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Thursday, June 2, 2016

on grid 12v 2 of 3


ON GRID 12v part 2

A quick and easy way to install 12v power in your on-grid home would be a battery trickle charger in the garage.  I’d imagine that if you plugged it in once a week or so to top it off ( they naturally discharge on their own ) you’d possess a mostly full battery at all times.  This presents about a zero learning curve.  Yet, I’d advise against it for the simple fact that it isn’t going to save you a whole lot of money over solar, and it won’t last as long ( thirty years ) and it will cost money to operate.  All told, over the years, a $30 charger might end up costing you more than the $110 in a panel ( $90 for the 30 watt panel and around $20 for the battery charger controller-about which more below ).  And it is only good for the initial charge.  Not that the initial charge is anything to sneeze at.  If you have one 8 watt LED bulb burning in a floor lamp in the living room ( the rest of the house can use flashlights, lanterns and nightlights all three with rechargeable batteries in them, you can devote the 12v battery exclusively to the “regular” light next to the couch and recliner.  Take it from someone who tried different illumination off grid over the years, camping and emergency lights are NOT very comforting long term-you need a duplication of an on-grid unit where you spend most of your time ), and you run it eight hours in the longer winter night, you can go two weeks without power off of a 800 cold cranking amp marine battery.  If you don’t care if you damage the battery by discharging it too low, about a month ( remember the general rule of thumb-the amp rating is the number of watts you can use bringing the stored juice down to half, and just using half prolongs the battery life ).

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By installing a solar panel on the outside of a south facing second story window, or probably much better if you have one, the garage roof ( I’d try to install a frame bolted to the SIDE of the roof, not the actual spot rain can eventually seep in-a great idea from the article I read.  He didn’t have a roof, being in an apartment, but it definitely is a bonus you should consider ), you can keep more than one battery charged if you so desire, but more importantly you can re-charge during a grid down period.  Two weeks might not be nearly enough, and that is assuming you don’t use any more appliances such as a TV for news or your cell phone computers to keep the kids off your back.  A panel is certainly the better way to go.  Just make sure, whichever way you charge, that the battery is vented due to toxic gases being generated during charging ( you can bring the charged battery inside to use, just don’t charge it inside.  Use clamps on the end of your wires, such as the one on a pair of jumper cables.  That way on and off is simple, and you can carry the battery by its handle.  You MUST go with a Marine battery, not a car battery.  Car batts do NOT hold up to multiple discharges.  Wally sells the cheapest at $70, an auto parts store is double that but usually is a superior product.  Any other type is too much money for your frugal, on a budget, self ).

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Okay, if you go with a panel, you need a “battery charge controller”.  One sometimes comes with the panel you buy, but to me they look crappy.  I could be wrong, but I just buy a separate unit from Amazon which is about the size of a pack of playing cards.  It has two lights, charging and charged.  Yellow, it is charging and green it is full up.  A cloud passing by will give you a yellow light, but just look at the thing in full sunlight.  If you don’t have this device, your battery could either over charge or discharge at night.  Get that darn controller.  Anyone can figure it out, it is positive to positive and negative to negative ( just like your car wiring ) on one end from the panel and the same then continuing to the battery ( make sure the controller can take the watts your panel is delivering.  Some are smaller capacity than others ). 

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That is it.  You are now generating power.  You will also need an inverter, the electric device that turns 12v DC power into the AC power your home appliances use.  You could use an RV bulb plug, install a LED bulb and just use straight DC without the need for an inverter, but I think you, and more importantly the wife, will prefer the comfort of a regular light.  Yes, the battery “eats” around 10% of the generated power being charged, and an inverter does about the same amount, plus a panel is NEVER able to generate what it claims to ( a 15 watt never generates more than 12, and that is in full summer sun, for instance ).  So in winter, using an inverter, that eight hours of sun a day with a 30 watt panel “only” generates about 70 watts of useable power ( half the power of the sun in winter, even on clear days, for 15 watts.  Minus the true watts of generation, so 12.  Minus 10% charging and 10% inverter, for about 9 watts an hour.  Max winter hours of charging is about 8.  8x9 is 72.  That is a clear day.  Eight hours-4 pm dusk to lights out-of lamp use is 64 ).  However, this is daily recharging.  You still have that two weeks of drawing down the batt if needed.  But, importantly, the moral of this story is that in reality a 30 watt panel is only going to allow the use of one lamp and no other appliance.  Plan/buy panels accordingly.  About $90 for a 30 watt panel, $139 for a 100 watt-shipping included from Amazon.

More next article.

END

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17 comments:

  1. Watts times hours is watt-hours. (Amps times hours is amp-hours.) If your 30 watt panel really puts out 20 watts, and charges 6 hours a day in winter, you get 120 watt-hours of energy. It's all simple if you use the "factor label" method of keeping track of units.

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  2. Jim a 100 watt set up will cost about 275$ 139$ panel 85$ battery 30$ inverter 20$ charge controller. This will allow 2 lights laptop kindle radio and dvd player. The trick is to charge EVERYTHING during the day when the sun is out.

    We did a similar setup when my son was at the lake in a camperstead with 60 watts of panels. We had one marine battery with 40 watt panel and a car battery with 20 watt panel. The lights and laptop used the marine and the car battery was for charging dvd a lantern his phone and mp3 radio. The 400 watt inverter was plenty as most things have USB charge ports now that work off 12 volts.

    PS We found a split system worked best in limiting draw per battery. The car battery came home and is in my tractor now. his was a daily use system not a just in case!

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    1. So, low draw items work on a car battery? When should you stop using it to limit damage?

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    2. 12.55 no lower than 12.48 but mainly it was what he used to charge devise batteries during the days with sun. It was mainly a backup to the marine. A multi meter is a must for any system.

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    3. If you have to use a car start battery for lighting/refrigeration (thrifty rocker-pump dc model, NOT PROPANE/AC-DC), you need to estimate power available. Clean the terminals and top up the cells with distilled water (defrost your freezer and catch the melt water- that's clean water!). Charge the battery fully. Let it sit unloaded for 24 hours. Check that this is so with a hydrometer and a sensitive voltmeter (3.5 digits at least, reading like 12.82v, or 4.5 digits like 12.654v) so you can tell what the voltage is. This is a PITA, but you need a baseline for how good this particular battery is.
      Add a small load (1Amp, like a 12-Ohm wire-wound 20+Watt resistor) while measuring the terminal voltage. Use a video camera pointed at your dvm screen to record how long it takes to drop to 11.8v. That's it. That's how much power you might want to take from the battery before recharging, although recharging before this will be good for battery life. Repeat/record to see battery degrade, since it's a thin-plate start battery. Maybe, it'll be good enough for long enough? -pdxr13

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    4. PITA, but good info to have just in case. Thanks

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    5. Jim I am not advocating a car battery for storage. We used it to charge other batteries. We used it as a bridge 20 watt panels to controller to battery to a draw of 20 to 30 watts of rechargeable devices. very little comes out of battery .

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    6. Okay, that makes sense. Sorry I wasn't following. I'm pretty retarded with electronics-so its a good thing 12v is pretty easy.

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    7. This makes much more sense. You need a battery to power up your charge-controller, but it doesn't have to be much of a battery to put out 12v and 55mA's. You could use the load-control function on the charge-controller to power the battery chargers only when the sun was shining.

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  3. If you have a Harbor Freight nearby then take a look at this unit. I have two of them. http://www.harborfreight.com/45-watt-solar-panel-kit-10-pc-kit-68751.html

    Sign up for the sale emails. I got mine for $130. The closest one to Elko NV is Twin Falls ID. You don't get LEDs, but CFs that connect directly to it. Battery not included. (I just had to say that) I also have an 8 panel connector. http://www.harborfreight.com/8-panel-universal-solar-connector-68689.html

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    1. These are the old school heavy panels. Not bad. I had one fail on me the first few years but the other two have been going for almost eight years now. You are paying extra for the weight if shipped, and you pay a premium over mono panels. These don't perform under lower light conditions like the mono's do.

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    2. The HF 45W solar kit at lowest-sale-price used to be okay as a starter solar system, but every part of it is inferior. Okay if free.

      Spending $150 on a 100W Renology mono panel is a good starter panel. It's about as big/heavy as can be handled by average person. On the cheap, you can get a PWM charger like Morningstar Sunsaver 10L for $40, or not-so-cheap $220 for Sunsaver 15L mppt (lets you use not-12v panels with 12v battery). Don't forget fuses/breakers to reduce fires. -pdxr13

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  4. I keep junk batteries around and if anyone I know is getting a new battery for their car or truck, I have them trade in the junk battery and I get the one that won't start their car very well anymore. I have gone through 4 over 32 months and they run 12 volt LED lights in the barn and outside. These work out to about FREE!!! If I kill them (And I do) then it is no big deal.

    I was using used group size 8D batteries I was getting for $25 to $35 dollars used or $60 new blems with some dud batteries for trade in and using 4 in series to get 48 volts to run the Outback inverter with. I am down to 2 strings (4 each for 48 volts DC) with some spares. That was before I got the stationary batteries. 2 volts and 1040 AH each. These monsters weigh 146 pounds each. They have worked for over 32 months. I bought 56 cells and have spares of the same age and type for when they go bad. I bought them just over the price of scrap. If I were on 12 volts DC it would be over 10,000 AH of batteries. I don't know if having stated this that I will be kicked out of the Bison Furgal Club??? Here is the sad news, I still have a mortgage....ouch...but only 14 more payments to go.

    I do stuff you are not supposed to do with solar, but I have always tried to work outside the norm. I did almost all of it on the cheap too.

    MOFreedom

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    1. How are you not a stud? A year to mortgage freedom and frugal solar is awesome.

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    2. 8D batteries rock! These are genuine thick-plate deep cycle batteries. A 600 pound battery bank is some serious DC capacity, worth having a Diesel genset to keep charged. -pdxr13

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  5. A must read for you if you missed it.http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/markets/no-room-in-us-grain-silos-means-dumping-wheat-in-parking-lots/ar-BBtNZfh?ocid=spartandhp

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  6. The only thing I can think of is declining demand for specialty value added items, rather than base calories, probably mostly a Chinese decline

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