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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Cool ! you have decided to build your own solar system , Now where to begin. Perplexing and often times very overwhelming to say the least. So many different types of panels, charge controllers, invertors and batteries.

Lets start here. You need before you buy anything to determine what you want your solar to do ? Power you entire house, cabin or just a light in your barn. These make a very big difference in what you will need. An excellent first step would be to purchase a small device called a "kill-a-watt" You can buy them on ebay or all over the net for $20.00 or less. With this mighty little tool, you can determine what you actual uses are. You can measure each appliance you wish or need to run depending on your inital desire's. Now this will only measure 110-135 volt circuts, so don't attempt to plug in by hook or crook anything else. It is a very accurate meter , without putting out the big bucks. Unplug your refer, plug this unit into the wall and then plug your refer into it. Now just push the buttons to determine how many watts, volts and amps your using. Also allows you to also keep track of amp hours used over a longer period of time.

When you first get really serious about solar, first check with gubbernut agencies to find out if and what tax credits you may be elligible for. Here in az. we get fed credit, state credit, and in some cases even the local power company gives you cash back.

Now , no matter whether you want to run your whole house or just a small cabin, you will need to learn to live within your solar system's limits. It will NOT adjust to your lifestyle.

There are panels and then there are panels. I would strongly urge you to avoid all the ebay and harbor freight types of solar as they are the very cheapest chinese made boxes of crap ever made.

Charge controllers. This is a tough one also, as there are probably more charge controllers made for a quick sale then pills. But, there are two brands that outshine all the rest. Depending on what you want to do of course. I will discuss all of this equipment in greater detail to interested people, rather than in general terms.

Batteries. Currently, there are two major companies makeing what I consider good batteries. There are also about 30 companies making so so batteries, always cheaper , but nowhere near as reliable in quality

Now, the heart of the system. The control center. Here, you really only have one choice for real quality. Currently, the Outback pure sinewave inverter is the cadilac of the solar systems. As of this writing, they cannot be beat not even with a big stick.

A little later on in the day, when the sun is bright enough, I wlll attempt to take a few good pictures and post them up for you

Solar panels collect the sun (light) and convert that into dc power , then take it into your solar building (area) and go directily to your charge controller, which in turn takes the dc power to your batteries. Now, from your batteries the dc power goes directly to your dc disconnect or very very large fuse and then into your invertor which comes out the other side as ac power to your house barn or whatever.

Confused yet ? Well, it is understandable. I will attempt to post more a little later on. But this would be a good place to start I think.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Denton, I was an enlisted man, I worked for a living ! LOL Actually, when a friend of mine looked at it, he almost had a heart attack from looking at my wiring. Like he said , :"I'm sure you know what those wires go to , but as an engineer, I am overwhelmed" LOL Well, when other people like me, look at it, they seem to understand it. But to be sure, it does work. No, none of the wires are labeled, however, they don't go very far, and they are all exposed to enable one to trace them in seconds. I have seen a lot of the more "professional" wired solar systems, and although they are pretty, you cannot find a wire or where they go.

Now, since there is never an electrician around when you need one (like a cop) you almost always need to find any and all problems quickly and repair them. When your system goes down, rarely if you wired i right, hidden wires will almost always be the problem. Also, it always goes down on a weekend. Try and find an electrical guy on the weekend. Not to mention what they will charge you for a service call. This is why I installed it all myself, piece by piece. In doing so, you really do learn a lot about the elect. workings of your solar system. When you have it proffesionally installed, you walk out there and look at it and wonder what it does and how. You won't have a clue, therefore you are bound to them for life pretty much anyway. Honestly, it is really not hard to do at all.
Basic knowledge of 12 v dc and limited knowledge of ac. Even if your going 24 or even 48 volt, there are only a few differences that you would need be aware of.
 

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Fit , form and function is the important thing.
As long as thdre are no chaffing or inductance issues with wiring, the only people who have to understand it are those who will maintain it. I like it!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Prepper Recon. I cannot tell you how much I have into my system, but can tell you that it is a lot less then you may suspect. It runs my entire house. I have lived on solar for a little over 16 years now. When we bought this land, the reality lady told us we should have grid power in one year max. Well, since then , it has come about 1/2 mile. Only 5 more to go. ! They sure lie a lot don't they ? I have always shopped around for deals. When I started , kyrocera solar panels were about $5.00 per watt. Now, solar is down to about $1.00 per watt. I put a link to check out prices on another thread. I look for used inverters both in solar stores around here and on Craigs list. You can find quite a few good deals, buy watching Craigs list. You just need to know what to look for. Never buy anything in a building without checking it out first. Most times, it will be still mounted and even working. Most people are selling it as they are either getting on the grid or losing their houses.
 

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What's the optimum angle for solar panels in medium northern latitudes such as USA and Europe, about 45 degrees?
I should imagine that the further north you live (eg Alaska or Scandinavia), the panels should be angled lower, say around 30 degrees to point at the lower sun?
And if somebody lived on the equator where the sun is directly overhead, the panels should lie flat for maximum effect?
Maybe there's a chart available to find out the optimum angle for wherever you live on the earth's surface?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Optimim angle for here where I live is about 45 deg. Unless you want to readjust them twice a year. I used to do that until I got more solar panels, and no longer need to do that. It varies wherever you live. I have a friend in Alaska, and he could only use them 6 months of the year and would still need twice as much as most to do the same job. Compared to here of course
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Lucky Jim. Since you live over the pond in the land of fog, and since your close to the shores, perhaps, you may want to look into wind generators a little more. Generally, along the shores, you get a lot more wind then where I am.
 

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Lucky Jim. Since you live over the pond in the land of fog, and since your close to the shores, perhaps, you may want to look into wind generators a little more. Generally, along the shores, you get a lot more wind then where I am.
Thanks, and incidentally the fog down here in southwest england is fairly rare because we're on a big peninsula that sticks out into the warm gulf stream coming up from the caribbean, here's a view of Plymouth, my place is in that jumble of buildings-



Look, palms in Plymouth UK believe it or not..:)
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
LuckyJim. If the fog is miminal where you live and the village or town building codes will allow you, I would look further into solar/wind at least as back up power. However, you may also find yourself a target of anyone who can see you haveing power when they don't. I don't generally advocate the use of alternative energy for people living in congested areas, except for grid tie, where you simply lower your monthly bills. I also know nothing about the weird power you guys use over there. You need to talk to a local guy. But be careful of who you talk to about it, as I am sure they are going to make their next couple of vacations on you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Basics_SolarElect_OffGridFlow.jpg Basics_SolarElect_GridBBFlow.jpg Here are a few basic diagrams of solar and how it works. The first diagram is for totally off grid solar, while shot number 2 is for grid tie. Yes you can do both, but you have to make sure your inverter is set up for it.
 
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