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Small Cabin Forum / Off-Grid Living / Solar Power Setup
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MikeOnBike
Member
# Posted: 19 Aug 2010 12:56
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You don't want to disconnect your batteries, they can discharge and freeze. A good charge controller with a float mode should be able to keep them charged without boiling them dry over the winter. You might also look at non-flooded cell batteries that can't go dry. They are of course much more expensive.

HARG Hunter
Member
# Posted: 19 Aug 2010 16:12
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Thanks for the input.

cman47c
Member
# Posted: 23 Aug 2010 11:11
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When I'm gone over the winter months, I take my batteries along to keep them from freezing. I also usually unhook the system when I'm gone only because I feel better that no power is connected and storms could damage my solar cells when I'm not there. In the summer, I try to leave the batteries fully charged each time I leave and that way they will only trickle down in charge til the next time I'm there.
M.O.B. I also tried the Harbor Freight 45W system and found the solar cells to be OK but the charge controller was suspect. It didn't seem to have the built-in circuit to prevent the batteries from discharging at night.

MikeOnBike
Member
# Posted: 23 Aug 2010 13:50
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I have the HF 45w kit. Got it half price. I agree about the charge controller. I'm shopping for a replacement that will not let the batteries discharge or overcharge, looking for a controller that will float charge them when full.

Hope
Member
# Posted: 1 Oct 2010 15:13
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My husband and I are planning to set up an offgrid home. Because solar power is so expensive, I plan to light my small home with solar garden lanterns. We used them when we used to camp. The cheap ones I used to buy only worked for about four hours, so one would need to keep a reserve lantern in case of a late-night emergency. The light they give off is bright enough to read by if you place it close by. They last a long time and, as long as you remember to put them in direct sunlight, provide a cheap light source.
We have a charger in our car that quick-charges our cell phones while our auto is in use. At the moment, we are both unemployed, but I have worked at jobs where one was allowed to charge cell phones and laptops in one's personal work cubicle. Family and friends might be obliging, as well.
I have also seen an "air conditioner" online that was made with a small cooler, a coil of copper tubing, an aquarium pump, and a box fan (using bagged ice for coolant). It will run off a small solar system and would help lower the temperature of a small room.

tunielooney
Member
# Posted: 12 Jan 2011 06:23
Reply 


See this for solar power, http://www.sunpowerport.com.

Pylonman
Member
# Posted: 12 Jan 2011 14:29
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Scott
I can relate to your experience. I decided to make my own 63 watt panels and save my money for the charge controller and batteries. Your local Canadian Tire store will have a sale around March for the Exide 6 volt, golf cart style, deep cycle battery. Regular $129.00 each. On sale $89.00 each. (Comes with a 6 month warranty) There are better batteries out there, but ideal for a starter system. I picked up 4 a wired them in series and parallel. Works out to 12 volts @ 350 amp hours. Note: in the winter time and the change in the position of the sun, you will probably get next to nothing with charging. Pickup a generator to top up you batteries.

rayyy
# Posted: 23 Jan 2011 10:07
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My intentions are to set up a pair of 60 w sunforce kits like harber freights.Charging two deep cyc. bats.I'm hoping that keeping the snow off the panels everyday and a sunny day atleast once a week will get me through the winter.I'm powering up 12 v floresant lights and a 12 v water pump.Nothing else.I am discouraged to hear that a 10 day stretch of cloudy days will do little to nothing on charging me back up.We will see.wish me luck.

Peter
# Posted: 5 Feb 2011 13:52
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HELP. I have a small Thoreau type cabin on the VT/NY border. I am looking for a simple solar system to run three LED lights. I recently read an article from the NT Times about folks in Africa using a system that cost them $80 and they had lights and enough to charge a phone. Any help on solar kit, reliable and easy set up from trustworthy distributor, and LED info? So much appreciated.

cman47c
Member
# Posted: 7 Feb 2011 08:09
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Go to Cabelas website. Get a Sunforce 15W solar panel, Brunton charge controller, Cobra 300W inverter and one deep cycle marine battery. You can do all you describe plus more with this setup. I run non-LED lights and small fan plus other small electrical items including electric drill. Total cost not including the battery is about $180. Or you could use the 5 watt Sunforce solar panel which reduces the above cost by $70.

dogtownK9
# Posted: 1 May 2011 12:35
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The post from cman47c was great... Very informative!

FYI...

I have a small off the grid log cabin in northern Ontario. I retrieved from a demolition job 2 gel batteries, 4x12v emergency floodlights... all free! The 'box' the lights are housed in, is actually a re-charging unit. So you have all you need in one small compact space saving box. I fixed up the 'box' up at my garage in the city to charge the batteries here for taking to the cabin... I intend to hook it all up with a solar panel to make life even simpler in the very near future. The batteries in these light systems are all gel batteries and therefore no worries with acid/indoor use.

These emergency lights are perfect for small cabins and can be easily hooked up/powered using the 15w solar power panel etc. Simplest of simple units!

I found the lights and the batteries just before they were to go into the dumpster. I'm just throwing the idea out there FYI!

Anonymous
# Posted: 1 May 2011 12:40
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DOGTOWNK9

You just posted as I was reading through the other posts!

I like your idea of emergency lights... I'll have to watch out for some of those lights.
Thanks!

bromlekh88
# Posted: 5 May 2011 16:22
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Hi All,

I have a off the grid log cabin in Ontario. I run 3, 3w LED bulbs for about 5 hrs/day on long weekends. I use a CdnTire 800 powerbox and an extention cord. This gives me 2 days of power, then I need to run the generatior (honda 2000i) to charge the powerbox, laptop, ipad & nintendo DS....

I use propane for backup light & stove, wood for heat. (ice & snow for beer..)

I purchased a 100/ah 12v AGM battery last Fall ($300 Cdn Tire). [I also purchased solar panels fm CDN tire & a 1000w inverter, but panells were broken, so i returned both panels & inverter to store.]

This week I purchased the new 1000 powerbox fm CDN tire, (it has a USB port on it).

My plan is as follows:
1) Purchase an 80W solar panel & charge controller, mount to roof of cabin.
2) run charge controller to 12v battery
3) join 12v battery to the powerbox via direct connection.
4) in winter, plan to leave 12v battey at cabin, but take powerbox home....


Issues:
1) will this setup prevent powerbox from being over charged?
2) anything else I am missing?

Thanks much,

Just
Member
# Posted: 5 May 2011 19:25
Reply 


dogtownK9
Quoting: dogtownK9
, is actually a re-charging unit.

Ifyou add a inverter the re-charging unit my back feed into the inverter and fry it . it did for me brand new 1000 watt inverter fried 100$ in can..

holyoak2
Member
# Posted: 23 Jun 2011 18:17
Reply 


I have been using two retired ( still holds 12 volts) car batterys hooked to 12 volt RV fluorescent lights for about four years now in my cabin and have been doing fine. I charge them up for about an hour every weekend that I am up there with a 5000 watt Coleman generator. I check the batt water before each winter and make sure that they are fully charged. So far I have been able to turn the lights on every spring. This year I have been slowly changing over to solar panels to charge the batts. I have really learned alot from this site.

UltraViolet
# Posted: 23 Jun 2011 23:20
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In my off-grid weekend cabin, I use a Xantrax 600 powerpack that's connected to a 24 watt Sunlinq portable solar panel. The Sunlinq fully charges my power pack in a couple of hours. The power pack will run a small vaccuum cleaner, charge electronics and batteries. The folding solar panel is light enough to hang from a clothes line. I store it indoors when I leave the cabin. This set-up is really easy, portable everywhere, and doesn't need any extra controllers. Total cost was about $350.

I can also recommend the Endless Breeze DC room fan. Plugs right into the solar panel and cools the cabin nicely with free energy!

HiSpeed
# Posted: 24 Aug 2011 09:56
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While not a cabin application (because it needs a relatively small but guaranteed 24/7 power draw), I thought you may be interested in my solar panel application.

To get high-speed Internet access in our rural location, I erected a 13m tower on a ridge ~600m behind my house. It has 3 antennas that need a few watts of power continuously: one to access a link ~12kms away; two others to provide service to me and some neighbours. The site is very exposed, has limited access (by hiking) -- and needed to be encased in a bear-proof enclosure.

We tried various solar options but had problems in the winter. The current setup with 180W panel with a diversion controller and three 12V batteries has provided continuous power for >16 months now, despite -30C temperatures and many winter days without much sun.

It wasn't cheap (>$2500 to date) but it gets Internet to 10 homes and could handle another dozen or so. An additional panel will go up soon to be able to add a weather station and a security camera.

davestreck
Member
# Posted: 25 Aug 2011 18:33 - Edited by: davestreck
Reply 


Anyone considering a solar/wind/hydro system should contact Backwoods Solar and ask for a copy of their "Planning Guide & Catalog". Just send an email to info@backwoodssolar.com. Its actually less a catalog than a concise, well written and practical guide to setting up an off-grid system. And its free. Mine arrived at my door 3 days after I sent the email, and its become my standard reference for designing my off-grid system. Other places may have better prices on certain things, but these guys will get at least some of my business, simply because of the value I have gotten out of their "catalog".

And, just to be clear, I have no connection to anyone at Backwoods Solar. I just think they are a great outfit.

jack b
# Posted: 5 Sep 2011 19:51
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hello i have small cabin with 4 electric hand fork lift batterys and 6 deep cell, charge it with 1 80 watt solar and small wind mill, use 1500 watt invertor works fairly good need more panels

Simply Rustics
Member
# Posted: 8 May 2014 20:09
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Great conversation here. Im learning a lot.

One question about using two 6V batteries in series. I realize the volts are added to make 12 but what about amp hours?

Am i right to assume it doesnt increase? ie: 2 6V deep cycle batteries rated for 226ah each when run in series equals 226ah @ 12V?

Thanks for the help...and this forum.

MtnDon
Member
# Posted: 8 May 2014 21:11
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Quoting: Simply Rustics
Am i right to assume it doesnt increase? ie: 2 6V deep cycle batteries rated for 226ah each when run in series equals 226ah @ 12V?


yes

Simply Rustics
Member
# Posted: 8 May 2014 21:15
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Thank you sir.

ILFE
Member
# Posted: 9 May 2014 12:03
Reply 


Wow! This is a dated thread. 2007!

Quoting: Mark5
I hope soon solar power equipment will become more affordable it's still fairly expensive to setup a decent system with enough power.


I wonder of Mark5 is still around this forum, to realize his wish (hope) came true?

Kithera
Member
# Posted: 9 May 2014 13:40
Reply 


Quoting: Simply Rustics

One question about using two 6V batteries in series. I realize the volts are added to make 12 but what about amp hours?


For a more clear answer, when wired in series, the volts add, but the amps stay constant. When wired in parallel, the volts stay constant but the amp and amp hours add.

Simply Rustics
Member
# Posted: 9 May 2014 14:21
Reply 


Perfect. Thank you Kithera.

Another quick question if you or someone has time; regarding panel wattage.

Here's my assumption based on my research:
A 100W panel delivers 100W of charge to the battery per hour (in peak sun). The rate of flow is controlled by the charger. The charge controller 'polices' the flow so as to not overfill the battery. I could be wrong on that.

What I'm unclear about is the time required to fully charge a battery under full sun. I assume it's based on the ampHours the battery is capable of holding. ?

Thanks in advance.

Kithera
Member
# Posted: 9 May 2014 14:43
Reply 


Quoting: Simply Rustics

What I'm unclear about is the time required to fully charge a battery under full sun. I assume it's based on the ampHours the battery is capable of holding. ?


You're mostly true. It's not about watts, its about amps. Check out the panel label, and you'll see than a 100W panel, designed for a 12V system, will supply about 6.6 Amps at 15V under full sun. If you have a 100 Ah, 12V battery, then it'll charge from completely empty to completely full in (100/6.6) = 15.2 hours of full sun.

A cheap solar controller is no more than a full switch which will stop charging a battery when it is full. A more advanced (MPPT) controller simply converts volts to amps (you can not change the watts) so that the most amps possible are going into your batteries.

Keep in mind that "peak sun" is a lab measuring tool. An average summer day here in the pacific northwest will only give about 6 hours of "peak sun", Where as the average winter day (with our rain) is less than 1.

Simply Rustics
Member
# Posted: 9 May 2014 14:51
Reply 


Cool. That makes sense to me. Thank you.

I think I'm starting the 'get it'.

ILFE
Member
# Posted: 9 May 2014 14:51 - Edited by: ILFE
Reply 


Quoting: Simply Rustics
A 100W panel delivers 100W of charge to the battery per hour (in peak sun). The rate of flow is controlled by the charger. The charge controller 'polices' the flow so as to not overfill the battery. I could be wrong on that.


You are not wrong. The controller keeps your batteries from being over charged by the array. MPPT controllers, however, are "smarter" than PWM controllers. They can convert voltage into additional amperes, to send to the batteries.


Quoting: Simply Rustics
What I'm unclear about is the time required to fully charge a battery under full sun. I assume it's based on the ampHours the battery is capable of holding. ?


One thing to keep in mind is, if you take, AH from a battery, and then recharge it, it will take about 30% more AH back into the battery than were drawn from it, to bring it back to the same capacity.

===================

Sorry. I let the page sit for a while without refreshing it to see further replies, prior to making this post.

Simply Rustics
Member
# Posted: 9 May 2014 15:09 - Edited by: Simply Rustics
Reply 


No worries...

Thanks ILFE. I appreciate the further insight. I already have a small 'BIG BOX STORE' system. I want to add to it and decided to finally understand the components.

I'm going to the camper this weekend and I'm going to get the specs of what I have. Maybe I'll post my plan later and see if that makes sense what I know what I've got.

I really do appreciate you all taking the time to help me out.

hinterland
Member
# Posted: 16 May 2014 20:25
Reply 


We agree with ILIFE, an MPPT controller will squeeze more out of your system. We researched and saved for almost 4 years before getting a system. We already had a generator and the cabin is wired, so there was power when the genset ran. But the solar we installed can be seen on our blog. There is a break down of each component and the cost Canadian. I hope it's of some help to you.
URL
IMG_1125.jpg
IMG_1125.jpg


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