How would you wire the house?

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Rngr275
Rngr275 Solar Expert Posts: 127 ✭✭
Greetings all. Not sure if this is the correct location for this post so feel free to move as necessary.
One of my first tasks is to wire my new (to me) house. Not the how to wire an existing house but how to wire an off grid house and yet have it so that in the future it could be connected to the grid.

Here are my thoughts: I think it makes sense to install a 200amp panel to work out of since it (the panel) doesn’t care where the electricity is coming from. I expect to install outlets and lights to code through the house but may not have every outlet and ceiling light installed all at once. Which means that there will be outlets installed where I need them now and ceiling lights in the main rooms initially. Seems straight forward to me unless I am missing something about the panel installation. Also, are there any special consideration to be made for the panel as related to it being fed from the solar system energy source and or the generator?

Knowing that the house will be off grid (initially and maybe forever) it makes me wonder if there are any special wiring considerations that I should make like: More switched outlets and things like that. You know things that can make saving my hard earned sun generated electricity easier or better. And since there is many here who are living it I figure that I should leverage the views/knowledge of the people with “Boots on the ground”.

Thanks all.

Comments

  • Cariboocoot
    Cariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭✭
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    Re: How would you wire the house?

    As far as switched outlets are concerned, it may be advantageous if you know exactly where the potentially parasitic loads will be located (i.e. TV/DVD et cetera). Otherwise you can handle those installs on an as needed basis with switched power bars.

    As far as the rest of the wiring is concerned, it doesn't care what the source is so wire it as per code for a grid-connected house.

    The big difference comes at the power sourcing.

    With a normal house you have the mains feed the 200 Amp breaker that powers the bus bars in the service panel. If you have gen back-up for that then you have a transfer switch either for the whole house or for a few dedicated essential circuits which are located in a sub panel.

    With an inverter-supplied house the transfer switch for the gen back-up is usually built in to the inverter. This means the inverter can also be used on dedicated essential circuits as a UPS in normal utility-powered houses. Sometimes inverter systems have a wire-around for feeding their circuits directly from gen power in the event of inverter failure (bypass wiring).

    What's more, if in future you should change to grid-tie with or grid-tie without battery back-up the wiring becomes different again. So without knowing what the exact future plan is, the best situation is to leave yourself extra wire and space so that additional boxes can be accommodated if future needs demand significant rewiring.

    There; that was no help at all, was it? :p
  • niel
    niel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
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    Re: How would you wire the house?

    as was said do it as if it were a utility connection right down to the bare #6 copper ground wire and 8ft 5/8in copper clad ground rod near where the 200a service panel is located.

    it isn't good to wire things later as you will find it difficult to do after any new walls or ceilings are put up unless you want to leave some of the construction or remodeling left undone for later too.
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,478 admin
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    Re: How would you wire the house?

    The other question is--Will you be using low voltage DC or 120/240 VAC power while off grid... If DC, your wire gauge usually needs to be much heavier and the runs need to be kept short (especially if you are in the 12 volt DC range).

    Another suggestion, if you will keeping solar as a backup power source, you can run two sets of independent wiring. One set to be powered by solar, a second set by grid (sometimes, in computer rooms, they install orange colored outlets for UPS backed power, and the plain white for utility power). Would allow you to have a home "pre-wired" for backup power in the future (i.e., two sets of outlets next the the night stand, etc.).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • ywhic
    ywhic Solar Expert Posts: 621 ✭✭
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    Re: How would you wire the house?

    In the same boat soon..

    Wiring a simple 12 x 24 cabin.. 10 outlets on the lower area and 3 in the 12 x 10 loft area.. better to wire it all in one shot..

    More than likely use a smaller 120 amp load panel on my setup.. and use 14/3 wiring..

    Very unlikely I will be drawing 1/7 of that as my inverter is 18 amp continuous (possible load).. LoL..

    Speaking of which.. for the A/C load panel should I do 15 or 20 amp Circuit Breakers??
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,478 admin
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    Re: How would you wire the house?

    If you wire with 14 AWG wiring, NEC only allows 15 amp breakers (even though larger breakers are physically possible--for some reason NEC further derates 14/12/10 awg wiring).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • Mangas
    Mangas Solar Expert Posts: 547 ✭✭✭✭
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    Re: How would you wire the house?

    We decided to split our house into two zones. Ran AC power from two sets of inverters to two 100 Amp service panels to assure redundancy. Two inverters and their respective battery banks each run a zone in the house.

    Last year we had one inverter motherboard fail but had power and HVAC in half the house. I know there are two schools of thought about this type of set up but though I'd pass along our experience. Also, we're off grid.

    Moderators will give you good navigation.
    Ranch Off Grid System & Custom Home: 2 x pair stacked Schneider XW 5548+ Plus inverters (4), 2 x Schneider MPPT 80-600 Charge Controllers, 2 Xanbus AGS Generator Start and Air Extraction System Controllers, 64 Trojan L16 REB 6v 375 AH Flooded Cel Batteries w/Water Miser Caps, 44 x 185 Sharp Solar Panels, Cummins Onan RS20 KW Propane Water Cooled Genset, ICF Custom House Construction, all appliances, Central A/C, 2 x High Efficiency Variable Speed three ton Central A/C 220v compressors, 2 x Propane furnaces, 2 x Variable Speed Air Handlers, 2 x HD WiFi HVAC Zoned System Controllers
  • Cariboocoot
    Cariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭✭
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    Re: How would you wire the house?

    Mangas there's nothing at all wrong with the dual inverter method. Most of us who are off grid have some degree of redundant power sourcing for just those reasons. Like Icarus and his vast collection of generators. :D
  • Dill
    Dill Solar Expert Posts: 170 ✭✭
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    Re: How would you wire the house?

    after reading some suggestions here, I decided to wire my off grid cabin mostly 110VAC and use a Morningstar Sure Sine 300W inverter. This inverter draws under 50ma at idle, so for me, running more wire and complicating things for 12V was a moot point. The exception was I did wire a few 'charge stations' using cigarette lighter style ports for charging laptops, cell phones etc from a car style charger.

    I also wired a dedicated circuit to an outdoor plug so I can run my window AC unit up in my loft direct from my Honda EU1000i. Pulling 14-2 cable sure is much easier than the heavier cable needed for low voltage drop on a 12V system.
  • Mangas
    Mangas Solar Expert Posts: 547 ✭✭✭✭
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    Re: How would you wire the house?

    Hi Coot.

    You tagged me. Like Icarus, I'm a "closet generator" collector too. Couple of 8 Kws' screamers and a 5 Kw plus a couple of Honda EU 2000s' stashed away. Just can't give them up.
    Ranch Off Grid System & Custom Home: 2 x pair stacked Schneider XW 5548+ Plus inverters (4), 2 x Schneider MPPT 80-600 Charge Controllers, 2 Xanbus AGS Generator Start and Air Extraction System Controllers, 64 Trojan L16 REB 6v 375 AH Flooded Cel Batteries w/Water Miser Caps, 44 x 185 Sharp Solar Panels, Cummins Onan RS20 KW Propane Water Cooled Genset, ICF Custom House Construction, all appliances, Central A/C, 2 x High Efficiency Variable Speed three ton Central A/C 220v compressors, 2 x Propane furnaces, 2 x Variable Speed Air Handlers, 2 x HD WiFi HVAC Zoned System Controllers
  • Ralph Day
    Ralph Day Solar Expert Posts: 1,019 ✭✭✭✭
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    Re: How would you wire the house?

    "Off Grid 4 x 5500SW Plus Xantrex SinePlus Inverters" (Mangas's signature line)

    Dual inverter method? Dual is leetle seestems!

    What's your plan when the Xantrex units start to fail, replace all at once? My 4048 is at 8 years and I wonder about it sometimes. I have grid so I can bypass while the next inverter is purchased and on line. I guess you could do as you already have and live on half system, install/replace one half then do the same for the other half. Do you have burly sons-in-law to help when the 5548's have to come off the wall?...they are brutes.
  • Cariboocoot
    Cariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭✭
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    Re: How would you wire the house?

    Ralph, you are lucky to have utility for your back-up. For some of us the grid is so far away it's like a dream. :D

    In big inverters, there's no such thing as a light-weight one. If there were, it probably wouldn't be any good.
    (Sure, transformer-less GT's, but transformer-less OG's?)
  • Mangas
    Mangas Solar Expert Posts: 547 ✭✭✭✭
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    Re: How would you wire the house?

    Ralph, the last time I got very, very lucky. Discovered by chance our solar/AC ag/ranch pump manufacturer a 120 miles up the road services Xantrex inverters. They even have an engineering group complete with test bench. Fixed my motherboard failure in a couple hours while I waited.

    Getting the failed inverter down off the backers, boy you got that right! Our installer's junior electrician got it done. I'd have been laying in the mechanical room with the inverter on top of me yelling for my wife to bring the block and tackle.

    When this happened, I called Schneider about your question. Of course, they gave me the party line "we don't stock or service older inverters but will have some parts on hand for a little while. . .". Not too comforting for back country guys like us thinking their inverters had at least a 15 year life. I was looking for a new or rebuilt inverter as a spare but couldn't locate a reliable one.

    Anyway, I've reconciled myself to replace all four inverters at 10 years or a major failure whichever occurs first. That would put replacement at 2015 unless something comes off the rails in the meantime and can't be repaired in which case, I'll have to replace both inverter banks. Coot was right about the transformers. They told me they don't sell them anymore only the boards.

    The big decision I have to make is which manufacturer will be around to provide reliable parts and service. I don't take kindly to the "well, we bought the company and don't stock products the previous owners offered, only our 'new' line. . ." This seems to be happening a lot these days, especially in the renewable energy space. When I do, guess it's either Xantrex or Outback but probably will decide Xantrex again. I sure would hate to buy a fifth as spare!

    This another reason I'd wire the house with redundancy in mind.
    Ranch Off Grid System & Custom Home: 2 x pair stacked Schneider XW 5548+ Plus inverters (4), 2 x Schneider MPPT 80-600 Charge Controllers, 2 Xanbus AGS Generator Start and Air Extraction System Controllers, 64 Trojan L16 REB 6v 375 AH Flooded Cel Batteries w/Water Miser Caps, 44 x 185 Sharp Solar Panels, Cummins Onan RS20 KW Propane Water Cooled Genset, ICF Custom House Construction, all appliances, Central A/C, 2 x High Efficiency Variable Speed three ton Central A/C 220v compressors, 2 x Propane furnaces, 2 x Variable Speed Air Handlers, 2 x HD WiFi HVAC Zoned System Controllers
  • icarus
    icarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,436 ✭✭✭✭
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    Re: How would you wire the house?

    I'm not a generator collector in any real sense. It is just tht we have lived off grid since the 1920s, in a very remote locution, so tht nothing has ever left! We did get rid of a couple of big ones a few years ago in a purge, including a 10 kw Continetal powered Onan, a 10 kw lister water cooled, a couple of Onan diesels, and a few other things. My neighbor (and sometimes employer over the years) ran a large bush camp that is now largely abandoned, tht is where most of the stuff came from. I have just saved the useful stuff!

    I still have a 5 kw lister sl2 if anybody wants to pay to ship it from the middle of now where!

    I just use the Eus and the Mistusbishi 2900 now, the latter for the shop. The Honda Ex 1800 is for a "spare"!

    Tony
  • solorone
    solorone Solar Expert Posts: 257 ✭✭✭
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    Re: How would you wire the house?
    Mangas wrote: »
    Ralph, the last time I got very, very lucky. Discovered by chance our solar/AC ag/ranch pump manufacturer a 120 miles up the road services Xantrex inverters. They even have an engineering group complete with test bench. Fixed my motherboard failure in a couple hours while I waited.

    Getting the failed inverter down off the backers, boy you got that right! Our installer's junior electrician got it done. I'd have been laying in the mechanical room with the inverter on top of me yelling for my wife to bring the block and tackle.



    When this happened, I called Schneider about your question. Of course, they gave me the party line "we don't stock or service older inverters but will have some parts on hand for a little while. . .". Not too comforting for back country guys like us thinking their inverters had at least a 15 year life. I was looking for a new or rebuilt inverter as a spare but couldn't locate a reliable one.

    Anyway, I've reconciled myself to replace all four inverters at 10 years or a major failure whichever occurs first. That would put replacement at 2015 unless something comes off the rails in the meantime and can't be repaired in which case, I'll have to replace both inverter banks. Coot was right about the transformers. They told me they don't sell them anymore only the boards.

    The big decision I have to make is which manufacturer will be around to provide reliable parts and service. I don't take kindly to the "well, we bought the company and don't stock products the previous owners offered, only our 'new' line. . ." This seems to be happening a lot these days, especially in the renewable energy space. When I do, guess it's either Xantrex or Outback but probably will decide Xantrex again. I sure would hate to buy a fifth as spare!

    This another reason I'd wire the house with redundancy in mind.

    Hi, can you get me an email or address for this company, I have a Trace 1512 I would like to get fixed.
  • Mangas
    Mangas Solar Expert Posts: 547 ✭✭✭✭
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    Re: How would you wire the house?

    Try Sun Pumps, Safford, Arizona.
    Ranch Off Grid System & Custom Home: 2 x pair stacked Schneider XW 5548+ Plus inverters (4), 2 x Schneider MPPT 80-600 Charge Controllers, 2 Xanbus AGS Generator Start and Air Extraction System Controllers, 64 Trojan L16 REB 6v 375 AH Flooded Cel Batteries w/Water Miser Caps, 44 x 185 Sharp Solar Panels, Cummins Onan RS20 KW Propane Water Cooled Genset, ICF Custom House Construction, all appliances, Central A/C, 2 x High Efficiency Variable Speed three ton Central A/C 220v compressors, 2 x Propane furnaces, 2 x Variable Speed Air Handlers, 2 x HD WiFi HVAC Zoned System Controllers
  • solorone
    solorone Solar Expert Posts: 257 ✭✭✭
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    Re: How would you wire the house?
    Ralph Day wrote: »
    "Off Grid 4 x 5500SW Plus Xantrex SinePlus Inverters" (Mangas's signature line)

    Dual inverter method? Dual is leetle seestems!

    What's your plan when the Xantrex units start to fail, replace all at once? My 4048 is at 8 years and I wonder about it sometimes. I have grid so I can bypass while the next inverter is purchased and on line. I guess you could do as you already have and live on half system, install/replace one half then do the same for the other half. Do you have burly sons-in-law to help when the 5548's have to come off the wall?...they are brutes.

    When these units carried the Trace name, they were guessa/rated for 15 years, at least that is what Clyde Yamamoto told me, I am currently running a 13 YO 4024 Trace, and I run it very hard, so I am getting a bit nervous. I did recently, give it a cleaning. I used the exhaust of a shop vac to blow into the exhaust end of the Trace, and the suction side to collect the debris into a filter, and was not surprised to see a lot of dust come out. Living with the windows open does create dust issues. My Trace did run a good bit quieter, and cooler after the cleaning. Dust = heat, and is the enemy of electronics
  • Mangas
    Mangas Solar Expert Posts: 547 ✭✭✭✭
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    Re: How would you wire the house?

    Our system runs 24/7. I guess 10 years is useful life without ample spares which should be available till then.

    That, is my beef with the alternative energy industry. In depth product support.
    Ranch Off Grid System & Custom Home: 2 x pair stacked Schneider XW 5548+ Plus inverters (4), 2 x Schneider MPPT 80-600 Charge Controllers, 2 Xanbus AGS Generator Start and Air Extraction System Controllers, 64 Trojan L16 REB 6v 375 AH Flooded Cel Batteries w/Water Miser Caps, 44 x 185 Sharp Solar Panels, Cummins Onan RS20 KW Propane Water Cooled Genset, ICF Custom House Construction, all appliances, Central A/C, 2 x High Efficiency Variable Speed three ton Central A/C 220v compressors, 2 x Propane furnaces, 2 x Variable Speed Air Handlers, 2 x HD WiFi HVAC Zoned System Controllers
  • Dave Angelini
    Dave Angelini Solar Expert Posts: 6,781 ✭✭✭✭✭✭
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    Re: How would you wire the house?
    solorone wrote: »
    When these units carried the Trace name, they were guessa/rated for 15 years, at least that is what Clyde Yamamoto told me, I am currently running a 13 YO 4024 Trace, and I run it very hard, so I am getting a bit nervous. I did recently, give it a cleaning. I used the exhaust of a shop vac to blow into the exhaust end of the Trace, and the suction side to collect the debris into a filter, and was not surprised to see a lot of dust come out. Living with the windows open does create dust issues. My Trace did run a good bit quieter, and cooler after the cleaning. Dust = heat, and is the enemy of electronics

    Buy a spare. Buy a used spare. I will tell you that the XW 4024 is a far supperior inverter to your SW 4024. The real problem is that very few techs can make enough money servicing electronics. Good Luck and yes dust them every year and keep the bugs out!
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Nevada mountain area
       htps://offgridsolar1.com/
    E-mail offgridsolar@sti.net

  • Cariboocoot
    Cariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭✭
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    Re: How would you wire the house?
    Buy a spare. Buy a used spare. I will tell you that the XW 4024 is a far supperior inverter to your SW 4024. The real problem is that very few techs can make enough money servicing electronics. Good Luck and yes dust them every year and keep the bugs out!

    This is all oh so very, very true!

    As the industry has grown up (which it has done very rapidly) it has learned. The products now are better and cost less. Not even just "cost less for what they do"; they outright cost less. My MX60 (best charge controller on the market at the time) was $900 when I bought it. It's FM60 replacement is nearly $400 less! Pure sine wave was practically unheard of ten years ago, now there's almost no reason to bother with MSW inverters.

    When I was a tech I made a little over $4 per hour.
    Okay so that was back in the dawn of time when gasoline was 25 cents a gallon. :p
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,478 admin
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    Re: How would you wire the house?
    When I was a tech I made a little over $4 per hour.
    Okay so that was back in the dawn of time when gasoline was 25 cents a gallon. :p
    And now that gasoline is ~$4-$5 per gallon, you are making upwards of $80 an hour.

    -Bill "life is good" B. ;)
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • Cariboocoot
    Cariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭✭
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    Re: How would you wire the house?
    BB. wrote: »
    And now that gasoline is ~$4-$5 per gallon, you are making upwards of $80 an hour.

    -Bill "life is good" B. ;)

    I am? :confused:
    When do I get paid? :D