Greetings from Salt Lake City

Hello all,

About 6 months ago, I purchased that cheap 45w panel system from Harbor Freight. Honestly, I didn't' expect much. For the past 6 months, I have used this kit to exclusively power my computer. Needless to say, I am growing more impressed with the kit every day. I got a big deep cycle battery from the local parts store and my little 45w system has been a great workhorse since I bought them.

Last night, I decided to go purchase another set from HF. On the way my wife made a comment about how "into" this I have become and that I should find a good forum to get ideas and exchange knowledge! Anyways, I got another set... after looking at the innards of the controller, I decided that one of the included controllers would be sufficient to take power from all 6 of the panels for 90w total. I'll keep the new controller in the box for use later.

Anyways, the list so far:

6 x 15w amorphous panels
1 x Harbor Freight charge controller
1 x Exide deep cycle battery "120 minute reserve capacity"
1 x 400w Inverter with auto shut off.

With the 90w capacity, I plan on adding another battery and improving the wiring system. Also, I think it would be a good idea to make some kind of exhaust for the batteries or possibly mount the batteries out doors with shelter so the gasses don't build up in my garage.

Thoughts and Ideas? Anyone else had a chance to use these panels? I think they are great, but I don't have anything better to compare them to haha. I'd like to look into the possibility of expanding and building up a decent array. I've also been looking into the possibility of getting a small wind turbine, cause the wind here is fierce! I think it would be pretty seamless to integrate the two systems to charge one battery array.

Are amps a better way to compare one array to another? I know that all arrays run different voltages and watts, so it's kind of difficult to understand how "big" (or small) my array is to others.

Lastly... I've often wondered how we can get an accurate measurement of power these produce. Are there any cheap "meters" that can track the kw/h the arrays produce? I would really like to pay more attention to the amount of energy these make... to get a more accurate estimate of how much co2 I'm keeping out of the air or to keep tabs on lowering my carbon footprint.

Great site... learned a lot already


  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Greetings from Salt Lake City

    you have a smart woman to tell you to do that. if you really wanted to expand your solar it may have been better to not get all those little pvs with those soso controllers. i assume you are predominantly unaware of some of what's out there as you are just discovering much of it. before you buy another battery please tell us what the amphour rating of it is. reserve capacity and cca are terms for starting batteries and i hope that's not what you have because if it is it won't last too long in deep cycle use.
    anyhow, the 2 batteries in your garage should be fine as far as gassing goes and even if they were in the house you probably needn't worry unless you put them by the gas water heater or something like that. you could lift them off of the floor to help them maintain a better temperature. if they must stay on the floor then throw them onto something like a wood platform or even some plywood and you could add some insulation around them like styrofoam or the better household insulation sheets without the foil near any posts, wires, or other contacts. don't go to go air tight as you'll need to leave a bit of room especially on the top for connections.
    as to wind you should wait on that one and do much research as many turbines aren't up to snuff.
    the pvs need to have the info of both the volts and the amps (when multiplied = watts) due to specific requirements of some things and you'll see that in time. if the volts are the same then you can make the comparrison by amps or watts. you'll understand better in time much of this and you need to keep reading as i've gathered you had already started doing lots of that.
    some meters are here from our host: you will see that the monitoring of dc power is a bit more expensive to do and you've a long way to go if carbon footprint reductions are you ultimate goal. you've started the first step in reading and you can do a search on home power magazine too as you'll learn much there too as they have some articles available and a sample issue for free. you will also have to start the 2nd step of conservation. what you initially bought is fine, but you may have jumped the gun abit in buying more of the same without learning more of what and how you plan on doing things with specific goals in mind.
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,436 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Greetings from Salt Lake City

    I second Neil's opinion.

    I would suggest that before you buy any more hardware, you spend a bunch of time reading and learning, from this forum as well as from other sources. The great advantage of this forum is that the users have "been there, done that" at almost every level, so that you don't have to reinvent the wheel. We have made the mistakes and you can take advantage of them!

    Most of the people here are very helpful, and most are very sharp, knowing way more than most of us about this stuff. (Not me I might add!)

    Good luck and continue your projects,

  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,804 admin
    Re: Greetings from Salt Lake City

    You can always get a kill-a-watt meter for measuring AC power used--that is probably the best way to measure CO2 offset..

    Since you will probably be turning on and off your inverter for this small installation--then you would need a kill-a-watt meter with battery backup... Like this one. Or, you can just find/buy/scrounge an old home kWhr meter (especially useful for larger loads/systems).

    In the end, if you are into saving CO2 emissions--you are much more enviromentally friendly overall if you 1. Conserve, 2. conserve some more, 3. and use less by adding insulation, double pane vinyl windows, Energy Star appliances/heating/AC, turn off all unused wall transformers, home entertainment centers, etc.

    Then, you can turn to solar--and the first, best use of money is probably installing/building solar hot water system--for domestic hot water and possibly home heating (and other links here).

    And, if you have utility power, and the utility allows net metering--then I would highly suggest that you look at Grid Tied Solar instead of off-grid battery based solar... Basically, before rebates, cost of batteries/maintenance, and lost opportunity of storage because batteries store only about 3 days of useful power in a typical system--Grid Tie solar costs around (very rough numbers) ~$0.25 per kWhr--whereas off grid solar costs around $1.00 (or more) per kWhr (not including loan costs, taxes, etc.).

    If your goal is to reduce your "foot print" overall--Grid Tied solar is much better than Off-Grid battery backed solar... If, however, you don't have utility power available, and/or you have very unreliable utility power (or you need 24x7 utility power for work/medical/etc.)--then Battery Backed solar electricity can be a very useful addition to your home... But remember it is expensive power, so conservation and only powering your minimum needs with battery backed solar should be the goal.

    Reading Home Power Mag. is another good source for conservation and power...

    I don't know your home/environment (hot, cold, etc.)... But the old rule of thumb for an off-grid live style was try to get under 100 kWhrs per month... Personally, I have always tried to aim for that goal--knowing that I will never achieve it--but it has allowed me to hit down around 175 kWhrs per month a few times--and be around 200-225 kWhrs per month most of the time--for a home with 4 people and all of the normal stuff (probably 2/3rd's less than the "average" home in my area--done with lots of added insulation, double pane windows, added skylights for more natural light and ventilation, energy star appliances/heating, turning things off). Of course, I life in a very mild climate and have natural gas for my hot water/heating/clothes drying (during winter months).

    We have a 3kW grid tied system which provides more power than we need and I still am looking around on how I would install a solar hot water system (two kids that use lots of hot water) to round off my conservation measures. For emergency power, just a small Honda eu2000i to power the fridge, freezer, and a few lights/radio/tv. And enough fuel for ~2 weeks of off-grid power (20 gallons in cans, 10+ gallons from car @2 gallons per day estimated use).

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • n3qikn3qik Solar Expert Posts: 741 ✭✭
    Re: Greetings from Salt Lake City

    If you look at my site, shameless plug, You are heading down the same path I went. The HF set is ok. Had 2 sets for six months. Panels did good, the one controller died in 1 second, the other lasted six months. Return the new set and read as much as you can here. Then used the money to get some thing the will last 10-20 years.

    Welcome to the forum.

    Oh almost forgot, I am Ken, a solarholic :D:D
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