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Small Cabin Forum / Off-Grid Living / Solar Power Setup
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Mark5
Member
# Posted: 23 Nov 2007 14:32
Reply 


I was also thinking about similar solar power setup at our cabin, but we intent to spend more time there so I'm planning to have more solar panels and batteries.

I hope soon solar power equipment will become more affordable it's still fairly expensive to setup a decent system with enough power.

Vince P
Member
# Posted: 29 Nov 2007 20:06
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Hey I finally got this forum to work for me!

This set-up from Harbor Freight can be had on Ebay for about $180 US and includes everything except battery(s) and inverter. I'm planning to purchase this kit for next Spring. I'm unsure of the quality, but it looks like it might work for a small cabin.
http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?Itemnumber=90599

Vince

CabinBuilder
Admin
# Posted: 30 Nov 2007 09:49 - Edited by: CabinBuilder
Reply 


Quoting: Vince P
This set-up from Harbor Freight... includes everything except battery(s) and inverter.


Looks like not bad solar power unit (and I think priced reasonably if components purchased separately).

They suggest having 300 watt power inverter that's OK for ruining lights, but I've found having a 1200W inverter is better this way I can use it to power some power tools when needed (circular and jig saws for example).

Vince P
Member
# Posted: 1 Dec 2007 18:59
Reply 


One thing I have noticed after researching reviews of
this kit online is that everyone who gets it, says to
throw out the controller that comes with it and buy a better one. Though it
seems that everyone agrees that the panels alone are
well worth the price even if they are an older and
bigger style.
Well, for now I'm using a propane lantern, some kerosene lamps and one Aladdin lamp, which does the trick. Though I plan on getting a BIG deep cycle battery with an inverter to power some low watt flourescent bulbs eventually. I'll just charge it in the car on the way home until I do get around to installing some solar panels.

Vince

scott
Member
# Posted: 11 Jan 2008 19:32
Reply 


Hey folks,

I have a decent sized cabin off grid in P.E.I. Canada. I want to get electricity in it, and tried by getting three 15 watt solar panels and a power box to hook to em...however, my box seems to be screwed up. It wont charge up.
I think I broke it by having it hooked up to the panels to charge while taking power from it, but I don't know if that would do it or not. Any ideas?

Vince P
Member
# Posted: 11 Jan 2008 19:43
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Quoting: scott
I think I broke it by having it hooked up to the panels to charge while taking power from it, but I don't know if that would do it or not. Any ideas?

It sure would mess it up if you didn't have a charge controller (or one that work's the way it's supposed to) between the panels and the box. If you don't, the battery in the powerbox is probably burnt out.
Here is the charge controller I have in the set-up I'm building: click here

Also, I have found through my research, that it is more cost effective by far to buy a cheap deep cycle/marine battery than a powerbox. I paid $70US for a 115 amp/hour deep cycle and using it just for lighting, I have yet to drain it even though it's not hooked up to the panels.

Mark5
Member
# Posted: 13 Jan 2008 14:04 - Edited by: Mark5
Reply 


Scott,

From my experience, there are at few things lead-acid batteries (ones used in power boxes) do not like being either completely drained or overcharged (when no charge controller is used). Both shorten battery life.

Deep-cycle batteries can be drained low and are better option for the cabin power use, but they are more expensive.

If you store power box at your cabin during the winter, make sure it is hooked to the solar panel + charge controller and is charging battery will withstand freezing temperatures if fully charged (think how lead-acid batteries are used in the car).

Also, always store powerbox in the upright position.

Finally, keep in mind that typical lifespan of the led-acid battery is several years that's assuming its normal operation, i.e. those requirements above are met.

It sounds like your battery is dying.

What kind of power-box do you have? I'd say, if it were still on warranty replace it.
Other option is replacing its battery - this way you can reuse other components of the power box such as inverter.
If your box is a stationary provider of power for your cabin, consider getting a larger battery or connect couple of them in a parallel set. If possible, get deep-cycle type.

Either way, you need a charge controller.


Hope this helps.

bobrok
Member
# Posted: 14 Jan 2008 22:33
Reply 


Does anyone use gel batteries? I have them in my cabin and from what I have read they are better than wet cell batteries because you can keep them in the living area (no gas emissions) and they can be kept in place during cold weather non-use since there is nothing to freeze, as long as they are kept charged.
Does anyone have any experience with these?

Sam
# Posted: 15 May 2008 23:05
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I was looking at almost the same system (1200W Eliminator, panel, 7A controller from Cdn Tire) but was trying to figure out how the charge controller connects to the Eliminator. When I looked at the product in Cdn Tire, I didn't see a dc auto plug on it that could be plugged in to the dc charging outlet on the Eliminator. Is this something that you added to the charge controller after you bought it? I'm not too good with electrical things so was wondering. Thanks.

CabinBuilder
Admin
# Posted: 16 May 2008 09:01 - Edited by: CabinBuilder
Reply 


Hi Sam,

There are 2 connectors at the back of the Eliminator unit, covered with black and red screw caps - those are direct connectors to the battery.
Two wires on the charge controller have matching ring-type connectors.
Just unscrew the caps at the back of the Eliminator unit, attach charger's connectors and screw caps back. Make sure you color match wiring connectors (i.e re2red, back2black).
I did not have to add anything.

Two other charge controller wires go to the solar panel.

The dc auto connector on the Eliminator has current protection circuitry and should not be used for charging the battery.

Hope this helps.

Futurecabinboy
Member
# Posted: 19 May 2008 18:49
Reply 


My research may be a bit out of date, but seven years ago the best value for storage batteries seemed to be the 6volt golf cart batteries. Of course you have to hook them up in pairs to get 12 volts, but you can add as many pairs as you like to boost the amp hour capacity. I lived off grid for two years (full time) using four golf cart batteries charged by two 75watt solar panels and a 800watt wind charger. Power was adequate for my living quarters and a small workshop, although in the winter I needed to run a gas powered generator an average of 2 hours per day. (unless it was very windy) I would like to hear any more up to date information on Gel, AGM, lithium or any of the other new types of battery now available.

Sam
# Posted: 21 May 2008 08:36
Reply 


Thanks very much -- that sounds great. I hadn't thought about connecting right to the battery terminals (not knowing much about electricity I think I assumed I would end up blowing up or burning down my shed!) All the best -- and great forum!

Sam

Paul
# Posted: 3 Aug 2009 09:38
Reply 


Cabinbuilder, you still around? I need advice for a small solar system for an off the grid cabin in VT.

CabinBuilder
Admin
# Posted: 3 Aug 2009 15:26 - Edited by: CabinBuilder
Reply 


Quoting: Paul
Cabinbuilder, you still around? I need advice for a small solar system for an off the grid cabin in VT.

Hi Paul,
What is your particular question? I hope I can help.

There have been quite few discussions on the subject of solar / off-grid setup on this forum, for example look around these solar setup search results.

Paul
# Posted: 3 Aug 2009 16:58
Reply 


YES!!! You are still around! Here's the deal.... I went to purchase the Motomaster 1200A and now Candian Tire no longer carries it. Any suggestions/alternatives?

CabinBuilder
Admin
# Posted: 4 Aug 2009 09:59 - Edited by: CabinBuilder
Reply 


Quoting: Paul
I went to purchase the Motomaster 1200A and now Candian Tire no longer carries it. Any suggestions/alternatives?


You can buy their next lower power model, 800,
or get something else from other suppliers.

(P.S.: In case you missed this related thread on solar power setup).

blackchisel97
# Posted: 28 Aug 2009 15:01
Reply 


Hi, you're correct about golf cart batteries, they're the best for holding/ storing energy, since they're truly deep charge batteries. Automotive batteries don't come even close. Another thing; label reading 100Ah is misleading, if such battery has 80Ah that's most. What is most important in batteries is so called C20, which describes optimal environment for them. Battery should never be charge/discharge with rate exceeding C20 - BTW that's what most chargers are designed for - slow killing your battery and forcing you to buy a new one. C20 tells what is a maximum current (in Amperes) which can be drawn from battery. For instance; if your battery is labeled as 100Ah, in reality she has 80Ah at the most, which means that you can draw 80 divided by 20(hrs) = 4Amps without hurting it. If you need to estimate Watts than multiply 4A x 12V = 48W. Second important thing is never let your battery discharge below the level recommended by manufacturer. Standard 12V lead acid battery should never be discharged below 12.25V, actually 12.5V resting voltage is considered low.

I stumbled upon this forum by accident and after reading previous post decided to share what I discovered so far. I do research and experiments on, what is commonly referred as "free energy" and precisely on zero point energy.

I hope someone will find my post useful.

Cheers

V

taylor lodge
# Posted: 3 Sep 2009 20:59
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I got a hunting mag this mounth and there is a coupon 4 harbor freight solar system 4 150 dollars!! Good till dec.

Chip
# Posted: 8 Sep 2009 23:55
Reply 


I'm curious...which hunting magazine? We're exploring going solar for our new cabin also and are doing lots of research.

lamar5292
Member
# Posted: 26 Sep 2009 01:33
Reply 


My solar electric is only 350 watts and 3 deep cycle batteries. 400 watt inverter and small charge controller. total cost under $3000

That runs my water pump, tvs, laptop, lights and gadgets.

Propane for all appliances and small generator for power tools.

Look on ebay for used and blem panels.

LaMar

Kithera
# Posted: 21 Dec 2009 17:18
Reply 


Howdy Folks,

I've been using the Harbor Freight Solar kit since thanksgiving for my office, and I've been very pleased. Here are my thoughts on what has been spoken off.

The panels are large, but cheap relative to their output. The supplied frame is just okay, but needs to be put on a bottom surface for stability. If you get this kit, I recommend you make an elevated square frame from 2x2s to mount it on. It is also not adjustable and a little steep for my area.

The "controller" it comes with is a combiner box with a voltage meter, a low battery cutoff for the output, a high voltage cut off for the panels and a number of useful ports, including USB and automotive style. For essentially free, it's great for a single setup. For more than one kit, or for sealed batteries, it's definitely worth the increased efficiency for a true PWM controller, but not for one, but you'll need a separate fuse box/power panel, and you'll be looking at at least $100 for it. Don't skimp on the safety features.

I've used a $70 deep cycle marine battery for my storage, and it provides plenty of storage for this setup. If you are going to buy more than one battery, then yes, move up to two golf cart batteries. Marine batteries are limited to about 30 amp draw, were as golf cart batteries can do much better. The are capable for more cycles, deeper discharges, and much more amp either in or out. Again, for a single kit and a small system, it's not an issue, but for anything bigger, it's worth the money. Cheaper batteries and vented, and can generate hydrogen gas, and thus this gas needs to be vented outside every now and then. Sealed batteries don't need to be vented, but are very sensitive to over charging, and cost in access of 4x as much. They also have sorter lives. Judge your need carefully.

buckybuck
Member
# Posted: 21 Dec 2009 19:18
Reply 


Kithera

What all are you powering with your Harbor Freight kit? How many hours can you get out of your system each day?

Kithera
Member
# Posted: 22 Dec 2009 13:24
Reply 


It's just a few items in my current, large, on grid home.

Right now, I use automotive style plugs to charge a cell phone and a Asus EEE 1000HA laptop. The laptop gets about 3 hours of use an evening, more on the weekends, and I take it to my office daily for cacheing data.

The kit came with 2 12V 5 watt CFL lamps, but they are a hiddious instutional blue, and just not bright enough. I'm going to replace them 15 watt, warm white 12V CFLs first chance I get. They are available, but are still a little expensive at $15 each and special order. When I constuct my tiny house/backyard office, it's complete power system will be as above.

karl
# Posted: 22 Apr 2010 14:02
Reply 


I am considering a harbor freight solar package. After reading the manual online, it said do not leave unattended. Is this an issue I should be concerned with?

Kithera
Member
# Posted: 24 Apr 2010 09:21 - Edited by: Kithera
Reply 


Here is the thing, this "controller" has no over charge protection. I leave mine unattended all the time, but it is super rare for my battery too be above 90% due to my usage habits.

Overcharing a sealed battery will cause it to either explode or kill itself in other ugly ways with dangerious chemicals all over the place. A non-sealed will vent hydrogen gas. Not a lot, but still some. Hydrogen is an explosive gas, and if I had a system of any true size, it should be vented. But at this size, it's a completely insigificant amount in my 1000 sqft home.

That said, prices on solar modules have come down siginificantly, but not on this guy. If you're willing to invest the time and money into a slightly larger (~200 watts or so) and piecemeal system, you can get a lot more for your money.

marty
# Posted: 1 Aug 2010 17:52
Reply 


Hi, I was thinking of using 6 deep cycle batteries for an upnorth cabin. How much wattage in solar panels will I need? I'm not there alot and will be mainly for lights, etc.. Thanks!

HARG Hunter
Member
# Posted: 18 Aug 2010 12:10
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I have a hunting cabin in northern Wisconsin that I am considering for a Solar Power system.

Here's the background:
*Sits dormant from December - April
*We're up there twice a month from May - November
*Power needs: 4 lights (3-15W CFL, 1 outdoor light)
*Occassionally would use it for a radio (3-4 hours)

What type of system should I be looking at, and what would be my supply list for getting it done along with approx. cost?

cman47c
Member
# Posted: 18 Aug 2010 13:55
Reply 


I have a 14 X 24 cabin for occasional weekend use. I use 2 X 15 watt solar panels/charge controller($175 total from Cabelas) and 2 X 100 Amp-Hour deep cycle marine batteries($100 each). I have numerous lights with 40 watt bulbs, outdoor light, fan on my propane heater, plus bigger air fan for summer, and a small vacuum cleaner that all can be powered by my 400 watt inverter($60) and one battery lasts a good 3-4 days while the other is recharging with the solar cells. I wired up standard wall receptacles plus a porch mounted receptacle that I backfeed from my inverter or small 1000W generator if I need it.

MikeOnBike
Member
# Posted: 18 Aug 2010 16:35
Reply 


I have the 45 watt Harbor Freight kit. $139 on sale last month. I will hook it up to two RV batteries that I have. Since the 'controller' has limited intelligence I will add a ~$40 controller to the system. We will use it for weekends at our cabin, lights, music.

I think it will do for the usage that HARG mentions. It is fairly similar to the setup that cman has.

Two things to consider. Will the batteries supply you while you are there and will the panels recharge the batteries before you return.?

HARG Hunter
Member
# Posted: 19 Aug 2010 12:47
Reply 


One of my concerns was the extended period of down time. Is it best that I unhook it when we're gone for the season, or leave it going? Not sure what's best for the batteries.

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