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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, this first post will be a pretty much non-technical brief summary about why we did what we did.

When I met my husband (2015) he'd already had and lived on the 8 acres for about 6 years, built a small one-room cabin by hand out of scrap lumber, donated windows, etc. He hauled water from a lake nearby, filled drinking water jugs at friends, and for power - propane stove for cooking, woodstove for heat, a little windmill up on the high spot that had recently seized up (high windstorm), an old generator to charge up 2 car batteries, and a 1000w inverter to run a couple lights and a TV for a few hours a day. We lived like that for a year; loved it.

Our second year, we decided to make this place our permanent home...and to 'improve' it to make life a little easier so we could stay here when we got really old & feeble, lol, in our 60's now. Briefly considered having power run in - but it would have been over $35K for this far out, so nope. Mostly though, just wanted to stay 'un-hooked', so stand alone system was the choice.

First was to have the well drilled - so we'd know depth & therefore pump requirements... and what kind of power was needed to run it. Ended up at 200'. Too many options/choices...and my knowledge was general rather than deep enough to make a good selection - so I called in a pro to help design based on our needs. Over the summer of 2016, we built an addition on to the cabin and incorporated a 'power room' in that, for the battery bank (16 Rolls 6v, 428AMH, configured for 24V) and all the component parts. Also built a treated 4x4 framework for the 9-panel array (crystalline, 235w each), which is 100' up above the cabin.

Though comfortable doing all the house wiring, etc, we decided to have this system installed by a pro. We did all the build & trenching; he did the hookup. Also having him come up once a year to give everything a good check-over; we maintain the 2 ton (lol) worth of batteries, checking every 6wks for h2o levels, topping them off, and if they need to be equalized we do that then. Been over a year now, so far all good.

It was likely an over-build. I dont care, even though the pro said we could get by with a smaller system. The main thing was and is - sufficient watts coming down the hill to keep an oversized battery bank charged (it only dropped once below 90% after a week-long rain last summer, so we fired up the gen to top them up) to meet our needs.

Our needs? 220v Water pump. Efficient (480kw/yr) GE fridge/freezer <-and that can be shut off, if needed.
Our extras? Lights, TV, Washer(110), fans
Our biggest surprise? There was so much power coming down in the full sun over this last summer that we were able to use a stand up window vented air conditioner - for the few days it got over 90 up here - and the batteries didn't drop off 100% while using it.

I'll post some pics later, and happy to answer any questions. I think I still have the spec sheet somewhere on everything in the system, and can post more particulars if anybody wants.

And since you're probably curious as hell - the 'parts' ran just over $12K and the 'labor' was $4K. The labor included not only the install - but the design, ordering, receiving, hauling everything way up here, and working with us to do it spread out over several months...as we got the needed infrastructures built.

All comments welcome.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
Not sure how many pics I can put in one post - but here are 5.
1. Hubby building the array structure.
2. Finished structure. Had to offset the third one, ran out of flat. lolol
3. Panels installed, not yet wired. By this time, power room was ready to go, still needed to trench for wires.
4. Batteries in place, waiting for hook up; components ready to install.
5. Pro hooking up system.

building array.jpg

array structure.jpg

panels.jpg

batteries.jpg

install.jpg
 

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I think I can honestly say you and your husband may be the envy of many here, how fortunate for you to be able to set yourself up as said, I for one are looking forward to learning about your gardening and food preservation methods,I assume you heat and cook with wood and propane backup or how are you setup? Feel free to share , there is also much to learn from many here.....
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I think I can honestly say you and your husband may be the envy of many here, how fortunate for you to be able to set yourself up as said, I for one are looking forward to learning about your gardening and food preservation methods,I assume you heat and cook with wood and propane backup or how are you setup? Feel free to share , there is also much to learn from many here.....
Hi rstanek.

I sure hope there'd be no envy, but IF there was it should only be of our lack of fear to try and live the way we want to live. It would be so much safer and easier, and definitely smarter, to live in town... especially at our age. We might die up here, who knows. And, it's a LOT of hard work. But the good parts are sooooo good, especially the peacefulness of it all. Living remotely is not for everyone though - especially with young families and work obligations or those who are very society-inclined. Everything up here was bought with our savings; by having no debts (paid off through hard work) we can do this on very small soc sec income. And, if SHTF/WROL hits and/or soc sec stops?...we'll get by fine, until we don't, and then whatever comes will be okay. :)

I have TONS to learn about doing this, especially food preservation/storage/gardening. Right now we're buying ahead from the stores - with little place to keep things...so one of the projects for next summer is to configure a 'root-cellar' of sorts. Most of the 'looks like dirt' spots have solid granite about a foot down...so will need to get creative! Especially with any fencing, without post holes, lol

We heat with wood; cook & hot water with propane. Two 100lb propane tanks, hooked up separately to its use. The kitchen one lasts 6 months, the water one 2 months. We haul them down for re-fill when going for supplies & always have a 3rd one here, full. When/if propane is no longer available, it all switches back to wood only.

Thanks for your reply - and all ideas/suggestions are very much appreciated. We're always learning as we go and we don't even know yet what we don't know!
 

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I live in Houston, among the crazy people. You live in the mountains, away from the crazy people, but I am not envious, not me, because I......oh screw it. I am enviouse as hell.............:vs_mad:
 

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Oh, I may be a little green....we can't live too secluded due to wife's health and a growing multitude of grandkids, but good for y'all. Seriously. To be able to do this, you should be very proud of yourselves.:vs_clap:
 

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You should write a book, being off-grid and making a go of it. Its damn hard work, everything is manual, labor intensive. Not sure at my age if I could do the same, good to see that peoples dreams can still be had.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Love your post. I explained my solar set-up a while back but it is nothing like yours. Please keep your posts coming. Also, what kind and size generator do you have? Gas or diesel?
Hi Chiefster, we picked up a Honda EU7000is. One great feature is the 'eco' setting that lets it idle slow and when there's a demand surge it kicks up the rpm.

gen.jpg

That 2016 pic shows it in its temp location...with a power cord plugged into the 240 side, to run the well-pump. It was so nice to have water up here, even before plumbing was in. And power for the tools to finish the addition build, without having to keep the old gen running, lol, which is now in storage as a backup. It's gas. Decided that way as everything else here is gas: chainsaws, splitter, etc.

Where can I find your solar set-up thread? I love reading how others are doing it. Thanks!
 

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Hi rstanek.

I sure hope there'd be no envy, but IF there was it should only be of our lack of fear to try and live the way we want to live. It would be so much safer and easier, and definitely smarter, to live in town... especially at our age. We might die up here, who knows. And, it's a LOT of hard work. But the good parts are sooooo good, especially the peacefulness of it all. Living remotely is not for everyone though - especially with young families and work obligations or those who are very society-inclined. Everything up here was bought with our savings; by having no debts (paid off through hard work) we can do this on very small soc sec income. And, if SHTF/WROL hits and/or soc sec stops?...we'll get by fine, until we don't, and then whatever comes will be okay. :)

I have TONS to learn about doing this, especially food preservation/storage/gardening. Right now we're buying ahead from the stores - with little place to keep things...so one of the projects for next summer is to configure a 'root-cellar' of sorts. Most of the 'looks like dirt' spots have solid granite about a foot down...so will need to get creative! Especially with any fencing, without post holes, lol

We heat with wood; cook & hot water with propane. Two 100lb propane tanks, hooked up separately to its use. The kitchen one lasts 6 months, the water one 2 months. We haul them down for re-fill when going for supplies & always have a 3rd one here, full. When/if propane is no longer available, it all switches back to wood only.

Thanks for your reply - and all ideas/suggestions are very much appreciated. We're always learning as we go and we don't even know yet what we don't know!
I realize envy is a sin if taken to an extreme , a little bit can be productive in motivating one to better themselves....
 

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Mountaingirl. Click on my my nickname “chiefster23” and view my previous posts. Back in March 2017, the thread is titled ‘my solar project’
I also have a Honda genny but it’s only a 2000watt. I also bought an army surplus 3kw diesel genny that I can run on my furnace fuel oil. I would love to have a remote location and a setup like yours, but I am too old to go back into debt and start a project like yours. Keep us posted.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Mountaingirl. Click on my my nickname "chiefster23" and view my previous posts. Back in March 2017, the thread is titled 'my solar project'
I also have a Honda genny but it's only a 2000watt. I also bought an army surplus 3kw diesel genny that I can run on my furnace fuel oil. I would love to have a remote location and a setup like yours, but I am too old to go back into debt and start a project like yours. Keep us posted.
Found it, thanks, really nice set up! Is it doing everything you want pretty much?
 

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One down side to some areas deep water. My second sons well is 400 feet. On this place it can be 10 two 90 depending where you want one and a sand point will work in some parts of the land. I could not ever see us living in town. I remind myself that family settled this area and for a generation had no electric, another generation had darn little. They did well. Just a different life than what most live today.
 
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MountainGirl, If I may make a suggestion about "balancing" your system...

It's great that you rarely go below 90% SOC to maximize battery life. I'm assuming that you're using a hydrometer occasionally to verify the SOC meter. We tend to drop to about 80 - 84% SOC most evenings (more electronics including a teenager and a mini-split) but we have more panels so it works.

The thing is while it's best to not cycle the batteries too deeply often it's better if they drop down to about 80% occasionally to give the electrolyte a good stir with a hard charge. But from what I've read in your OP considering the 77% panel/controller efficiency factor most solar professionals assume when designing a system you can only recharge those batteries at about a C/25 rate which is way to gentle (slow) to maintain battery health. A general rule of thumb is for a weekend cabin a C/20 charge rate is considered the bare minimum(C/13 is much better) for healthy batteries and a C/10 rate is better for a system that is cycled daily. With those Rolls you can safely charge them at up to a C/8 rate.

This means that you may want to conceder either doubling your panels or pulling one string out of that battery bank. (I understand that pulling a string of batteries at this point is not a realistic option.) In an effort to help make your batteries cycle a bit more you may want to at least double your panels and maybe once a week turn the panels off for a day so the batteries cycle a little deeper, but you still need more panels. In your case you are way over on the batteries.

Go to this site and you will learn a lot. Recent Discussions ? northernarizona-windandsun
It would be a shame to lose that $7500 battery bank in only 6 years.

I've been running some solar for about 8 years and designed and installed the system my home runs on as I type tonight over 2 years ago.

18 (and adding more) SW285 panels
Conext 80-600 controller (working on adding Conext 60-150)
Schneider 6848 XW+ inverter (more inverter than needed but I've seen it peak at over 9200 watts, well, microwave, clothes washer, ect all kicked in at once while the mini-split was heating).
16 Crown 395 amp/hr 6v batteries
Conext battery monitor @MountainGirl
 

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I do like the setup but only 8 acres, seriously?? Must have a lot of neighbors/friends close by. Are they on the same page or a liability?? Envy not hardly, you'll burn up those few pine trees the first hard winter. Hows the garden going??
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
MountainGirl, If I may make a suggestion about "balancing" your system...

It's great that you rarely go below 90% SOC to maximize battery life. I'm assuming that you're using a hydrometer occasionally to verify the SOC meter. Yes, and we go more by the voltage on the Trimetric, using the ranges from Rolls We tend to drop to about 80 - 84% SOC most evenings (more electronics including a teenager and a mini-split) but we have more panels so it works.

The thing is while it's best to not cycle the batteries too deeply often it's better if they drop down to about 80% occasionally to give the electrolyte a good stir with a hard charge. But from what I've read in your OP considering the 77% panel/controller efficiency factor most solar professionals assume when designing a system you can only recharge those batteries at about a C/25 rate which is way to gentle (slow) to maintain battery health. A general rule of thumb is for a weekend cabin a C/20 charge rate is considered the bare minimum(C/13 is much better) for healthy batteries and a C/10 rate is better for a system that is cycled daily. With those Rolls you can safely charge them at up to a C/8 rate. I don't know what "C/25" means, sorry, can you advise what it refers to?

This means that you may want to conceder either doubling your panels or pulling one string out of that battery bank. (I understand that pulling a string of batteries at this point is not a realistic option.) In an effort to help make your batteries cycle a bit more you may want to at least double your panels and maybe once a week turn the panels off for a day so the batteries cycle a little deeper, but you still need more panels. In your case you are way over on the batteries.

Go to this site and you will learn a lot. Recent Discussions ? northernarizona-windandsun
It would be a shame to lose that $7500 battery bank in only 6 years.

I've been running some solar for about 8 years and designed and installed the system my home runs on as I type tonight over 2 years ago.

18 (and adding more) SW285 panels
Conext 80-600 controller (working on adding Conext 60-150)
Schneider 6848 XW+ inverter (more inverter than needed but I've seen it peak at over 9200 watts, well, microwave, clothes washer, ect all kicked in at once while the mini-split was heating).
16 Crown 395 amp/hr 6v batteries
Conext battery monitor @MountainGirl
John Galt, thanks so very much for your post and suggestions. I looked at the link and will be definitely spending time there; thank you. If you don't mind me asking, along with my question above, Until we get things figured out a little better - could we occasionally drain the batteries down to 80% (or whatever % you'd recommend) to give them a good stir, then run the gen to give them a hard charge back up? How often would you suggest?

I'm listing below some of the components we have (copied from a pdf I'd saved of the bid); and we live up here 24/7 - rather than it just being a week-end cabin.

Schneider Conext SW 4024 4000 watt Off-Grid Inverter/Charger 120/240VAC
DC Disconnect
SW System Control Panel
Trimetric 2030-A Meter kit w/500amp shunt
FM-80 Charger Controller MPPT
MNPV3 combiner box
15 amp 150v dc Single Pole DIN
Delta LA602DC Lightning Arrester
Delta LA302R AC Lightning Arrester
80 amp 125VDC panel mount ¼ stud

You are right that re-configuring the battery bank is not really an option, and, sadly we cannot add more panels. There is no more room up there - and we had to soldier them in a row to keep the array height down (high winds).

Thanks again, your input is very much appreciated.
 

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One down side to some areas deep water. My second sons well is 400 feet. On this place it can be 10 two 90 depending where you want one and a sand point will work in some parts of the land.
At my place we got into wet dirt at 45' and rock at 50",,, not so good for a year round well...... but deeper into that we hit about 2gpm at 95'. Finally at 390' we hit 100+ gpm. We hung the pump at 200' down because the water at 390' was so pressurized that it pushed back up to the 50' level. I wanted a well that would never go dry.

When drilling in SC we hit wet sand at about 55' and went down to 90' (hitting the bedrock) which gave us water year round,,, sand and seashell coming up all the way.
 

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Lot to cover so I'm just going to hit the high points.
Battery maintance is almost as much art as science, lots of opinions out there.

If you are running sixteen 6v batteries with a SW 4024 then you are running four strings of batteries. Almost impossible to keep four strings balanced. The fact that you haven't noticed this means you guys aren't using a SG (specific gravity) meter and instead are totally relying on your battery monitor. Battery monitors drift off within a few weeks of being reset and should only be used as a rough estimate. Get a SG meter and use it, many types out there but this is the one I use. https://www.solar-electric.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=Hydrovolt Always rinse a SG meter out with water before storing to avoid buildup inside. A clamp meter that can read DC current will also help you see problems with uneven current flow in the battery cables.

After testing all cells (full charge should show a SG of about 1.277) look to see if there if the maximum variance between all cells is more than .020. If not then you don't need to EQ (equalize). EQing is hard on the cells, you're basically making them shed metal, so you only EQ when needed. Automatically EQing monthly with a well maintained battery bank usually isn't needed. Maybe every 3 months or whenever you see the cells too far out of balance (more than about .020). Unfortunaly with your running 4 strings of batteries (especially with such a soft absorb amperage) makes me suspect that you are going to find that the batteries are out of balance unless your frequent EQing has forced them back inline. But many EQing cycles are only one hour, sometimes you may need 3 or more hours to get things straight or reasonably close.

To properly EQ fully charge batteries using Absorb (SG around 1.277). If batteries are badly out of balance (some cells not getting above about 1.255 using absorb) EQ and check SGs every 30 minutes or hour. Continue EQing until the weaker cells stop rising. This may take several hours. If the batteries are older or have been damaged from chronic under charging don't wear out the stronger cells by EQing too often or long. Rolls batteries have a wonderful warranty but ONLY if you have documented their SG readings occasionally. Great warranty but hard to get a warrant claim approved. Be sure to review the Rolls charging suggestions.

By having a SG meter you can adjust your absorb time to assure fully charged batteries while minimizing battery heating.

part two is next post. @MountainGirl
 
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