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Our Offgrid Power Setup
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K
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1 Oct ’15 - 9:47 am
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I don't think that's a bad thing, with the way the industry is growing and prices are decreasing it makes it more and more viable. When we looked hard back in 2007 the quote I got was 50,000 for a 5 kw system, can get the same thing today for under 20,000. Hopefully the tesla battery works as well as they say it does which would have a huge impact on the price

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JBish130
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10 Feb ’16 - 1:43 am
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Hi, I'm new here.

We came up to Maine in the spring of 2013.  We had bought 63 acres the year before.  Came up to our property and lived in a pop-up camper the first summer.  Got a small cabin up the next November.  It's small, 18x24 with a second floor (for bedroom) 16x18.

We are in the Mountains and Lakes Region of Western Maine.  The water is clean up here, you can drink the water that flows off the mountain (there's nobody, no houses, no nothing up over the mountain or down over the other side).

I threw a plastic pipe into the stream and fed it into the trailer for running water.  I plumbed it to a propane tankless water heater for a shower, but also plumbed that into the camper so that we had hot and cold water at the sink.  I used a 3,500 watt generator for power.  While there was no power lines along the road past our place, there was phone lines, so we got a land line as well.

We heat the cabin with wood and have a propane wall furnace as a back-up.  The refrigerator is gas, as is the stove and oven.  Since our gas refrigerator is small, we got a small deep freezer, it's only about 7-9 cubic feet.  We dug a well and I put in a shallow well pump.

We powered everything with a 7,500 watt generator (the 3,500 wouldn't run the water pump, too small for us).  We started out running the generator about 16 hours a day.  Wow, was THAT expensive.  We spent $475 a month on gasoline for two months before I bought a small 900 watt generator from Harbor Freight.  We used that 90% of the time and only used the big generator if we needed to pump up the water pressure.  Our fuel cost dropped down to $175 a month.  That little $90 generator paid for itself three times over in the first month.  It was a pain in the butt switching between them, and we didn't have any power if the generator wasn't running.  We could get 2,000 hours on those little generators before they wore out.  There's a trick to starting and using them, if you know the tricks, they will last a long time.

The next summer, I decided that it would be better to turn our system into a hybrid generator-inverter system with a battery bank.  The goal was to have it online by Christmas, which was one of those goals we actually hit.  We took the small generator out of the system and only used the 7,500 watt unit.  This worked good for us.

Six months later, I decided to add some solar panels and a solar charge controller.  We only have four panels on the roof of the cabin right now, but in bright sunshine, they will charge up our battery bank in about an hour and a half.  Our batteries are Trojan AGM 8-D batteries, and we use four of them in a 48v system that is all Xantrex equipment.  We are using the 6048 inverter that I bought used on ebay for $1,800.  It works great.  We are using a Midnight solar combiner box and DC breaker box.  The panels are Solar World from Germany, 30v 300 watt.  The generator is from Harbor Freight.

As has been mentioned, this far north in the winter, we still have to run the generator from time to time.  Our fuel costs for the generator right now in the dead of winter is about $60 a month.  In the summer it will hit about $30 a month if we get a lot of overcast days.

I installed everything, it wasn't all that difficult, but I did get to look at a system that was up and running before I bought anything.  This system will pay for itself in about 5 years with what we are saving over running the two generators.

Right now my most current project is building an electric choke for the generator so that I can make it automatic start and have the electrical system start and stop the generator as needed.  The hour meter for the generator will be indoors so we can log things like oil changes, etc.

This system works fantastic for us.  It powers our electric water pump, the electronic ignition on the stove, television, satellite box, DVD, my component stereo, and my ham radio equipment.  Our electric power is superior to what I can get off the grid.  It's a very 'quiet' power, the sensitive radio equipment doesn't pick up any electrical noise like it did when operating from the grid.

Harvesting sunlight for our electricity doesn't seem any different from harvesting our trees for our heat in the winter.

I do think that another bank of batteries and a couple more panels would do the trick.  That would give us more reserve power and reduce how often we would run the generator.  It might give us enough power to run a safer form of heat, like a pellet stove, too.

This is the cabin in the winter.  Snow got to 5.5' that winter.

Snow-Cabin-1.jpg

This is the inverter, entrance panel, breaker for the generator, solar controller, DC breaker box, a small intelligent charger, and the thing with all the wires dangling from it is a test run of our homemade battery balancer.

Inverter.jpg

Putting the panels on the roof:

Panels.jpg

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JBish130
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10 Feb ’16 - 2:02 am
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uddercharm said
Definitely. One of my brothers is an electrician and when recently asked him for some advice on some things involving installing it ourselves, he sent us a link to a solar installation company... exactly what we are trying to get around. Guess he may not know the difference.

A solar electrical system is not difficult to install; however, you DO have to know what you are doing.  There is a terrific amount of electrical power in the system and in those batteries.  It can kill you.  I've wired houses on my own in the past, which is fairly simple (entrance wiring, meter, entrance panel, circuits, etc.)  This is far more complex than that.  I had the benefit of seeing an installed system at a neighbors house, plus both of my sons are electrical engineers.  They weren't here to help me, but I did spend a good bit of time on the telephone with them.

Remember, keep one hand in your back pocket.  If you touch something that's "hot" and your other hand is grounded, the power will run through your arms.  To get from one arm to the other, that power has to pass through your chest, and your heart.  If you do not know what you are doing, do not attempt it.
 

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10 Feb ’16 - 5:48 am
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Beautiful place you have there J

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Gravel Road
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10 Feb ’16 - 10:02 am
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Yes, it looks great!...beautiful spot.

"The universe is wider than our views of it." -HDT
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11 Feb ’16 - 8:34 am
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J, where did you move from?

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JBish130
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13 Feb ’16 - 10:42 am
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KVR said
J, where did you move from?

We come from the rust belt of Western Pennsylvania.  Had spent 10 years in Philadelphia before heading back home for a couple years before heading up here.

We spent some time looking for where we wanted to be.  Ruled out the west for water considerations (we originally wanted to install a micro-hydro electric plant).  We were kind of focused on New Hampshire until we rolled into Maine.  There is lots of water here.

We are in Phillips, but our property borders the Weld town line.  About halfway between Farmington and Rangeley on Blueberry Mountain, not far from Mt. Blue state park.

You're in Maine, right?  Where are you at?

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13 Feb ’16 - 10:46 am
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Nice, My wife is from reading and I am originally from up in Tioga county, we are around the Bangor area.

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