Energy Options > Solar Power

Ease my way in to Solar

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So I am looking to ease my way in to a simple solar setup.  I have read up enough to accept the idea that you should never add batteries to an existing bank, therefore you should buy the bank you want at the end state and the build up capacity elsewhere around it (more panels later, etc).  With that in mind, I am thinking about buying a set of golf cart batteries, an inverter, and a AC charger and throwing it all on a shelf in my garage to act as a simple backup should the power go out.  We've had two power failures in the last 4 months in Northern Kentucky.  During the previous power outages, I used a 5kW genset to run the basics through a transfer switch that I installed next to the main panel in the garage.  It has a total of 8 circuits in it: one for lights in the kitchen, one for the fridge, one for a chest freezer, one for each of the two furnaces (propane), two for the hot water heaters (electric) and one for a set of outlets in the kitchen.

What I would like to to is be able to weather about 24 hours without power and without having to roll the generator out.  How many batteries would I need to do this?  If I dropped the hot water heater I assume the requirements would be far less? (since that is the only really high operating amperage appliance I have on the emergency panel).

Secondly, any recommendations on batteries and sources for them, inverters and AC chargers?

Lastly, is this a really bad approach to get started?

I would personally love to start doing the same.  However, what I read was that you could start with a panel, two batteries and then add on each as you went.  Does it depend on how the batteries are wired?

If your system is a 12 volt system then use 12v batteries wired in parallel.  A better method is to use two 6v batteries wired in series.  Use only deep cycle or golf cart batteries.

Batteries are the true heart of any alt-E system.  This is not an area you want to skimp on (IMO) if you afford not to; and it is also an area that requires the most planning and preparation.  There are a variety of ways to wire the batteries - in series, in parallel, in series and parallel.  All I did was google the shit out of the subject until I had a fair understanding and then I purchased some batteries.  When I received them via freight, I sat down again and re-read all the information I found so that I would make sure not so mess up my investment or my life.  The intra-battery wiring is very important too, pay careful attention to this.

The following is our little setup.

2 Xantrex XPower Powerpack 1500

* Used for mainly lighting and small appliances. The 4 converted lamps will run at 12v instead of using the 120v converter on the battery packs. There is no loss converting then.
* We will charge the solar panel during the daytime. Then at night or when the heater is running off the generator we will charge up these packs. One will be used while the other is charging.
1 Sunforce 80 watt solar panel
1 30 amp Digital Charge Controller

4 converted 120v lamp to 12v - converted with 4 12vDC Car Power Adapters

* 2 12 volt fluorescent light bulbs 40 watts
* 2 12 volt fluorescent light bulbs 25 watts
* 1 10 foot 12vDC extension cord
* 1 3 outlet 12vDC Power Adapter


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