NEED HELP in Harlem -Augusta GA

beboxebeboxe Posts: 12Registered Users
I am very new to solar power but need to learn. First of all I live in the Harlem-Augusta Ga. area and would be in heaven if I could find someone here that can help me. :-)
We just happened to have a Harbor Freight store that sells solar panels and I bought 6 of their 45watt panels (don't know what to do with them-just bought them cause they were on sell.) I have read about them and and they did get a lot of good ratings. I also bought an inverter-a few actually. Their 750Chicago elec. and a 200 continuous/400w surge inverter. This was before I read about the modified verses pure sine. However I can not find either of these words on either of the boxes. I bought them again due to the fact that I got a good deal on them knowing I will return them if I find I need something else.
Next I see I will need a charge controler as I am sure with the 6-45watt units connected I am going to need something different.
Batteries I have found after much reading are something I know nothing about since they are not AA,AAA,C,D-you get the idea. It would appear after reading that the AGM would be the safest and easiest-just not the cheapest. I see them for sell online pluss shipping but would rather buy them locally or in the next city. What stores sell these? I did find a battery store that sells a single brand but it was not any of the ones I read about online.
I am delighted to have found this fourm. I plan on doing a lot of reading here. I would like to go ahead a get the batteries and other supplies I will need -I just want to get the right ones the first time and know where to get them. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

Comments

  • SevenSeven Posts: 292Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: NEED HELP in Harlem -Augusta GA

    I am new here also, but I know a little. If you bought 6sets of the HF kits, you should return them and get your money back and buy a decent panel or two. I am guessing you spent in the $900+ range. For that amount, you can get a good controller, panel, and inverter and even a battery.
  • beboxebeboxe Posts: 12Registered Users
    Re: NEED HELP in Harlem -Augusta GA

    Leper,
    Thanks for the response. I have been reading one of the post and read nothing good about HF. I read a great deal about it online and on youtube - and now will be returning them. What type to buy and from where?
  • BB.BB. Posts: 27,443Super Moderators admin
    Re: NEED HELP in Harlem -Augusta GA

    What is it that you want to do with the power? How much power do you need/expect to use?

    The Harbor panels are not very good--But if you want to try them, the "appropriate" sized battery bank would be around 5-13% of rated battery capacity for solar panel charging. Assuming system is ~0.77 efficient (panels to charge controller derating), and lets go with a small battery or ~13% rate of charge:
    • 6x45watts * 0.77 derating * 1/14.5 volts charging * 0.13 rate of charge = 110 AH @ 12 volts
    You could put 200+ AH of battery bank on there--but it would take you days to recharge (depending on how much sun you get and how much you discharge it).

    Your expected amount of power--assuming 4+ hours of sun per day and 0.52 system efficiency:
    • 6x45watts * 0.52 eff * 4 hours of sun per day = 562 Watt*Hours per day
    In reality, the Harbor Freight panels do not have a very reputation for their ability to output rated power... So, I would keep to the ~110 AH battery and the ~562 WH might be on the high side.

    Choice for a charge controller--you can get the Harbor Freight one (cheap), a PWM 20+ amp (MorningStar or Xantrex, etc.) or a MPPT (MorningStar 15 amp or Rogue 30 amp MPPT--both are 12 or 24 volt battery bank capable).

    MorningStar MPPT does not come with a display--so if you want the internal log, you will need a computer adapter. Or, with the Rogue, it has a display and you can review the log file from the display.

    Any of these controllers are fine devices and can be moved to new panels/battery bank as your need grows.

    Also, if you are going to experiment with loads and want to keep track of energy usage--You can look at getting a Kill-a-Watt for 120 VAC 15 amp appliances, a Battery Monitor for watching battery state of charge, and/or a DC Amp*Hour/Watt*Hour meter (used by battery powered Radio Control folks).

    Without knowing your intended uses/loads, it is difficult to recommend more...

    Small battery banks cannot really support a very large inverter... For a 110 Amp 12 volt battery bank a couple of numbers... Roughly max continuous power of C/8 and max surge power of C/2.5:
    • 110 AH * 12 volts * 0.85 eff inverter * 1/8 = 140 Watts continuous
    • 110 AH * 12 volts * 0.85 eff inverter * 1/2.5 = 449 Watts surge
    Since inverter surge rating is about 2x the continuous rating--a good sized inverter for a 110 AH battery bank would be in the 140-250 watt range.

    A nice inverter would be the Morning Star 300 Watt TSW for your system (a bit large)--But it has a nice low power "search mode" which allows you to leave the inverter in "standby" and it will automatically turn fully on with >6-8 watts of load.

    Otherwise, you can review the Emergency Power thread for a full discussion from beginning to end of about building an emergency power system.

    In the end, most people under estimate their loads and over estimate how much power Solar PV RE can produce.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • BB.BB. Posts: 27,443Super Moderators admin
    Re: NEED HELP in Harlem -Augusta GA

    Regarding panels--You really should specify your needs first--but for a small 100-200 AH 12 volt battery bank and a 15 amp MPPT Morning Star controller, a pair of Kyocera 135 watt or similar crystalline panels are difficult to beat.

    Not too large, but good amount of output. Probably about as large as you would normally ship or setup with one person (camping, out in the yard). 175 watt is about the maximum sized panel a single person on a roof would want to wrangle.

    However, if you are looking for larger output--The larger panels are frequently a better $$$/watt price (although, check shipped/insured price to your door).

    In any case, crystalline panels are single weight (~1/8" thick) tempered glass... However and wherever you mount them--you will need to makes sure that kids don't hit them or they are picked up by the wind (temporary staked to ground). Tempered glass is also very fragile at the edges--and if the panel shatters--they are practically useless.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • beboxebeboxe Posts: 12Registered Users
    Re: NEED HELP in Harlem -Augusta GA

    Thanks for all this info. Tomorrow I am returning the HF panels and will try to pick up a kill-o-wats if they have them to try and determine my needs. I just changed out all my lights in my home to fluorescent and leds. I read somewhere one this fourm that you have to make changes in how you use watts. I am open to any other ways to reduce and will make more changes. Will find out how many watts I will need and then post again, thanks again.
  • bmetbmet Posts: 630Solar Expert ✭✭
    Re: NEED HELP in Harlem -Augusta GA

    I have 3 generations of LED lights from the same retailer, and they keep getting better. The last ones I purchased have similar brightness to CFL, and are half the wattage. Their design has evolved from 'many' LEDs grouped together, to a single 'power' diode. The only issue is that their blue light doesn't always match, but is much preferred to florescent.

    Of course they cost more, but so far none of my LEDs have failed. The CFLs seem to need changing almost as much as standard bulb(in my experience).
  • nielniel Posts: 10,311Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: NEED HELP in Harlem -Augusta GA

    "The only issue is that their blue light doesn't always match, but is much preferred to florescent"

    i'm not too sure of the meaning of latter part of that statement. are you saying leds have less blue light now than florescents?
  • bmetbmet Posts: 630Solar Expert ✭✭
    Re: NEED HELP in Harlem -Augusta GA

    The LEDs I buy cast a white light that has the slightest hint of blue. If I purchase two at the same time and use them in the same room, the bluish tint isn't always the same. The difference between them, however, is not as much with two CFLs placed in the same arrangement.

    I would always purchase CFLs through my local grocery store, and their colors could be anything from brown to green.
    niel wrote: »
    "The only issue is that their blue light doesn't always match, but is much preferred to florescent"

    i'm not too sure of the meaning of latter part of that statement. are you saying leds have less blue light now than florescents?
  • nielniel Posts: 10,311Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: NEED HELP in Harlem -Augusta GA

    ok, thanks for the clarification that it is a case of not having consistency in the blue light output within the same product.;)
  • beboxebeboxe Posts: 12Registered Users
    Re: NEED HELP in Harlem -Augusta GA

    Decided to order a good kil-o-watt rather than buy what I have seen in town which puts me back a bit.

    I found I liked some of the led lights and not others. Do they really last for years?
    What brands do you buy? I have low watt ones for their purpose but would like brite light for other needs. I have not found a bright one yet. All I have been to is Lowes and Home Depot. What other stores carry them?

    In the mean time I would like suggestions on appliances that tend to work better with solar energy due to using lower electricty. I especially would like a space heater.
    I bought a george forman grill that grills, cooks in a deep dish, makes ommlets and bakes muffins. Now wondering if it will work with solar.
    I see 'solar' ref.s are very expensive to buy but maybe a small one. Anyone use them? Perhaps there is already a thread dealing with these isues.
  • nielniel Posts: 10,311Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: NEED HELP in Harlem -Augusta GA

    try walmart as i bought a 1w led flashlight that takes 3 aa batteries.
  • BB.BB. Posts: 27,443Super Moderators admin
    Re: NEED HELP in Harlem -Augusta GA
    beboxe wrote: »
    In the mean time I would like suggestions on appliances that tend to work better with solar energy due to using lower electricty. I especially would like a space heater.
    I bought a george forman grill that grills, cooks in a deep dish, makes ommlets and bakes muffins. Now wondering if it will work with solar.

    Realistically, for off-grid solar--any heating devices are almost impractical to run from the battery bank. If you have any access to alternative fuels/cooking (wood, propane, diesel, etc.) -- it would be less costly to cook with them.

    As a rough number, figure your off-grid solar power costs around $1-$2+ per kWHr.

    Running a microwave or small toaster oven can be done (battery bank + inverter must be large enough to run the ~1,500 watt load) because they don't run for a long time (minutes/10's of minutes).

    For example, say you run a 1,500 watt load for 20 minutes:
    • 1.5 kW * 20min/60min per hour = 0.5 kWHr
    • 0.5 kWH * $1.5 per kWH = $0.75 power cost
    Was it worth $0.75? Do you have a ~8000 AH @ 12 volt battery bank to run the load (plus a 2kW inverter)?

    It can be done--but what is it worth to you.

    For example, Tony/Icarus toasts on an old propane catalytic heater with a burner about the exact size of a slice of bread.

    And he uses a stove top coffee maker.

    Use your new Kill-a-Watt meter to measure how much power an "electric meal" uses...
    I see 'solar' ref.s are very expensive to buy but maybe a small one. Anyone use them? Perhaps there is already a thread dealing with these isues.
    Actually, a full sized Energy Star Fridge/Freezer that uses around 350-400 kWHr per year is not bad. Throw it on a 1,500 watt inverter and ~500 watts of solar panels+appropriate batteries and you are good to go (we can talk details if you are interested). Generally much cheaper than a "DC" Powered Refrigerator setup.

    Also, using a converted chest freezer as a refrigerator can get you below 0.30 kWH per day (less than 1kWH per day of normal fridge).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • bmetbmet Posts: 630Solar Expert ✭✭
    Re: NEED HELP in Harlem -Augusta GA

    I think it depends on wattage rating of the grill. I have a small GF grill, and it draws a constant 5.5 amps AC (according to Kill-A-Watt meter). It takes 5 minutes to cook to 2 beef patties.

    What does your Kill-a-Watt measure with your GF? Compare with your battery bank's capacity. Do you have large enough copper/interconnects to allow your inverter to pull those amps from your batteries without causing a phantom shut-down?

    Your could have plenty of Amp Hours, but if the wiring doesn't support the flow of Current your inverter might shut down indicating a low battery.
  • beboxebeboxe Posts: 12Registered Users
    Re: NEED HELP in Harlem -Augusta GA

    just spoke with the guy who installed my heat & air a couple years ago to discuss other ways of heating my home. I have gas but it takes electricity to run as well. He said I could use a generator and he could fix it to convert to it when needed. I thought if you could do that then you should be able to connect it to a battery bank too. He said it pulls from 6 to 8 amps. Is this feasible? He mentioned a Honda as a good quiet generator are there any other good ones and quiet?
  • BB.BB. Posts: 27,443Super Moderators admin
    Re: NEED HELP in Harlem -Augusta GA

    Yamaha has similar units... Some with propane options.

    Yes, you can setup to run the furnace with and off-grid system... Get down to numbers... How much power, how many hours per day, and what seasons (winter needs more panels because of less sun).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • beboxebeboxe Posts: 12Registered Users
    Re: NEED HELP in Harlem -Augusta GA

    From Nov. through Feb. at night, about 2 hours during the day. We don't usually get that cold. I was told the amps it would use would be 6 to 8.
  • BB.BB. Posts: 27,443Super Moderators admin
    Re: NEED HELP in Harlem -Augusta GA

    Using PV Watts for Augusta Georgia, 1kW array, fixed mount, 0.52 derating.
    "Station Identification"
    "City:","Augusta"
    "State:","Georgia"
    "Lat (deg N):", 33.37
    "Long (deg W):", 81.97
    "Elev (m): ", 45
    "PV System Specifications"
    "DC Rating:"," 1.0 kW"
    "DC to AC Derate Factor:"," 0.520"
    "AC Rating:"," 0.5 kW"
    "Array Type: Fixed Tilt"
    "Array Tilt:"," 33.4"
    "Array Azimuth:","180.0"

    "Energy Specifications"
    "Cost of Electricity:"," 7.9 cents/kWh"

    "Results"
    "Month", "Solar Radiation (kWh/m^2/day)", "AC Energy (kWh)", "Energy Value ($)"
    1, 3.77, 57, 4.50
    2, 4.69, 65, 5.13
    3, 5.15, 77, 6.08
    4, 5.93, 84, 6.64
    5, 5.43, 76, 6.00
    6, 5.55, 74, 5.85
    7, 5.77, 79, 6.24
    8, 5.67, 78, 6.16
    9, 5.31, 72, 5.69
    10, 5.13, 75, 5.92
    11, 4.25, 61, 4.82
    12, 3.94, 60, 4.74
    "Year", 5.05, 859, 67.86
    Power needed:
    • 2 hours * 8 amps * 120 VAC = 1,920 WH per day
    Worst month is January at 57 kWH per month per 1kW of panels:
    • 1.92 kWH per day * 1/(57kWH per month / 30 days per month) * 1kW panels = 1.01 kW = 1,010 watts for panels for January.
    Battery size--1 to 3 days of no-sun, 50% maximum discharge, 24 volt battery bank:
    • 1,920 WH per day * 1/0.80 inverter eff * 1/24v batt * 1/0.50 max discharge * 1 day = 200 AH @ 24 volt battery bank for 1 day no sun
    • 1,920 WH per day * 1/0.80 inverter eff * 1/24v batt * 1/0.50 max discharge * 3 day = 600 AH @ 24 volt battery bank for 3 day no sun
    Assume 15 amp at 120 VAC surge current support, and C/2.5 minimum battery size to support surge current:
    • 15 amp * 120 VAC * 1/0.80 inv eff * 1/24 volt * 2.5 surge rating = 234 AH at 24 volt minimum battery bank AH rating
    The above is "by the numbers"... If you wanted to support more loads in the future/spot of cold weather/etc... It would not hurt to multiply the above by 1.5-2.0x (never expect to be able to use 100% of predicted power for an off grid system...

    The less solar panels/batteries you have, the more generator run time you will need.

    There are ~20 year averages... And a solar PV panel may only output 5-10% or less of rated power for a week at a time (heavy weather/dark clouds). So a generator and fuel is pretty much mandatory for critical loads.

    Depending on your needs--For example, an emergency and the ability to be silent at night... Perhaps minimum battery size and plan on running the generator the next day if the weather is not clear. Will help keep maintenance costs lower (battery bank replacement ever 3-10 years or so).

    -Bill

    PS: Or just a Honda or Yamaha ~2kW generator and a fuel supply (propane, natural gas, gasoline) for ~$1-$2,000 vs $10-$20,000 for full off-grid solar system...
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • beboxebeboxe Posts: 12Registered Users
    Re: NEED HELP in Harlem -Augusta GA

    I'm looking into generators.
  • BB.BB. Posts: 27,443Super Moderators admin
    Re: NEED HELP in Harlem -Augusta GA

    There are quite a few gensets for whole home emergency power (7-10kW or more)...

    While emergency power can be critical--for long term outages, from what I have researched before, it is not unusual for these 10kW units to use a $1 of natural gas (or more) per hour even with light loads... Probably not a huge cost for short outages--but for weeks/month at a time--that can be a huge cost in fuel plus fuel storage issues (if not natural gas).

    For me, I liked the small 1,600 watt to 2kW inverter gensets... I can run it 1/2 the day on a gallon or two of fuel--20 gallons will last me 10 days + I can siphon from the car if I need more.

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