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Small scale solar and batteries
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turtle
Lord of the Rant.
Formerly turtle2472
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Upstate South Carolina
 
2022-07-04, 13:26

I'm looking at a project for a "remote area" of my yard where I don't want to run electricity from the house. What I'm thinking about is getting a Gazebo set up and putting some solar panels on it. Then have some kind of battery pack there too so I can put up some lights and such. Clearly this is going to be a low current situation and most things I intend to run would be something like LED lights and phone charging. I do want to add a USB powered wifi camera though that would enable me to grab snapshots of the view from the Gazebo.

I'm thinking of something like this:


I whatever solar "system" I put I would mount to the roof for solar panels and the battery/inverter would be under the roof overhead. So with something like this we would need to ensure it has some weather tolerance. Also a level of heat tolerance given it will be under that canopy.

Louis L'Amour, “To make democracy work, we must be a notion of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.”
MineCraft? mc.applenova.com | Visit us! | Maybe someday I'll proof read, until then deal with it.
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Yontsey
*AD SPACE FOR SALE*
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Cleveland-ish, OH
 
2022-07-04, 17:33

For a camera, I have Arlo 4K cameras around my property that are powered by a solar panel. They work amazing 98% of the time. Only time is in the winter when they get covered. The battery will usually last 1-2 weeks.
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Frank777
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Toronto
 
2022-07-04, 18:05

Similarly, Costco now sells strings of LED solar lights.
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turtle
Lord of the Rant.
Formerly turtle2472
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Upstate South Carolina
 
2022-07-04, 19:18

I get that I can piece together different little things, but I'm looking for power to be present at the gazebo for other things as well.

The camera that is going there is a specific one that doesn't "support" solar but is powered by USB-C. So really anything that can power USB-C would be fine for it.

Lights can be of course anything as well. If I get something that is running 12VDC, then I could buy supplies that are geared for automotive/RV use and not have as inefficient conversion just to run a 120VAC light, USB charger, etc.

Ideally, I would be able to run a conventional 120VAC outlet there so I can power a laptop or such if I work there. The lights, fans, USB power points would all run off of 12VDC.

Louis L'Amour, “To make democracy work, we must be a notion of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.”
MineCraft? mc.applenova.com | Visit us! | Maybe someday I'll proof read, until then deal with it.
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kscherer
The Ban Hammer
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Boyzeee
 
2022-07-05, 10:51

We have one of Costco's solar light strings for our gazebo. Has a little battery that will run the lights for 6-8 hours. Works perfect.

They seem to have a new version of it, now, which is this thing.

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- Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Mat 5:9)
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turtle
Lord of the Rant.
Formerly turtle2472
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Upstate South Carolina
 
2022-07-05, 12:27

I appreciate the options to piece together individual items, but I know what I'm envisioning for amenities and one by one just won't work in the long run. This is why I'm thinking about a small scale solar system. Think of it like a cabin off grid.

I'm more thinking something like this. Not it specifically, but it would allow 12VDC for most accessories and also a 120VAC option.


Thing is, I've yet to really learn the intricate details of solar and what is needed for this kind of project. While I could just buy a kit, I know it is almost always better to do it with individual parts.

Louis L'Amour, “To make democracy work, we must be a notion of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.”
MineCraft? mc.applenova.com | Visit us! | Maybe someday I'll proof read, until then deal with it.
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Frank777
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Toronto
 
2022-07-05, 12:30

I'm out of my depth when it comes to the electrical side of things.
But it sounds like the camping solar panel setup alongside a small battery for storage is what you would be looking for.

I've seen the Coleman? solar panels at Costco as well. I imagine there's a host of small batteries that would work.

You may need to bring the battery pack inside at night, I don't know if they're meant to remain outside 24/7.
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Frank777
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Toronto
 
2022-07-05, 12:33

I see you got their without me. Yes, if you know what you're doing building a custom system will work best.

Until Apple gets into this space and decides to glue and solder everything together for 'better performance'.
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turtle
Lord of the Rant.
Formerly turtle2472
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Upstate South Carolina
 
2022-07-05, 12:40

Well, the idea came from seeing this (or similar) Jackery product that comes with solar panels.

It makes bringing power and such simple if you are camping. I kinda see this gazebo project like that given it isn't close to the house at all. Something like this Jackery, you would have to bring back into the house when you're not using it. It can't be exposed to the elements long term. Being realistic, am I going to remember to lug that to the gazebo, set it up and hang out? No, it would sit idle in my garage because the inconvenience of setting it up isn't worth the effort. >$500 and a "permanent" solution though, that is tenable.

Louis L'Amour, “To make democracy work, we must be a notion of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.”
MineCraft? mc.applenova.com | Visit us! | Maybe someday I'll proof read, until then deal with it.
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kscherer
The Ban Hammer
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Boyzeee
 
2022-07-05, 13:26

I have the Jackery 500 with solar panel and the thing is just awesome!

But, yeah, not really what you're looking for. That kit up higher is, and would do you well. Seems like a good starter kit for the gazebo.

- AppleNova is the best Mac-users forum on the internet. We are smart, educated, capable, and helpful. We are also loaded with smart-alecks! :)
- Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Mat 5:9)
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Anonymous Coward
Member
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2022-08-19, 23:25

Materials have changed since my first experiences with solar over 40 years ago, but the basics are the same. Real Goods in California has been around for that long and has good information, but I just came across a website with a forum that seems to cover a wide range of current equipment.

DIY Solar Power Forum
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turtle
Lord of the Rant.
Formerly turtle2472
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Upstate South Carolina
 
2022-08-22, 09:20

Thanks. I'm going to have to look into this forum more. I've got lots of questions but I'm also figuring out that most of what I want to do it doable, solid and stable just not "common".

Louis L'Amour, “To make democracy work, we must be a notion of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.”
MineCraft? mc.applenova.com | Visit us! | Maybe someday I'll proof read, until then deal with it.
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Anonymous Coward
Member
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2022-09-22, 12:33

I haven't had time to look at this, but Ars Technica posted an article titled, New tech can make your house a solar microgrid today and seems to be applicable to this thread.
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kscherer
The Ban Hammer
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Boyzeee
 
2022-09-22, 12:50

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anonymous Coward View Post
I haven't had time to look at this, but Ars Technica posted an article titled, New tech can make your house a solar microgrid today and seems to be applicable to this thread.
Link seems dead.
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turtle
Lord of the Rant.
Formerly turtle2472
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Upstate South Carolina
 
2022-09-22, 13:02

The real key to that article is the inverters isolating your solar power from the grid so you can't fry a lineman if the grid is down and you are back-feeding it.

Personally I would rather have a battery system than something like this configuration. With the battery system you have complete use of solar power during grid down AND a little bit of battery to cover outages when the sun is down too.

Of course, if you scale the batteries then you can have longer power outage coverage when the grid is down. Something like one of these would give the you enough to keep using solar when the grid is down.

On that note: I've been doing A LOT of research in this and really gained so knowledge on solar and batteries. I'm by no means an expert, but at least I have more than a clue now.

Louis L'Amour, “To make democracy work, we must be a notion of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.”
MineCraft? mc.applenova.com | Visit us! | Maybe someday I'll proof read, until then deal with it.
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kscherer
The Ban Hammer
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Boyzeee
 
2022-09-22, 13:31

Solar-powered homes without batteries are actually a pretty dumb idea. And batteries are still super expensive if you want to be able to ride out an outage, or a long storm, or anything between sundown and sunup.

My advice is this: If you cannot afford batteries (and all of the chargers/inverters, wiring, and other specifics), don't bother. I'm not putting money into solar until I can also put money into batteries.

Also, if you want to be able to ride out the night, you need to double your solar capacity because you need to run the house while simultaneously charging the batteries. And, you need to decide what conveniences you want to power with solar (such as a water heater, A/C, etc., or just the lights will do thankyouverymuch) and plan your capacity accordingly.

And then expect to pay $$$$$!

And you will never recover your costs, so this is purely a "spare me from the grid" proposition.

I set my camp trailer up with solar and good batteries, and it wasn't cheap, nor can I run the A/C. Basically, it's just lights and fans — 12V stuff — and a 2000W inverter to run some basic appliances. All that stuff to run a small trailer for 72 hours cost $3000! To set up a house just to keep the fridge running and the lights on for the same amount of time will cost double that. And that's figuring a secondary system with no connection to the grid whatsoever. If you want auto-switching for grid connection, then add another $3000+.

As of today, I have four solar systems in play. One for my trailer (200W panel with two LiFePO4 100Ah batteries, 2000W inverter, chargers, etc.); one for my shed (70W panel, 100Ah lead acid battery, 400W inverter) to run 12V lights and a Ryobi battery charger); A Jackery 500 solar generator and 100W panel for emergencies; and a Costco solar light system for my gazebo. And I'm pretty convinced it may make more sense to have separate systems for separate, uhm, systems, rather than one big system that powers everything.

My next adventure will be an 800W capacity solar system to run the fridge/freezer in emergencies! Still working on that.

- AppleNova is the best Mac-users forum on the internet. We are smart, educated, capable, and helpful. We are also loaded with smart-alecks! :)
- Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Mat 5:9)

Last edited by kscherer : 2022-09-22 at 14:37.
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turtle
Lord of the Rant.
Formerly turtle2472
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Upstate South Carolina
 
2022-09-22, 14:09

I agree with you on this one. Keeping this thread on small scale side of things I did learn a lot from Will you mentioned above and managed to join the DYI solar forums. They haven't been very inviting to me and I'm reading way more than posting there for that matter.

However, I've learned a ton about building a small scale solar setup. When I finally put a gazebo thing on my property I'll certainly be doing a solar setup for it. 12VDC for fans and such with an inverter for the few times I'll want to power something with 120AC.

The big thing I learned is about the importance of the battery. Yeah you can power things with solar directly, but the battery is where the stability comes from. So for something like your camper and my gazebo I would really be critical for the battery to be where the loads all pull from.

Knowing that, for a house, even more so in my book. Even if only a small battery. You really need something for stability.

Louis L'Amour, “To make democracy work, we must be a notion of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.”
MineCraft? mc.applenova.com | Visit us! | Maybe someday I'll proof read, until then deal with it.
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turtle
Lord of the Rant.
Formerly turtle2472
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Upstate South Carolina
 
2022-11-08, 16:12

Here I thought I knew something about solar and I don't even know what kind of battery my van has. It is something like this one.

This is "flooded lead/acid" right? the reason I'm asking is I need to up my van charging game with solar because we use this beast so infrequently that the battery is dying over time. So I went and bought a charger that I can just plug into the cigarette lighter socket. This worked well until it boiled out almost all of the fluid in the battery.

The solar panel I'm using is the previous model of this one. (It actually is the 10W one in this set.) You put it on the dash and plug it in. It supposedly has over-charge protection but that is clearly not the case. The panel puts out ~20VDC (open circuit) which is too much to power a cigarette lighter charger for an iPhone.

What I'm looking for is an actual charge controller that I can wire into the van permanently and have the solar panel go through it. Then I know the battery shouldn't be boiled over and I don't have to worry about unplugging the solar panel when I start the van up.

So what charge controller should I be looking for? I found two from Renogy that look like they might work. The Voyager and the Wanderer.

I would wire the controller to the fuse block in the cabin (under the dash) and ensure there is an inline fuse for extra safety.

Louis L'Amour, “To make democracy work, we must be a notion of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.”
MineCraft? mc.applenova.com | Visit us! | Maybe someday I'll proof read, until then deal with it.

Last edited by turtle : 2022-11-08 at 16:30.
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Anonymous Coward
Member
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2022-11-08, 17:18

Maybe also use a sealed lead-acid battery?
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turtle
Lord of the Rant.
Formerly turtle2472
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Upstate South Carolina
 
2022-11-08, 17:42

I don't want to change out my battery. That is another >$200 for a vehicle I don't use a lot. I just had the battery tested and it is solid. It is just over a year old at this point. That is why I'm trying to get a charge controller that will work with what I have.

Louis L'Amour, “To make democracy work, we must be a notion of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.”
MineCraft? mc.applenova.com | Visit us! | Maybe someday I'll proof read, until then deal with it.
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Anonymous Coward
Member
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2022-11-08, 17:57

As I understand it, you are looking for a device that limits the voltage, rather than using circuitry to determine the battery's state of charge. If the device limits the input voltage compatible with the battery, then over charging should not be a concern. So, either of the linked controllers should do the job.
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turtle
Lord of the Rant.
Formerly turtle2472
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Upstate South Carolina
 
2022-11-09, 09:11

Is there something better I should do? I mean, I don't want to give the impression I already know sooo much. I have a good general understanding but clearly lack the finer points.

Louis L'Amour, “To make democracy work, we must be a notion of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.”
MineCraft? mc.applenova.com | Visit us! | Maybe someday I'll proof read, until then deal with it.
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Anonymous Coward
Member
 
Join Date: May 2004
 
2022-11-09, 19:42

I am not up to date with current technology. All I can say is that with too great a voltage difference between charging voltage and battery voltage causes excessive electrolysis. I would guess the hydrogen and oxygen don't have as much time to recombine, so escape faster than if the reaction rate were slower (for a lead acid battery). Presumably, the charge controller has the ability to detect the type of battery, and provide an ideal voltage that will not stress the battery, since the different battery types have different voltage ranges between fully charged and minimum charge.

I would guess that your Navy training has covered that, so all I can say is that you should ensure that you chose a charge controller that matches the range of voltages from the solar panel and produces an output compatible with your specific battery. I have never come across any other components in the solar charging circuit that add any functionality (except for a fused or breaker combiner box if multiple solar panels are involved).

P.S. I guess you should take what I say with a tablespoon of salt because most of my solar knowledge is from my pre-Navy days. I'm not saying it was a long time ago, but my first submarine had a fire control system that generated solutions using analog computers, that is with synchros and servos.

Last edited by Anonymous Coward : 2022-11-09 at 20:35. Reason: Something I thought of while turning one of my compost piles
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