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    UK Avalon Member Brigantia's Avatar
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    Default Solar energy for beginners

    I'm looking for advice - I've just ordered a 600w solar battery and 120v solar panels, that's the limit of what I could afford.

    It'll be great for charging small devices and cut down on the electricity bill, but if there might be a huge collapse in the energy supply this winter, I'm wondering about my fridge and freezer. I gather that if my fridge and freezer run on 600w or less, it'll do the job but I'm not sure how to find that out.

    The freezer would need a couple of hours every other day as every source I've looked at says that it can stay frozen for up to 48hrs if it's full (mine's always rammed). However, the fridge contents would only last for 4 hours.

    The freezer has a UK energy rating of A++, and says on the energy label '248 KWH/yr'. Am I correct in dividing 248000/365 = 679.5w? The fridge is A+ and says 140 KWH/yr, so that needs less energy.

    I also know that some appliances like kettles, hairdryers and ovens aren't suitable for use with a solar battery of this size as they have a large energy pull when they're switched on, but I've got hot water and cooking covered and my hair can dry naturally!

    Any advice for this novice would be gratefully received.
    Last edited by Brigantia; 13th November 2022 at 15:42. Reason: Typo

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    UK Avalon Founder Bill Ryan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solar energy for beginners

    Quote Posted by Brigantia (here)
    Any advice for this novice would be gratefully received.
    You might email billy@projectavalon.net (that's Billy the moderator, not me ) — who lives on the west coast of Scotland completely off the grid with a solar panel and an Ecoflow battery/generator, the 600W one. Their website is https://ecoflow.com, and I know he's completely delighted with it.

    (Do maybe copy him by PM as well, but he may get the email first )

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    UK Avalon Member Brigantia's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solar energy for beginners

    I'll do that, thanks Bill. Wow, totally off-grid on a 600w battery, I'm impressed!

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    UK Avalon Founder Bill Ryan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solar energy for beginners

    Quote Posted by Brigantia (here)
    I'll do that, thanks Bill. Wow, totally off-grid on a 600w battery, I'm impressed!
    You may need a bigger one! The Ecoflow website showcases a number of models. Billy swears by his, and (as it happens) so does Mike Adams from Natural News, who owns about a dozen of them.

    Billy's place is compact and modest, but I live in a larger house here in Ecuador and I calculated the smallest emergency generator I'd need would be 2500W. I can't run everything at once with that, but (e.g.) I'd unplug the fridge to use the coffee machine or kettle for a few minutes, etc etc. That's a generator and not a battery pack charged from solar panels, but the power output considerations are exactly the same.

    My guess is that if I needed to run everything at once without chopping and changing, I'd probably need 3500-4000W. But this is all easy to calculate, and there are many user-friendly websites that help one do just that. Here are just a few of them, but there are plenty more:

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    Avalon Member norman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solar energy for beginners

    If you have an unheated outhouse you can do without your fridge for the winter by making or buying a food/meat safe cupboard.

    https://www.1900s.org.uk/1900s-food-safe.htm

    That was all we had when i was a kid and it worked as good as a fridge especially in the winter. If making one, the hard part will be sourcing such a fine mesh. The air flow through it is part of how it works, and is probably even better for some foods than a sealed fridge.

    My pathetic little terraced miner's hovel here doesn't have an outhouse so I've not considered it an option for myself.
    ..................................................my first language is TYPO..............................................

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    Default Re: Solar energy for beginners

    Quote Posted by norman (here)
    If you have an unheated outhouse you can do without your fridge for the winter by making or buying a food/meat safe cupboard.

    https://www.1900s.org.uk/1900s-food-safe.htm

    That was all we had when i was a kid and it worked as good as a fridge especially in the winter. If making one, the hard part will be sourcing such a fine mesh. The air flow through it is part of how it works, and is probably even better for some foods than a sealed fridge.

    My pathetic little terraced miner's hovel here doesn't have an outhouse so I've not considered it an option for myself.
    Thanks for the link norman. I have an outhouse but it's tiny, the boiler takes up most of it. One option that I was thinking of is underground storage, digging a hole in the garden that is reinforced and covered; I saw those at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth. It's getting too close to winter now for a project like that, it's something to look at next year.

    Quote Posted by Bill Ryan (here)
    Quote Posted by Brigantia (here)
    I'll do that, thanks Bill. Wow, totally off-grid on a 600w battery, I'm impressed!
    You may need a bigger one!
    I think it may be enough for what I need as I'm not looking at running all the electricals in the house off it - sadly I don't have the budget for that! I've got an open fire and have a lot of alternative options for cooking and heating water.

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    Default Re: Solar energy for beginners

    Quote Posted by Brigantia (here)
    I'm looking for advice - I've just ordered a 600w solar battery and 120v solar panels, that's the limit of what I could afford.

    It'll be great for charging small devices and cut down on the electricity bill, but if there might be a huge collapse in the energy supply this winter, I'm wondering about my fridge and freezer. I gather that if my fridge and freezer run on 600w or less, it'll do the job but I'm not sure how to find that out.

    The freezer would need a couple of hours every other day as every source I've looked at says that it can stay frozen for up to 48hrs if it's full (mine's always rammed). However, the fridge contents would only last for 4 hours.

    The freezer has a UK energy rating of A++, and says on the energy label '248 KWH/yr'. Am I correct in dividing 248000/365 = 679.5w? The fridge is A+ and says 140 KWH/yr, so that needs less energy.

    I also know that some appliances like kettles, hairdryers and ovens aren't suitable for use with a solar battery of this size as they have a large energy pull when they're switched on, but I've got hot water and cooking covered and my hair can dry naturally!

    Any advice for this novice would be gratefully received.
    I'd be weary of a refrigerator/freezer on startup, they can pull a lot of amps. (As far as anything that has a motor basically.)

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    Default Re: Solar energy for beginners

    Quote Posted by Richard S. (here)

    I'd be wary of a refrigerator/freezer on startup, they can pull a lot of amps. (As far as anything that has a motor basically.)
    Yes, that's true. It's the same with something like a tumble dryer. It may run at (e.g.) 1800W, but could need 2500-3000W for a few seconds to start it up. If that's not available, it just won't start at all.

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    Australia Avalon Member Anchor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solar energy for beginners

    My first foray into off grid living was 20 years ago in the UK. I found out that I could not start the fridge with a 450W inverter (that could surge to 900W for 30 seconds ).

    I found out that the reason for this is that fridges have compressors in them and to make them work, most mass produced fridges/freezers drive the compressor with an basic induction motor. These types of motors have very high startup loads and they get very upset if sufficient current isn't available for long enough.

    However, there are fridge/freezers that do not have large startup loads. For example: the kinds you find in caravans, camper vans, small boats or portable camping fridge/freezers - but these are most efficient when driven direct from batteries with no inverter in the way. With a suitable power adapter they can work off mains - your solar generator would work with the smaller ones of these quite well. I have a 30 litre one and it can run on a 30Ah 12v battery for over a day.

    You are probably out of luck with a normal domestic fridge freezer. Smallest inverter I have used for a fridge freezer is 1600W. (Fun fact: also doing that voided the warranty on the fridge - the warranty requires them to be plugged into the grid mains!!)

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    Default Re: Solar energy for beginners

    Many thanks to everyone for your very helpful replies. At best my battery will keep small appliances powered up, I also have a standard lamp that it could probably power and all that will bring down my electricity bill.

    That's a good idea to buy a camping fridge, though I was trying not to spend any more unless I get a windfall but one thought was to get a Thermos box (possibly secondhand) for fridge items like milk, cheese and butter. Looking at Accuweather's long term forecast for Jan/Feb in my area (which is often quite accurate), the nights seem to have no more than a high of 3 degrees centigrade and a low of -3 . The Thermos box and contents could spend the night hidden in the garden and the cold would keep them preserved. I could also put my ice packs outside to freeze when it drops below zero.

    Edit: I've just been looking at secondhand camping fridges, there are some bargains that cost less than a Thermos box. It's a good time to get camping gear as it's out of season in the UK.
    Last edited by Brigantia; 14th November 2022 at 16:06.

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    Default Re: Solar energy for beginners

    Wow - if I had a large garden and a lot of money I'd get one of these for underground storage:

    https://engineerine.com/groundfridge...structure-for/

    Click image for larger version

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    Default Re: Solar energy for beginners

    Anchor,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences and for the tip on the camping fridge.

    I am putting together my first solar/wind turbine combo; just a small one for now. Due to the limits of the system, I came to the understanding that I had to rethink my electrical consumption and find ways to minimize the draw on the batteries. The camping fridge idea is an excellent one and I'll definitely run it on DC power; no inverter losses.

    Any other ideas you've discovered would be most welcome
    Last edited by TEOTWAIKI; 14th November 2022 at 21:03.

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    Default Re: Solar energy for beginners

    Quote Posted by TEOTWAIKI (here)
    Any other ideas you've discovered would be most welcome
    Ok, I made something. Careful what you wish for, this is a longish post.

    I think the best way forward is to describe my situation.

    I left UK in 2007 and took my 3000W phoenix inverter with me. My new home was in Australia, which has the same voltage and frequency as the UK so it was basically with some small adjustments and new plugs and sockets.

    Once I knew I could stay here for ever, I bought a hobby farm in 2009 about 150km west of Sydney in the Central Tablelands. I stayed here when I wasn’t working in Sydney, to begin with that was just weekends – so lots of driving. I only started living on it full time when we all had to work from home in 2020 and now I have stopped working and am a full time farmer.

    From the start my goal was a) to take the farm off grid b) grow food.

    What does off grid mean for me?
    • Electricity – I still have a supply from a grid. More on this later, the main thing is I am not dependent on it.
    • Water – no "town" supply. This one is easy, it just falls out the sky. I catch it in tanks 90000 litres for the house, 20000 for irrigation 4500 for the new greenhouse. No utility. If it doesn’t rain I have a bore, which can pump about 3000litres per day. That is a stand alone solar system and feeds the irrigation tank not the house because the water is quite hard.
    • Sewerage – onsite septic tank with absorption trenches to a paddock.
    • Gas – I rent two 45Kilo LPG tanks, which get swapped out on a regular basis. This is basically for supplementing the solar hot water and running the cooktop. One tank lasts about a year for Mr and Mrs Anchor’s consumption patterns, so we always have one spare. I also keep 2 9L tanks that are mine in case the supplier gets difficult or in an emergency.
    • Phone – I had telstra disconnect the landline (and I physically disconnected it from the house after the engineer left!).
    • Internet – Currently I have fixed wireless broadband via a vpn router connecting via a mixture of vpn exit nodes around the world depending on what I am doing. No cable or satellite television! What is watched is via internet. I don't watch TV but Mrs Anchor likes Netflix so we have a roku box on the old dumb TV. The Roku box gets depressed from time to time as it has no access to the places it would normally go to get adverts from. It lives in a little network "prison" with only enough access to do Netflix and a few other services.

    Solar - hot water

    36 tubes on the roof heat the water in a very well insulated 300L hot water tank. This is rated for 5 people, but with only two of us, one hot tank can last three days of no sun. If it does go cold there is a gas booster.

    Solar - domestic electrical system

    Batteries and chargers: I set up some solar panels in a paddock, used charge controllers get that power into lead acid batteries and used those batteries to power an inverter, which in turn was connected my computers and fridge and freezer. Later on I added two more sets panels to my shed roof . In total about 3.5kW of solar panel oriented for morning and afternoon (so East and West). I use outback FM80 charge controllers, one for each of the three arrays. The battery bank is a 24v system made from two strings of 12 x 1000Ah gel sealed lead acid. So this stores about 28-30kWh of usable energy at 60% discharge, which I never exceed. I rarely discharge more than 20% to be honest.

    For the inverter:
    1) My inverters have always been the blue Victron Energy ones. I upgraded my 3000w inverter to a 5000W inverter/charger (connected to the grid, but which can be transferred to a small diesel generator). I don’t use this to charge the batteries unless there has been no sun for many days - or I will just transfer to grid and wait for it all to charge back up, at least, while I have that option.
    2) The output of the inverter was connected to the house by a large underground cable (each core is 16mm²). I had to excavate to 600mma trench from the outbuilding where all my gear is to the house distribution board. To get that connected to the house I had to pay an electrician to install a transfer switch on the main circuits of the house – this has to be done that way so as not to void the house insurance, and this and the buried cable was signed off by an independent inspector to make sure all the rules are followed. At the time the other end was connected to the diesel generator – I didn’t tell them about the solar stuff that would be connected instead after they left 😊 and is none of their business.
    3) I changed the electrical metering to a “time of use” meter, which means I can import power from the grid at off peak times to supply night time loads – this is done to enhance the lifetime of my batteries and keep them for when I really need them.

    Living with electricity made by an inverter:

    So the outcome of the above is that the house (except for the A/C which I hardly use and the grid connected charger for the car) is now run on what is essentially a giant UPS and I avoid peak rate electricity during the day.
    With some discipline I have about 3 days autonomy with no grid or sun before I need to get the diesel generator going.
    In 2019 the power grid utility line was hit by lightning and the inverter/charger was destroyed along with the A/C controller. Sadly, I was away for three days, so we lost all the fridge/freezer food. I have insurance and that paid for a new inverter/charger and the repairs to the A/c and even for some of the food.
    However, this was a valuable lesson. After that event I installed some over-voltage arrestors (again had to pay a licensed electrician to do this on the house end) to reduce the risk of this happening again. I installed the same at the inverter end. These devices sense if the voltage goes over a certain threshold and if it does, it shorts it to ground. In Australia they are used a lot on mining installations which are stand-alone power. I installed them on both the hot and return wires. Australia is wired using multiple earth neutral (MEN), so you eventually end up using the same ground that the incoming supply does (and eventually the planet!) but there are strict rules on what can connect where which I had to learn first. I had to get a licensed electrician to do the house end, I took care of the “generator” end as all that is off the record. After all, its just a diesel generator, right?

    In 2021 I took delivery of a Nissan Leaf. We installed charging points such that I can choose to charge this on a 30A grid connected plug OR a via the solar side of the house at anywhere between 6A to 10A (at 240v). I normally charge the car when the sun is out for 3hrs per day at 6A – and typically we only use it once a week to get things from town (40k round trip). When it is charging there are certain things we cant do in the house – so some discipline is required, unless I ever upgrade the inverter to 8000w but as I am not working now, I probably wont do it.

    But wait! There is more.... other solar installs.

    1) Bore pump is 24VDC, the system is 2 x 80w panels, 1 MPPT controller from Morning Star and 200Ah at 24v of sealed lead acid batteries. Lightning arrestors have been added to this now as it is exposed.

    2) Greenhouse tank pump. I just finished building the greenhouse and can get water from two places: the irrigation network, and soon its own little 4500litre tank via a 24VDC pump and little stand alone solar system made from some old parts I had lying around that built up over the past 12 years or so of mucking about.

    3) My (car, the diesel one!) has a bug out kit that includes a 100W foldable solar charger that I can use to charge various batteries when I am out and about. I modified the car to include a dc-dc converter and dual battery so I can separate on board stuff even when the sun isn’t shining – like my battery chargers for my power tools. It has a 800W inverter as well to drive the Stihl battery charger which is 500VA.

    Prevalent use of electrical based tools around the farm

    For example: I have 5 Stihl chainsaws, of these two are two stroke, the most used three are electric all are Stihl. I only use the petrol ones for really tough jobs as they are noisy and heavy (each year they get heavier for some reason). For light duty stuff, electric all the time - one is very powerful one with a 40cm bar and there is a baby one that is the lightest with a thin bar and chain. They are quiet and with no two stroke pollution and the recharge is free. Other tools like that are things like pole pruners and hedge trimmers and a pole hedge trimmer – all very powerful and use batteries all Stihl so everything works together on the same system. I have a 1kWh battery pack that I can wear on my back if I am doing long jobs - and I can recharge from the car inverter if I have to.

    About 80% of my power tools are DeWalt battery powered. I use third party LiFePO4 battery packs for them now as these tools are over 10 years old and you can’t buy the original NiCads or the LiFePo4 equivalents that replaced them. They changed the whole system to something not compatible. Nice tools scummy company. Ebay to the rescue! With clever Chinese parts I can use new batteries on most of my old tools.

    My “van-life” office

    I try to keep the office electrically separate from the house. Mostly it contains stuff in it that can run from 12V. This forces me to use “van-life” style technology, and this also means I can move it easily to another off-grid minimalist location if anything were to happen that meant I had to bug out. Also when I get too old for the farm, it is on the cards that I get an RV and live and tour in that. So it also forces me to solve problems of being without mains in advance – so I have had to become familiar with ways to make things work on 12v that normally don’t want to. I got very familiar with implementing DC-DC buck or boost converters and inverters.

    I do have a 1600W inverter/charger in here running from a 12V 100Ah Lifepo4 battery and that is charged either by the inverter when its off peak time, and/or by 2 x 200W solar panels on the house roof.

    The laptop I post this on is one of three that is connected to a network that is all run on 12V, the only two appliances that don’t are a laser printer and my NAS (which is not small). I didn’t need 1600W inverter but my order for an 800W inverter charger was offered to be upgraded for free, so I took it. (There is a slight efficiency penalty doing that by the way, so think it through before you do anything similar). I like the little bit of extra redundancy and headroom it gives me as I can use it for things I have not thought of yet. The battery I have currently cant drive more than 600W anyway so I would need to parallel up if I ever did need to drive something bigger from it.

    All my office lighting is USB or 12v powered. I have many 12v to USB A/B and C converters that I made from components I got from Ali-Express.

    That's it. I hope that all gives you some idea's.

    I've been prepping for what is about to go down since 2000 so I have had some practice.

    At the same time, I feel like I am living the dream.

    Thanks for asking me for this I had fun writing it all down. I've been meaning to do this for a while.
    Last edited by Anchor; 15th November 2022 at 11:53.

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    Default Re: Solar energy for beginners

    Quote Posted by norman (here)
    If you have an unheated outhouse you can do without your fridge for the winter by making or buying a food/meat safe cupboard.

    https://www.1900s.org.uk/1900s-food-safe.htm

    That was all we had when i was a kid and it worked as good as a fridge especially in the winter. If making one, the hard part will be sourcing such a fine mesh. The air flow through it is part of how it works, and is probably even better for some foods than a sealed fridge.

    My pathetic little terraced miner's hovel here doesn't have an outhouse so I've not considered it an option for myself.
    I have to laugh, at first when you used the word outhouse I was thinking of a old fashioned toilet when you have no plumbing, that what it means in the US. I realized you probably are talking about a shed. This is a very good idea. I could get more preservation out of my apples that way. Thanks for the idea and the great website.

    I apologize for going off topic. I just reminded myself this is not about prepping only the solar aspect..I need to find a more appropriate thread for prepping for some other stuff.
    Last edited by Pam; 15th November 2022 at 13:42.

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    UK Avalon Member Brigantia's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solar energy for beginners

    Quote Posted by Pam (here)
    I have to laugh, at first when you used the word outhouse I was thinking of a old fashioned toilet when you have no plumbing, that what it means in the US. I realized you probably are talking about a shed. This is a very good idea. I could get more preservation out of my apples that way. Thanks for the idea and the great website.

    I apologize for going off topic. I just reminded myself this is not about prepping only the solar aspect..I need to find a more appropriate thread for prepping for some other stuff.
    You were right Pam with your first thought about an outhouse - the outhouses in old properties here used to be the loo, as we call it! My house was built in the 1870s so that's what the outhouse used to be, now we have those mod cons inside and the outhouses are used as storage.

    Also, really no need to apologise as I started the thread and am very happy for it to go off-topic to other aspects of general prepping, all ideas are welcome and interesting!

    Edit to add - my charger arrived today, the solar panel is scheduled to arrive tomorrow - can't wait to set it up!
    Last edited by Brigantia; 15th November 2022 at 17:37.

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    Default Re: Solar energy for beginners

    Quote Posted by Brigantia (here)

    You were right Pam with your first thought about an outhouse
    Using google, I just found out what the confusion is. Every picture google shows, almost, for outhouse, is an outdoor 'privi'.

    That's not what I meant !

    'Outhouse' is what my family has always called that netherland between the great outdoors and the home sanctuary. An unheated external back door area where you kick off your wellies and feed the cats etc. The sheep dog might even have her litter of pups at the back of the pile of wellies between the dry logs and the sack of spuds.
    ..................................................my first language is TYPO..............................................

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    Canada Avalon Member TEOTWAIKI's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solar energy for beginners

    Quote Posted by Anchor (here)
    Quote Posted by TEOTWAIKI (here)
    Any other ideas you've discovered would be most welcome
    Ok, I made something. Careful what you wish for, this is a longish post.

    I think the best way forward is to describe my situation.

    I left UK in 2007 and took my 3000W phoenix inverter with me. My new home was in Australia, which has the same voltage and frequency as the UK so it was basically with some small adjustments and new plugs and sockets.

    Once I knew I could stay here for ever, I bought a hobby farm in 2009 about 150km west of Sydney in the Central Tablelands. I stayed here when I wasn’t working in Sydney, to begin with that was just weekends – so lots of driving. I only started living on it full time when we all had to work from home in 2020 and now I have stopped working and am a full time farmer.

    From the start my goal was a) to take the farm off grid b) grow food.

    What does off grid mean for me?
    • Electricity – I still have a supply from a grid. More on this later, the main thing is I am not dependent on it.
    • Water – no "town" supply. This one is easy, it just falls out the sky. I catch it in tanks 90000 litres for the house, 20000 for irrigation 4500 for the new greenhouse. No utility. If it doesn’t rain I have a bore, which can pump about 3000litres per day. That is a stand alone solar system and feeds the irrigation tank not the house because the water is quite hard.
    • Sewerage – onsite septic tank with absorption trenches to a paddock.
    • Gas – I rent two 45Kilo LPG tanks, which get swapped out on a regular basis. This is basically for supplementing the solar hot water and running the cooktop. One tank lasts about a year for Mr and Mrs Anchor’s consumption patterns, so we always have one spare. I also keep 2 9L tanks that are mine in case the supplier gets difficult or in an emergency.
    • Phone – I had telstra disconnect the landline (and I physically disconnected it from the house after the engineer left!).
    • Internet – Currently I have fixed wireless broadband via a vpn router connecting via a mixture of vpn exit nodes around the world depending on what I am doing. No cable or satellite television! What is watched is via internet. I don't watch TV but Mrs Anchor likes Netflix so we have a roku box on the old dumb TV. The Roku box gets depressed from time to time as it has no access to the places it would normally go to get adverts from. It lives in a little network "prison" with only enough access to do Netflix and a few other services.

    Solar - hot water

    36 tubes on the roof heat the water in a very well insulated 300L hot water tank. This is rated for 5 people, but with only two of us, one hot tank can last three days of no sun. If it does go cold there is a gas booster.

    Solar - domestic electrical system

    Batteries and chargers: I set up some solar panels in a paddock, used charge controllers get that power into lead acid batteries and used those batteries to power an inverter, which in turn was connected my computers and fridge and freezer. Later on I added two more sets panels to my shed roof . In total about 3.5kW of solar panel oriented for morning and afternoon (so East and West). I use outback FM80 charge controllers, one for each of the three arrays. The battery bank is a 24v system made from two strings of 12 x 1000Ah gel sealed lead acid. So this stores about 28-30kWh of usable energy at 60% discharge, which I never exceed. I rarely discharge more than 20% to be honest.

    For the inverter:
    1) My inverters have always been the blue Victron Energy ones. I upgraded my 3000w inverter to a 5000W inverter/charger (connected to the grid, but which can be transferred to a small diesel generator). I don’t use this to charge the batteries unless there has been no sun for many days - or I will just transfer to grid and wait for it all to charge back up, at least, while I have that option.
    2) The output of the inverter was connected to the house by a large underground cable (each core is 16mm²). I had to excavate to 600mma trench from the outbuilding where all my gear is to the house distribution board. To get that connected to the house I had to pay an electrician to install a transfer switch on the main circuits of the house – this has to be done that way so as not to void the house insurance, and this and the buried cable was signed off by an independent inspector to make sure all the rules are followed. At the time the other end was connected to the diesel generator – I didn’t tell them about the solar stuff that would be connected instead after they left 😊 and is none of their business.
    3) I changed the electrical metering to a “time of use” meter, which means I can import power from the grid at off peak times to supply night time loads – this is done to enhance the lifetime of my batteries and keep them for when I really need them.

    Living with electricity made by an inverter:

    So the outcome of the above is that the house (except for the A/C which I hardly use and the grid connected charger for the car) is now run on what is essentially a giant UPS and I avoid peak rate electricity during the day.
    With some discipline I have about 3 days autonomy with no grid or sun before I need to get the diesel generator going.
    In 2019 the power grid utility line was hit by lightning and the inverter/charger was destroyed along with the A/C controller. Sadly, I was away for three days, so we lost all the fridge/freezer food. I have insurance and that paid for a new inverter/charger and the repairs to the A/c and even for some of the food.
    However, this was a valuable lesson. After that event I installed some over-voltage arrestors (again had to pay a licensed electrician to do this on the house end) to reduce the risk of this happening again. I installed the same at the inverter end. These devices sense if the voltage goes over a certain threshold and if it does, it shorts it to ground. In Australia they are used a lot on mining installations which are stand-alone power. I installed them on both the hot and return wires. Australia is wired using multiple earth neutral (MEN), so you eventually end up using the same ground that the incoming supply does (and eventually the planet!) but there are strict rules on what can connect where which I had to learn first. I had to get a licensed electrician to do the house end, I took care of the “generator” end as all that is off the record. After all, its just a diesel generator, right?

    In 2021 I took delivery of a Nissan Leaf. We installed charging points such that I can choose to charge this on a 30A grid connected plug OR a via the solar side of the house at anywhere between 6A to 10A (at 240v). I normally charge the car when the sun is out for 3hrs per day at 6A – and typically we only use it once a week to get things from town (40k round trip). When it is charging there are certain things we cant do in the house – so some discipline is required, unless I ever upgrade the inverter to 8000w but as I am not working now, I probably wont do it.

    But wait! There is more.... other solar installs.

    1) Bore pump is 24VDC, the system is 2 x 80w panels, 1 MPPT controller from Morning Star and 200Ah at 24v of sealed lead acid batteries. Lightning arrestors have been added to this now as it is exposed.

    2) Greenhouse tank pump. I just finished building the greenhouse and can get water from two places: the irrigation network, and soon its own little 4500litre tank via a 24VDC pump and little stand alone solar system made from some old parts I had lying around that built up over the past 12 years or so of mucking about.

    3) My (car, the diesel one!) has a bug out kit that includes a 100W foldable solar charger that I can use to charge various batteries when I am out and about. I modified the car to include a dc-dc converter and dual battery so I can separate on board stuff even when the sun isn’t shining – like my battery chargers for my power tools. It has a 800W inverter as well to drive the Stihl battery charger which is 500VA.

    Prevalent use of electrical based tools around the farm

    For example: I have 5 Stihl chainsaws, of these two are two stroke, the most used three are electric all are Stihl. I only use the petrol ones for really tough jobs as they are noisy and heavy (each year they get heavier for some reason). For light duty stuff, electric all the time - one is very powerful one with a 40cm bar and there is a baby one that is the lightest with a thin bar and chain. They are quiet and with no two stroke pollution and the recharge is free. Other tools like that are things like pole pruners and hedge trimmers and a pole hedge trimmer – all very powerful and use batteries all Stihl so everything works together on the same system. I have a 1kWh battery pack that I can wear on my back if I am doing long jobs - and I can recharge from the car inverter if I have to.

    About 80% of my power tools are DeWalt battery powered. I use third party LiFePO4 battery packs for them now as these tools are over 10 years old and you can’t buy the original NiCads or the LiFePo4 equivalents that replaced them. They changed the whole system to something not compatible. Nice tools scummy company. Ebay to the rescue! With clever Chinese parts I can use new batteries on most of my old tools.

    My “van-life” office

    I try to keep the office electrically separate from the house. Mostly it contains stuff in it that can run from 12V. This forces me to use “van-life” style technology, and this also means I can move it easily to another off-grid minimalist location if anything were to happen that meant I had to bug out. Also when I get too old for the farm, it is on the cards that I get an RV and live and tour in that. So it also forces me to solve problems of being without mains in advance – so I have had to become familiar with ways to make things work on 12v that normally don’t want to. I got very familiar with implementing DC-DC buck or boost converters and inverters.

    I do have a 1600W inverter/charger in here running from a 12V 100Ah Lifepo4 battery and that is charged either by the inverter when its off peak time, and/or by 2 x 200W solar panels on the house roof.

    The laptop I post this on is one of three that is connected to a network that is all run on 12V, the only two appliances that don’t are a laser printer and my NAS (which is not small). I didn’t need 1600W inverter but my order for an 800W inverter charger was offered to be upgraded for free, so I took it. (There is a slight efficiency penalty doing that by the way, so think it through before you do anything similar). I like the little bit of extra redundancy and headroom it gives me as I can use it for things I have not thought of yet. The battery I have currently cant drive more than 600W anyway so I would need to parallel up if I ever did need to drive something bigger from it.

    All my office lighting is USB or 12v powered. I have many 12v to USB A/B and C converters that I made from components I got from Ali-Express.

    That's it. I hope that all gives you some idea's.

    I've been prepping for what is about to go down since 2000 so I have had some practice.

    At the same time, I feel like I am living the dream.

    Thanks for asking me for this I had fun writing it all down. I've been meaning to do this for a while.
    Anchor,
    That's the most amazing post I've ever seen re: self-sufficient living.
    Thanks for taking the time and effort to write all that down.

    I've copied and saved it as I need to read and re-read it to get a clearer view of the whole system.

    You seem to be about 20-30 years ahead of me

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  35. Link to Post #18
    Australia Avalon Member Anchor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solar energy for beginners

    Quote Posted by TEOTWAIKI (here)
    Anchor,
    That's the most amazing post I've ever seen re: self-sufficient living.
    Thanks for taking the time and effort to write all that down.

    I've copied and saved it as I need to read and re-read it to get a clearer view of the whole system.

    You seem to be about 20-30 years ahead of me
    Thanks, if you have questions, we can sort out a voice chat. I will pm you so you can email me as I only log in here when I feel the need to.
    Last edited by Anchor; 17th November 2022 at 03:46.

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    Canada Avalon Member TEOTWAIKI's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solar energy for beginners

    Quote Posted by Anchor (here)
    Quote Posted by TEOTWAIKI (here)
    Anchor,
    That's the most amazing post I've ever seen re: self-sufficient living.
    Thanks for taking the time and effort to write all that down.

    I've copied and saved it as I need to read and re-read it to get a clearer view of the whole system.

    You seem to be about 20-30 years ahead of me
    Thanks, if you have questions, we can sort out a voice chat. I will pm you so you can email me as I only log in here when I feel the need to.
    Well, thanks again!

    Having a small system, I'm working on ways to maximize its effectiveness and any comments you have would be appreciated:

    At the heart of my system is a raspberry pi, connected to a couple arduinos; one via usb and another over wifi.

    One arduino has current and voltage inputs (aliexpress) so I can closely monitor in real time the incoming amps, voltage, watts of the generation system. I also have a Solar Analyst with shunts on the main battery feed and the charging current back to the battery.


    When the battery approaches full charge, the Pi will decide what to do with the excess incoming watts.
    This is a marine installation with two 12v thrusters and a main 48v electric drive, so the Pi will ramp up motor speeds until the load just matches the generation and then control at that optimum point.

    I'm also looking at ways to maximize production by using solar trackers on the panels.

    A solar guru published his python program that outputs the exact position of the sun, using lat/long and time/date/UTC offset.

    So the Pi would rotate/tilt the panels to the calculated sun position.

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    Australia Avalon Member Anchor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solar energy for beginners

    Quote Posted by TEOTWAIKI (here)
    At the heart of my system is a raspberry pi, connected to a couple arduinos; one via usb and another over wifi.

    One arduino has current and voltage inputs (aliexpress) so I can closely monitor in real time the incoming amps, voltage, watts of the generation system. I also have a Solar Analyst with shunts on the main battery feed and the charging current back to the battery.
    It sounds like you are having a lot of fun - are you coding up your own control system?

    Solar trackers are a double edged sword.

    They are a blessing because they will keep the panels close to a perpendicular plane with respect to the sun "rays" and therefore maximize the efficiency, this is useful if space is at a premium. The downside however is the increased moving parts, points of failure and maintenance. Commonly trackers only operate in one axis (azimuth) and you manually set the altitude depending on the season, less commonly they do both.

    Trackers used to be a good idea when solar panels were very expensive and/or you didn't have a lot of space, but if you have the space, static arrays are more cost effective now and there are no moving parts so there are fewer things to worry about maintenance and reliability wise.

    In a marine situation, there are more reasons to go with trackers because you probably don't have a lot of space for panels and also as the vessel moves around and changes course, the trackers can compensate and keep the alignments optimal. The control system just needs to be aware of where it is, your bearing, and what time it is.

    You talked about doing something with excess power - can you explain more why you need to do that? The reason I ask is that with solar you don't have to do anything! You can just float charge the batteries and in doing that the solar charge controller will take as much available power from the panels to accomplish that and simply disconnects from the rest. So the power taken from the solar harvest is the sum of what is required to float the batteries together with any loads are being drawn from the circuit and this is adjusted from moment to moment at high speed.

    The problem of what to do with excess power arises from wind turbines (which are a good idea to have in a marine context). For these, many turbines do need to keep the generator optimally loaded to control the turbine speed and prevent it from going too fast and destroying itself. This is done with loads that you present - or if that is less than required - the power needed to brake the turbine is diverted to a dump load - essentially a heater.

    Anchor..
    Last edited by Anchor; 18th November 2022 at 09:29.

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