Need a recommendation for a friend: 400w all in one "plug and play" solar system

Steven LakeSteven Lake Solar Expert Posts: 402 ✭✭
Okay, here's what I've got. A friend of mine needs what I would describe as a 400w "plug and play" solar power solution. In other words an all in one package that includes panels, controller, batteries and everything that is good quality at a good price, and as idiot proof as possible since he's pretty much a solar newbie and I won't be near there anytime soon to help him out. So it's gotta be a really easy plug and play solution. Or as easy as is possible, and all without breaking the bank. Any suggestions, or will I need to just buy and build it myself, ship it to him, and then pray he doesn't have a magic smoke party the first time he hooks it up? Your help is appreciated as always.

Comments

  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,005 admin
    Re: Need a recommendation for a friend: 400w all in one "plug and play" solar system

    What do you mean by "400 Watt" system... Is that the inverter output, the solar array size, or what...

    Any information on what the loads would be? (i.e., 400 Watts * 5 hours per night = 2,000 WH per night--Or what)?

    Rough location (amount of sun)? Summer/Winter usage? Backup Genset?

    Personally, I would suggest designing a 1,000 WH per day system @ 12 volts with a MorningStar 300 Watt TSW inverter setup with remote on/off switch and/or "search mode".
    • 1,000 wH per day * 2 days of storage * 1/0.50 max battery discharge * 1/12 volt battery bank * 1/0.85 AC inverter eff = 392 AH @ 12 volt battery bank (4x 6 volt ~200 AH golf cart batteries)
    Battery bank based on 5% to 13% rate of charge:
    • 400 AH * 12 volt battery bank * 1/0.77 panel+controller derating * 0.05 rate of charge = 312 Watt minimum array
    • 400 AH * 12 volt battery bank * 1/0.77 panel+controller derating * 0.10 rate of charge = 623 Watt array nominal
    • 400 AH * 12 volt battery bank * 1/0.77 panel+controller derating * 0.13 rate of charge = 810 Watt "cost effective maximum" array
    Then there is recharging the 1,000 WH per day via sun. Using PV Watts for Lansing MI, array 43 degrees from horizontal, fixed mount:
    Month    Solar Radiation (kWh/m 2/day)
    1      2.65     
    2      3.60     
    3      4.42     
    4      4.95     
    5      5.38     
    6      5.57     
    7      5.88     
    8      5.45     
    9      4.98     
    10      4.01     
    11      2.60     
    12      1.97     
    Year      4.29
    
    Toss the bottom 3 months, gives you 3.6 hours of sun for February (use generator for dark days in 3 months of winter, as needed):
    • 1,000 WH per day * 1/0.52 AC system eff * 1/3.6 hours of sun = 534 Watt array minimum
    So, this would be around 534 to 810 Watt array--And I would suggest 623 to 810 Watt array (10 to 13% rate of charge) for daily 9+ month a year residency. The smaller 5% rate of charge would be weekend/seasonal cabin. If occupied in winter, perhaps panels that can tilt to vertical is there is deep winter snows (self cleaning).

    Generator--Basically a 10% rate of charge on a 12 volt @ 400 Amp battery bank would be ~40 Amp battery charger.

    And Iota 45 amp 12 volt charger on a Honda eu2000i or equivalent Yamaha inverter-generator. They are quiet, reasonably efficient, and pretty reliable.

    Iota DLS-45 12 Volt 45 Amp Regulated Battery Charger


    Some support gear:
    • Add a Hydrovolt hydrometer (very nice).
    • An AC/DC Current Clamp meter.
    • Kill-a-Watt type meter
    • Battery Monitor (or Victron brand) (very nice, but expensive for smaller systems)
    • add circuit breakers for inverter/solar charge controller/AC battery charger
    • For the smaller arrays, you could use a 30 amp MPPT charge controller... For the larger arrays, you would want around a 45 Amp minimum MPPT controller (PWM controller + "12 volt" solar panels are a possibility too--Depending on price/shipping costs/etc. of 17.5 Vmp vs ~30 Vmp panels and PWM vs MPPT controllers).
    What would a 400 AH @ 12 volt power supply running a 120 VAC inverter be capable of? (very rough guidelines for deep cycle flooded cell batteries):
    • 400 AH * 12 volts * 0.85 inverter eff * C/20 discharge rate = 204 Watts average (5 hours per night, two nights of "no sun")
    • 400 AH * 12 volts * 0.85 inverter eff * C/8 discharge rate = 510 Watt average max continuous discharge rate
    • 400 AH * 12 volts * 0.85 inverter eff * C/5 discharge rate = 816 Watt max short term continuous discharge (hour or so)
    • 400 AH * 12 volts * 0.85 inverter eff * C/2.5 discharge rate = 1,632 Watt starting surge (few minutes to start a well pump, etc.).
    Its a start... If full size energy star refrigerator and 9+ month occupation, then look at a ~3.3 kWH per day system with 24 or 48 volt battery bank, and ~1,200 to 1,500 Watt inverter minimum (TSW recommended).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • waynefromnscanadawaynefromnscanada Solar Expert Posts: 3,009 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Need a recommendation for a friend: 400w all in one "plug and play" solar system
    as idiot proof as possible since he's pretty much a solar newbie and I won't be near there anytime soon to help him out. .

    This part bothers me, as off grid systems are similar to living things, and like living things, they need knowledgeable monitoring and care if they are to prosper and produce the desired results.
  • Ralph DayRalph Day Solar Expert Posts: 952 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Need a recommendation for a friend: 400w all in one "plug and play" solar system

    Wow Wayne! Right on the money (system as living thing). I guess that makes me, with all my tweaking monitoring and consumption of the product...a tumor!;)

    Ralph
  • Steven LakeSteven Lake Solar Expert Posts: 402 ✭✭
    Re: Need a recommendation for a friend: 400w all in one "plug and play" solar system

    Well, the 400w (panel size, not inverter) was the base system I figured he'd need. We're not trying to power a McMansion. I'm starting him small with little more than enough to power a summer cabin. Hence my figuring that a plug and play system with 400w of panels would be a good place to start. After all, if all you're powering is the coffee pot, a fridge and a few electronics, you're pretty much not gonna need more than that. As for inverter power, eh, 1500w-3000w would be plenty. Battery capacity I have no idea honestly. I've looked at something like this as a recommendation, but it's a bit too pricy and has somewhat "meh" level reviews. Plus it only has 80w of panels and 55ah of battery, which is way too small IMHO. But anyhow, that's the kind of all in one system I'm thinking of.

    http://www.batteryjunction.com/wagan-2546.html?gclid=CN7xvPva7cACFQGRaQod2UoAYg
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,005 admin
    Re: Need a recommendation for a friend: 400w all in one "plug and play" solar system
    Well, the 400w (panel size, not inverter) was the base system I figured he'd need. .... Hence my figuring that a plug and play system with 400w of panels would be a good place to start. After all, if all you're powering is the coffee pot, a fridge and a few electronics, you're pretty much not gonna need more than that. As for inverter power, eh, 1500w-3000w would be plenty. Battery capacity I have no idea honestly. I've looked at something like this as a recommendation, but it's a bit too pricy and has somewhat "meh" level reviews. Plus it only has 80w of panels and 55ah of battery, which is way too small IMHO. But anyhow, that's the kind of all in one system I'm thinking of.

    Really depends... If coffee pot+120 VAC full size fridge+stuff (does stuff include a well pump/cabin pressure pump?)--You are looking at close to a 2-3.3 kWH per day system.

    The above system that I suggested--Use a propane powered fridge (especially if weekends/seasonal). And a 1.5kW MSW inverter to power the coffee pot+some hand tools (without needing to fire up the genset). Still keep the 300 watt TSW inverter for small stuff (electronics, battery/cell/computer chargers, LED lighting, etc.).

    Or get a propane "Mr. Coffee" and a vacuum thermos to keep it hot.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Need a recommendation for a friend: 400w all in one "plug and play" solar system

    If you fix the array size at 400 Watts you 'fix' a lot of things, including system Voltage.

    400 Watts = 25 Amps on 12 Volts (using MPPT controller), pair of GC2 batteries, up to 1.3 kW hours.

    Oh and it's time to try out a new rule-of-thumb to see what people think:
    Maximum Watts should be nominal system Voltage * 100 or;
    1200 on a 12 Volt system, 2400 on a 24 Volt system.

    (Yes I realize it falls down at 48 Volts, but we have no choice there because of the system Voltages available. Very few above 48.)

    So you would not have more than a 2kW inverter either. Maybe one of he Samlex 1500 Watt units.

    Biggest part of making things 'idiot proof' is putting in the over-current protection. But then again the kids blew a 150 Amp fuse this year (@ 24 Volts - 3600+ Watts on a 3500 Watt inverter).
  • Steven LakeSteven Lake Solar Expert Posts: 402 ✭✭
    Re: Need a recommendation for a friend: 400w all in one "plug and play" solar system

    lol, yeah, now you see why I came here looking for suggestions. I admit that idiot proof and electricity usually don't go together (just ask Tim Allen or Homer Simpson, lol) but I'm doing my best to achieve that without having to pack up the whole family for a week long trip halfway across the country just to help someone put in a solar power system who hasn't a clue how they work, and then train them to avoid any nasty cases of magic smoke. ^_^;;
  • SolarPoweredSolarPowered Solar Expert Posts: 626 ✭✭✭
    Re: Need a recommendation for a friend: 400w all in one "plug and play" solar system
    Well, the 400w (panel size, not inverter) was the base system I figured he'd need. We're not trying to power a McMansion. I'm starting him small with little more than enough to power a summer cabin. Hence my figuring that a plug and play system with 400w of panels would be a good place to start. After all, if all you're powering is the coffee pot, a fridge and a few electronics, you're pretty much not gonna need more than that. As for inverter power, eh, 1500w-3000w would be plenty. Battery capacity I have no idea honestly. I've looked at something like this as a recommendation, but it's a bit too pricy and has somewhat "meh" level reviews. Plus it only has 80w of panels and 55ah of battery, which is way too small IMHO. But anyhow, that's the kind of all in one system I'm thinking of.

    http://www.batteryjunction.com/wagan-2546.html?gclid=CN7xvPva7cACFQGRaQod2UoAYg

    That wagan unit is junk. way to much and the panel PTC is 28watts due to flat insolation, no tilt. I tested the unit as a friend of mine owns one, the panels are rated at 60watts, not 80watts.

    well since your friend needs beginner experience I recommend this for the same price and more power output, plus extra "spare" charge controller with the renogy panels, the xantrex comes with a morning star PWM already. For beginners the renogy panels work. I don't "highly" recommend them, but they work. The Xantrex...... Not a huge fan of modified sinewave, but for beginners experience, wreck a few devices to know you will want to spend the grand on the goal zero yetti pure sine wave unit later. Or get some knowledge to build a better unit from scratch. May not be the best advise, but it seems from what you are suggesting to buy, modified wasn't a big deal to argue.

    A 55Ah battery works fine for day use since the charge rate of 400watt panels exceeds 10% of charge for the battery VS the discharge rate, the xantrex, just like the wagan unit allow you to add additional 55Ah batteries parallel of each other no different than the goal zero yetti.

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  • Steven LakeSteven Lake Solar Expert Posts: 402 ✭✭
    Re: Need a recommendation for a friend: 400w all in one "plug and play" solar system

    Thanks, Solar Powered. I'll throw that at him and see what we come up with. I'm hoping it's plug and play enough he can figure it out on his own. :) PS, love the comment about wrecking stuff. lol. Gotta learn sometime, no? :P
  • PhotowhitPhotowhit Solar Expert Posts: 5,650 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Need a recommendation for a friend: 400w all in one "plug and play" solar system

    I think setting up the system helps prepare people for understanding that the power doesn't come from the outlet.

    Most of us here are too ingrained in the understanding, most 'normal' people see an outlet and plug in, never thinking about the amount of power an item uses. I suspect every off grid person here has been frustrated finding wattage numbers at the dept store, with appliances tied down.

    It's not too hard to setup and There are several good videos, to help walk them through the procedure, recommend you preview them since there are more bad than good...

    Running even an energy efficient fridge on a 12 volt 2 GC battery system, will take very good southern exposure and very close monitoring, even then I'd say it's out in a warm climate, You only have about 1Kwh of usable energy(down to 50%), and most fridges use 1Kw+ in a controlled environment/75? degree kitchen. If it was for weekend use only I think you might be fine, but as a summer long system...

    PS - I know, I just called us as a group Abby, Norm and Al... Not sure which one I am...lol
    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.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,005 admin
    Re: Need a recommendation for a friend: 400w all in one "plug and play" solar system

    You could invite him to the forum here...

    One of the neat things about starting from scratch and helping him to design the system--Later on they will be able to monitor, understand, and do maintenance on their own system.

    Even something as simple as a one or two panel system takes a lot of learning when starting at ground zero:
    BB. wrote: »
    Add this link to our Solar Beginner Post:

    Emergency Power

    Basically a very long thread that starts from the beginning with a few vague requirements through design and assembly for a "portable" solar RE off-grid power box.

    And here is another example by Mike90045 called the Solar Monolith:

    attachment.php?attachmentid=384&stc=1&thumb=1&d=1234752636

    attachment.php?attachmentid=385&stc=1&thumb=1&d=1234752653

    Update pictures/information here.

    -Bill


    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • Steven LakeSteven Lake Solar Expert Posts: 402 ✭✭
    Re: Need a recommendation for a friend: 400w all in one "plug and play" solar system

    Yeah, that seems to be my issue. I'm trying to convince him to go solar, but he's always the "try before you buy" kinda person, which I admire. But that then means, given how far away he is, I need to come up with a solution that doesn't require me to be there to help him get started. Now, on an interesting note, building off of SolarPowered's work and suggestions, I stumbled onto this:

    http://www.amazon.com/Renogy-Complete-Solar-Panel-400w/dp/B00IMIB56K

    That's even more all in one ready to go than what SP suggested. Basically it's a fully ready to go solar power system with everything you need and all it requires is that you just add batteries. Plus with the included "installation for dummies" pamphlet it has, I'm thinking this might be as close to a win as I'm gonna get. :)
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,005 admin
    Re: Need a recommendation for a friend: 400w all in one "plug and play" solar system

    If you go with the Amazon "system"... I would get him the MorningStar 300 Watt 12 volt TSW inverter (~$240) setup with "search mode", or at least, the external on/off switch.

    A 1,000 Watt inverter on a 400 watt solar array--Not sure it is at all practical.

    400 Watts * 1/14.5 volts charging * 0.77 panel+controller losses * 1/0.10 rate of charge = 212 AH @ 12 volt battery bank

    And a pair of 6 volt golf cart batteries (around 215 AH)... As close to a reliable, useful, low maintenance system as you can get.

    Also, give him a Sears AC/DC Current Clamp DMM for him to play with. A Kill-a-Watt type meter would be nice too.

    Obviously, a pair of ~240 Watt GT type panels: ~2x$245
    A Midnite Kid controller: ~$285
    MidNite Solar Whiz Bang Jr Current Sense Module: $45

    Choices....

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • westbranchwestbranch Solar Expert Posts: 5,183 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Need a recommendation for a friend: 400w all in one "plug and play" solar system

    Don't forget that the WBjr needs to be attached to a shunt to work...
     
    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
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,005 admin
    Re: Need a recommendation for a friend: 400w all in one "plug and play" solar system

    Thank you Eric:

    Shunt:

    http://www.solar-electric.com/midnite-solar-shunt.html

    $34

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • SolarPoweredSolarPowered Solar Expert Posts: 626 ✭✭✭
    Re: Need a recommendation for a friend: 400w all in one "plug and play" solar system
    Yeah, that seems to be my issue. I'm trying to convince him to go solar, but he's always the "try before you buy" kinda person, which I admire. But that then means, given how far away he is, I need to come up with a solution that doesn't require me to be there to help him get started. Now, on an interesting note, building off of SolarPowered's work and suggestions, I stumbled onto this:

    http://www.amazon.com/Renogy-Complete-Solar-Panel-400w/dp/B00IMIB56K

    That's even more all in one ready to go than what SP suggested. Basically it's a fully ready to go solar power system with everything you need and all it requires is that you just add batteries. Plus with the included "installation for dummies" pamphlet it has, I'm thinking this might be as close to a win as I'm gonna get. :)

    That Renogy Pure sine wave inverter really only produces 850watts. It uses the same pure sine wave board that the SunForce inverter uses.

    The sunforce 1000watt is better for the price. You won't need shunts as it has battery depth of discharge/kVA monitoring on the inverter, for the same price the renogy inverter is sold for in that kit.

    i paid $295 for my SunForce $1000 watt pure sine wave still running strong after 2 years, you just can't take the Chinese spec name plate seriously as these boards are limited to 850watts. I have my DC side fuse protected on an 80AMP AGM and it doesn't blow.
  • westbranchwestbranch Solar Expert Posts: 5,183 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Need a recommendation for a friend: 400w all in one "plug and play" solar system

    No es nada, Bill...

    Steven, if you are thinking of an all-in package you might add in one of the small MidNite breaker boxes/combiner boxes ( see MNPV3 and 6 near the bottom) http://www.solar-electric.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=combiner&cat=0 that will allow more PV panels to be added in future. It would also make a nice 'home' for the shunt and WBjr.
     
    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
  • Steven LakeSteven Lake Solar Expert Posts: 402 ✭✭
    Re: Need a recommendation for a friend: 400w all in one "plug and play" solar system

    Thanks guys. Good info. SP, BB, yeah, I thought about that after I mentioned the all in one kit with the included inverter. Something in the back of my mind thought, "Nope, don't even go there. Get a different inverter." So I may snag the cheaper rig without the inverter and do as was suggested with grabbing a better inverter.
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