Looking for PV system info./opinions

Off Grid Mountain ManOff Grid Mountain Man Registered Users Posts: 23 ✭✭✭
Hello everyone, I'm new to this board, have been lurking for a while, reading, and learning a lot!

After a lot of years of looking forward to it, I am about to take the plunge into an off grid PV system!

I am fairly illiterate when it comes to PV specifics, and have NONE/ZERO/ZIP/ZILCH/NADA natural "electric ability".... however, have several friends who live with PV, so have the basics down. (very basic!)

I am thinking of a PV system around 700 watts - 1k in size. (??)

This will be for a small, under 1000 squares one man (me!) energy conserving, passive solar home. I need juice for a sun frost or similar fridge, enough to watch a little TV, computers, etc. I plan on a generator to charge batteries when needed. If I ever have a washing machine or other huge pulling devices, will plan on using generator. No deep well. Just a little catchment water pumping into one batchroom, and a kitchen.

My budget is around 10K.

I am looking for any recommendations/opinions on what might work, and also, opinions on two different systems I am looking into. The first is what a friend has recommended, brand new. The next is a 5 year old used system being offered to me, with a lot more power (2K) than I can afford new.

First - the new system, priced from online dealers.

MX60 Charge Controller $499.00
OutBack VFX2812 Inverter $1929.00
Zomeworks Universal Tracker UTRF-90 $1465.00
BP Solar SX-3195S, 200 Watt Solar Panel $899.00x 4 =3596.00
To this we need to add batteries, and a few other items. Might get in around 10 grand. (?)

Next, the used system I am being offered, complete with no batteries

Trace/Xantrex SW4024 inverter
2000 watts worth of 6 year old Sharp 165 & 185 Solar Panels

MX60amp OutBack controller

.More miscellaneous wiring, and assorted stuff.

Total price around 8 grand

The tracker on the new system is a very debatable item I realize, as my site is heavily forested, loses a couple of hours of early morning, and late afternoon sun, but gets direct mid day southern exposure. Leaning towards a simple pole mount.

Batteries, I am thinking of going with fairly cheap golf cart, or maybe fork lift type, to give me a couple years or so till I can afford better.

Any thoughts or opinions, greatly appreciated!

AC

Comments

  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,400 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Looking for PV system info./opinions

    I have lots of thoughts, some of which I will write later but the first tow are, Do your load calcs first. Give yourself some reasonable expectations of what you expect your loads to be. Once you have that you can work backwards to how big a system you need, especially the batteries. When in doubt err on the side of being conservative, estimating the loads, and average hours of sunshine. Consider using a good propane fridge which will make your system much smaller.

    The second opinion is that I have had very good luck with used equipment, especially panels. If you can find them at some bargain price I would consider that option.

    We live in 600 sq ft, off grid, and we burn 40 amp/hours 12vdc a day ~ 480 watt hours and we have 200 watts of panel. Always err with too many panels and too many batteries (within reason)

    Tony

    Ps As you do your load calcs, remember that your cheapest PV dollar is the one you don't need to generate due to conservation. It is amazing how little you can use and still live comfortably,,,,if you are smart about it.
  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 8,570 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Looking for PV system info./opinions

    I've heard storys about sun frost being outdone by a good, full size/feature Energy Star Fridge.

    Also, I always say "Go with the highest voltage system" you can get.
    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 ,

  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 8,570 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Looking for PV system info./opinions

    > Tracker

    If you are indeed loosing AM and PM sun, and only have mid-day, I'd forgo the tracker, and buy more panels, on a fixed mount.
    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 ,

  • n3qikn3qik Solar Expert Posts: 741 ✭✭
    Re: Looking for PV system info./opinions

    Forget the tracker get 2 more panels and go all new this will give you a warranty and some piece of mine.

    Unless ".More miscellaneous wiring, and assorted stuff." have some value, I priced the Trace/Xantrex SW4024 inverter, Sharp Solar Panels, MX60amp controller from FleaBay and came in about 11K. All listings where for NEW items.
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Looking for PV system info./opinions

    i'd say the biggest factor is going to be whether this will be a self install or not due to labor costs that would be incurred to your available funds and will those friends of yours in solar give their helping hand at the self install? i'd say buy new and with up to $10 a watt installed prices out there this means you could reap a better system when self installed for the same money and i do fully agree to buy more pvs rather than a tracker. if it is possible, get an adjustable mount for the pvs to allow for a better winter angle. the more vertical angle will allow for snow to slide off better and give more collection efficiency due to the lower to the horizon solar illuminance (best angle determined from your latitude). 10 grand will get you a good system and let's call it minimumly a 1kw stc installed.
    side note here is that the mx60 is being phased out of production or already has been stopped for the newer flexmax series(jim can correct me on this if i'm wrong). i'm sure that there are new mx60s still out there, although i'd opt for something that isn't being discontinued. in any case the mx60 is an excellent controller as many will attest to.

    edit to add: if you plan on more appliances later, then be sure to size your system for it now capacity wise. inverter must supply max power you'd wish to use at any 1 point and your batteries must be capable of delivering that power without being stressed and depleted quickly. in upping the battery capacity one must be sure of the ability of the pv system to deliver the power needed and if not then it can be supplemented with generator relief. the battery and pv system voltages must be considered and what battery type to go with, standard lead acid or agm. this may be a situation that could warrant a cheaper battery setup to start allowing possible failures to happen to the lower cost batteries and in the future upping the battery capacity and changing to the more expensive agms. do read up on their differences.
  • Off Grid Mountain ManOff Grid Mountain Man Registered Users Posts: 23 ✭✭✭
    Re: Looking for PV system info./opinions

    Thanks for the replies, let me respond to some of the comments/questions

    Regarding loadl calcs, yeah, I have done them, up one side and down the other, and seem to come up with needing a 700 - 1200 watt system. I would like to have it expandable, and go on the smaller side. I don't think I will use quite this much power, but I want to be on the safe side!

    Fridge - I have read all the threads here, and have talked to a lot of folks. Possibly I will go with one of the top opening Sundancer types. I am trying to find a top opener that also has a small freezer on one side, but I don't know if this is available.
    Although Sunfrosts are pricey, I have a lot of friends that love theirs. My initial calculations on them showed they use less power than even the most energy saving "normal" fridge - but I could be wrong on this. (heck, or most anything!)
    I don't want to go with a propane fridge, I am trying to use as little fossil fuels as possible, plus, I do not want the monthly bill of propane. So fridge is probably the biggest thing my PV will have to power on a daily basis.
    I don't have the ability to make my own top opener, so need to buy something ready to plug in.

    One "trick" I have an off grid, PV living friend doing that I haven't heard of before, is turning his fridge OFF every night. He places a frozen gallon jug into the fridge, and shuts the whole thing down every night. Claims his food is still nice and cool in the morning, and no problems. He is in the mountains, in a house that never gets hot, as I will be.
    I asked him how many jars of mayo he loses, and he swears none. ; )
    Sure a good way to cut down on power usage, that's for sure!

    Yes, I tend to agree, I don't need a tracker, better to go with more PV for the money. However, I have some friends who strongly believe their trackers are worth it, in forested sites, just like mine so I guess it's a two sided coin, and very debatable.

    Regarding the prices on the used equipment, I spent a lot of time on e-bay, and seemed to come up with a bit higher price on the mentioned system,but, am leaning towards new equipment rigged up by a pro, with a warranty. At my knowledge level (none) of electrical wiring, this would probably be my best bet, even though it will cost more. The panels are probably a fair deal, but I don't know about buying a 6 year old inverter with no guarantee.

    My system will require full installation. So $10 a watt is the going rate for this, more or less? So for 10K, I could plan on a 1K system? Sounds good.

    The main thing I really am lost at, is figuring out what is the best batteries I can afford at the 10K budget for a 1K system. Some sort of fork lift type I assume?

    AC
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Looking for PV system info./opinions

    you need to talk to some installers as to what they have or recommend at what costs and this will vary so check as many as you can. windsun and others in the industry can verify what the typical going rates are nowadays, but i thought i went on the upper end of things cost wise with $10/w and i believe i last remembered hearing about $7-$8/w.
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,400 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Looking for PV system info./opinions

    Another piece of advice I would give would be to avoid the "ready, fire, aim" syndrome. You are doing the right thing by asking the questions here, but I would encourage you to read as much as you can, absorb as much as you can from people who have been there.

    The great thing about this site (and others) is that you get the learned opinions of people who have done these things in the real world, not the world of sales people and advertisements. Too often people (including myself!) spend too much time reinventing the wheel. We also get stuck on our preconceived ideas.

    I wish this site have been around when I first started. While I am very happy with the way my system has evolved, there have been mistakes along the way.

    I would also suggest that you read some of the following links:http://www.batteryfaq.org/ http://www.rpc.com.au/products/batteries/car-deepcycle/carfaq4.htm#charge
    http://www.windsun.com/Batteries/Battery_FAQ.htm#Lifespan%20of%20Batteries

    I suggest that since the heart of any off grid system is the batteries, and since they are an expensive, consumable item, their care and feeding is most important. Your suggestion about buying some "cheap batteries" upfront to save cost may not be a good idea. As you may know, battery strings should never be added on to after the original ones have been in service. So if you underestimate up front your usage and realize you need a bigger bank, you will be stuck. If you are going to have a generator backup in any case, a suggestion would be to perhaps design for X amount of panels but only by 1/2 of them now, add ones as the money is available. (Buy charge controllers for your maximum expected capacity plus a buffer however) Then buy the biggest battery bank that you might logically need. If, in the short term, your solar capacity is too small to keep the batteries healthy, you can use a bit of gas to keep them topped up. My guess is that the life cycle cost of doing this would be less than if you consistently over draw your batteries killing them sooner. I know that there is a lot of talk of drawing batteries down to 50% soc, and how that is acceptable, but I think a better number is to only draw them down to 80% soc on a routine basis. Given the cost of a few gallons of gasoline every month over the cost of killing an expensive set of batteries you might find it cheaper to use the extra gasoline as needed.

    While you are doing your load calcs, IMHO loads always grow with time. I started with a tiny system that only powered a couple of reading lights. We now have a whole house system that includes water pumping, lighting, (even outside lights!) computer charging and modems, printer etc. radio, paddle fan etc. I always wish for a couple more panels, a bigger battery bank and a bigger charge controller. On the other hand, I haven't run up to anywhere near the limit on the inverter, 300 watts. (Propane fridge)

    As I suggest, read and absorb all you can,

    Good luck

    Tony

    PS. You mention that you have considerable tree coverage limiting your hours of sun. Is there someplace else you could locate the panels, even far away that would increase (considerably) the daily insolation? If so, consider running up the panel voltage as high as possible before sending long distance to the controller/battery. 48 or 96 volts will go a long way with minimal losses. I also second the notion of not using a tracker, buy more panels instead, especially since you have a narrow sun window.
  • westbranchwestbranch Solar Expert Posts: 5,180 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Looking for PV system info./opinions

    to add to what Tony has stated well, buy the best Charge Controller you can afford, I started small and within a couple of years went (had to) for a bigger one. Nothing wrong with the smaller one but I would be a couple hundred $ in the pocket had I gone bigger.

    The better CC's offer lots more utility/functions and , IMHO, do a better job at getting a good charge out what solar input you do get! I don't have one but read up on the Classic (Midnight Solar) it's very interesting...

    Consider the chain-saw effect.
    I have been monitoring the impact of a grove of (ever growing) Aspen trees on my early to mid morning interception. I am now of the opinion that they have to go though they do provide nice summer shade (but not on the panels). the problem is fall - winter-spring with the lower sun. Don't just do your calcs on summer incidence...

    Also consider the benefit of bi directional panel mounts, up/down for summer/ winter and the ability to adjust E/W if needed for more interception in the winter if needed. (Pole mount on a 8 or 10 inch well casing pipe.) If NEEDED Do both manually rather than expend PV power.

    Concur with Tony about getting a SET of batteries at the same time...
    estimate consumption high and input low.

    HTH
    Eric
     
    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
  • hillbillyhillbilly Solar Expert Posts: 334 ✭✭
    Re: Looking for PV system info./opinions

    My two cents worth (and that's probably all my advice is worth compared to most of these guys here): on the trackers, I have crunched and recrunched numbers on them many times and I still come up short...it seems that dollar for dollar added panels seems to produce more power with less potential for problems or maintanence. Being off grid myself, the real deal breaker on trackers is the fact that the biggest boost they provide is in the summer, thier winter time boost is much smaller...this is when you really need it off grid. I think you'll find that to make an off grid system work well for you on a year round basis (without excessive fossil fuel consumption) your PV array will end up being way "over sized" in the summer months, while still being "undersized" in the winter. Thus the idea of producing a whole bunch more power in the summer months is of little value, and durring the winter months you'll need all the PV that you can get.
    Also do heed the warnings here about shading...it's a big deal, when siting your array, be sure to think about shading in the winter months as that could spell real problems for you. Glad to hear that another is going solar :) best of luck...
  • Off Grid Mountain ManOff Grid Mountain Man Registered Users Posts: 23 ✭✭✭
    Re: Looking for PV system info./opinions

    Thanks for all the advice, I am researching and learning more everyday! I have to come to a firm decision within a week or so, or at the very least get a generator, as my land I am moving too is completely off grid.

    One note, as far as $7 - 10 for installed off grid PV system, I was just quoted $18! yikes!

    Thanks again for all the info...AC
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,976 admin
    Re: Looking for PV system info./opinions

    Normally I use $7-$10 per watt turnkey installed for a Grid Tied system... I can easily see it being 2x for an off-grid turnkey system.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • Off Grid Mountain ManOff Grid Mountain Man Registered Users Posts: 23 ✭✭✭
    Re: Looking for PV system info./opinions
    BB. wrote: »
    Normally I use $7-$10 per watt turnkey installed for a Grid Tied system... I can easily see it being 2x for an off-grid turnkey system.

    -Bill

    Ouch, and double ouch, heck add a triple ouch....up to $20 for an off grid turnkey system....meaning my 1000 watter would be 20 cool grand if I hire a pro to do it all...

    Now I'm all for someone making a fair and decent profit, but if the gear adds up to around 10 grand, where does the other 10 grand come from? For example - the system I started this thread with which is just one setup I have come up with -

    MX60 Charge Controller $499.00
    OutBack VFX2812 Inverter $1929.00
    Zomeworks Universal Tracker UTRF-90 $1465.00
    BP Solar SX-3195S, 200 Watt Solar Panel $899.00x 4 =3596.00
    To this we need to add batteries, pole mount, and a few other items. I am thinking around 10 grand just for the gear?

    I just wonder what a guy like me, with basic PV knowlege, but not experienced in electronics, with 10 grand to spend should do. I still undecided. At this time, I am looking into some used gear, making my system smaller and going with a pro installer, or buying all new, and having a friend that is not a pro, but has his own PV system rig it all up for me.

    Woe is to us po folk wanting to get into PV, and I wish I had paid more attention to those shop electricity courses in high school, darnit. ; )
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    hey Off Grid Moutain Man, I am thinking copy icarus system with small change and try to do it myself. may be i can keep cost under $5000 for 320 watts system. people on this forum in this are very helpfull may be i can have this set up in Maine cabin.

    icarus can you post all components in your for solar electric system.
    Ouch, and double ouch, heck add a triple ouch....up to $20 for an off grid turnkey system....meaning my 1000 watter would be 20 cool grand if I hire a pro to do it all...

    Now I'm all for someone making a fair and decent profit, but if the gear adds up to around 10 grand, where does the other 10 grand come from? For example - the system I started this thread with which is just one setup I have come up with -

    MX60 Charge Controller $499.00
    OutBack VFX2812 Inverter $1929.00
    Zomeworks Universal Tracker UTRF-90 $1465.00
    BP Solar SX-3195S, 200 Watt Solar Panel $899.00x 4 =3596.00
    To this we need to add batteries, pole mount, and a few other items. I am thinking around 10 grand just for the gear?

    I just wonder what a guy like me, with basic PV knowlege, but not experienced in electronics, with 10 grand to spend should do. I still undecided. At this time, I am looking into some used gear, making my system smaller and going with a pro installer, or buying all new, and having a friend that is not a pro, but has his own PV system rig it all up for me.

    Woe is to us po folk wanting to get into PV, and I wish I had paid more attention to those shop electricity courses in high school, darnit. ; )
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,400 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Looking for PV system info./opinions

    I'll be glad to post, but it may take me a day or so to get the time,

    Tony
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Looking for PV system info./opinions

    thanks Tony.
    boon.
    icarus wrote: »
    I'll be glad to post, but it may take me a day or so to get the time,

    Tony
  • westbranchwestbranch Solar Expert Posts: 5,180 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Looking for PV system info./opinions

    No reason not to self install... just plan it all out, also no need to put it all in at once as long as you get the basics operational.. PV, CC, battery, lights.... then add those additional parts as you get them or have time. In the meantime you can run the gen to keep food and ? cold. Depends on if there as a SWMBO in the house as well...

    If I were to start again I would get an eu2000, reason cost, efficiency, noise ...

    One thing you have not told us about is the distance from the panels to the power room location/ Charge controller.
    This might cause you to consider running your panels at 24 , or higher, volts and letting the CC kick it down to ? v so that you can save on wire size form the PVs to the CC...

    Sorry about getting another factor in to the mix but it is important to a successful project. Plan, think re-plan, think, adjust.... write it down!

    HTH
    Eric
     
    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
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,400 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Looking for PV system info./opinions

    As promised..(threatened?) here is a short description of my system.

    My system started as a result of buying a Dometic fridge ~15 years ago that needed 12vdc for the control board. We live on an island in fairly far Northwestern Ontario, Canada. Our summers are short, winters long, first frost in August, last ice out in May. We are the (sometimes) caretaker for a larger summer retreat facility on the same lake, the only other private property on the lake. We are ~ 100kms from a small town, 150kms from Thunder Bay On.

    We have used propane fridges for years, and lived with generator power, and lamp light over the years. The sojourn into solar has made life much easier and in the long term cheaper as the price of fuel, plus the headache of moving it.

    My current system is 2 siemans 55 watt panels that are on hinge mounts on the south side of the house. The hinges allow me to adjust the tilt as often as I wish. By being on the side of the house allows me to keep the snow off them easily. These feed the controller with #4 copper through Anderson Connectors. I have set up the connectors such that I can move the panels easily off the building on to the ice when the days are really short. ( I am a bit handicapped in that I get sun very early, at sunrise, but also lose it quite early as well,,~3:00pm. by moving the panels onto the ice, I can get a couple extra hours if I need them.

    I also have 2 ~60 watt Solarex panels on the roof. These are on a simple fixed mount. These panels are on the roof because the get the longest possible day, but of course they run hotter in the summer, AND, I have to go on the roof to shovel them if (when) we get snow. The combination of wall mount and roof mount allows me to go a day or so and let the panels clear themselves if I can. The roof panels also feed with #4 copper through Anderson connectors.

    The panels are fused using one 30 amp Square D breaker. They feed into the breaker, then to the controller, a BlueSky 2512ix mppt controller. I would like to have a bigger one (mx 60) to have a bit more room to grow, but I am very happy with the controller. I monitor the system with a Bogart Tri-metric meter that I am also thrilled with. I do have an ammeter on the panel side so I can compare the panel output vs the controller output. When the batteries are low and the panels cold, I get ~15% better harvest with the mppt controller

    The controller feeds 4 Trojan t-105s These batteries live under my bench on a rollout cart so that I can service them. There is a styrofoam box surrounding the batteries to keep the temperature swings down, as well as to quiet the Zepher battery box fan. This is controlled by a home made controller that turns on before gassing voltage and off at a lower voltage (I can't remember the voltages right now,,a friend of mine made it for me).

    There are a number of 50 amp auto type fuses on every lead into the batteries, the charge controller, the battery charger, and the feed to the 12vdc loads.

    There is a Xantrex Truecharge 20 wired into a dedicated circuit/outlet that is only energized by the generator.

    From the batteries, the 12vdc feeds a 12volt Square D panel, with several dc circuits, including fridge ignitor, 12vdc paddle fan, radio, et as well as some 12vdc lighting in the event the inverter is off, like a reading lamp over the bed, an entry light to get into the house etc. There is also a breaker that feeds the 120vac Morningstar ts300 inverter. (All the Ac is fed through a Iota 30 amp automatic transfer switch. The relays of this transfer are normally open while being fed through the inverter so that the relays don't have to draw 12 vdc current. When the generator is plugged in, it switches over in a few seconds. (There is a bit of a lag however so if you are on the net, it will kill the modem, and force it to reboot,,,much to Susan's chagrin when I plug or un plug the genny while she is on line!)

    The ac loads are sent to another Square D panel just like a real house. Seems kind of silly to have 6 120vac circuits in 600 sq ft, with only 300 watts of inverter, but seemed to make sense at the time!

    Only rarely do I have to run the Honda Eu 1000 run the Truecharge.

    The fridge runs on propane, but it has a 12vdc controller (and interior light!) and I have wired a temperature controlled fan to speed the cooling of the condensor coils.

    We pump water with a shurflo 9300 submersible pump, ~100 into the lake. (our water is so clean we drink it right out of the lake!) This is controlled with a Square D pressure switch and a volatage double so that it runs on 24vdc and pumps faster. The water system has been designed to be an automatic drain system because we are so cold. When the pump shuts off, a normally open solenoid valve opens and allows air in dropping the pressure so that the drain valve at the pump opens, allowing the water to drain out. (There is an extensive description in the water thread on this site if anyone is interested)

    I guess that is about it. The system is a product of a lot of cobbing stuff together as well as some real thought. If I had to do it over again, I would add more panels, and a bigger controller, (I still might!) Other than that we are very happy. We almost never "need" the genny, but we use it to top up even if we don't need to. We have all the light we need at night. The house has great natural light so we don't ever need a light until after sundown. We use ~ 40 amp/hours 12vdc per day all told. I is a little hard to tell as the Trimetric only counts net in/net out, so that if I have 10 amps coming in from the panels, but I am using 8 to pump water, or charge the computers the Trimetric only shows the gain of 2 for example. We try to do our computer/internet work during daylight, but since the modem and router draw less than 1 amp we don't worry about it too much. Same with pumping water. since the water pump is our biggest single draw (7 amps 12vdc) if I know the pump is about to kick on in the evening, I sometimes turn it off at the breaker just to avoid drawing the battery down in the evening, but quite frankly, the system has gotten so seemless, and is fully charged most days I have begun to forget about some of the little things that save a few amp/hrs here and there.

    As for the cost, much of the stuff came from salvage from projects over the years. The panels are all used, the siemans from e-bay. I have used used batteries over the year, but don't reccomend it unless you know their history. My wire (large gauge) all came from salvage, as did the breaker panels and many of the breakers. The inverter and the controller were new, as is the pump and the voltage doubler. Of course all the labor is ours. I would guess that we have ~$2000 into the whole system including the eu 1000 (craigslist, $350!) Biggest expense is the batteries, the inverter and the controller.

    The reality is you can live very nicely with little energy use. We use 10lbs of propane per week, for the fridge, cookstove and demand water heater. We use perhaps 5 gallons of gasoline per YEAR for battery charging. We do have bigger generators for the shop tools, but depending on the season and the chores, they might run a hour/week over the course of the year. Our biggest energy expense is traveling to town every 3-4 weeks, boat gas or snow machine to get to shore ~1 quart, truck or car gas 6-10 gallons depending on the vehicle.

    Tony

    PS As we have gotten older we tend to spend a bit more time on the road. We tend to leave during the coldest month and go visit people in warmer climes,,







    At some point I will try to find the links to the hardware and I'll post them.

    Tony
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Looking for PV system info./opinions

    thanks Tony, i will need some time to read this.
    boon.
    icarus wrote: »
    As promised..(threatened?) here is a short description of my system.

    My system started as a result of buying a Dometic fridge ~15 years ago that needed 12vdc for the control board. We live on an island in fairly far Northwestern Ontario, Canada. Our summers are short, winters long, first frost in August, last ice out in May. We are the (sometimes) caretaker for a larger summer retreat facility on the same lake, the only other private property on the lake. We are ~ 100kms from a small town, 150kms from Thunder Bay On.

    We have used propane fridges for years, and lived with generator power, and lamp light over the years. The sojourn into solar has made life much easier and in the long term cheaper as the price of fuel, plus the headache of moving it.

    My current system is 2 siemans 55 watt panels that are on hinge mounts on the south side of the house. The hinges allow me to adjust the tilt as often as I wish. By being on the side of the house allows me to keep the snow off them easily. These feed the controller with #4 copper through Anderson Connectors. I have set up the connectors such that I can move the panels easily off the building on to the ice when the days are really short. ( I am a bit handicapped in that I get sun very early, at sunrise, but also lose it quite early as well,,~3:00pm. by moving the panels onto the ice, I can get a couple extra hours if I need them.

    I also have 2 ~60 watt Solarex panels on the roof. These are on a simple fixed mount. These panels are on the roof because the get the longest possible day, but of course they run hotter in the summer, AND, I have to go on the roof to shovel them if (when) we get snow. The combination of wall mount and roof mount allows me to go a day or so and let the panels clear themselves if I can. The roof panels also feed with #4 copper through Anderson connectors.

    The panels are fused using one 30 amp Square D breaker. They feed into the breaker, then to the controller, a BlueSky 2512ix mppt controller. I would like to have a bigger one (mx 60) to have a bit more room to grow, but I am very happy with the controller. I monitor the system with a Bogart Tri-metric meter that I am also thrilled with. I do have an ammeter on the panel side so I can compare the panel output vs the controller output. When the batteries are low and the panels cold, I get ~15% better harvest with the mppt controller

    The controller feeds 4 Trojan t-105s These batteries live under my bench on a rollout cart so that I can service them. There is a styrofoam box surrounding the batteries to keep the temperature swings down, as well as to quiet the Zepher battery box fan. This is controlled by a home made controller that turns on before gassing voltage and off at a lower voltage (I can't remember the voltages right now,,a friend of mine made it for me).

    There are a number of 50 amp auto type fuses on every lead into the batteries, the charge controller, the battery charger, and the feed to the 12vdc loads.

    There is a Xantrex Truecharge 20 wired into a dedicated circuit/outlet that is only energized by the generator.

    From the batteries, the 12vdc feeds a 12volt Square D panel, with several dc circuits, including fridge ignitor, 12vdc paddle fan, radio, et as well as some 12vdc lighting in the event the inverter is off, like a reading lamp over the bed, an entry light to get into the house etc. There is also a breaker that feeds the 120vac Morningstar ts300 inverter. (All the Ac is fed through a Iota 30 amp automatic transfer switch. The relays of this transfer are normally open while being fed through the inverter so that the relays don't have to draw 12 vdc current. When the generator is plugged in, it switches over in a few seconds. (There is a bit of a lag however so if you are on the net, it will kill the modem, and force it to reboot,,,much to Susan's chagrin when I plug or un plug the genny while she is on line!)

    The ac loads are sent to another Square D panel just like a real house. Seems kind of silly to have 6 120vac circuits in 600 sq ft, with only 300 watts of inverter, but seemed to make sense at the time!

    Only rarely do I have to run the Honda Eu 1000 run the Truecharge.

    The fridge runs on propane, but it has a 12vdc controller (and interior light!) and I have wired a temperature controlled fan to speed the cooling of the condensor coils.

    We pump water with a shurflo 9300 submersible pump, ~100 into the lake. (our water is so clean we drink it right out of the lake!) This is controlled with a Square D pressure switch and a volatage double so that it runs on 24vdc and pumps faster. The water system has been designed to be an automatic drain system because we are so cold. When the pump shuts off, a normally open solenoid valve opens and allows air in dropping the pressure so that the drain valve at the pump opens, allowing the water to drain out. (There is an extensive description in the water thread on this site if anyone is interested)

    I guess that is about it. The system is a product of a lot of cobbing stuff together as well as some real thought. If I had to do it over again, I would add more panels, and a bigger controller, (I still might!) Other than that we are very happy. We almost never "need" the genny, but we use it to top up even if we don't need to. We have all the light we need at night. The house has great natural light so we don't ever need a light until after sundown. We use ~ 40 amp/hours 12vdc per day all told. I is a little hard to tell as the Trimetric only counts net in/net out, so that if I have 10 amps coming in from the panels, but I am using 8 to pump water, or charge the computers the Trimetric only shows the gain of 2 for example. We try to do our computer/internet work during daylight, but since the modem and router draw less than 1 amp we don't worry about it too much. Same with pumping water. since the water pump is our biggest single draw (7 amps 12vdc) if I know the pump is about to kick on in the evening, I sometimes turn it off at the breaker just to avoid drawing the battery down in the evening, but quite frankly, the system has gotten so seemless, and is fully charged most days I have begun to forget about some of the little things that save a few amp/hrs here and there.

    As for the cost, much of the stuff came from salvage from projects over the years. The panels are all used, the siemans from e-bay. I have used used batteries over the year, but don't reccomend it unless you know their history. My wire (large gauge) all came from salvage, as did the breaker panels and many of the breakers. The inverter and the controller were new, as is the pump and the voltage doubler. Of course all the labor is ours. I would guess that we have ~$2000 into the whole system including the eu 1000 (craigslist, $350!) Biggest expense is the batteries, the inverter and the controller.

    The reality is you can live very nicely with little energy use. We use 10lbs of propane per week, for the fridge, cookstove and demand water heater. We use perhaps 5 gallons of gasoline per YEAR for battery charging. We do have bigger generators for the shop tools, but depending on the season and the chores, they might run a hour/week over the course of the year. Our biggest energy expense is traveling to town every 3-4 weeks, boat gas or snow machine to get to shore ~1 quart, truck or car gas 6-10 gallons depending on the vehicle.

    Tony

    PS As we have gotten older we tend to spend a bit more time on the road. We tend to leave during the coldest month and go visit people in warmer climes,,







    At some point I will try to find the links to the hardware and I'll post them.

    Tony
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Looking for PV system info./opinions

    tony, thanks you so much for taking time to write the post.
    amazing how well you managed power usage.
    i think this is how i will clone your system with some upgrade.

    your ===> my
    2 siemans 55 watt panels ==:> 4 sharp 80 watts panel
    also 2 ~60 watt Solarex panels ==:> n/a (see above)

    panels are fused using one 30 amp Square D breaker ==:> same

    a BlueSky 2512ix mppt controller ==:> Mx 60

    The controller feeds 4 Trojan t-105s ==:> 8 - 12volt 115 amph deep cycle battery, (from Walmart )

    There are a number of 50 amp auto type fuses on every lead into the batteries, the charge controller, the battery charger, and the feed to the 12vdc loads. ==:> will need time to digest this

    There is a Xantrex Truecharge 20 wired into a dedicated circuit/outlet that is only energized by the generator. ==:> same

    There are a number of 50 amp auto type fuses on every lead into the batteries, the charge controller, the battery charger, and the feed to the 12vdc loads. ==:> same will use this for shurflo 12 volt water pump from holding tank.

    There is a Xantrex Truecharge 20 wired into a dedicated circuit/outlet that is only energized by the generator. ==:> same
    Morningstar ts300 inverter ==:> pure sine inverter 1500 watts

    All the Ac is fed through a Iota 30 amp automatic transfer switch ==:> same

    The ac loads are sent to another Square D panel just like a real house ==:> same

    i am sure that i missed interpret you post here and there.
    please correct and comments.

    i know i do need alot more research before i can attemp to set up the system

    these will get me going, it is very complicated, but i have to started from some where.


    best regards,
    boon.
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,400 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Looking for PV system info./opinions

    Boon,

    Quick glance, consider a bigger breaker on the panels. Your 320 watt panels could easily bump that 30 amp breaker, especially with mppt on a cold day. Consider a 40 amp (if it is available) or a 50. If you go that big make sure that you size the wire accordingly. If memory serves, #4 will carry 50 amps, but you should confirm.

    Tony
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