Realistic to install my new solar gear myself?

softdownsoftdown Solar Expert Posts: 3,509 ✭✭✭✭
I have been reading my Outback Flexpower One installation manual. Oh boy...

I am half bright....not full bright. Helped wire a few homes and I think I understand volts, watts, amps, and resistance. Also have plenty of time and maybe help from this board. Got a few solar books as well. Been using a small 12 volt setup for four years.

Yes...good chance I could eventually get her done. Also a chance that I blow things up? Should I persevere or hire a pro to wire the thing up? Funds are pretty tight to say the least. I also know a guy who definitely knows electricity and solar. But I might describe his work as more 'fast' than 'sharp'. He also can't go 30 seconds without reminding me that the world, as we know it, will end any day now. This gets old very fast. I am already about worried to death about global events.

Using a little 12 volt system almost has no relation to the daunting task of wiring up 18 panels through the Flexpower One. Maybe I am over-reacting? Their manual, p.11: "Flexpower One is an integrated power system designed to be quick and easy to use." It came with about 1.5" of manuals. That makes it easy. Right?
First Bank:16 180 watt Grape Solar with  FM80 controller and 3648 Inverter....Fullriver 8D AGM solar batteries. Second Bank/MacGyver Special: 10 165(?) watt BP Solar with Renogy MPPT 40A controller/ and Xantrex C-35 PWM controller/ and Morningstar PWM controller...Cotek 24V PSW inverter....forklift and diesel locomotive batteries

Comments

  • gww1gww1 Solar Expert Posts: 963 ✭✭
    Re: Realistic to install my new solar gear myself?

    I found doing mine not that hard except for the money to buy the things I hadn't thought of and the things for a clean install. I cheated on some of them. I didn't put my direct burial alum wire in conduit but just buried it. Code has it where your battery cables to the inverter are supposed to be in conduit and I didn't do that. Overall it is mostly grunt work. The flex power will make it much easier. The wiring diagram was on the cover of my p2-ac/dc or whatever it is called. What I had a hard time with was knowing what was good to use on grounding and had to learn which and how to use it conduit. If you could only call your buddy on the hard things you could probly muddle through it. Knowing what to buy for the job was hardest. Most times when you figure that out putting it together is not that hard. I did jack around a few years gethering stuff and asking questions, computer collage, but when time to do it came, it came together pretty quick. It was my full time job while doing it and I didn't have to get sidetracted by having to make a living.

    Good luck
    gww
  • softdownsoftdown Solar Expert Posts: 3,509 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Realistic to install my new solar gear myself?

    gww1....your battery looks pretty impressive. How much does something like that weigh and what does it normally cost? I've been thinking that would be the way to go.
    First Bank:16 180 watt Grape Solar with  FM80 controller and 3648 Inverter....Fullriver 8D AGM solar batteries. Second Bank/MacGyver Special: 10 165(?) watt BP Solar with Renogy MPPT 40A controller/ and Xantrex C-35 PWM controller/ and Morningstar PWM controller...Cotek 24V PSW inverter....forklift and diesel locomotive batteries
  • gww1gww1 Solar Expert Posts: 963 ✭✭
    Re: Realistic to install my new solar gear myself?

    About $5300 to my door and it weighs one ton.
    gww
  • gww1gww1 Solar Expert Posts: 963 ✭✭
    Re: Realistic to install my new solar gear myself?

    Here I got mine. You should call rather then order on line.

    http://gbindustrialbattery.com/Forklift_Battery_Sizes_and_Specifications_Zone15.html

    gww
  • PhotowhitPhotowhit Solar Expert Posts: 5,650 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Realistic to install my new solar gear myself?

    With an 'all in one' power center, it should be very simple install. If you haven't gotten the equipment yet, you might look at the Composite systems Midnite prewires available through NAWS (Northern Arizona Wind and Sun)
    Home system 4000 watt (Evergreen) array standing, with 2 Midnite Classic Lites,  Midnite E-panel, Magnum MS4024, Prosine 1800(now backup) and Exeltech 1100(former backup...lol), 660 ah 24v Forklift battery(now 10 years old). Off grid for 20 years (if I include 8 months on a bicycle).
    - Assorted other systems, pieces and to many panels in the closet to not do more projects.
  • CDN_VTCDN_VT Solar Expert Posts: 492 ✭✭✭
    Re: Realistic to install my new solar gear myself?

    Yes , READ & follow what is posted / read / codes plus to the best of your knowledge as you learn . Yes the world is in a handbasket ,
    Im into my 3rd year 1/32 built , many K lighter
    I needed to drop 200+' trees , process , etc . as im installing .



    VT
  • softdownsoftdown Solar Expert Posts: 3,509 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Realistic to install my new solar gear myself?
    gww1 wrote: »
    Here I got mine. You should call rather then order on line.

    http://gbindustrialbattery.com/Forklift_Battery_Sizes_and_Specifications_Zone15.html

    gww

    Thanks....that looks ideal. Though wrestling a ton around would be quite the challenge. Looks like it would fit through my 28" sunroom door. Appears to be the most battery for the money so far. Also resistant to burglars.....the bane of everyones existence. I think crime is sometimes a greater concern in the country.
    First Bank:16 180 watt Grape Solar with  FM80 controller and 3648 Inverter....Fullriver 8D AGM solar batteries. Second Bank/MacGyver Special: 10 165(?) watt BP Solar with Renogy MPPT 40A controller/ and Xantrex C-35 PWM controller/ and Morningstar PWM controller...Cotek 24V PSW inverter....forklift and diesel locomotive batteries
  • softdownsoftdown Solar Expert Posts: 3,509 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Realistic to install my new solar gear myself?
    Photowhit wrote: »
    With an 'all in one' power center, it should be very simple install. If you haven't gotten the equipment yet, you might look at the Composite systems Midnite prewires available through NAWS (Northern Arizona Wind and Sun)

    This is what I have: http://www.solar-electric.com/inverters-controllers-accessories/fabuprsy/outback-flexpower-preassembled-inverter-systems/outback-flexpower-preassembled-single-inverter-systems/outback-flexpower-preassembled-inverter-system-fp1-vfx3648.html

    You are the first person, that I have seen, that has called a 48 volt, off grid, solar installation a "very simple installation." Are you a brain surgeon? Little more to it than the controller and inverter.
    First Bank:16 180 watt Grape Solar with  FM80 controller and 3648 Inverter....Fullriver 8D AGM solar batteries. Second Bank/MacGyver Special: 10 165(?) watt BP Solar with Renogy MPPT 40A controller/ and Xantrex C-35 PWM controller/ and Morningstar PWM controller...Cotek 24V PSW inverter....forklift and diesel locomotive batteries
  • gww1gww1 Solar Expert Posts: 963 ✭✭
    Re: Realistic to install my new solar gear myself?

    Soft
    When what you buy provides the breaker size with the spicific equiptment you use it does make things much simpler. I found the manual to be a giant help as I believe it was writen with code in mind. I found the online voltage drop caculator to be helpful as well as the conduit calculators.

    Where the manual was't the most help. The most confusing portion of the manual was the hooking up of the ac to the inverter. I have seen one person hook the ac to the inverter and then the inverter back to the ac instead of a dedicated sub panel. That creates a dead short and could be constrewed form looking at the manual. That was the only thing I noticed that wasn't quite clear. It isn't to bad and the eqiptment you are starting with will make it better. I did one other thing that took advice from here to come up with. I took a board with two stainles steel bolts and made my battery bus bar. One bolt for positive and one bolt for neg and some kind of cover where you can work on one at a time without worry of touching the other. One other thing. don't think dc is not bad. when you work on the dc breaker box, make sure that the breaker is off or one of the battery cables are lose.
    Good luck
    gww
  • solarixsolarix Solar Expert Posts: 713 ✭✭
    Re: Realistic to install my new solar gear myself?

    A basic off-grid system is really pretty simple - unless you have to get it permitted. Array to charge controller to battery to inverter to load center. A few disconnects and breakers inserted in the important places and you are powerful. Getting permitted is often not easy though. Grounding, hydrogen off-gassing, overcurrent protection, stamped engineered drawings, what-if, what-if, what-if? That's when you need someone who knows the building department's routine.
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Realistic to install my new solar gear myself?

    It's only simple if you've already done it, boys.

    For someone who has no experience with the systems it is complicated. Even choosing the major components can send people into a major depression. I've seen it over and over.

    But it is not impossible. The biggest help is being able to understand the underlying principles behind the 'whys'. Otherwise you must accept someone's design and follow it on blind faith, and that is not always a smart thing to do.

    I would ask the OP this question: how confident are you in yourself and your ability to learn and do?
  • softdownsoftdown Solar Expert Posts: 3,509 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Realistic to install my new solar gear myself?

    Everything is easy.......after you have done it. Doing it......different story.
    First Bank:16 180 watt Grape Solar with  FM80 controller and 3648 Inverter....Fullriver 8D AGM solar batteries. Second Bank/MacGyver Special: 10 165(?) watt BP Solar with Renogy MPPT 40A controller/ and Xantrex C-35 PWM controller/ and Morningstar PWM controller...Cotek 24V PSW inverter....forklift and diesel locomotive batteries
  • gww1gww1 Solar Expert Posts: 963 ✭✭
    Re: Realistic to install my new solar gear myself?
    For someone who has no experience with the systems it is complicated. Even choosing the major components can send people into a major depression. I've seen it over and over

    I found this the hardest, and mentioned that in my first post. Most came with some kind of insruction but not knowing what was out there that would work was hard for me.
    gww
  • softdownsoftdown Solar Expert Posts: 3,509 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Realistic to install my new solar gear myself?
    It's only simple if you've already done it, boys.

    For someone who has no experience with the systems it is complicated. Even choosing the major components can send people into a major depression. I've seen it over and over.

    But it is not impossible. The biggest help is being able to understand the underlying principles behind the 'whys'. Otherwise you must accept someone's design and follow it on blind faith, and that is not always a smart thing to do.

    I would ask the OP this question: how confident are you in yourself and your ability to learn and do?

    Thanks....I posted the same logic before seeing this post.

    I have a lot of self confidence and am a good learner and general do-it-yourselfer. My weaknesses are welding and electronics. Unfortunately, this stuff kind of borders on electronics....my weakness. I have time and other things working for me. But let us be realistic. Doing a semi-large off grid solar install is a pretty daunting challenge. It is about ten subjects all wrapped into one. Each one can bite your tail off as well.
    First Bank:16 180 watt Grape Solar with  FM80 controller and 3648 Inverter....Fullriver 8D AGM solar batteries. Second Bank/MacGyver Special: 10 165(?) watt BP Solar with Renogy MPPT 40A controller/ and Xantrex C-35 PWM controller/ and Morningstar PWM controller...Cotek 24V PSW inverter....forklift and diesel locomotive batteries
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Realistic to install my new solar gear myself?
    softdown wrote: »
    Thanks....I posted the same logic before seeing this post.

    I have a lot of self confidence and am a good learner and general do-it-yourselfer. My weaknesses are welding and electronics. Unfortunately, this stuff kind of borders on electronics....my weakness. I have time and other things working for me. But let us be realistic. Doing a semi-large off grid solar install is a pretty daunting challenge. It is about ten subjects all wrapped into one. Each one can bite your tail off as well.

    I would say it is not electronics as much as wiring. You won't be soldering anything or building any circuitry, just connecting wires. Do that right and it works. Remember to include the proper circuit protection and even doing it wrong will not be much of an issue. There are wiring conventions which if followed make it easier to keep things straight. Don't worry too much about NEC and its foibles.

    There is also a major mechanical aspect to it: mounting components in the right places and right ways. Especially true of the solar panels themselves. They are large, heavy, and fragile - not a good combination. Inverter-chargers are heavy as are batteries. Careful measuring and planning, and an assistant who does what he's told, can really help here.

    The third aspect (or fourth if you count picking components) is programming; setting all the settings to where they work best in your application. That is rarely a one-time deal. Usually you start out with initial numbers, then check performance and adjust until you get everything working as best as possible. This could take a couple of months for some systems.

    In summation:

    1). Choose major components and design to suit needs, planning placement and layout and determining miscellaneous pieces (mounting hardware, wiring & protection) required.
    2). Mount components and connect wiring, doing one circuit at a time (there are four major circuits to an off-grid system). Double check.
    3). Activate in order and check each section is functioning properly. Batteries to charge controller first; program controller. PV to controller second; charge batteries fully (check SG if possible; try not to rely on Voltage alone). Activate inverter and check its programming & function. Finally activate AC load circuits.

    If something goes wrong along the way you stop, find the fault, and correct it.

    Sounds simple. Until you try it. If you've had experience with any type of wiring installation it will be much easier.
  • westbranchwestbranch Solar Expert Posts: 5,183 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Realistic to install my new solar gear myself?

    To add to what 'Coot clearly laid out: If you can make your system work with a minimum of panels or 1 of a (dreaded) multiple set of parallel batteries, do that first to see just how things will physically go together and function.

    For example I remounted my E-Panel 5 times because it was not quite 'right'. Now with a few additions/changes etc I have to move it again... so don't expect you will get it bang on the first time.

    Pre-assemble as much as possible of all the wiring parts of components going into ie an E-Panel, some of the stuff is in tight places and it is handy if you don't have to stand on your head because the box is on the wall already...

    Like has been said, it gets easier every time you do (repeat) it so practice as much as possible.

    Have fun!
     
    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
  • softdownsoftdown Solar Expert Posts: 3,509 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Realistic to install my new solar gear myself?

    This is where it all happens. Roof is at 165 degrees south....which is ideal for my location. So far, so good. But sunroom temps vary from 90F during a warm, sunny day to 32F during a cold, cloudy spell. Those are the extremes so far.

    At the back of the sunroom is a very sturdy stairway to the root cellar. It is made of old 6"x6" railroad ties. At the bottom of the staircase is a 3.5 foot wide wall. I am currently planning to mount the 98 pound Flexpower One/charger-inverter array to this wall. It never gets hot down there. The root cellar is too cold for the batteries, the cellar was built for cold storage. So I am thinking of mounting the batteries at the back of the concrete floor of the sunroom. About four feet over and to the west of the inverter/charger array. No direct sun so large batteries should stay below 80F...I think.


    Attachment not found.
    First Bank:16 180 watt Grape Solar with  FM80 controller and 3648 Inverter....Fullriver 8D AGM solar batteries. Second Bank/MacGyver Special: 10 165(?) watt BP Solar with Renogy MPPT 40A controller/ and Xantrex C-35 PWM controller/ and Morningstar PWM controller...Cotek 24V PSW inverter....forklift and diesel locomotive batteries
  • westbranchwestbranch Solar Expert Posts: 5,183 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Realistic to install my new solar gear myself?

    Forgot, sketches with actual ( or best estimate) distances (use a tape measure where possible) is a real help when starting from scratch...
     
    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
  • gww1gww1 Solar Expert Posts: 963 ✭✭
    Re: Realistic to install my new solar gear myself?

    I found while wireing, that one of those cheap little head lamps was really helpful and it is really helpful when looking/filling battery also.
    gww
  • PhotowhitPhotowhit Solar Expert Posts: 5,650 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Realistic to install my new solar gear myself?
    softdown wrote: »
    This is what I have: http://www.solar-electric.com/inverters-controllers-accessories/fabuprsy/outback-flexpower-preassembled-inverter-systems/outback-flexpower-preassembled-single-inverter-systems/outback-flexpower-preassembled-inverter-system-fp1-vfx3648.html

    You are the first person, that I have seen, that has called a 48 volt, off grid, solar installation a "very simple installation." Are you a brain surgeon? Little more to it than the controller and inverter.

    Brain salad surgery!

    No, and I'll admit moving a big hunk of lead isn't simple! but it ain't brain surgery! I did move my 1100lb battery onto and off of a trailer and into position with out any mechanical devices, just big leavers, ramps and my unusually large personal mass!
    Home system 4000 watt (Evergreen) array standing, with 2 Midnite Classic Lites,  Midnite E-panel, Magnum MS4024, Prosine 1800(now backup) and Exeltech 1100(former backup...lol), 660 ah 24v Forklift battery(now 10 years old). Off grid for 20 years (if I include 8 months on a bicycle).
    - Assorted other systems, pieces and to many panels in the closet to not do more projects.
  • CDN_VTCDN_VT Solar Expert Posts: 492 ✭✭✭
    Re: Realistic to install my new solar gear myself?
    Photowhit wrote: »
    Brain salad surgery!

    No, and I'll admit moving a big hunk of lead isn't simple! but it ain't brain surgery! I did move my 1100lb battery onto and off of a trailer and into position with out any mechanical devices, just big leavers, ramps and my unusually large personal mass!
    I agree , I use pulleys slings , what ever I can.

    Slowly , little steps I will have my 3rd largest system working in a year + . The other's on the ranch are preforming well as with the mountain rescue huts so far (just rain ,no snow as of Jan 17,SD 2014)
    Just today , and 6 hrs of it (excluding the planing & prep work ) I drop in the conduit from the roof trusses down to where the gutter / combiner will sit.
    it's the first of 40' & as I move across the the building I'll down size the conduit to the stand heads.

    Was a good day , didn't break anything including me working in a 25' attic in the barn/stable .

    VT
  • AnawaAnawa Solar Expert Posts: 211 ✭✭✭
    Re: Realistic to install my new solar gear myself?

    Softdown, currently doing the same thing... Installing an Outback FP2 system from scratch "as we speak". Like you, I have apprehensions with actual install, although I've studied off-grid a lot. I have installed a couple of 12v systems for barn lighting and currently operating a Grundfos SQ11 deep well water pump configuration. This forum does, indeed, provide support that is not available locally.

    I've been receiving all my components over the last couple of weeks... FP2 panel, combiner box, PV cable, PV panels, generator, etc. late Friday afternoon, got a call from freight line wanting to deliver 800 ah "batteries"from GB industrial. I'm over a mile off the paved-road on a gravel drive that meanders over creeks, up inclines, and down some pretty steep (muddy) grades. I had planned to off-load the "batteries" at the paved road and walk each of them down the mile to the site. Got a major surprise when the driver told me the 1000 lb "batteries" were on one pallet. I re-scheduled the Friday delivery to Monday to give me some time to figure out if my tractor can handle this load. At this point I'm not sure, but see it as just another exciting adventure in off-grid living.

    Hoping your install goes well without any major setbacks and interruptions.

    Anawa in Georgia
    Paul 
    in Georgia

    System 1: PV- 410w Evergreen, Mppt- Blue Sky Solar Boost, Batt - 225ah Deka AGM, 12v led house lighting,
    System 2: PV- 215w Kyocera, PWM - Morningstar PS30, Batt- 225ah Deka GC's, 12v led house lighting, Dankoff 12v water pump,
    System 3: PV- 1.5kw Kyocera, Grundfos 11 SQF well pump, 3000 gal above ground water storage, dom water & irrigation,
    System 4: PV- 6.1kw Kyocera, Mppt- Outback FM80-2ea, Inverter- Outback FX3648-2ea, Batt- 804ah GB traction, Grundfos BMQE booster pump 240v, Mitsibushi mini-splits 240v, 18k and 15k
  • softdownsoftdown Solar Expert Posts: 3,509 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Realistic to install my new solar gear myself?

    Yes Anawa....it is an adventure. Here in Colorado, sub-zero temperatures add to the adventure. In Georgia, you have 'monsoon' type rains. The sunroom is currently 44F. Pretty good considering it is 2F outside.
    First Bank:16 180 watt Grape Solar with  FM80 controller and 3648 Inverter....Fullriver 8D AGM solar batteries. Second Bank/MacGyver Special: 10 165(?) watt BP Solar with Renogy MPPT 40A controller/ and Xantrex C-35 PWM controller/ and Morningstar PWM controller...Cotek 24V PSW inverter....forklift and diesel locomotive batteries
  • gww1gww1 Solar Expert Posts: 963 ✭✭
    Re: Realistic to install my new solar gear myself?

    anawa

    I don't know what your tracktor is. It sounds like you have a 24 volt battery cause my 48 volt one weighed 1 ton. I used a kabota 3300 to move mine from a trailer to a dolly. About 15 feet. The batteries have a box with a hole on each end that I put a chain through. The kabota would not lift the battery but if I raised the front loader with the bucket rotated all the way forward and hook the chain to the bucket and then rotated the bucket back it would raise it. As long as I didn't touch anything on the loader controls it held it up, I tried to raise the bucket a bit further and id dropped it a bit. I quit touching anything and it kept the battery high enough to get it on the dolly/rack that it still sits on today.

    Good luck
    gww
  • DenmanDenman Solar Expert Posts: 42 ✭✭
    Re: Realistic to install my new solar gear myself?

    Sent you a note Softdown, if you're close I'll be happy to lend a hand with the heavy lifting.
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