Help me complete this system?

Chris MillerChris Miller Solar Expert Posts: 49
Hi all,

New here on this site and new to solar.

So we're in Arizona now but we're going to be living off grid in SW Texas very soon. I am trying to get everything in place here FIRST so that we can move a working system down to Texas and "hit the ground running" if you will.

I feel like I have been getting some quality help from a small family owned solar shop here. I seem to be my own worst enemy with this stuff though because I just love to play around while building stuff and I've learned that with solar that's not a really wise idea. I need to plan, and focus on the plan. I already had to return one inverter that wasn't going to work long term.

Anyway.... here is what we have so far:

8 x Trojan T-105-RE's (i know these aren't the best, but for the budget, we needed to skimp on batteries some)
10x Hareon Solar 100 watt panels (I wanted to go with 230 watt canadian solar panels but the size is just too much for us to transport - plus we have unlimited room for the array in Texas)
Outback FM-80 Charge Controller
Midnite Solar Disconnect Box with 2 80amp breakers to protect the FM-80 from both the batteries and the PV input
Midnite Solar Combiner Box with 3 15 amp breakers to combine the 10 panels into 2 strands.

I have the system setup as a 48v system with all of the trojans in series obviously. When we move I plan to take down an additional 10-20 panels and a bigger combiner box to expand our system (its just for fun and testing right now).

First i guess I am looking for thoughts / opinions on what I have now. My feelings aren't easily hurt so fire away.

Secondly I am looking for opinions on the inverter. This will be the biggest investment in the entire system and I want to DO IT RIGHT. I've been talking to the local shop and they spoke highly of the magnum inverters. I am literally at the beginning of my research on inverters though and have no real idea. They spoke of the magnums essentially being "2 outback inverters in one" and mentioned that if I ever wanted 220 from an outback id need two of them. They also mentioned these e-panels that house all of the wiring behind the inverter and they seem like a pretty good idea but expensive at $400-$600.

In any event, I just want to finish off this system in the best way possible without breaking the bank. We're going to be living in a small 16'x40' home (http://www.our180.com/2012/06/09/our-future-home/) and our needs will me minimal. We'll need to cool the place to a comfortable level for sleeping, and we'll power a DSL modem, some LED / fluorescent lighting, and we'll need to charge 2 laptops and 2 tablets in the beginning. In time we'll have additional power needs but we'll be starting out pretty basic.

I'd appreciate any thoughts / opinions / feedback you might have.

Thanks!

Comments

  • KeithWHareKeithWHare Solar Expert Posts: 140 ✭✭✭
    Re: Help me complete this system?
    ...
    Secondly I am looking for opinions on the inverter. This will be the biggest investment in the entire system and I want to DO IT RIGHT. I've been talking to the local shop and they spoke highly of the magnum inverters. I am literally at the beginning of my research on inverters though and have no real idea. They spoke of the magnums essentially being "2 outback inverters in one" and mentioned that if I ever wanted 220 from an outback id need two of them. They also mentioned these e-panels that house all of the wiring behind the inverter and they seem like a pretty good idea but expensive at $400-$600.

    With a 48 volt battery bank, 240 volt output, you must be looking a the Magnum MS4448PAE. I've worked with Magnum MS4024 and have been pleased with it. So, with no additional data, I extrapolate that the MS4448PAE will also be good.

    You will want several "optional" pieces:
    • Remote -- ME-ARC or ME-RC -- Can't change settings or see what is happening without one of these
    • Battery Monitor -- ME-BMK -- provides useful information on the battery status, visible through the remote
    • Maybe a MagWeb Web Monitoring Kit -- captures data on a web site for later review

    I used a Midnite Solar e-panel and was really pleased with the result -- the e-panel made it look like I knew what I was doing. In addition, when I e-mailed questions to Midnite Solar, I receive quick, helpful responses. By the time you add up the cost of buss bars, breakers, places to mount additional breakers, etc., you will get to a significant percentage of the cost of the e-panel and your setup will not look as professional as the e-panel.

    Keith
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Help me complete this system?

    Welcome to the forum.

    I have to say the logistics of your plan don't make sense to me. You can't "hit the ground running" after moving everything from one place to another. It will all have to be disassembled, packaged, and transported to the new locale. Might as well have it all shipped there to begin with in original packaging and take advantage of that to be able to get larger, more cost-effective panels.

    There's nothing at all wrong with the Trojan RE batteries. They are some of the best you can get. A very good choice for starting out. Your array @ 1000 Watts is slightly small for them, but will work. Adding more panels is good, but adding two to three times as many is a waste of money. The FM80 is overkill at this level.

    Which brings us to the all-important question of loads. You need to have some target number for maximum Watts and daily Watt hours you need to supply. Without that info you are shooting in the dark and buying things at random; a big waste of money.

    The info you got on inverters is not exactly accurate. Magnums are good, but they aren't Outbacks. The features between the two differ, and one would be right for some applications whereas the other would be right in another. Even though the Outback's are 120 VAC, you do not need two to get 240 VAC (you can use an autotransformer). If you want to integrate with the charge controller you need Outback. If you need the slightly higher Watts and 240 split phase out of the box the Magnum may be the better choice.

    You need to cool the place to be comfortable. In Texas. Be prepared. There are many threads on the forum about running A/C from inverters. Take a look at Step 1: the mini-split A/C units which are more efficient and easier to start: http://forum.solar-electric.com/showthread.php?5104-Sanyo-mini-split-AC-%28inverter-variable-speed%29

    And you forgot the refrigerator. :p
    As it is you've got about 4.8 kW hours to work with, and that will probably not be enough once the Texas heat starts bearing down.
  • vtmapsvtmaps Solar Expert Posts: 3,738 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Help me complete this system?

    I agree with Keith, go for the Midnite Epanel. Make sure you get the 'Stretched' version. They come with great wiring diagrams and the best customer support in the industry.

    As Cariboocoot pointed out you must know your loads to design a system intelligently. You already forgot your fridge which is a huge load.

    Don't forget to get some Midnite surge protection devices. They fit nicely on the Midnite stretched Epanel.

    Good luck! --vtMaps
    4 X 235watt Samsung, Midnite ePanel, Outback VFX3524 FM60 & mate, 4 Interstate L16, trimetric, Honda eu2000i
  • PhotowhitPhotowhit Solar Expert Posts: 5,014 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Help me complete this system?

    Welcome Chris!

    You might check out threads by a soon to be neighbor "ywhic"

    I pesonally would not go with a shed, if you do insist on them building to 18" or 24" centers, I think Derickson's are mostly built this way. Next ask them to build with 6" or greater walls and 10" floor and roof that can have a minimum of 10" of insulation. If you can get them to wrap the building it will help make the building 'tight' when you insulate.

    For example on loads - I have an off grid cabin in Missouri, with a 10x16 cabin w/6" walls, built in the shade and I'm close to being able to run the AC round the clock with @1700 watts of array and about 2x the battery bank (on a 24v system)

    I recently purchased a 16x60 mobile home and hope to take it off grid, in Missouri, mostly in the sun, I planned on a 4KW arrary with the same (800Ah 24v battery) and only being able to run the AC for 10-12 hours, as it turns out I was able to salvage 2500 watts of panels and might be able to run 24 hours a day, with careful observation. I'll use a window AC in the bedroom and a mini split in the livingroom kitchen.

    Things you might consider with a small cabin, would be to move things that heat outside, my kitchen and bath are located in an unAC'd building the composting toilet generates heat and uses a heater to maintain the breakdown. I never moved the fridge to the kitchen area, as I finished this just before I found the 'deal' on the mobile home. I'm not not sure if it would save energy moving it into a hot enviroment or leaving it in the AC. I only use the cabin 3 nights a week currently. Storing hot water I would think would be best in a space outside of the AC'd area.

    I would seriously look at your loads berfore considering a inverter, What other heavy loads, Water pump? Fridge? are you cooking with Gas?....
    Home system 4000 watt (Evergreen) array standing, with 2 Midnite Classic Lites,  Midnite E-panel, Prosine 1800 and Exeltech 1100, 660 ah 24v ForkLift battery. Off grid for @16 of last 17 years. Assorted other systems, and to many panels in the closet to not do more...lol
  • ywhicywhic Solar Expert Posts: 621 ✭✭
    Re: Help me complete this system?

    Hi.. I can't help on this I'm still figuring out my small 870w array.. your at 1000w and planning another 1000 or 2000..

    My 12' x 24' TuffShed building/cabin was built with 16" c-c (2"x4") walls.. I'll be doing a loft in the back 10' x 12'...

    My lower 10' x 12' floor will have a 6' 3" ceiling height.. the upper loft about 6'.. just enough for beds and dresser..

    The front remaining 12' x 14' space will be OPEN air.. planning on a single low watt ceiling fan to move the natural air around..

    The reason I went with 12' x 24' was because that was the biggest I could afford for $5500.. and figure I can later BUILD off/out of it..

    If you can section off some of the space that may help you in the A/C department..
  • Chris MillerChris Miller Solar Expert Posts: 49
    Re: Help me complete this system?

    Thanks for the replies guys! I have to say... been using forums for 12+ years now and this is the first vbulletin forum I've ever visited that has the posts in reverse order. Yuck! :D

    First off, as others have pointed out we have kinda slapped this thing together without looking much at loads. Reason being, we're unsure on exactly what they will be once we get moved. Here in AZ we have full sized computers, air conditioners, 220 ovens, microwaves, multiple freezers, and a bunch of other stuff we just won't have when we move off grid. We're moving to laptops, planning to possibly use a swamp cooler, some solar oven cooking, 12v solar fridge / freezer, etc. So these are things I need to spec out still. We will be using some LP for cooking too.

    I guess the plan was to go big, and worry about the rest later.

    As for buying the stuff here, and taking it down - that just works for us. Having panels freighted to remote SW Texas would totally negate any cost savings for buying in bulk. We're 120 miles from the nearest stoplight which is up north in Ft. Stockton. Running trucks down here is VERY expensive. We're going to be just minutes from Mexico. It's very remote. So that left me buying the 100 watt panels sine they are easier to transport. I am pretty happy with them at $1.21-$1.24 / watt too - buying them in onesie / twosie fashion.

    I am seriously considering the Magnum MS4448PAE on a Midnite solar e-panel. I actually just made another post about that a few minutes ago. (http://forum.solar-electric.com/showthread.php?16269-Source-for-cheaper-Magnum-inverters)

    Thanks again
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,314 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Help me complete this system?

    I think you can reverse the order of display in the control panel if I am not mistaken.

    Tony
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,644 admin
    Re: Help me complete this system?

    Try clicking here:

    http://forum.solar-electric.com/profile.php?do=editoptions

    About 1/2 way down you will find: Thread Display Mode:
    Can I change the order of posts?
    You have a choice over how you view threads. When you're in a thread, look at the top bar. On the right hand side you'll see 'Display Mode'. Click on this and it lets you change how posts are ordered.
    You have three choices:
    Linear Mode - posts are displayed chronologically, usually from oldest to newest. Posts are shown in a flat mode so that many posts can be viewed simultaneously. It is possible to change the ordering by changing your preferences in the User CP
    Threaded Mode - a tree is shown along with every post. This shows you the relationship each post has to the others. It's easy to see who responded to whom. Only one post is shown at a time. By clicking on a single post in the post tree, the page will show that post and all posts made in response to it.
    Hybrid Mode - This is a mixture of the linear and threaded modes. The post tree is displayed as in the threaded mode, but many posts are shown at the same time as in the linear modes.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • Chris MillerChris Miller Solar Expert Posts: 49
    Re: Help me complete this system?
    BB. wrote: »
    Try clicking here:

    http://forum.solar-electric.com/profile.php?do=editoptions

    About 1/2 way down you will find: Thread Display Mode:






    -Bill

    Much better! Thank you :)
  • SolaRevolutionSolaRevolution Solar Expert Posts: 407 ✭✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Help me complete this system?

    Build your array to provide some useful shade.
    Putting them on the roof will help keep the house cooler.

    -Alex Aragon
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