switch the power. I considered an automatic switch but changed my mind because the manufacturer didn't give me enough info.

I could use the Midnite Classic charge controller to turn the inverter off at dusk and back on at dawn. I thought about the inverter on/off cycling and I think it will reduce its like expectancy. I might look at putting a SSR on the inverter's output later. That will work for sure.

Right now, I'm living in a trailer until the container house is finished. It's one of the RV AC units. The entire trailer is ran with a 30 amp breaker.

Steve and Exeric - I bought the last panels from EcoDirect.com for the same price I paid for just the laminates from Sun Electronics. 80 cents per watt from both locations. Sun charged me $500 for packing and shipping on top of that. If Sun had the panels in smaller than a container, I may have bought from them again. Their sales staff has not treated me well in the past though. Sun's prices are higher for charge controllers and inverters. Eco Direct and Northern Arizona Sun and Wind (NAWS) are my favorite places to shop. NAWS also has an excellent service and sales staff and they are fast shipping.


I'm sure I will hook the entire trailer up solar power except for one plug that runs the coffee maker and the plug for the microwave because I'm too LAZY to reset the time.

BTW, I beat you by 2 years Steve. This is my second set of solar panels. The first 1,880 watts of panels powers my containers. I would put up more, but I don't need the extra power there right now. That's a nice problem to have.

Solar is pretty easy to install in comparison to wind. I admit, I'm addicted to wind power because the home made turbines are deceptively simple.

I haven't got any wind turbines in the air for almost 3 years. When I do, that will be wind generator number 7. Number 6 survived 100 mph winds several times. It could not, however, take a direct 250 mph tornado hit. It sliced the tower into thirds (not on the welds).
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Old 02-18-14, 01:23 PM   #8
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Exeric, one more thing. I see in your sig that you're in CA. Eco Direct is in Carlsbad, beside Palamar Airport. The shipping would be less than shipping from FL.
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Old 02-18-14, 02:22 PM   #9
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Thanks, shipping is a big item. When I finally get to the point of pulling the trigger in about a year then I'll probably go with them.
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Old 02-18-14, 11:13 PM   #10
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You realize that doubling your battery bank size will more then double your battery life, right?

My parents are on their 15th year on their set of batteries, they don't like them to get down to 80% full if they can help it but cycle them down to 50% if it's cloudy and the grid is out, they seem healthy and seem almost like new.

I have to wonder what you'll do, along with the rest of us, if LP prices go up instead of ever coming back down, after all LP it sounds like is the new cheap choice is fracing fluid for natural gas.

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