Some Solar Power Questions

RedneckCowgirl

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Is it possible to run an entire home off solar power?

And is it possible to set up a travel trailer to run off solar power? I plan on living in one until I can save up for a house (the plan is to buy some acreage, then buy a trailer, then eventually a house)
 

sbrook_325

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Yes, it is possible.

However, it will be expensive. Most people do a cost analysis and see how long it will take to pay back...expample. If your light bill is $200 per month, that would be $2400 per year. If going all solar would cost $24000, you would be looking at a 10 year payback on your investment. A lot of tax credits and incentives are available for solar right now, you would have to check for your state what and how much is available.

There are three common options for going solar. 1: solar with battery backup... This is what I would recommend, for total self sustainability. Your solar panels feed a battery bank, that way you would still have power at night, cloudy, ect. 2: grid tie net metering..whatever power your solar panels make would slow down, or even reverse your grid tie electric meter. During very sunny conditions, depending on size of your panels, array, your meter might run backwards, giving you a savings or a credit on your electric bill. 3: a hybrid system of the two mentioned above. Grid tie with net metering, but with a battery bank you could switch on in case grid went down.

A typical american household would need around 4000 watts or more to run everything. You could gear your appliance choices toward reducing that amount, and maybe cut it in half. A 2000 watt solar array with enough batteries to keep you going 24/7 will cost at least $ 3000 (guessing).

A travel trailer system will be much less, and you can still get the tax credits for any solar items you purchase. A person might consider mounting the panels onto the roof of the trailer, depending on how often it is moved, ect. A couple of good sized panels, along with a couple of batteries, and a charge controller, would do the job. A lot of people incorporate wind power via a small wind turbine, to suppliment or compliment their solar panels. You can use the same charge controller, battery bank, and at night, during storms, or cloudy conditions, still make power.

You will probably need an inverter from your battery bank to power standard appliances, tv, ect. Some are made for dc (battery) operation, but these may be hard to come by or more expensive.

Costs for solar panels are coming down, so that is good. I am sure there are some people on this forum with more experience and advice.....
 

AmericanHomesteader

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Hi we have been living off grid now since feb, we have 6 - 80watt solar panels, 1 - 450watt wind generator and 4 - six volt batteries for our battery bank, we run lights, refrigerator, satellite tv,lcd tv, xbox game system, computer, charge our electronics and have never ran out of power yet. We have a gas powered generator but have never needed it.

480 watts solar panels
450 watt wind generator
470 amp hour battery bank
1000 watt invertor
30 amp charge controller for solar panels
30 amp charge controller with electric brake for wind generator

Total cost was a little under $3,000.00

I buy my panels from www.solarblvd.com
 

RedneckCowgirl

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Thanks for the replies. In all honesty, I'd just need enough power for a couple of chest freezers. And if I set up the trailer with solar panels, once I built the house I could switch them over there right?
 

RedneckCowgirl

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Thanks for the links and info :) If you can't tell, I know absolutely zero about anything electrical :p So how do they set up? I know that the panels charge batteries, but then what happens?
 

TheMartianChick

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Your goals seem to be pretty realistic. Many times, people try to figure out how they can run all of the usual creature comforts off of a few solar panels and then realize that it cannot power what they've planned. While you've determined that you want to keep your freezers running by cycling them a couple of times per day, have you determined how much power they actually use? If you already own them, you should consult the sticker/metal plate that is located on the back. It will tell you what their power needs are. If you haven't purchased freezers yet, then try to buy ones that are as energy efficient as possible (again consulting that sticker/metal plate on the back). If you plan to power any lights, make sure that you are using either compact fluorescents or LED's because they require less energy to operate. The idea is to have appliances that require the smallest amount of electricity to miimize the upfront costs of purchasing equipment.

Here is another resource that can help you to plan your own solar array:

http://backwoodssolar.com/


While they do sell solar systems and components, there is a lot of good information in their site. They were extremely helpful to me when I contacted them with some technical questions that I had for a storyline. (They knew that my questions weren't going to lead to a sale and yet they took the time to answer my questions anyway!)
 

Icu4dzs

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I have the hybrid system. My solar panels have 2750 watts and the wind turbine makes 3000 watts. I have a 6000 watt inverter and 24 batteries 305 am/hr. I have a geothermal heating/cooling system on it, a washing machine, a refrigerator and a chest freezer along with all the lights which are either CFCS or LEDs.
Works good. Cost= $35000 not counting my labor and miscellaneous costs.
Peace of mind= PRICELESS
Saepe Expertus, Semper Fidelis, Fratres Aeterni
Trim sends
//BT//
 

Daffodils At The Sea

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Redneck Cowgirl, our place is entirely run by solar, and there are so many more variables to consider. There's all that math involved of all lights and appliances, computers, and it should be calculated to the shortest day of the year.

You have to find out what kind of wattage those freezers need. Chest freezers have to run 24/7, which means not only do you have to have enough panels to bring in power to bring the batteries completely full every day, but also to run the freezer, which probably comes on a minimum of 15 minutes an hour, which is 24 divided by 4 = 6 hours a day, for two freezers? You're going to need a refrigerator as well. You'll need lights and maybe a microwave, a coffee maker, computers? water pump? printer? TV screen? That's a lot of demand, especially on the shortest day of the year. You're going to need a lot....lot of panels, 10 or more 250 watt panels? to run two freezers in addition to everything else. And they can't be that far away from the house because they need to be accessible and cleaned, and power can't travel long distances without losing some of it, and you want to minimize that as much as possible. So where you put them is crucial so they get sun on them as early in the morning as possible, and it has to stay on them all day, particularly in winter. They all need special frames to be mounted on, linked together properly and protected from mice and rats and insects chewing on them.

We have a 3/4 size refrigerator on a timer so it only comes on every other hour, and if there's cloudy days we have to take steps to make sure things are turned off until the batteries are full again. I try not to have anything frozen, it just uses too much from the batteries as far as I'm concerned. Even using the vacuum for an hour, which is easy to do in a rural place with bugs and stuff tracked in, takes the batteries down a lot. I run the vacuum on the generator.

The batteries should not be taken below half full, or they won't last as long as they are supposed to. That means if you have a deep cycle battery with 300 watt hours on it, you really should only use 150 of those every day. That sounds like a lot, but it's not really. We try to avoid having anything on continuously, that means all little boxes on the ends of electric cords that are using power continuously are connected to power strips that are turned off, particularly all night.

Solar is not cheaper power, batteries are very expensive and they need attention to get the full life out of them. The system needs maintenance to make sure the connections to the batteries don't corrode and the batteries don't get charged. They need distilled water, that has to be checked often because that is what's holding the power in there, the electrolyte fluid. The more it's used, the more the distilled water needs replacing. The batteries need their own shed because they off-gas acid which eats everything up, especially little wires and boards inside the controller and inverter. The controller that tells you what the voltage is, is crucial, not just a cheap one with blinking lights that tells you nothing specific, especially if you are running a whole house. I am aware every day of how the weather is affecting my system and just how much of it I can use. It's not really something you can plunk into place and expect it to do what a house on a huge electrical grid will do. :)
 
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