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This basic off-grid solar power system is simple to install and can be easily expanded…

By Greg Seaman, Eartheasy.com Posted Jul 18, 2012

DIY Home Solar power systemBringing some of the benefits of electrical power to our off-grid home has been a hit-or-miss affair. Over the years we’ve tried some very simple approaches to lighting and small battery recharging for our flashlights, such as hauling a 12 volt car battery to a small rural school about a half mile away every time it needed to be topped up. This was time consuming and inefficient. But we didn’t want to lose the feel of our simple home by bringing in a large generator and the jugs of gas needed to run it, and the prospect of setting up a wind turbine or solar array seemed expensive and a technological eyesore in a natural setting.

…developing Eartheasy.com using a dialup internet connection on a phone line strung through the woods was challenging…

For many years we managed to get along without the conveniences which electricity can provide, but developing Eartheasy.com using a dialup internet connection on a phone line strung through the woods was challenging, and charging my laptop became a regular necessity. A few years ago, wireless broadband was introduced to our area, and the promise of high-speed internet was the stimulus we needed to build our own reliable, affordable and simple “do-it-yourself” alternative energy system.

Today, with the help of a local expert on off grid home solar power and alternative energy systems, we have the best of both worlds. Our basic solar powered energy system provides more electricity than we expected, it has been very reliable and maintenance-free, and it is almost entirely hidden from view. A solar panel on the roof with a few wires leading to a small battery bank powers my laptop, and a radio mounted on a tree for receiving the wireless broadband signal. The system also provides enough energy to charge several small power tools, run our home sound system and, amazingly, power a full-size chest refrigerator year round.
solar battery bank
Our simple home solar power system is comprised of four basic components: a solar panel, a charge controller, two 6-volt golf cart batteries and a small inverter. My son and I were able to install the system in a few hours, and there have been no maintenance issues other than checking the fluid level in the batteries every few months. The cost of this complete solar system, in today’s pricing for the components, was less than $1000.

The cost of this complete solar system, in today’s pricing for the components, was less than $1000.

We have already enjoyed about three years of trouble-free use from this system. The refrigerator has not been off for over two years, which is pretty impressive considering we live in the Pacific Northwest where the short winter daylight hours provide minimal solar exposure for the panel.

The basic components of this off grid solar power system are as follows:

1. Solar panel

We have a single solar panel mounted on the roof of our home: a 123 watt Sharp Photovoltaic Module, model 123UJF. The panel is equipped with a permanently attached junction box for ease of installation of wires and conduit. Two boards are lag screwed into the roof and the solar panel is bolted to the boards using wing nuts, so it’s easy to lift if maintenance is required. The panel surface is about 5” above the roof surface. The panel is hinged to the mounting board, which allows the panel to be tilted towards the sun, and to increase ventilation. We plan on adding a cog/string system to make it easier to tilt the solar panel towards the sun from the ground. Two wires run from the solar panel, one is the power line and the other is a ground line. The power line runs down the roof to the charge controller, where there is a fuse. A box on the porch which houses the charge controller, inverter and batteries. The ground wire runs beneath the house and is attached to a rod which is driven about two feet into the earth.
solar panel
It should be noted that the panel guidelines state that the installation of PV modules requires a “great degree of skill and should only be performed by qualified licensed professionals, including licensed contractors and licensed electricians.” We installed our system ourselves because our supplier, who is a licensed installer, gave us explicit directions and came by to inspect the installation after it was done. We suggest that you follow the recommendation as stated in the module instructions with regard to installation.

You may notice there is a shadow on the panel being installed in the picture above. This shadow crosses the panel in about 20 minutes, so there is a small loss of efficiency over the course of a day. But we live in a beautiful forested area and I value the tress more than 100% efficiency in solar gain. If there were a major solar loss I might top the tree, but our system provides for our needs and so we will live with the shadow, for now at least.

The cost of the solar panel in today’s pricing is about $425.

2. Charge Controller

We use a Trace C12 Charge Controller which automatically adjusts the amount of power running into the battery. The controller has a small LED light which indicates the state of charge so it’s easy to see when the batteries are fully charged or if they are becoming depleted. The light flashes either red or green, with multiple flashes indicating the status of charge at any given time. We can see that if the light is red we should reduce our power use, and if the light is green then we have the power needed to charge or run additional devices.

charge controller

The cost of the Trace Charge Controller is about $90.

3. Battery Bank

Two 6-volt golf cart batteries are wired in series for a 12 volt system. Each battery is rated at 232 amp hours. The batteries are enclosed in a wooden chest with hinged lid, and the top panel of the chest is removed to provide plenty of ventilation. The battery posts and connections are kept clean, and periodically checked to ensure good connections.
solar batteries
battery box
The cost for the two batteries was about $400.

4. Inverter

The final piece of the system is a small inverter which converts the 12 volt DC power into 120 volt AC power. This enables us to use standard electric devices without the need for adaptors. Inverters are available in a wide range of wattages for different size systems. Ours is a small inverter made by Nexxtech, rated at 300 watts, with a 500 watt surge capacity. It comes with two cables, red and black, with alligator clip ends for gripping to the battery posts. In choosing which size inverter to buy, we calculated how much power was available to our system and what devices we wanted to run. In calculating power needs, it is important to add the power requirements when two or more devices are running simultaneously.
solar inverter
Our Nexxtech 300 watt inverter cost about $30.

What this system provides:

An alternative energy system can be used to provide electric power to any number of electric devices, such as appliances, tools and computers. The bigger the system, obviously, the more power it will provide. To give you an idea of the capacity of a small system like ours, here is what we use our solar energy system to power:

solar powered refrigerator
This is a DC powered refrigerator, the same size as a conventional chest freezer (4’ wide). The refrigerator draws 40 watts of power and can be converted to a freezer by replacing the thermostat. Since the refrigerator is a DC model, it is wired directly to the battery, bypassing the inverter. So the refrigerator keeps running even if the inverter is turned off. Our refrigerator has been running continuously for over 2 years without any problems. Even during the dark days of winter, the unit has adequate power to keep running.

vers sound systemThis is our Vers sound system which lets us use an iPod or direct cable from an iPhone or computer to deliver a rich sound while drawing relatively little power. We can run this sound system about 3 hours a day in winter, and as much as we want in summer.

solar powered laptopOur solar system provides adequate power to run a laptop computer all day if necessary. We also run a router from our inverter so that multiple computers can be operated at the same time. In addition to the router, a small radio is installed on a tree about 300’ from our house which receives the wireless broadband and transmits the signal to the house.

Besides the laptop, we have a battery-powered driver-drill, which is a very useful tool. Our system recharges the battery for this tool in about 30 minutes.

These are the principle applications we use which are provided by the solar power system described above. However, you can use a wide variety of electric devices as needed. Today, we enjoy the benefits of our system without feeling a technological intrusion into our off-grid homestead and lifestyle. The refrigerator especially has made a big improvement in our day to day living, since storing food is so much easier. Over time we may expand our system by adding more batteries for storage, and eventually a second solar panel or small wind turbine.

Bringing electricity to rural locations is something of a balancing act since we don’t want our simple lifestyle changed by too many electrical gadgets. It does require some restraint to keep things simple, but the few electric amenities we now have are most appreciated!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
GregAbout Greg
Originally from Long Island, NY, Greg Seaman founded Eartheasy in 2000 out of concern for the environment and a desire to help others live more sustainably. As Editor, Greg combines his upbringing in the cities of New York, Boston and San Francisco with the contrast of 31 years of living ‘off-grid’ to give us a balanced perspective on sustainable living. Greg spends his free time gardening, working on his home and building a wooden sailboat with hand tools.

 

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  • Lolli S

    What a great post!!

  • Boyd

    Would you happen to have a schematic/wiring diagram of this system? Electricity is not to be fooled with, and I would rather not go blindly into trying to wire this. My brother lives out in rural part of Virginia and has been talking about wanting something like this.

    • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

      I do not have a schematic for this system. Our system is very simple and I was working under the direction of a professional installer. In your situation, you could contact a solar component provider and they will draw up a schematic based on your needs.

  • glandix

    Very cool! I’ve been looking for some simple, easy-to-follow, down-to-earth instructions on how to get started in solar power and this is exactly what I needed! Thanks for this article! Gives me hope that I can use a simple setup like this to provide power to my garage (for charging my mower and other power tools and for running my weed whacker occasionally) without breaking the bank! :)

  • Kevin Pegg

    Apparent lack of fusing on the battery bank makes this installation EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. Aligator clips are for temporary use ONLY. Not to mention the solar panel will overhead and underperform – always have space between roof and panel. Hydrogen gas from batteries probably not enough to worry about exploding, but the controller and the inverter will be ruined in a few years as it’s extremely corrosive.

    I support what your doing, and I hope you hear my words here – the last thing the solar industry needs is “cabins burned down, people killed due to amateur solar install”. ESP if you are blogging about it, people need to know this stuff if done wrong can be very dangerous. I’ve been installing this stuff for 20 years so not much surprises me.

    • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

      Thank you for your concern.
      There are two fuses in the system – one at the charge controller and another on the DC line from the refrigerator.
      The surface of the solar panel is 5″ from the surface of the roof. Our system was inspected after installation by a professional installer and he approved this.
      The two alligator clips came with the inverter, and since this is a small 300 watt inverter, we have been assured this is sufficient.
      The battery bank is very well ventilated. After two years of continual use, I see no evidence of corrosion on any of the components. I take care to clean the battery posts every few months, resecure the connections, and check battery fluid levels regularly.
      Finally, you may see in the article above that we acknowledge the need for professional installation and/or review of system components and setup.

      • IMPOed

        I love ingenuity, I am considering a wrecked hybrid cars battery bank, (lithium Ion?), you guys Rock,, :>)

    • http://eartheasy.com/ Aran Seaman

      Hi Kevin,

      Thanks for the feedback! Awesome to have an expert join the discussion.

      We will revise the article to make it clearer that we added fuses for safety, and we will highlight the dangers that you are mentioning. The picture does not do a great job at showing the space between the roof and the panel, so maybe we can take a better one when we get a chance.

      Reading Greg’s response below to your notes, is there anything else you would recommend to improve this solar system?

  • Memo

    Awsome! Loved the age!! instant fan!

  • NewHorizon

    That is interestiing. I have just now begun to look into the solar power options available out there today.
    Do you have any idea the number PV cells it would take to comletely run a home? As well as the battery system?
    I commend you on your success with this and your lifestyle. Thanks for writing your experiences.

    • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

      For a complete home solar power system, you should consult with a qualified professional who will help you determine the number of PV panels to install. I have neighbors with 8 panels and they seem to have all the amenities, including washer/dryer, but every home is unique with regard to power needs.
      Thank you for your comments.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=731482176 Rhonda Morin

    I am so excited to read this article. Waiting to hear from a realtor if we get our dream cabin and if so, I want to be as off grid as I can. This helps so much.

    • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

      Thanks Rhonda. Good luck with getting the cabin!

  • http://www.facebook.com/allan.searcy Allan Searcy

    Great article, how do you get your water though?

    • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

      We get our water from a lake about a mile from our place. We run a 1.5″ black poly water line from there. It is a gravity system.

  • RobertoRico

    Nice Job! We live in Puerto Rico and want to do something like this for our place.

    • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

      Well you’ll have no shortage of sun!

  • http://www.facebook.com/adviel.soto Adviel Soto

    Hi Greg, I really enjoy you article and I found it inspiring. For many months now I’ve been thinking about using solar panels to connect my computer, some fans, TV and the fridge. Everything in this article is simple and straightforward and I am ready to go for it but I will really appreciate if you could give more details in how you wire the solar panel to the batteries. Thank you very much.

    • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

      The panel has single cable that runs down the roof to the charge controller. From the charge controller there are two wires, black and red, which connect to the battery.

  • http://PondTalk.com Mark Washburn

    I love this article and the straightforward explanation. Looks like something almost anyone could set up!

  • sgthuber

    where do you get the solar panels from and what is the cost?

    • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

      We got our through a local supplier and the cost is mentioned in the article above. In general, the cost of solar panels is going down.

  • millie

    we have a horse barn with fans lights and refrigerator and we are fixing to install washer and dryer ……what determines the size of the above system one would need to build

    • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

      The size of the system is determined by how much power you anticipate needing, i.e. the specific devices you plan to run. To run a washer and dryer you will need a larger system. You can go to a solar supplier and they will help you calculate the system size for your needs.

  • Lisa

    This looks so easy to install, and efficient for even a women to handle.
    As much sun we have had this year would probably produce more energy then what you would need. Love this!

  • http://twitter.com/SustainSuburb Kirsten McCulloch

    Thanks for that detailed breakdown Greg. We are in town with a grid-connected solar system, but it has been something I’ve had in the back of my mind to consider whether we shouldn’t have a small, off-grid system, which could power our extra freezer and be a backup for emergency use – the recent major storms in the US Eastern states had started me thinking about it again. I’ll share this post with my husband to consider too.

  • http://twitter.com/BTheLightChapel Metaphysical Center

    I’m sure too that costs could be lowered with building your own solar panels as well as recycling batteries from junked vehicles – living in Florida i’ve been thinking of doing a DIY Solar system to run my electric trimmer, outdoor lights and possibly a window a/c or 2 thing stopping me is being on a fixed income :(

  • http://www.facebook.com/richard.hubler.5 Richard Hubler

    Very nice post, especially as an inspiration for just getting it done. We live off grid in a house with “regular wiring” though we don’t have a dryer. But we power an effecient clothes washer, small fridge (danish upright version with freezer) and multiple computers, occasional power tools etc, all from about 900 watts of power, so about 7 of your panels. And since our wire run is too far (pay attention to using as large a wire as possible to minimize voltage drop) we actually only get about half that into the house. There is a great resource that explains how to size a system, as well as how to install it, a book called the “Solar Electricity Handbook” with the current being the 2012 edition. He also links to lots of stuff on his website. I’de definitley recommend the book to anyone interested in figuring out what it would take. Also Greg/Aran, I’m wondering about the details on your fridge. What brand is it? and do you know it’s power rating?

  • http://www.facebook.com/richard.johnson.90038 Richard Johnson

    Thank you for your post, it is great! I plan to install a system but instead of charging batteries I want to run it back though the electric meter and sell it back to the electric company. Is this possible

    • Knightsix

      Richard, there are any number of commercially available systems to do exactly what your are asking. Here, in Arizona, for example, one of the more popular systems costs about $25,000.00. This is installed on the buyer’s roof and is considered a “whole house’ power system (State and Federal tax credits are factored in and the cost to a buyer comes down to a rather small monthly payment). Any electricity excess causes the meter to run backwards and establish a credit to the buyer’s account. The buyer can draw against that credit if they need grid power. The ‘selling’ company does all the necessary maintenance, and I believe the system is warranted (in part) for 25 years. However, be aware it is expensive, and right now in Arizona the two big power companies, suffering as a result of many families taking advantage of these systems, are clamping down and asking the Corporation Commission that such users be made to pay a higher rate as a result. Unbelievable, but true! I predict a real battle is brewing and this will all come to a head sooner rather than later…off-grid users vs power companies with huge obligations to pay for power generation, transmission, and distribution. Also, there’s the small matter of thousands of stock holders, and the rather expensive Palo Verde nuclear power plant that continues to define “over budget.”

  • http://www.carloan4u.co.uk/ Kat Morris

    Just found this, having been looking at off grid options. I’ve been looking at cash back schemes and even heard that car companies are considering offering incentives for solar panels to electric car buyers…don’t know how this works though or if it’s a viable option yet! I’m not sure I’m quite ready to do my own construction yet but good to know there are options and people are figuring out ways to do this themselves. Good post!

  • http://www.facebook.com/rodney.harrison.5099 Rodney Harrison

    My needs are fairly simple, setting up a small shed off grid. Not looking to run anything as large as a fridge/freezer, maybe skill saw or the like. This set-up looks about exactly as I had imagined it. In my case I already have several semi batteries used for a 24v trolling motor, and I get blems for under $50.00 ea. All-in-all this is the most applicable article I’ve found so far, and I want to thank the author. I find it particularly interesting that access to high-speed internet provided the impetus. New dawn, indeed

  • http://www.eshanyaproperties.co.in/ dkotian

    Wow, nice work by the author. Good article share about Solar power System. Nowadays everybody needs Solar Power

  • http://www.renewedsolar.com/ Dave Brik

    Amazing system! Didn’t you think of doing your own solar panel rather than buying one for 425$? This may considerably reduce your costs but on the other hand you have to know how to build it. Did you calculate first how much power you need for these devices and after that you chose your appropriate panel? Many people are skeptical on ability of what such small system may to power, but this is a proof that it can power so many devices! Thank you for the great photos.

  • http://twitter.com/JomStadi JomStadi

    Thanks for sharing this article..I think everybody should has such green technology device for their dream house..lets save the mother nature for our legacy :)

  • steve vanH

    Amazing what you can get from a single panel. Great post.

  • http://www.facebook.com/arnold.veeman Arnold Veeman

    What a good read! Articles like this I like!

  • solar thermal manufacturer

    Using an inverter and golf cart batteries to make a solar power system is really simple and an inspirational task.Any common man can try it out for their home.

  • Anders Hansen

    nice post, thanks alot c”,) thinking of making something like in africa

  • http://www.facebook.com/ricky.estrella.7 Ricky Estrella

    Excellent article! Am thinking of DIYing a solar system myself, but with professional advice of course. Thanks Greg.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bnard.michel.3 Bnard Michel

    can i charge batteries with solar panel and @ the same time with power electricity

    • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

      Yes. But keep an eye on battery status when using the battery charger.

  • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

    There is more storage capacity in the paired 6 volt golf cart batteries.

    • http://GrowMap.com Gail Gardner

      When I used a golf cart for feeding on a horse ranch that was deep sand (making pushing a wheelbarrow like walking at the beach) I found a company that “recharged” golf cart batteries. Apparently there is a process for restoring the batteries ability to take and hold a charge. Just thought I’d throw that out here in case you want to try that before replacing them when the time comes.

  • http://www.goldcoastenergy.com.au/ Gold Coast Energy

    Indeed, an alternative source of energy such as solar energy provides
    convenience and access to the fast-pace technology that we are in.
    Considering the situation in this blog before utilizing the solar power
    system, they do not have the right privilege of electricity to power
    their gadgets and appliances. With the innovative solar power system
    that this blog is offering, I can say that this may help to solve the
    problem in the scarcity of energy. This simple yet very useful method
    could help other families having the same problem.

    I just have a
    little concern with the installation. Wrong connections and improper
    installation could lead to a serious problem with the appliances or can
    even cause a fire. I just want to suggest that the writer should give
    some safety precautions (like do’s and don’ts) about the installation.
    Not all people are knowledgeable in installing solar power system and
    based from this article, it seems that the installation is very easy and
    danger-free. Well, it is no doubt that this power system offers a lot
    of advantages that people may be blind sided with the danger that it may
    cause. Again, this solar power system could help a lot of people but we
    may want to consider also the proper and safety installation of the
    hardwares.

    • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

      Very good advice. We had a professional installer inspect our system after it was set up, and we advise other DIY’s to do the same.

  • Matt J

    Hi Greg! I’m in the process of putting together my own off grid solar set up for our tiny little cabin were building. I’ll have 2 6 volt golf cart batteries rated at 215 AH, 1500 watt converter, 100 watt panel and a 30 amp charge controller. Question, where do you have the big yellow cord attached to your inverter going? Trying to figure out how to get the power from the inverter to power our tiny little cabin. Ive wired the cabin (its only 10×10 with a loft) all on one circuit ( i dont have a circuit breaker/panel). I was thinking i could run a double male cord fromt the inverter to an outlet which would them dispurse the power to all of the outlets and 2 lights. Any insight would be much appreciated.

    • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

      The yellow cord is just an extension cord going into the house for indoor plug-ins. Since the article was written we have added 2 more panels, a 30 amp controller and a circuit box. Wehn we had a single panel we used a 12 watt controller and a 350 watt inverter (which is still in place). It seems the 100 watt panel is a bit underpowered for the 1500 watt inverter.

      • Matt J

        Hi Greg. How do you have the circuit box wired from the inverter?
        Thanks
        Matt

        • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

          The power cable from the circuit box has a plug end whici is plugged into the inverter. I had an electrician do this work for me, and I recommend you do the same. Or at least have a professional take a look at your completed installation.

          • Matt J

            Thanks! That’s exactly what I had in mind and will be sure to have an electrician look it over. Is the power cord 12 ga wire? That seem to be the heaviest duty cords I can find. How cold does it get whet you live in the winter? My place is in WI so was wondering if it is necessary to keep the batteries warm in the winter. If so what would be a good way to do so.

            Thanks
            Matt

          • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

            12 gauge.
            We get the occasional freeze, but not as bad as Wisconsin winters.
            Colder batteries will have reduced capacity. Best to start with large enough system capacity to compensate for the anticipated reduced capacity. (This has another benefit in that after one or two years it is not recommended to string on more new batteries to build capacity.)
            I do not have any good answer for you as to keeping the bank warm, other than insulating your box, but keeping good ventilation. Let me know if you find a better answer, as I would also like to know.

          • Matt J

            OK, I’ll let you know what I figure out

  • Matt J

    Thanks Greg! I guess I went with the 1500 watt inverter just in case I needed some additional power from the batteries. And this all new to me so I guess I really didn’t know :). It will just be for occasional use

  • keith

    Excellent article, especially the information showing the applications you use with this system. Our needs are similar, starting with the DC reefer. Thanks for this.

  • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

    30 amps
    The radio was provided by our small community broadband coop.

  • Carol

    I was just going to ask what the refrigerator is so thanks, as i wondered how you could run it from only one 124W panel, Thanks for all the ideas

    • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

      The refrigerator is a SunDanzer. It is a full size, chest style, and draws 40 watts.

  • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

    Thanks for your comment Wilbert.

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniella.rodriguezbesosa Daniella Rodriguez Besosa

    THANK YOU SO MUCH for this site! We are a young couple, new to homestading and you have provided us with simple and practical solutions to some of our biggest questions plus some nifty ideas we’d never even thought of! (poor man’s tub)
    We were wondering about the radio you mention in this post that transmits your DSL internet? We have basically given up on reliable internet out here and were wondering how you guys got connected?
    Again, thank you SO MUCH for this wonderful contribution to so many homesteaders. Keep it up!

    • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

      Our community asked a store on the mainland, about 12 miles from our island, to let us put a tower on their roof from which we transmit the signal from the ISP wirelessly across the water to a small tower on a nearly hill. (The store has a direct line of sight to our island.) Our small tower receives the signal and transmits it to our little radio which is tied to a tree about 300′ from our home, and we run a small wire through the woods to the house. This is a pretty reliable setup. Before this we used a dialup modem with the telephone line, also strung about 1/3 mile to our place. That also worked but was slower.

      • http://GrowMap.com Gail Gardner

        What you are using is common in rural Texas. Many ISPs now provide this service which can be found by searching for WISP (wireless ISP). The most common, dependable brand used is CANOPY and it can transmit 15+ miles. (Earlier versions were only effective first for about 5 miles and later 10 miles, but you may be able to get a usable signal even beyond 15 miles.)

        I have links to places where people can search on my blog in a post about HughesNet satellite service. Satellite is another option, but HughesNet “high-speed” was atrocious – far slower than the slowest dial-up and almost unusable for anyone who works online.

        I had one of the earliest Earthlink satellite services and it worked great in 3 different locations. Since it uses HughesNet satellites I have no idea why and have been unable to find out if Earthlink satellite still works well or it has been slowed to unusable as well.

        • Gordon

          I used HughesNet for awhile and found it unsatisfactory. I now use Exede Satellite Internet and am quite satisfied.

      • Frances M. Feagin

        What type of radio are you using to pick up your signal. and it is electical or battery operated since it is 300 ft away from your house?

        • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

          I don’t have the brand name of the radio handy, but it is electrical. The same line that connects the radio to the house also delivers the small amount of power needed from the battery bank.

  • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

    I don’t consider myself qualified enough to do this calculation for you. Your local solar supplier should be able to provide this at no cost for you.

  • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

    Good idea Tony. I’ll write an article about our water system once the sun comes out and I can take some pictures of various parts of the system. Basicallly it is just a gravity system run above ground from a lake about a mile away.

    • tony

      Cool – your time and ideas are appreciated!
      thanks Greg,
      tony

  • http://www.facebook.com/rukmini.jagirdar Rukmini Jagirdar

    Hello Greg, I am Rukmini from Hyderabad, India. A great post. I have been trying to buy one set for home lighting system, but have failed due to cost constraints. Can You guide me as to how I can build up my own as per my requirement and where to look for all the components required for it.
    thanks
    Rukmini.

    • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

      I have no experience in building solar panels. However there are many tutorials online of you do a Google or a YouTube search.

  • disqus_j3duyOaK5D

    Very nice. I have just completed an off grid shed system. I will be lighting my pool area with LED lighting. Never thought about a 12 volt fridge, did plan on a 12 volt blender though. Would send pics if i knew how.

  • http://www.facebook.com/stef.vanuijtregt Stef van Uijtregt

    I would like to attend people to the fact that cheaper inverters very easily damage electronics like laptops and smartphones. When you buy one, look for a ‘true-sinewave’ inverter, as opposed to a ‘modified sinewave’ inverter. They will cost about 3 times as much, (per watt) but it is probably worth the investment if you want to hook up your expensive electronics.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMsgJm6RRUA

  • http://www.facebook.com/ironia.defoch Ironia de Foch

    I want to try to replicate this in Indonesia! Invaluable advice! Many thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1369657931 Scott Gordon

    Greg if you cut down that tree that is shading the panel you will get alot more power out of it. or move thw panel to a place that has alot of sun

    • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

      Thanks Scott. That tree shades the panels only for about 30 minutes in the morning. I like the tree, so am willing ti sacrifice a bit of energy to enjoy its proximity to the house. The tree also shades the sides of the house during the hottest months so it adds value in this regard.

  • Jessica Noonan

    Fantastic post, Greg. We are currently looking to get off the grid here in Australia and my husband wants to fit the PV panels himself. Of course he does! One thing you’ll need to be sure of is getting panels with ‘positive power tolerances’ as they are much more efficient. Some of the cheaper Chinese panels are negative tolerance – steer clear of these. This page has a pretty detailed solar panel selection guide.

  • http://eartheasy.com/ Greg Seaman

    Hi Alex,
    Yes. Since this post was written I have added two more 123 watt panels (got them for $100 each) and installed additional LED lighting in my house. There was no need to change or upgrade the battery bank but I did need to get a larger charge controller with a 30 amp capacity. The controller cost about $50. This system now provides enough power for our summer guests who want to run their phones and chargers, and it gives us unlimited light during the sunnier months of the year.

  • Eduardo Cummings

    Nice post, I’m looking a solar system to power up mainly dryer machine, since this is a heavy appliance, I had no idea or clue what system choose, any idea?

    • Knightsix

      Eduardo, try working the math somewhat backwards. Start with the dryer, probably a 220v~240v appliance and determine its ‘wattage’ use – this can usually be found on the data plate attached to the dryer. That will tell you what size inverter you will need (for that item ONLY – obviously, if you have more items planned, you will have to include their wattage values also). I had purchased a “re-furbished’ inverter for a boat I had, so the price was very reasonable. It was rated at 5,000 watts and could run both a washer and dryer simultaneously (although I never did – I bought that inverter in order to have extra capacity if needed). Once you have the inverter figured out, the battery bank(s) is next, then the number of solar panels, and so on.

  • Noel Ric Baker

    What a good idea, I will use some of your hints to build my own system in metropolitan Sydney, Australia, but I want a little larger than yours to power the entire house, all the time. The cost of doing the work myself will soon justify the outlay, and curb the $3,000 per year energy bills.

  • Rajesh Ravindran

    very informative. have always wanted to set something like this up. thanks

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