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Hi,

I have a small cabin out in the dessert that I am beginning to fix up in case my family needs it. One of the first things I have decided to do is get a battery bank installed and get a solar panel so I have minimal power there (will expand the power capacity in the future). I was given one used, but still good, forklift batteries: 12 volts and 150 amp hrs.

I am now at the point of picking the solar panel set-up to start with. I will not need much power in the beginning. According to my math, I need about 50-100 Watts of solar for a few small LED lights and to run the radio for an hr every night, etc. After searching on the internet, I have narrowed my choice down to the following:

1. The Harbor Freight 45 Watt Solar Panel Kit

Solar Panel Kit - Save on this 45 Watt Solar Panel Kit

2. The Windy Nation 100 Watt Solar Panel Kit

100 Watt Solar Panel Complete Kit for RVs, Boats and Off-Grid | WindyNation.com

The pros to the Harbor Freight Kit to me are: pre-mounted solar panels and it includes lights which I need. And the cons are: not easily expandable and I am not sure if that mount can handle the winds that my cabin can get.

The pros to the Windy Nation Kit to me are: twice as much power as the Harbor Freight and it comes with 40 feet of solar cable so I can make the run from the panel to my battery bank. And the cons are: I have to make a mount for it because my roof faces E/W and the trees shade the southern exposure to the roof.

I figured this would be a good place to get some advice as I bet many of you guys already have solar systems installed. For a small 50-100 Watt solar kit, which one would you go with .... or would you go with a different company's solar kit?

Thanks.
 

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Do not waste your money on the harbor freight stuff.

windynation I have never heard of. A red flag to me is their website doesn't state where they are located.
 

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I started out with an expandable system & now have 520watts threw a 30amp controller.

solarblvd often has good buys on 60-100watt panels. Controllers, best buy is amazon.

I suggest deciding how large you want to go & start with a controller that will handle it.
 

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Do not waste your money on the harbor freight stuff.

windynation I have never heard of. A red flag to me is their website doesn't state where they are located.
Hi HuntingHawk,

Thanks for the recommendations.

On the "Contact Us" link at the bottom of the windynation homepage it has there address, phone # and mailing address. I actually called them and spoke to them a little bit about their kit and they did say I could pick it up in person. My Mom lives about 30 minutes from their store so if I get their kit, I will most likely pick it up in person.

Maybe I will get windynation's 100 Watt kit with a 30 amp controller so I can expand? I will check out solarblvd to see if they have anything better. Thanks.
 

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If you've got plenty of wind at your cabin you might consider a small wind generator, similar to those popular on sailboats.
An acquaintance bought a 600 watt unit for his place (also very windy) and it's worked out quite well. His setup with controlled and 250AH of batteries was around $700.
 

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OffGridSolar, with a 30amp controller you would be able to add atleast three more 100watt panels. Keep in mind that adding panels they especially need to be close to the same output voltage. So you might want to contact the company & ask how much additional 100 watt panels cost.

Something to consider on windturbines is they are high maintenance.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
OffGridSolar, with a 30amp controller you would be able to add atleast three more 100watt panels. Keep in mind that adding panels they especially need to be close to the same output voltage. So you might want to contact the company & ask how much additional 100 watt panels cost.

Something to consider on windturbines is they are high maintenance.
OK, thanks. The additional panels are $165 dollars each but they actually have a 300 Watt Kit which I think would be perfect for my energy needs now and well into the near future. I am now thinking of purchasing the 300 Watt Kit:

300 Watt Complete Off Grid Solar Panel Kit | WindyNation.com

The price is only $564.98 with free shipping. And they said if I pick up any of the solar kits in person that they will take an additional %5 off.

Once I make the purchase, I will let ya know!

A wind turbine is an option but I think I would prefer to stick with solar to start out with.

Thank you for your opinions and comments!
 

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FWIW I believe you can depend on the sun to porduce a lot more steadily than wind.

Also FWIW I would suggest reviewing the pages of eBay. There are often decent packages
available on eBay and sometimes free shipping to boot. I see a 300 watt system there for
$2 a watt which does not sound bad at all.

1800 Watt Solar Generator Complete with (2) 100 AH Batteries - Solar Generator for Home, Office, Remote Cabins & More!

My quick trip there saw this one, 1800 watts for $2k includes battery's. Not bad but be careful of fine print - this one might be ready for 1800 watts but only has one 140 watt panel.
 

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I started with this kit:


It is completely homemade. The prices may have increased a bit, but to me, it's a good starter kit, especially if you are a renter or planning on being mobile. I bought a couple of strings of LED Christmas lights after the holidays when they were practically giving them away, and plan to buy more every year.

I would also consider a small radio that has a built in solar cell and a dynamo crank for power too. I have one from Eton, but I know there are a couple other brands out there as well. You can charge it USB from an inverter, but you can also charge it on it's own. On a sunny day, my radio will sustain power with it's own solar cell. Granted, the best time to receive radio transmission (especially AM) is at night, but the more versatile your radio, the more listening you can do.

If you're talking California/Arizona dessert, you probably don't need as much power as you are calculated to do what you want to do. I'm no expert as I'm an east coaster, but I'm pretty sure there's decent sun out there.

I guess I'm a "start low go slow" kinda guy. Good luck with your kit though... I can't wait until the day when I prep so well for energy that I can go off the grid with it.
 

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to get the most bang for your buck, stay with solar. Start with a basic system and pick a charge controller that will allow you to grow. That way you can add panels and batteries as your budget allows and you wont have to buy another controller. Nad is a tremendous resource in the area. I'm surprised he hasn't chimed in on the thread yet. Good luck.

pyro
 

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First thing to think about when getting a power set up for an SHTF event is how much power do you really need. There are so many products that don't require much power like LED lights, smart phones and anything that used AA batteries. In fact for light, a head lamp and several garden solar lights (Walmart sells them for a few buck each) will light a home. And a 40 watt system may be enough. But if you want to run a tv, toaster, or refrigerator you may need 100 times that amount. Most of your need can be better dealt with by other means other than using electricity.
 

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First thing to think about when getting a power set up for an SHTF event is how much power do you really need. There are so many products that don't require much power like LED lights, smart phones and anything that used AA batteries. In fact for light, a head lamp and several garden solar lights (Walmart sells them for a few buck each) will light a home. And a 40 watt system may be enough. But if you want to run a tv, toaster, or refrigerator you may need 100 times that amount. Most of your need can be better dealt with by other means other than using electricity.
I think it all comes down to what you are preparing for. If you are only worried about a few days, you can keep food cold by keeping your refrigerator and freezer closed, and focus more on recharging your phone or computer or using energy efficient lights and small appliances. If you are worried about long term grid-down situations, a larger system will be needed to run appliances needed for comfort (refrigerator, freezer, hot water heater), but things like cell phones and the like will be of less importance.
 

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My quick trip there saw this one, 1800 watts for $2k includes battery's. Not bad but be careful of fine print - this one might be ready for 1800 watts but only has one 140 watt panel.
That 1800watt system that they're selling for $1900+ is a supreme ripoff. That ripoff prefab system can't even be upgraded for more power. Here is a system that you can put together in 10 minutes with 1200 watts (or more) of power for less than $350. The plans for this Battery Bank is at the link. Here is picture of the basic system. However you can set one up anyway you want according to your needs:

battery_bank_display.jpg
 
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