NOTE: If you’ve read this blog long you probably already know that my family lives of the grid. So when my good friend K asked me for sample info about a very basic solar setup (for a wilderness cabin that would only be sporadically used on weekends for lights and radio etc.) I was happy to respond…
Here’s the solar checklist that we spoke about earlier, with these components your dad would have a basic solar setup:
NOTE: I recommend a 12v setup for a minimalistic off-the-grid solar cabin setup. For larger installations you can do 24v or 48v setups.
#1 panels they convert sunlight into electricity. For cabin usage they range from 10-30watts all the way up to 200+watts. Generally as of 2012, the price range is roughly $2.25 (bargain) to $5 (expensive) a watt. UPDATE: some panel prices
Lets assume you get 100-150watts worth of panels.
NOTE: Make sure your panel(s) supplies sufficient voltage to charge your batteries (i.e. > 12.8V) or that you have multiple lower voltage panels that you can wire in series (i.e. qty 3 x 6v panels in series = 18v)
#2 charge controller – keeps your batteries from being overcharged. These are rated in amps (just like a fuse in your car) and you want a charge controller of the correct voltage
So, 12v charger controller with at least 12.5 amp capability (12.5 amps x 12v = 150 watts, which is the max we specified for you panels). But to be on the safe side I would recommend 15-20amp capable charger
#3 batteries the more capacity you have the less you have to discharge them (run them down) and the longer they will lst
Lots of options here, but avoid car batteries (they don’t do well with deep discharges)… a low cost option that is popular: golf cart batteries (they are made to discharge further) some of the batteries may be 6v so you would need at least two (2 x 6v batteries in series = 12v) you could also do 4 or more… i.e. [2 x 6v batteries in series], wired in parallel with ]another set of 2 x 6 v batteries in series]
#4 inverter (optional) converts DC (direct current) to AC (alternating current)
Unless your dad wants to exclusively use 12v devices (i.e. car/boat/rv type lights etc.) then he will want an inverter. Since he will primarily just be running lights etc. any inverter should do.
If he were wanting to run a microwave or similar devices then he would need a sufficient wattage inverter. Also, if he is running very sensitive electronic devices (radio transmitters etc.) then he would likely want a pure sine wave inverter (they are more expensive than modified [or square] sine wave inverters but they produce cleaner electricity.
#5 amp hour meter (optional) This keeps track of electricity in and out of your system, it is like a ‘fuel gauge’ for your system.
Sample cheap systems:
(3 x 15w panels, charge controller, does not include a battery or an inverter. You can generally easily find 20% off harbor freight coupons)
(includes 4x15w panels, frame, charge controller, 200 watt inverter)
This is just a recap of what we discussed in person. Let me know if you have any questions!