Newbie ready to go off grid

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  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 9,035 ✭✭✭✭✭
    >  We are only "out there" on weekends, so the Yeti 3000 has all week to recharge on solar. 

    And that means that for 3 days, it's sulfating the undercharged battery, effectively walking the capacity down.  How much per week, depends on how deeply you discharge the battery.  (unless the yeti has a Li battery )
    Powerfab top of pole PV mount | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
    || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
    || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

    solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
    gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister ,

  • PorschephanaticPorschephanatic Registered Users Posts: 61 ✭✭
    edited January 2019 #123
    Yes, Sir. Li battery. We only ran it down to 81% (indicated) SOC over a 2 day period one weekend. I am still fascinated by my wife's Samsung Galaxy S5 phone. It's over 4 years old, and she routinely runs it down to 0% (indicated) and it shuts off, then recharges it overnight  and DEEP cycles it again, (over and over and over again).  ;)    Does 0% mean 0%, or is it really maybe 40%, 30%, SOC? I don't know how it takes such abuse. We have a Campbell-Hausfeld 12 volt LA jump starter / power supply / 75 watt 120v inverter that is well over 10 years old, and it still works reasonably well powering a radio, a laptop,  and my computerized telescope, (and charging my wife's phone, LOL!) all night. Maybe the charger for that is "smart" and "refreshes" the battery?  Our DeWalt 20v MAX 2 AH and 5 AH Li tool batteries hold a charge for a long time,  but do not like to charge when they are cold. I'm getting quite an education on batteries!   B)
  • softdownsoftdown Solar Expert Posts: 3,479 ✭✭✭✭
    edited January 2019 #124
    Yes, Sir. Li battery. We only ran it down to 81% (indicated) SOC over a 2 day period one weekend. I am still fascinated by my wife's Samsung Galaxy S5 phone. It's over 4 years old, and she routinely runs it down to 0% (indicated) and it shuts off, then recharges it overnight  and DEEP cycles it again, (over and over and over again).  ;)    Does 0% mean 0%, or is it really maybe 40%, 30%, SOC? I don't know how it takes such abuse. We have a Campbell-Hausfeld 12 volt LA jump starter / power supply / 75 watt 120v inverter that is well over 10 years old, and it still works reasonably well powering radios, a laptop, and my computerized telescope all night. Maybe the charger for that is "smart" and "refreshes" the battery?  Our DeWalt 20v MAX 2 AH and 5 AH Li tool batteries hold a charge for a long time,  but do not like to charge when they are cold. I'm getting quite an education on batteries!   B)
    My lithium tool batteries are not happy when cold. I have wondered if using them when cold may damage their delicate senses. My lithium jump start batteries are so sorry when cold that I am returning them. Seems like cold weather is an achilles heel for lithium. Apparently sparking some activity helps activate their ions. 

    Li batteries may be made of an array of materials. The most common tool battery composition is lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide.

    I feel misled by Elon Musk when he stated that lithium batteries are largely made of aluminum, cobalt and graphite. He was referring to the latest high density performance lithium batteries of course. 

    [deleted... stop fishing for flame wars. -Bill B. moderator]
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Research_in_lithium-ion_batteries#Lithium_nickel_manganese_cobalt_oxide
    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
  • PorschephanaticPorschephanatic Registered Users Posts: 61 ✭✭
    It still seems, based on the battery threads that I have been perusing, that the Li batteries may be the way to go when we buy our "big" system for new home, because of their longevity, ease of maintenance, and quicker charge times. I will probably do what my brother-in-law did, store the batteries in the basement, where the temperatures will remain reasonably steady throughout the year.  :)
  • softdownsoftdown Solar Expert Posts: 3,479 ✭✭✭✭
    Their future looks bright though the road has some bumps so far.
    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
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 31,072 admin
    Do your "paper design(s)" first before buying hardware...

    Integrating charge controllers, BMS, and loads can have some issues (and depending on if you want "push button automatic" or are going out to check each cell with a hand meter a few times a month--And possibly manually balance cells (manual balancing should not be a common event).

    Also--I am very leary of putting any high power/storage system in a home or basement... Especially Lithium based.

    Lithium battery fires can release some very nasty chemicals--Hydrofluoric acid being my major concern (very small amounts can lead to long term health effects and death). Let alone the issue that the standard fire fighting technique is dumping water and waiting until the battery has burned itself out.

    Yes, I may be over dramatizing the Lithium issues... Your mileage may vary.

    -Bill "no battery expert here" B.
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • PorschephanaticPorschephanatic Registered Users Posts: 61 ✭✭
    My brother-in-law bought AGM (type 2?) Are they safer than lithium in his basement?   :#  His basement has some venting.
  • softdownsoftdown Solar Expert Posts: 3,479 ✭✭✭✭
    My brother-in-law bought AGM (type 2?) Are they safer than lithium in his basement?   :#  His basement has some venting.
    AGM costs more but offers low self discharge and no maintenance whatsoever. I think they are as safe as anything else. I believe they also charge a bit more efficiently?

    Of course battery quality varies..
    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
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 31,072 admin
    Any battery stores energy with its internal chemicals and materials. Put it in CO2 or under water, and they will continue to heat/possibly combust (some Li Ion chemistries).

    Gasoline... In a sealed can, nothing can set it off.

    With off grid systems in general, you have lots of fuel somewhere for the genset (fuel lines, fuel pump, hot engine/electrical). And a large battery bank. Any and all of those can start/sustain fires pretty nicely.

    I suggest being conservative (following code, use fire "proof" materials under the batteries & electronics, and fire proof wall material (sheetrock, cement backer board, etc.). Mounting on raw plywood makes things easy, but easy to light off if something overheats/drops flaming plastic.

    Installing the genset+fuel in one outbuilding, and the battery+panels+electronics in another--Sort of limits your losses if something "goes wrong".

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • PorschephanaticPorschephanatic Registered Users Posts: 61 ✭✭
         This is all starting to make more sense.
         I now remember reading threads about maintaining battery temperature in remote outbuildings. He has his batteries sitting directly on concrete with the closest combustible materials being the joists and flooring overhead. Ease of maintenance and safety may be why he and his installer may have chosen AGM?  I'll have to study AGM threads more thoroughly.
         What is the most likely thing to "go wrong" with Li batteries? Over Temperature? Faults with CC's? Over current/charge? Wood stoves in the winter up here associated with off-grid living malfunctioning?
          I have probably developed severe misconceptions regarding battery technology, (my wife's aforementioned cell phone battery). The Li chemistry must be vastly different and prohibitively expensive for off-grid energy storage. Lay on the black dash in August? No sweat! Lay in her SUV overnight at 5 degrees above zero F with 0% SOC (indicated). Easy breezy. Just bring it inside the house, plug in the charger, and wait for a short while, and it is suddenly "alive" again. It has endured this for 4+ years, LOL!     :D    I don't know yet how our new YETI 3000 will perform in the long run, but it has been exceptional so far.
          Thank you all for being patient with us newbies.
  • EstragonEstragon Registered Users Posts: 4,478 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I have Samsung note 3 and found that once the battery started going, it went downhill pretty fast.  Fortunately, changing the battery is easy.  Bought a couple of replacements, so should be good for a few more years.  My guess is the internal solid state memory will be what prompts replacement rather than battery problem.
    Off-grid.  
    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
  • stmoloudstmoloud Registered Users Posts: 111 ✭✭
    Chose not to upgrade when prompted. Otherwise you will get a lot of bloat ware which will cause you to want to get a faster model when your current one slows down to a snail's pace
    760W panel array, 4 x 6v 220 ah Crown batteries, Tristar TS-45 PWM controller,  no name 600 PSW inverter. 
  • softdownsoftdown Solar Expert Posts: 3,479 ✭✭✭✭
    Yep - Apple, Samsung and Microsoft pull that to get new sales. Disgusting. 
    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
  • EstragonEstragon Registered Users Posts: 4,478 ✭✭✭✭✭
    The memory thing isn't so much bloatware slowing things down (though I've certainly had that issue with the likes of Windows).  It's that the solid state memory degrades over time with repeated writes, and eventually runs out of good space to deal with it.
    Off-grid.  
    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
  • PorschephanaticPorschephanatic Registered Users Posts: 61 ✭✭
          Hello, All. Happy Holidays! I have just been lurking around when I have time to study threads here.
          We have our site cleared,and our septic system installed, and will be ready for our well and foundation this year.  BB. said:
    Any battery stores energy with its internal chemicals and materials. Put it in CO2 or under water, and they will continue to heat/possibly combust (some Li Ion chemistries).

    Gasoline... In a sealed can, nothing can set it off.

    With off grid systems in general, you have lots of fuel somewhere for the genset (fuel lines, fuel pump, hot engine/electrical). And a large battery bank. Any and all of those can start/sustain fires pretty nicely.

    I suggest being conservative (following code, use fire "proof" materials under the batteries & electronics, and fire proof wall material (sheetrock, cement backer board, etc.). Mounting on raw plywood makes things easy, but easy to light off if something overheats/drops flaming plastic.

    Installing the genset+fuel in one outbuilding, and the battery+panels+electronics in another--Sort of limits your losses if something "goes wrong".

    -Bill
               For our site plan, I intend to have a dedicated outbuilding for our genset and fuel. We are still on the fence about our battery storage. We will likely go with Li Ion batteries, as we have had good performance from our 10 DeWalt 20V Max Li batteries, and our Goal Zero Yeti 3000 Li equipment with 1.1 kw of panels out at our shed. The Goal Zero ran a refrigerator 24/7 all summer long with no issues. The lowest charge level indicated was 70%, and would easily reach 100% on sunny days.
               BUT..... then the weather got cold, and these batteries don't want to charge very well. Our panels will be out in the clearing, and not on our roof of the house under the tree canopy. What do you think about a room with poured concrete walls and ceiling, with a 2 or 3 hour fire-rated steel door leading to the outside of the basement, to help control battery temperature throughout the year. We plan on using wood and coal in the basement, and a propane fireplace upstairs to heat our home. 
              Or would our inverter produce enough heat in a well insulated shed?
               Thank you for all the input. I'm too old to keep learning the hard way.        :)  
  • EstragonEstragon Registered Users Posts: 4,478 ✭✭✭✭✭
    AFAIK lithium batteries should never be charged in freezing temps, and should be current restricted discharging.  Depending on ambient and inverter loading, I suspect it would be hard to get enough heat to reliably warm a sizable battery bank.

    Personally, I'd be okay with a LiFePo (or lead acid) bank in a basement bunker like you describe, but I'm not sure I'd be okay with other lithium chemistries.
    Off-grid.  
    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: 5,366 ✭✭✭✭✭
    For those following the safety part of this thread...

    This years wave of new battery technology appears to be solid state lithium technology. Something that has been worked on for years and has the potential to be much safer.
    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
  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Solar Expert Posts: 5,506 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Potentially but not there yet. One still is adding more electronics and failure sources to the battery. With redundant LFP at least there is a back-up. That is what I do for my clients who insist on paying 3 times the price up front. The inverter heat will do nothing in a cold climate and so a heat source must be present for LFP.

    The good LFP commercial batteries log temp for warranty. Do it right or you will get to do it again. This is the critical phase also. good Luck!
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
     http://members.sti.net/offgridsolar/
    E-mail [email protected]

  • PhotowhitPhotowhit Solar Expert Posts: 5,366 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Dyson was  reportedly trying to release his car in 2020(which he intended to  use a SS battery), so I went to look for an  up date....
    ...looks like he's thrown  in the towel. 

    https://fortune.com/longform/james-dyson-electric-car-appliances/

    I'm glad people are embracing lithium batteries and emerging technology. It's one of the reasons I bought a solar panel for my boat in the early 90's, just to support  emerging technology. Hopefully the price will come down 7-10 fold, like solar did  in  the 20 years following.
    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
  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Solar Expert Posts: 5,506 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited December 2019 #141
    Or something better for storage will emerge. I have heard IBM has a storage patent out that holds promise. I have heard that many times though ;)

    https://www.tomshardware.com/news/ibm-discovers-heavy-metal-and-cobalt-free-battery-breakthrough
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
     http://members.sti.net/offgridsolar/
    E-mail [email protected]

  • BoFullerBoFuller Solar Expert Posts: 169 ✭✭✭
    BoFuller said:
    We chose our property knowing the grid was 5 miles away. We have a 3.8 kW system and we do laundry when we want to. We have a microwave, a toaster oven and an electric Mr. Coffee. My backup generator has only kicked in about 10 days a year, mostly in January, but also a couple days in June when the whole clan shows up, which means blow dryers also.
    We love being off the grid. I firmly believe the grid is a ticking bomb and will start experiencing problems one of these days. Read Lights Out by Ted Koppell.
    I say go for it, and don’t ruin that view.

    For your Mr. Coffee Do you brew then shut off the machine? I pour my coffee into a insulated carafe to keep it hot. Saves a lot of power. The coffee doesn't seem to get old and burnt tasting in the carafe either.   I noticed you seem to be a bit under paneled for the size of your battery. How many amps do you get at full bulk charge? Do you have about 780 ah. of battery?
    I use the tea kettle on the propane stove and then make instant coffee. If we have company, then I use an old coffee perker that also goes on the stove.
    Yes, 780 ah. 
    On average, we go down to 80% at night and on average, it is up to 100 by noon, so I don’t think we are under-paneled.
    12 Kyocera 235 panels, 16 Trojan L16 RE-B batteries, Outback 3600W 48V system, Generac 11K propane backup generator, NW AZ, off grid, 6,000 ft (system installed in April 2015)

  • PorschephanaticPorschephanatic Registered Users Posts: 61 ✭✭
           I've been doing a ton of research pouring over threads on this site, and the time is drawing near to make decisions. We are leaning towards purchasing an entire system. 
           What I am trying to wrap my head around is the automatic generator startup and efficiency. We are looking at the Estate kit with the 16kw inverter/charger, but will need help deciding what batteries and generator would be best for efficiency. 
           My sister and her husband seem to be using a lot of fuel during these cloudy days. I don't think that their AGM batteries and loads in the house can take anywhere near all of the energy that the generator can produce, even during the bulk phase. 
           I truly appreciate all of your advice, and trust it. Thoughts? Thank you. 
  • EstragonEstragon Registered Users Posts: 4,478 ✭✭✭✭✭
    My suggestion would be to list:
    1.  Daily kwh use budget
    2.  Details (amps, voltage) of any loads needing large current (eg water pumping)
    3.  Approximate location
    4.  Expected use (full-time, seasonal, etc)

    IMHO, kits can be a good starting point.  If they happen to be optimal for your application, great.  Even so, understanding the trade-offs implicit in the package is likely to help align your expectations with actual performance.
    Off-grid.  
    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
  • PorschephanaticPorschephanatic Registered Users Posts: 61 ✭✭
             Thank you. This will be our permanent year round home. And we will have a deep well. I expect to pay around $2k or so annually for fuel. 
             It may just be the way that my sister's system is programmed, because she has very low load levels. Just a few led lights and a refrigerator. All appliances are propane, and no well pump. Maybe her 2 year old AGM batteries should be tested. 
  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Solar Expert Posts: 5,506 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited January 26 #146
    She probably does not have a large enough battery. This is common up north. If it ever did work correctly, then yes it is probably being undercharged or it was set-up incorrectly and has been damaged.

    Personally, I feel a user should be as knowledgeable as a good installer. They just do not have the time or desire to do the installation. I try very hard to do that for my DIY clients. It does not always work.
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
     http://members.sti.net/offgridsolar/
    E-mail [email protected]

  • PorschephanaticPorschephanatic Registered Users Posts: 61 ✭✭
    I understand. Thank you. Her's never worked well, and has progressively gotten worse. She had a professional install and program, and he won't come back to test. 😥
  • EstragonEstragon Registered Users Posts: 4,478 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I have no idea if $2000 is realistic for fuel or not   Battery needs to be sized for loads, and only then the charging sources are sized to properly charge batteries.  With no load info, the rest is indeterminate.

    Sometimes (eg boat/rv) you are stuck with limitations on charging sources and have to work backwards.  For a house, you don't have to do that.  You're more likely to get a system that works for you doing it the right way around (starting with load data).
    Off-grid.  
    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
  • EstragonEstragon Registered Users Posts: 4,478 ✭✭✭✭✭
    To be blunt, some folks just don't want to take the time or effort to understand what they're getting into.

    I was just reading about people with liens on houses they now can't sell because they signed up for furnace rentals.  The "professionals" sold them what worked best for them (the pros), because the customer couldn't be bothered with details (like buyout terms).
    Off-grid.  
    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
  • PorschephanaticPorschephanatic Registered Users Posts: 61 ✭✭
    Yes, Sir. I'll go through the load calculator on this site again just to make sure we COMPLETELY understand what we're getting into. Maybe $45k-$50k to go underground for a 1/2 mile or a little more to the nearest pole might be in the cards after all. 😥
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 31,072 admin
    I would also talk with a local real estate professional, and/or your local tax assessor and see what having $50k worth of utility power vs fully off grid will do for ease of selling the home/property "in the future", and what it would do to your property valuation (and possibly property taxes).

    I tend to be on the pessimistic side--And suggest that $$$ "invested" into an off grid system pretty much only has value to you. $$$ invested in utility power actually has value to others.

    Of course there are the ongoing electric bills and possibly even adders for remote power line maintenance, minimum billing, etc...

    Build a model for costs of utility power and your off grid power system and see what your actual "monthly" bills will be.

    In California, our bills are going up and up (electricity, water, etc.). For off grid power, solar panels and electronics have (roughly) plateaued... But battery costs appear to be getting more expensive. And you should plan to replace electronics every 10+ years, and batteries every 5-15 years (depending on quality of batteries, maintenance, chances of problems down the road).

    And your actual energy usage is a factor too... Smaller systems (say less than 3.3 kWH per day or 100 kWH per month), off grid power can be competitive vs Utility power (some utilities have minimum charges of $48 a month or more). If you plan on using 500-1,000 kWH per month (rough North American average energy usage--gas/propane heat--Then utility power is pretty difficult to beat.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
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