Solar generators

Discussion in 'Preparedness' started by bartman, Oct 17, 2018.

  1. bartman

    bartman Supporter Supporter

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    Howdy Friends,
    Just curious how many of y'all are utilizing solar generators for emergency power, in the event of electrical failure, and what combinations of panels/power source are the most popular/economical? I've been researching a small system in the 500 watt/ hour range, and was curious about others' thoughts, regarding their experiences. Thanks in advance everyone.

    Bart
     
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  2. gila_dog

    gila_dog Supporter Supporter

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    We have 2x 100 watt panels on the roof of our camp trailer, charging 2x deep cycle batteries. In the closet where the charge controller lives I've added a dual cigarette lighter jack so other things can be charged (phones, radios, small batteries, etc). This system provides all the battery power we need during power failures. A 5KW propane generator provides AC power for the water well pump and for running things in the house, like the fridge, freezer, microwave, etc. We only run it for an hour or two per day, and do all our showers, laundry, etc during that time. We use a 12V deep cycle battery connected to a 110VAC inverter to power the computers during a power failure. The battery gets charged when AC power is present by a small trickle charger. During a long power outage if that battery goes down I can replace it with one of the camp trailer batteries.

    The solar system I used cost me $300 from Amazon. These things constantly change, and get cheaper. The one I used was a kit with the charge controller, wire, and connectors included.
     
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  3. Gary V

    Gary V Scout

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    It isn't really practical to set up solar power for a home just for an emergency. People who have large setups that run full time can be looking at 15 to 20 years to get a payback on the investment. I have a generator that works for the short term. For the long term it's very expensive to run so I try to buy appliances that run on propane instead. My kitchen stove has gas burners with an electric oven for example and I can use the oven to heat if I run out of propane for my central heat. I also have a Kerosun heater for backup heat. Refrigeration is all electric unfortunately - that's where the generator comes in. We just lost power for 1-1/2 days during hurricane Michael and we were able to keep our food cold but I burned about 7 gallons of fuel because we ran the generator for long periods (knowing it would be a short term situation). I think the best strategy for emergencies is to diversify your requirements across different technologies and different fuel types. I would stay away from solar however.

    *edit*
    Oh and by the way I tripped my generator breaker during the outage even though it is rated at 5kW. The water pump and water heater came on at the same time and it popped the breaker (while powering some lights etc). 5kW isn't all that much and 500W will only power some lights and a small appliance or two. It will bring a little comfort but not much.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2018
  4. bartman

    bartman Supporter Supporter

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    @Gary V ....yes Sir, 500 watt/hours, will serve my needs. I do not possess the small engine know-how, incumbent on a fuel powered generator. I have heating and water covered by other means, not dependent upon electricity. Solar is a longer term, self replenishing system (Puerto Rico, anyone?). And finally, I'm interested in not sinking large sums of disposable income, in a "what-if". Honda eu2200 are averaging $1k per, not counting fuel storage, lubricants, proper toolage, etc. Inergy Kodiak solar generator...$1800, plus $225 per 100 watt panel. I've weighed my options, I understand my limitations, I applaud your preparation. Standing by.

    Bart
     
  5. bartman

    bartman Supporter Supporter

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    Thanks very much Sir, for your insight.
     
  6. Gary V

    Gary V Scout

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    @bartman I have 300W of solar on my motorhome and we can barely get 3 hours of use per evening on our batteries running hand full of 12 volt lamps and a small TV. On overcast days we have to run on the generator and we've had days on end with no solar power due to weather. There's been no payback from this solar power system I installed five years ago and I've had to replace 2 batteries at a cost of about $500 total since as well. I'm not a big fan of solar for these reasons. Those 2KW Honda generators are very expensive for such a low output but they're good for campers since they're lightweight, quiet and very portable but for home you can get a 5kW to 7.5kW for $750 or less.

    This has been my experience with solar. Your mileage may vary.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2018
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  7. bartman

    bartman Supporter Supporter

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    Thanks much.
     
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  8. Burncycle

    Burncycle Tracker

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    Just to kind of get a baseline, I was recently looking at how much solar (and batteries) it would take to run a single small window air conditioner, say ~500watts or so, not including startup amps, where it wouldn't need to be rationed -- in other words, I could run it anytime for as long as I want completely off grid.

    It would be obnoxiously expensive, unfortunately. Taking into account inefficiencies (rated versus actual wattage), surges, useful sunlight times, you're looking at something on the order of $2,500+ in solar panels and then add in deep cycle batteries, charge controllers, housings for all of it, and you're looking at the better part of $10,000 to be able to run a small window unit with impunity

    Then for fun, I wondered what it would take to help mitigate the effects of disaster related power-grid failures and / or national infrastructure being attacked, by subsidizing generators to provide for some distributed infrastructure nationwide. In other words, if every "household" (approx 130 million in the US) was to receive a basic $300 / 4,000 watt generator, it would end up being something like NASA's budget for 2 years, or 8 years if instead 1,000 watts of solar were offered (minus batteries and other associated costs).
     
  9. Gary V

    Gary V Scout

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    Consider too that the panels are only aimed directly at the sun for a short period each day unless you get a motorized tracking system which of course uses a chunk of the electricity that you gain. Cabling is heavy duty and expensive also. I had to run a pencil size cable for just two 150W panels. I often wonder what they use for cable in those large solar farms. I picture something the size of a city bus lol.
     
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  10. gila_dog

    gila_dog Supporter Supporter

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    It all depends on how much sun you're getting. Our camp trailer set up (200 W) and 2 big-ass deep cycle batteries, allows us to have lights, water pump, and a TV/DVD player, all 12 v powered, in our camp trailer, and never need any AC power. The propane powered fridge works great, and even has a freezer. We've lived like that for 2 weeks at a time and never run out of battery power. But that's in NM or UT or AZ, where there's plenty of sun. If you have to run an air conditioner, water heater, microwave, etc, that isn't going to work, tho. You'll need a generator for that. We went with propane because it can be stored long term without any problems. A gasoline powered generator will be a PITA because the fuel goes bad pretty fast. If you live in a sunny place a passive solar water heater (google for "batch water heater") will make most of the hot water you need. You just need to time your use of it during the late afternoon after the sun has warmed it up all day. We have one on the roof of our house. It's 40 gallons, and it takes cold water in, and puts out hot water (and no pumps or any moving parts), which then goes into our electric water heater down in the utility room. The electric water heater doesn't work very hard. Even in the winter the water coming out of that solar water heater is in the 80's (warmed up from 55). In the warmer months it's putting out 95-100 degree water in late afternoon. That's on sunny days, of course, which most of our days are.

    Waterheater1w.jpg
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2018
  11. NevadaBlue

    NevadaBlue Graybeard Supporter Bushcraft Friend Bushclass I

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    I have run several systems, from a 1200 watt/12 volt based one to a 48volt, 4KW unit that will produce 220 if I need it. All the batteries have died. The battery is the weak point and a constant, recurring expense. Unless you NEED it, running anything but what @gila_dog describes is for RICH people.
    I still have all my gear, minus batteries and I am not sure what I will do with it. I have considered using the solar panels to power ventilation fans (when the sun shines, which is most days here) as well as maybe a direct powered well pump. Neither of those uses require batteries.

    This is/was my big system. It would produce 4000 watts at 220 Volts AC. The battery banks are in the boxes below the inverters.

    502E0B1C-9D5C-4201-8B31-6C5937DC1DCB.jpeg

    This is one of the two banks of batteries.

    025BD57C-2457-4DD8-9BDD-8A0C725ECD53.jpeg

    And, the panels that were running it.

    A8793B45-1062-44C3-BE30-1F633DFC3A17.jpeg

    It was a big investment in labor and money for very little return actually. It did what was required at the time... mainly peace of mind.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2018
  12. KFF

    KFF Scout

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    I got solar on the summer cottage.
    At the moment there is maybe a 100w panel (maybe 20y old) and a single 120ah gel battery. It runs everything I need.
    I have bought a bigger panel and a couple of batteries (quality does matter) but haven't gotten around to installing them yet.
    The point is to really think what you actually need and can it be had in 12v or 24v.
    Insane to build so that you can run the whole house on 220v on solar. Starting with the coffeemaker, hoover, ac, hot water, pc's, tv etc.

    As a family of 5, we don't need a telly, don't even have one at home. We read, draw, play games, make puzzles, cook, bake, talk.
    Coffee is made with a presso pan, water boiled with gas. If it's hot we open windows and sleep under a bugnet. I have a gas cooker, no need for a microwave. Gas fridge too. The only thing I miss, is a big freezer.
     
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  13. Gary V

    Gary V Scout

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    The solar heated tubes are the most interesting alternative to me for heat and hot water. My brother has a setup in Maine and it produces enough to keep his horse barn heated in the dead of winter which is impressive. If I were younger (thus more ambitious then I am now) I would probably install some of these.

    [​IMG]
     
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  14. plinsc

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  15. Oni

    Oni Scout

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    Shadows are bad! Even if only a small portion or corner has shadows the power output goes down a lot!

    You may think it is only covering 5 or 10% of the panel, 5 or 10% loss isn’t too bad, but unfortunately it doesn’t work like that.

    Cells are arranged in series and series parallel to get the voltage and power. A shadow can take out one or more “strings” which drastically cuts output power.

    Make sure your panels are not shaded!!!
     
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