Off-Grid Cabin System approaching 1 year -- all good

TenMileTenMile Solar Expert Posts: 62 ✭✭
Was pleased this weekend to head to the family cabin to officially open it for the 2012 summer season. We'd visited a few times over the winter months, but this past weekend everything was officially turned back on and ready to go again.

Happy to report that the solar install we did has been flawless. I had posted a couple of threads on my setup and got some great advice from these forums. While I did do some generator charging tests, I'm also pleased to note that we went the entire season last year, and only had to run the generator once to charge the battery system (that was the day we purchased the new Shop Vac and ran it for almost 2 hours!!!). Added water to the batteries once at the end of September -- checked them this weekend and the water levels are perfect.

Our system runs a family cabin that is used about 6 months of the year. Cabin is generally fully occupied about 4 months of the year and the solar system powers lights, TV/Satellite, fireplace insert fan, and small appliances. My system components are in my sig below.

My lessons learned:
- The TriMetric monitor (in my case the 2025RV) is absolutely essential as it takes all guess-work over State of Charge, how much we use and produce out of the equation.
- Our satellite receiver draws quite a bit of power (12A DC) even when it's turned "off". It has to be unplugged.
- CFL lightbulbs don't draw enough load initially to overcome the 7W "power saving" feature of our inverter. So either 2 bulbs must be installed on a single switch, or use an incandescent for the bathroom, or turn "power saving" off and burn 2A/hr.

My design and pre-installation testing was here: http://forum.solar-electric.com/showthread.php?10774-New-temporary-install-where-and-what-to-measure

Good conversation and advice on mounting here: http://forum.solar-electric.com/showthread.php?10838-Planned-Mount-on-6x6-treated-posts-comments -- only post-install modification I did to this mount setup was to add caps to the 6x6 posts to keep them drier. UniStrut is great stuff to work with -- highly recommended.

I found that Handy Bob's RV Charging Puzzle was great advice and I've read it over several times and passed it along to many. By coincidence (not design) my system is basically the same as Bob's with the exception of the inverter -- same controller, batteries and monitor.

For those doing an Off-Grid or Remote installation, I did find that pre-installing and wiring everything ahead of time was extremely helpful. I took the time to pre-wire all of the indoor components to a backboard ahead of time. That way, I knew I had all the parts and it made my installation job much easier. I was also able to upgrade firmware on the Charge Controller and learned the nuances of the system prior to my final install.

Anyone on the fence contemplating a DIY install -- this was one of the most satisfying projects I've ever done. I did it completely myself with some minor help installing the 6x6 posts and lifting the panels. It was my first time venturing into the world of solar and my learning curve was steep. Great advice from members of this forum -- it's worked out better than could be expected.

Comments

  • techntrektechntrek Solar Expert Posts: 1,372 ✭✭✭
    Re: Off-Grid Cabin System approaching 1 year -- all good

    Yeah, satellite receivers are a killer. I've had all of my non-DVR receivers on switched outlets or switched outlet strips for years now. Wouldn't take much change in hardware and software for DVRs to enter a low-power mode when they aren't on and aren't recording - but there's no chance that is going to happen in the near future. Turning them off right now doesn't change their amperage draw at all.
    4.5 kw APC UPS powered by a Prius, 12 kw Generac, Honda EU3000is
  • westbranchwestbranch Solar Expert Posts: 5,163 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Off-Grid Cabin System approaching 1 year -- all good

    Kudos on the winter performance.... next is to confirm design with summer use and PV delivery. Sounds like you 'got it right'!
    re the low draw of CFLs, I think if you need more load, to add a light is better than using 2A/hr and getting nothing, perhaps a 10w fridge light?
     
    KID #51B  4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM
    CL#29032 FW 2126/ 2073/ 2133 175A E-Panel WBjr, 3 x 4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM 
    Cotek ST1500W 24V Inverter,OmniCharge 3024,
    2 x Cisco WRT54GL i/c DD-WRT Rtr & Bridge,
    Eu3/2/1000i Gens, 1680W & E-Panel/WBjr to come, CL #647 asleep
    West Chilcotin, BC, Canada
  • vtmapsvtmaps Solar Expert Posts: 3,738 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Off-Grid Cabin System approaching 1 year -- all good

    Hi TenMile,
    In your previous post you wrote:
    TenMile wrote: »
    Panels (side of pole mount) --> DC Switch -->80ft #2AWG Cable --> DC Switch -->
    Fuse --> TriStar --> Fuse --> Battery --> DC Switch --> Inverter --> AC Panel
    <snip>
    Anyhow, feel free to tweak the design -- components are locked in and purchased, but I am willing to add more breakers, fuses etc if they are warranted...
    I don't see any mention of a combiner box and the three fuses/breakers that belong in that box. Also, I notice that your sig shows 4 trojans. In last year's post you intended to have just two trojans. When and why did you double up?
    --vtMaps
    4 X 235watt Samsung, Midnite ePanel, Outback VFX3524 FM60 & mate, 4 Interstate L16, trimetric, Honda eu2000i
  • TenMileTenMile Solar Expert Posts: 62 ✭✭
    Re: Off-Grid Cabin System approaching 1 year -- all good

    My initial thought was 2 batteries but after doing some further evaluation of our use of the cabin, I thought 4 was better and that's worked out well. Generally we use about 15-20% of our capacity overnight so if we get a bad stretch of several days we've got ample capacity.

    I didn't use a combiner but instead daisy-chained the 3 panels together.

    Our 1 year anniversary is May 8th so we've had a good run through an entire season thus far without any issues.
  • vtmapsvtmaps Solar Expert Posts: 3,738 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Off-Grid Cabin System approaching 1 year -- all good
    TenMile wrote: »
    I didn't use a combiner but instead daisy-chained the 3 panels together.

    Three panels in parallel without fusing is a fire/safety hazard. I guess that if your pole mount is away from anything that can burn it is OK to take the risk. I certainly wouldn't do that on a roof mount.
    --vtMaps
    4 X 235watt Samsung, Midnite ePanel, Outback VFX3524 FM60 & mate, 4 Interstate L16, trimetric, Honda eu2000i
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Off-Grid Cabin System approaching 1 year -- all good

    Agree with vtMaps, unless by "daisy-chain" you mean connect in series and that 45 Amp TriStar controller is the MPPT type.

    Otherwise, beware of the ever-upward creeping power use! Once you have power, you use it. Then you use a little bit more, and a little bit more, and ...
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