What a small 100 watt system can do and other stuff

TDSolarguyTDSolarguy Solar Expert Posts: 31 ✭✭
Hello from The Dalles Oregon.
I thought I would share my Solar adventures with you all. It's been some time since my last post. I have cut down this months power usage to 492 KWH hours! My little Solar system is helping along with other coast saving measures. I upgraded my 40 watt panel to a 100 watt 12 volt panel. This powers my small two six volt 75 amp hour deep cycle Les Schwab batteries.

I have been changing over to cordless power tools to supplement my plug in power tools each month and now charge everything by solar. I went with Ryobi One Plus tools from Home Dept for most of the tools and it is working out great. It's just around the house tools, but wow, I like it. We also have a Hoover wind tunnel cordless vacuum cleaner and have a cordless hand vac as well. Wife loves them.
Over the last year I’ve replaced all of my lights with LED bulbs as I could afford each month.

On the lawn side of things, I replaced my fifteen year old Sears gas lawn mower with a new Worx 24 volt 17 inch cordless lawn mower. This Worx mower is Great. No more gas, spark plug, air filter, changing the oil and pull string to deal with. I love this low maintenance mower. I also charge it on my small solar system along with my Ryobi 18 volt trimmer. One other thing we did to save money in the long run is to buy rechargeable batteries. I think I have every size now from D size to AAA and charge them all from our solar system. No more batteries to buy. Just recharge them. We also hang dry all our laundry. Big savings on this one.

Having a small solar outfit is fun and although it's small, you can do a lot of things with it. I'm getting the attention from my family. Now they are asking about how to set up a small solar system and cost saving measures we are doing. Who else is doing some of these things. Lets here your ideas.

TD Solar guy


  • RandomJoeRandomJoe Solar Expert Posts: 472 ✭✭✭
    Re: What a small 100 watt system can do and other stuff

    Ah, another addict... ;)

    I started much the same way. Got the Harbor Freight 45W panel kit, a 100AH AGM battery, and hooked them up to my ham radio bench. Pretty quickly upgraded to a nicer charge controller, then started building a small collection of 12V DC lighting and bought a small pure-sine inverter.

    Soon enough I knew that wasn't enough - need to power more things! Also driven by my original goal - keep the "essentials" going during an extended power outage. So I started reading here and a few other places, learning all I could, and wound up with a much larger 12V system. 600AH in batteries (6 T105s in series/parallel), an Outback FM80 charge controller, and a much larger but still fairly basic inverter to power the fridge (that 1kW startup surge is tough). At this point, in my mind, the system was still largely a "backup" system. Normal operation would be more "hobby/experimentation" while powering the ham bench, and I'd hook up the inverter and plug in the fridge if necessary.

    I was also monitoring my grid usage more closely - I have never used just a whole lot anyway, but another hobby - computers - was driving up my base load quite a bit. At that time I was running some older P4-era machines that used a LOT of power just sitting there idle! So I started getting more efficient machines. My firewall / gateway box was originally a P3 machine using 50-60W, now it's an OpenRD Client sipping 7W. My server was a Dell P4 that idled at 100W, now it's a Mac Mini that idles at 12W - at 25W its Core2Duo processor outperforms the old P4! So on down the line, and putting stuff that only ran occasionally on separate power strips so they could be completely killed, I dropped my base load to just 100-150W. I'm still thinking of ways to reduce further! :)

    Eventually I did some remodeling and wanted to move the ham shack to the other side of the house. Problem was that huge battery bank sitting in the garage. I didn't want to run monster wires through the attic for 12V, and I didn't want to move the battery bank. I was also ready to "move up" a bit more... Enter two more T105s, a whole bunch more Outback gear, and now I had a 48V battery bank and an inverter that could run just about anything in the house! Of course I still needed to run the ham bench, but rather than plug a power supply into the inverter I just added ANOTHER panel to the roof, dedicated for the ham bench! (I now have three solar systems - the big inverter one, the ham bench, and the original HF panels that I use to charge batteries in the garage!)

    I originally planned to run entirely separate circuits from a small sub panel to outlets at strategic locations around the house. Still in that "backup-only" mentality. I never got around to it! I ran two "temporary" circuits - one literally running down the hall! - and that was it for a couple years!

    This year it's come to full fruition. I moved the sub panel back next to the main breaker panel, moved the main circuits of the house over to it, and now live effectively off-grid during the daytime. Don't have enough battery (yet!) to stay fully off-grid. It's been a fun experience figuring out just what I can do with the system. The electric lawn mower runs off the inverter. If I remember to do it during daylight I will run the washer and (gas) dryer on it. I was running saws and drills yesterday building a built-in desk - all solar-powered! The wildest of all though is solar-powered A/C! I had installed a mini-split in the back room for those hot P4-era servers, of course haven't needed it since I went to efficient machines. Darn near tore it out when I was repainting the house. Now I run it on the inverter during the afternoons, runs just fine - in fact it can get the room (which is my office) down to 67 when it's 100 outside!

    The only loads I can't run on my system now are the main house AC and the electric stove. I'd like to get a gas stove anyway, and the mini-split would probably cool the house sufficiently for me (I don't mind warm) if I could just circulate the air effectively. Will have to work on that...

    Needless to say, I've quite handily taken care of my original problem - backup power for an outage (though I'll have to turn off the nonessential stuff to conserve battery overnight). I also have a fun new hobby on which to expend my time and money! :cool:
  • waynefromnscanadawaynefromnscanada Solar Expert Posts: 3,009 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: What a small 100 watt system can do and other stuff

    Great progress TD Solar Guy! It's a real learning process and you're doing VERY well !
    Thanks for sharing.
  • BlackfoxBlackfox Registered Users Posts: 1
    Hi there, I'm glad I found this forum, I'm new on the Solar Panel area and looking forward to build a nice system to lower my electric consumption at home. Any recommendations on where to start? I plan to build a efficient but not too expensive set up, with that in mind I'm looking forward to learn and compare options :)
  • WaterWheelWaterWheel Registered Users Posts: 325 ✭✭✭
    Best place to start.
    rule 1,    It is almost always less expensive to conserve power than to create more power.      Led bulbs, insulation, energy efficient appliances

    Conext XW6848 with PDP, SCP, 80/600 controller, 60/150 controller and Conext battery monitor

    21 SW280 panels on Schletter ground mount

    48v Rolls 6CS 27P

  • JohannJohann Solar Expert Posts: 240 ✭✭✭
    Best thing would be to power things straight from solar panels without batteries,but most at the time batteries can not be avoid it.
    A battery is expensive compare what you are saving on the power bill.

    Conserving power is cheaper than making power with solar. Conserving power may get your Electric company to come to your place to check your meter like they done with me already twice. Of course I went from a $300 a month electric bill to $60 in winter and to about $100 in the summer.
    This year we started to solar dry our cloth also, another $35 in savings for us.

  • westbranchwestbranch Solar Expert Posts: 5,140 ✭✭✭✭
    Icarus's second rule of Solar: loads ALWAYS grow, indefinitly....

    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
  • tinabeena21tinabeena21 Registered Users Posts: 1
    I am temporarily moving into a 5th wheel, could be 5 weeks could be 5 months, instead of living off the electrical at the place I'm staying I'd rather get a 100w solar from harbor freight or something but I know nothing. What will it run? I just want to help out the people I'm staying with as well as myself. I'd rather be completely free from all electricity someday. I'm planning on investing in all LED Bulbs as I usually do any place I live. I'm more interested in keeping both ACs running, the fridge and oven, tv and lights. I could be living there a while and to make it another summer will be terribly expensive! I don't know the first thing. Help? 
  • littleharbor2littleharbor2 Solar Expert Posts: 1,320 ✭✭✭✭
    edited July 2017 #9
    Well  you're going to need to save your money you have saved on rent to buy enough solar, charge controller and batteries to run the systems in the 5th wheel. As far as air conditioning goes you might as well forget about it. It will take 6 months to a year of rent savings to cover the 5th wheel with solar panels and buy  enough batteries  to run the AC for a couple hours a day. 

    Your best bet would be to pay your friends or landlord for the electricity you use. You will be way ahead, financially. A 100 watt solar panel will do next to nothing as far as running the systems in your trailer.

    2.1 Kw Suntech 175 mono, Classic 200, Trace SW 4024 ( 15 years old  but brand new out of sealed factory box Jan. 2015), Bogart Tri-metric, 700 ah @24 volt AGM battery bank. Plenty of Baja Sea of Cortez sunshine.

  • EstragonEstragon Registered Users Posts: 3,721 ✭✭✭✭✭
    A 100w panel might produce 500watt hours in a day. An efficient fridge alone would use 2-3x that in a day.

    Running an electric oven takes a huge amount of power. I'm surprised a 5th wheel would have one. AC is also power hungry, and would take a much larger array of panels to run.

    You might be able to run the lights with the one panel and a couple of 6v golf cart batteries, and maybe the tv for an hour or so.
    Main daytime system ~4kw panels into 2xMNClassic150 370ah 48v bank 2xOutback 3548 inverter 120v + 240v autotransformer
    Night system ~1kw panels into 1xMNClassic150 700ah 12v bank morningstar 300w inverter
  • PhotowhitPhotowhit Solar Expert Posts: 4,912 ✭✭✭✭
     I'm more interested in keeping both ACs running, the fridge and oven, tv and lights. I could be living there a while and to make it another summer will be terribly expensive! I don't know the first thing. Help? 
    It will be MORE expensive on solar. I have a 5Kw array and a 16 kwh battery and I could NOT keep your typical RV parked in the sun going...

    If you are serious about going 'native' and living without electric. The only thing to do is to do it and see what you need to do, drying or canning for food preservation, dealing with the heat with an outside screen net to try to stay cool... Once you 'give in' each thing will seem like a luxury!
    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
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