New guy Introduction.

klrskiesklrskies Solar Expert Posts: 30
Greetings to all,

I've always wanted to use alternative energy but never took the time/energy to get started with it. After recently looking at LaMar Alexanders' "Solar Cabin" website, I decided to dabble with solar power. I picked up a small 45 watt system that consisted of (3) 15 watt panels, a charge controller with dc outputs includeing a usb output, (2) 5w dc bulbs and sockets from a local tool supply house on sale for 180$ and bought a single deep cycle battery and an inexpensive 400 watt modified sine wave inverter.

I'm really impressed with even such a small, simple systems capability. I have my Laptop (40 watts), my table lamp(25 watt compact florescent), my smart phone charging, and and a coffecup warmer (15 watts), and th two 5w dc light bulbs running intermittently for several hours a day and its really neat knowing the sun is providing the power. The charge controller is not an mppt style, but it does keep the battery full enough to power me up for several hours per day. I put a digital volt meter on the battery to be able to tell whether it was charging or discharging and at what rate and I was surprised that the panels kept the power coming into the battery up till 8PM with a 10w load on the system (2x 5w dc bulbs)... didn't realize that south facing panels could produce energy enough to charge a little bit with indirect , modest light levels! would like to learn and play more now! Now I would like more capacity and an mppt charge controller. This is really cool technology, and I'm glad I get to use it.

best regards to all,
Ken

Comments

  • The Only SargeThe Only Sarge Solar Expert Posts: 164 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: New guy Introduction.

    Welcome to the forum.
    There are three stages of solar reality.
    You are in the first stage.
    Stage 1: This is cool.
    Stage 2: I wonder what else I can power
    Stage 3: The realization you do not have enough roof for all the panels you want.
  • klrskiesklrskies Solar Expert Posts: 30
    Re: New guy Introduction.

    ...Or the wallet thickness!
  • klrskiesklrskies Solar Expert Posts: 30
    Re: New guy Introduction.

    A few months ago I purchased a kill-a-watt meter to learn how much electricity household appliances consume. I was amazed how much phantom loads consume and how wasteful I am in regard to electricity. It got me thinking...how to live on less.

    Living thru an era when fuel and power were relatively inexpensive allowed me to be quite wasteful. My energy currently comes from an electric co-op that provides year over year graphs of kilowatt consumption. I was able to reduce the two previous months consumption by about a 1/3...mostly by being energy conscious and only using energy that I needed at the time, and converting to compact florescent lighting. My refrigerator isn't an energy star appliance and consumes around 3kw/day. 3 kilowatts a day is alot to produce on a small solar system. Everything that can be fueled by natural gas in my home is, yet I always go over 1000 kw / month...supposedly the national average. I've read that electricity in California has reached about 30 cents/kw in some areas now. I'm fortunate my electric rate is about .10 / kw here. I'm learning to appreciate energy. I don't believe the price will be going anywhere but up in the future.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators Posts: 26,872 admin
    Re: New guy Introduction.

    Depending on what you want for a refrigerator--A very simple 18 cuft GE frost free that was on sale a few weeks ago at Home Depot is rated about 311 kWH per year or ~0.85 kWH per day. You can probably get a "nicer" fridge in the 400-500 kWH per year range (still much less than you are using now).

    If you freeze lots of stuff, or make lots of ice, your usage will go up.

    But--even saving ~2kWH per day or 60kWH per month will only put a small dent in your overall electrical usage.

    Yep, I am from California, and on an E7 Time of Use plan, the rates can be:
    Total Energy Rates ($ per kWh) PEAK OFF-PEAK Summer
    Baseline Usage $0.31550 ( ) $0.09273 ( )
    101% - 130% of Baseline $0.31550 ( ) $0.09273 ( )
    131% - 200% of Baseline $0.47823 (I) $0.25546 (I)
    201% - 300% of Baseline $0.51823 (R) $0.29546 (R)
    Over 300% of Baseline $0.51823 (R) $0.29546 (R)
    The above are noon-6pm peak summer rates--and for my area, over ~900 kWH per month is $0.52 per kWH.

    For my home, we only went on this rate because have Grid Tied solar (approaching 6 years now)--So, this actually when we "make money". We get "paid" $0.3155 per kWH and pay less than $0.10 per kWH off peak to get it back.

    If you are using A/C--Reducing other loads (fridge, lighting, home entertainment systems, computers, etc.)--can also reduce the costs to run your A/C system too.

    In the end, if you have never worked on conservation before--it is not impossible to cut your usage by half without too much trouble (I installed double pane vinyl windows, insulated the walls, replaced lighting, got laptop computers instead of desktops, turn stuff off when not used, etc.).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • klrskiesklrskies Solar Expert Posts: 30
    Re: New guy Introduction.

    Do you get paid in money or credit on your bill as in net metering? wow,,,50 cents/kw is rough! I've heard co-ops / privately owened utilities don't have to offer net metering or payment for energy into their grid system. It would take such a huge solar array an battery set to be able to be "net zero" on electricity consumption that it wouldn't seem tro be practical at 10 cents / kw...but that will change in the future.

    It would be good to actually get a check for excess energy production every month.

    at 10 cents/kw, the cost savings on a smaller more efficient fridge isn't that great, but the cost of a solar electric system to generate and store 1000 +kw / month is staggering. As my biggest load is A/C, I have to remove humidity and cool the air down 15~20 degrees many days in the summer. A smaller well designed living space would do well for me...sometimes less is more. I'm a bit of a minamalist. A 8~10,000 btu window A/C would cool a well designed, well built 800 sq. ft. living space. (I'm single) Even just getting my 120 volt loads on stand alone or net zero would be something to consider...may be feasable if I'm a good shopper and do the work myself... still generating the power for even 200kw of A/C power a month is a pretty big system to consider. Smaller living spaces are helpful.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators Posts: 26,872 admin
    Re: New guy Introduction.

    1 year net metering... Basically, the meter runs forwards and backwards. And at the end of the month, they read the meter (peak and off peak)... If the reading is negative, I get a credit of kWH*price; if positive, it is money I owe.

    At the end of the year, if I have a balance, I pay that mount. If I have a credit, the account is set back to zero (in theory, I may get ~20% of the balance paid back--last sets of credits where around $300 per year--I have not seen the final regulation changes and how they will do the credit--the bill carries $$$ and the credit is based on excess kWH generated--which may be nothing extra because I "make money" on the spread between the two rates--generate a lot during peak hours, use most energy during off peak hours).

    Just about every utility is different... Add state PUC (public utility commission) mucking around the politics--And it is impossible to generalize.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • klrskiesklrskies Solar Expert Posts: 30
    Re: New guy Introduction.

    All the red tape, possible liabilities and hassels of it make me want to go off the grid. SO many codes and regulations to contend with. The sun and wind aren't taxable... yet! Sounds like a good set up for where you are! low power useage smart phones and internet service makes it easier to be off the grid now. I spend alot of time on my laptop but it only consumes about 40 watts...and it can be run off D.C. 5v usb. Seems many things can run off of DC really efficently. The big loads of 240v central A/C are my biggest foreseeable issue. Here in Southern Indiana I have to have de-humidifing A/C for 5 months out of the year. there are some other non conventional ways of cooling though...
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators Posts: 26,872 admin
    Re: New guy Introduction.

    Looking at your A/C system may be worth while... Newer units can use almost 1/2 the energy...

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • klrskiesklrskies Solar Expert Posts: 30
    Re: New guy Introduction.

    Thanks for the helpful tips and insight Bill. I'll check out effeciencies. turning in now...midnite here. take care!

    regards,
    Ken
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators Posts: 26,872 admin
    Re: New guy Introduction.

    At this point, going off grid is way to expensive if you have reliable grid power...

    Grid power: ~$0.10 to $0.30 per kWH
    Off Grid power: ~$1.00 to $2.00+ per kWH

    The batteries are a real killer only 8-15 year life or so... Plus the inverters/charge controllers, you should save enough money to replace them about every 10 years or so...

    At this point--Spend your time and money on conservation. Almost always a better investment before you go down the "generate your own power" path.

    Just as a point of interest--Look at 100 kWH per month (3.3 kWH per day) as a nice "off grid" home starting point.

    Can you go larger--yep... But large systems are something that you really need to plan for.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,311 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: New guy Introduction.

    "The sun and wind aren't taxable... yet!"

    actually, that isn't 100% true because you send out the power in a grid tied arrangement to be used by others who then pay the taxes on the solar or wind power that was generated and used elsewhere. as far as off grid goes the only taxes may be if you purchased in your own state that has sales taxes. it should be federal law to exempt approved solar items from being taxed in any way and that should include property taxes, but i get to wish in one hand and poop in the other.:cry::p:p:p
  • vtmapsvtmaps Solar Expert Posts: 3,738 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: New guy Introduction.
    petergoms wrote: »
    Hello, I am a new member of this discussion forum. My name is Peter Goms. I just entered this thread to introduce myself.
    Welcome to the forum.
    Recently another member started a thread to introduce himself. After awhile he posted a second time to ask why nobody responded. Then he got some answers. The reason nobody responded the first time is because he didn't ask a question. This is a friendly crew here, but what's your question?
    --vtMaps
    4 X 235watt Samsung, Midnite ePanel, Outback VFX3524 FM60 & mate, 4 Interstate L16, trimetric, Honda eu2000i
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators Posts: 26,872 admin
    Re: New guy Introduction.

    Hi Lee Mike, and welcome to the forum.

    Hope you have some fun here. Feel free to post on your results for others to see your solution for your power needs.

    This forum is pretty much all volunteers just helping others.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
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