My First (Baby) Solar Set-Up

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Whackpack7
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My First (Baby) Solar Set-Up

Post by Whackpack7 » Mon Sep 16, 2013 9:58 pm

Okay so I have been wanting to get into the solar game for a while now. All prepping aside, we get some pretty good storms around here and I like the idea of having an additional backup to the diesel generator...even if it is cloud dependant. To get started, I went with a cheap-o 'complete' system to see what I could do with it. I figured this way, I could have a simple set up mostly complete already to learn from, and when I eventually did something stupid and broke it trying to do said learning, I wouldn't lose too much money.

I went with this:

Instapark® NEW All Black 10W Mono-crystalline Solar Panel with 12V Solar Charge Controller
http://www.amazon.com/Instapark%C2%AE-B ... park+solar

I chose it because of:
a) 4/5 customer review. I know that most of said reviews most likely originated from someone who is not a solar 'expert' because of the low output and simplicity of the system, but neither am I.
b) System came with charge controller. I know it's a junky one, but there is nothing to adjust and it is straight forward for me as a beginner. Future arrays will obviously have one of higher quality.
c) Cost.

The battery I went with was just a 12 volt lawn and garden that I legitimately had laying around. Once again not expecting to power NYC with this system so I figured what the heck. Even though it was a new battery, I cleaned and treated the terminals prior to use.

The inverter I chose was:
Cobra CPI 880 800 Watt 12 Volt DC to 120 Volt AC Power Inverter with 5 Volt USB output
http://www.amazon.com/Cobra-CPI-880-Inv ... a+inverter

I chose it because of:
Same reasons as panel system.

Got it all at once. Set it up and played with it a little the night it came. Pretty cool stuff. First thing was first, had to replace the super tiny wires that came with it with some much more sturdy and larger copper wires that were properly colored. Then I done went and got carried away...

Panel Mount

Needed a way to mount it. Just so happened that I was able to save a home satellite dish from the dump and modified it and gave it a shot of black spray paint. Turned out nicely.

Image

Ourdoor Housing

Wanted to leave the battery and charging controller outside near the panels but close to the house, also wanted it to have some amount of portability for the other house since like I have said many times I didn't plan on wiring it into the house or using it for anything crazy. So if I could take it to the other house or BOL to play with that would be fun also. Used some scrap materials laying around the house and got the prototype.

Image

Further Shananigans

Never satisfied, I decided to fully enclose the structue to give it full protection and allow for me to place the inverter in it. I just reached the 98% mark and took some photos. More will come soon.

Internal

On the right we have the battery. Left is the inverter. Bottom left is where the ground travels through the wall and bottom left center is the output of the inverter. The rear cover, which is the one removed in the image is held in place with short screws. I intend to make it hinges and a latch if I can find them on the cheap.

Image

I also mounted the charging controller inside the housing. To prevent overheating or an excess of nasty gasses, I bummed a DC powered computer style fan from a friend and attached it to the DC output on the charging controller.

Image

Fan Output
Image

Power Output
Right o. So I wanted to be able to just plug whatever into this unit and have the power prewired so that everything could remain enclosed. I also legitimately found a 3' length of AC wire with a plug on the end, wired it to an outlet, and plugged it into the inverter. Mounted it on the outside of the housing. Below it is the ground attachment point. As of now, I have it grounded but the image does not reflect that. Also, tomorrow I will be picking up a 'waterproof' outdoor outlet cover so that I can keep the outlet clear of water and all that nonsense.

Image

Other Planned Modifications
I would like to paint or stain this so that it gains some more water repellancy. I realize that it is definitely a lot of work for a tiny solar panel and something that yields little output, but it was my first go so I wanted to do it right and at least try some things with it. My next setup will definitely be wired into the house, and will most likely be similar to this one in some ways.

Any comments?

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Manimal2878
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Re: My First (Baby) Solar Set-Up

Post by Manimal2878 » Tue Sep 17, 2013 10:20 am

What can you run off that and for how long?

Whackpack7
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Re: My First (Baby) Solar Set-Up

Post by Whackpack7 » Tue Sep 17, 2013 12:42 pm

Manimal2878 wrote:What can you run off that and for how long?
I haven't done a longevity test yet, however I have used it a few times. The day I got it, I ran a charger for my VHF work radio, a charger for my VHF pager, scanner, 2 phone chargers, and cordless phone charger for about 2.5 hours straight. Not a ton of draw from those, but that is my real intention for this system if I use it for purposes other than experiments. Commo charging, ect. I also have ran my bed room at the BOL for a few hours off it the weekend I got it. Included laptop charger, desk lamp, room light, scanner, and phone charger.

Whackpack7
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Re: My First (Baby) Solar Set-Up

Post by Whackpack7 » Tue Sep 17, 2013 12:44 pm

Waterproof Outlet

Image

As promised. Was a fun morning project. Swapped out the old outlet port I found and replaced it with one that has a switch and one outlet. Wired it so that the switch operates the output outlet port. Also has an 'on' indicator light which is nice. Also picked up some exterior paint and primer for this bad boy.

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Manimal2878
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Re: My First (Baby) Solar Set-Up

Post by Manimal2878 » Tue Sep 17, 2013 4:20 pm

Cool. I'd like to have something like this to keep the laptops and phones charged.

gundogs
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Re: My First (Baby) Solar Set-Up

Post by gundogs » Tue Sep 17, 2013 4:26 pm

If you're in a cold climate you'll lose a lot of power storing the batt outdoors. Excessive heat isn't good either

O.D. Green
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Re: My First (Baby) Solar Set-Up

Post by O.D. Green » Fri Nov 08, 2013 2:44 pm

Hello,
I saw and read your article about your solar project and I was wondering if you could give some advice and shared your knowledge about solar projects. I’m looking to get into solar power but do not know where to start on equipment wise. I lived in a rural location with a water well system that dependent on the electric grid. What I want to do is set up a solar system that I can without too much trouble switch my well to solar, and have a solar start up system that I can add more panels and battery bank, to too bring my well completely off grid and expand the solar system from there to power my workshop. If you can share any advice on equipment to buy or to avoid I would appreciated it, thanks
Historia est magistra vitae

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Sun Yeti
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Re: My First (Baby) Solar Set-Up

Post by Sun Yeti » Wed Nov 13, 2013 10:47 am

O.D., how much power does your well pump draw? How many hours a day is it on?

You also need an estimate of how much energy your shop uses in a typical day. Or, perhaps a worst-case scenario, if you want to be super-prepared (that will, of course, be a lot more expensive to build a bigger system to cover the worst case).

There is a handy device called a kill-a-watt that you can pick up for like $20, which you can measure electricity use with. This will also help you figure out if any of your equipment is a power hog. You can often save money by first buying more efficient equipment, which will allow you to build a smaller power system.

Once you know how much energy you want the system to provide in a day, I could give you more specific recommendations, but as a general rule, you want to size the charge controller and inverter according to the final system size (so you don't have to replace them with bigger ones later). Solar panels you can buy and add a few at a time. Batteries you can also do that with, but if there is a significant age/wear difference in batteries in your bank, there could be problems.
I find it uniquely frustrating that so many preppers have their heads in the sand about climate change.

But, I've come to realize there's no point in arguing with someone if there's no possible evidence you could present that would actually change their mind.

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