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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Scotty, We Need More Power...Solar Power That Is! [Part 3]

    I'm Back! After a 5 day trip with no hookups of any kind, I was able to give the new solar charging system a good workout. I am happy to say it outperforms the last one hands down. The new panels still cannot be seen from the ground, require no holes in your roof and are much smaller than the last set. Add to that my design for wiring, a well-programmed charge controller and an inverter (with all the associate switches, fuses etc.) and you have a system that will allow you to do anything you'd like. Well, except run your air conditioner for any real, useful length of time.

Remember, I only have space for TWO batteries and haven't made the switch (and LARGE investment) to Lithium Phosphate batteries. With this current system, sized for two group 31 batteries with 130ah each) and using around 80 ah each night I was at 80% charged before 11AM each day! Because of the design of the charger and the nature of flooded lead acid batteries the last 20% takes much longer. Mine is set to about 3 hours (absorb) before it goes to "float." That's how the charger is programmed and it protects the batteries and extends their life. Well, that is if you care for them properly!

A Solar Charging System Monitor Is A MUST!
The big discovery all of this was regardless of the level of sun, it charged the batteries quickly Yes, it was completely overcast for 2 of those 4 days and even rained  on one of them. Even if you begin using power before they are fully charged, I found that I could keep up with my demand AND charge the batteries with a meaningful amount of amps. That just means that you could make a cup of coffee (electrically!) take a shower using the pump, run fans, use lights, charge the phone, etc...without really affecting the rate the batteries were charging. With everything I could plug in running I saw a max of 284 Watts, with no change in charging, so it will likely cover anything I can throw at it for now.

I firmly believe using the correct gauge wires and properly soldered/crimped/protected ends, choosing the correct equipment that allows for custom programming (so it can be sized/set for YOUR needs!) and having an  informative monitoring system really make all the difference here. The high efficiency solar panels help a great deal. I couldn't have dreamed of harvesting so much power from my first set several years ago! I went from around 16% to around 22% efficiency. Technology marches on. If you do not wish to install it yourself, at least figure out what your power needs are and make sure you find a reputable installer that you can ask questions of AND stands behind their work. Being able to find them after it's done is important too!) Problems may not surface for months (or more) just because most of us cannot full-time. Even though many of us wish we could!

I am a firm believer in solar power. You could use it RIGHT NOW!  Without really sacrificing anything at all. If it gets too hot, you could still start your generator (I'm not quite ready to give that up yet!) The costs have dropped significantly and a usable system including all parts can be had for about $2500,  if you install everything yourself and then set it up properly. Once all that's done, it really is self working. You still have to maintain your batteries with distilled water....but maybe when Lithium gets a bit cheaper....that will become a thing of the past as well.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Solar Power -- Part 1
Solar Power -- Part 2


  1. Rich, you may already know about this site:
    I recently found a perfect (for me) LFP setup there. There are other providers, but this is a good one with great support. You can get into 180AH USABLE for a bit over $1000. Once you go LFP, you'll never go back.

    Greg Illes

    1. Greg,
      I've had many conversations with the folks there. So case (for me) would be two 200ah packs so the cost is still way too far out for me. Especially since I haven't tested them personally. I have about 130ah usable now and they are new Trojan SLAs. The prices are still coming down...hopefully a lot in the near future!

      Rich "The Wanderman"

  2. Rich, across your 3 latest Solar articles it is unclear, whether the panels were connected to the controller in Series, or parallel, or in a Series Parallel combination. Could you please let us know.

    1. Oliver,
      I am sorry, I though I had made it clear. All panels are wired in Parallel, though I could have wired each pair in series and then down to the controller in parallel with the other sets. I could have used thinner gauge wire, but I had #6 already installed so it wasn't needed. The controller is most efficient when closest in voltage to the charging voltage of the batteries, i.e. 14-ish volts.

      Rich "The Wanderman"


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