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New to Solar and Beginner Off-Grid Setup


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Old 01-07-2017, 10:40 PM   #1
vickers
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Default New to Solar and Beginner Off-Grid Setup

Hello everyone.* I have been interested in utilizing solar power for emergency and backup situations and after doing some research, I decided on a small setup to practice on and better learn about this energy source.*

I purchased several components from Amazon.* Here is what I am working with:

ECO-WORTHY 12 Volts 40 Watts Portable Foldable Polycrystalline Solar Panel Kit
One of the reasons I liked this was it was self-contained and includes a 3A solar charge controller pre-wired and alligator clips to charge the battery.* I think I will be limited in terms of expansion, but this looked like a good starter kit.

ExpertPower EXP12180 12 Volt 18 Ah Rechargeable Battery
I know this is a small battery, so I need to keep my expectations in check, but in case I royally screwed something up, I'm only out $30.*

RioRand 2 Wires Digital Voltmeter DC Volt Tester 12V

Black & Decker 200-Watt Inverter
I already had this lying around.

So, I was ready to start my first test.* I checked the battery with*my voltmeter, and it came charged with 12.8 volts, which seemed full.* For my first test, I wanted to understand how much I could realistically get from the battery only with AC power, understanding I lose some*energy in the conversion*(my next test will be with DC power - no inverter)

With the setup in the first image, I ran an AC fan on low (averaging 26.6 watts) for 6 hours.* The voltmeter was hooked up the entire time and read 11.2 volts.* I understand I probably could have taken it lower, but didn't want to fry my battery on the first test.*

After sitting a few hours, I used the voltmeter again, and it read 11.7 volts (an increase of 0.5 volts).* Is this normal?

The battery is charging on the solar panel now.* It is sunny and 21 degrees outside.* As soon as I hooked it up, the voltmeter started ticking back up (after an hour, I'm up to 12.6 volts).* The 3A charge controller is solid green.* Unfortunately it didn't come with instructions on how to read and there is no other display.* I am going to assume when it goes into float mode it will blink green?

I pulled the battery off of the solar panels after 4 hours of direct sunlight.* Voltmeter read 131 volts.* After 3 hours I checked it again and it had stabilized to 12.7 volts.* I think that is a pretty good recharge rate.*

So anyway, I wanted to share my first solar setup and look for feedback on my components, setup, and terminology * Am I missing anything major, or not understanding how anything works?



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Old 01-08-2017, 01:05 AM   #2
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Welcome back. I am no solar expert but one will be along soon. I use 2 x 100 watt panels and 2 12v RV batteries to live off grid. I can tell you that switching over to led lights has helped a bunch. Good luck



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Old 01-08-2017, 02:46 AM   #3
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Quote:
Am I missing anything major, or not understanding how anything works?
Looks like you are doing fine.
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Old 01-08-2017, 06:42 PM   #4
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You have a nice "beginner" system and a great learning tool.

My first observation is : not enough battery.

You need bigger batteries, and more of them.


Also, a voltmeter attached to you battery isn't an accurate way to measure how fast you are draining it. You'll need an ammeter for that.

Adding a larger load (bigger inverter and fan) will draw it down too quickly, and that can damage it. What you have is a nice sized battery for running LED reading lamps in the evening and a few hours at night, and that's it, really.

If you need short BURSTS of high energy, don't forget about car batteries - - that is what they are designed for. I built my cabin with power tools running off of a 1500w/3000w inverter running on 3 car batteries in parallel, and charged with two 60 watt mono-crystalline panels., and one "45 watt" Harbor Freight kit (amorphous, not a true 45 watt, BTW)

I used 1 or 2 10 watt warm LED floodlights to keep working a little longer when the sun went down, and the batteries charged all the next day while at work.

A good off grid system will lean towards "deep cycle" batteries. A lot can be done with two or 4 golf cart batteries .

I like your little SLA battery for portability, and not for any other reasons. Those are NOT something to buy for off-grid use. Stick with flooded lead acid batteries.

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Old 01-09-2017, 08:58 AM   #5
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Here is a chart that gives the State of Charge (SOC) that corresponds to the voltage reading and how to properly test a battery
http://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/how_to_measure_state_of_charge

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Old 01-09-2017, 04:38 PM   #6
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Looks good, previous comments as well. Can't see exactly from your picture but one thing I have noticed people overlook on systems lately (on purpose or just not considering) is "fuse" protection. It only costs a few bucks for inline fuses or a fuse panel ("breakers" will cost more) yet it can save you a fortune in the long run and is a good way to reduce risk. For a really portable setup an inline solution is probably best, and there are some good ones that can hook straight to the battery clamps. Also, alligator clamps are not the greatest, which I'm sure you are aware. Anderson power poles make fantastic connectors but are pricey, stainless steel bolt with a wingnut isn't as convenient but very reliable.

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Old 01-09-2017, 08:35 PM   #7
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Good solar suppliers often have a lot of really good information on their websites, read up on the different types of panels, I use mono-crystalline panels because of what I've read and found out about when I bought panels for our motor home array. Also do some research on MPPT type solar controllers. One more thing, look for a solar supply business near to where you live as very often you can save a lot of money on shipping costs by picking up solar panels, inverters, solar controllers and deep cycle batteries yourself. We saved well over $200 just by picking up our own panels, inverter and solar controller, in a trip that was probably less than 300 miles, round trip.


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Old 01-11-2017, 05:22 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Viking View Post
Good solar suppliers often have a lot of really good information on their websites, read up on the different types of panels, I use mono-crystalline panels because of what I've read and found out about when I bought panels for our motor home array. Also do some research on MPPT type solar controllers. One more thing, look for a solar supply business near to where you live as very often you can save a lot of money on shipping costs by picking up solar panels, inverters, solar controllers and deep cycle batteries yourself. We saved well over $200 just by picking up our own panels, inverter and solar controller, in a trip that was probably less than 300 miles, round trip.
Very good advice. I just saved $200 to $300 on freight for 2 x 290W Suniva mono panels by buying local. Had to pay for shipping cost $60 to ship charge controller and inverter. I also found a local place for batteries. Shipping 6 would be very expensive.

As you know I sent back solar kit because we thought law would not pas for DIY solar. So we started over again since Nov.2016. 6 batteries went into golf cart instead of solar which is ok since hubby needs his ride.
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Old 01-15-2017, 10:06 PM   #9
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Don't know if your still here but if so this shows how important it is to protect your system. Great video.

https://youtu.be/3dckmSgp1nw




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