Resources to learn about whole home off-grid power?
Im the sort who likes to design a master system and then baby step into it as resources are available and as circumstances warrant.
I want to get a backup generator to run some of the things in my suburban home, but I also have a vague vision of a generator+solar+battery backup system that is connected directly to my breaker box so that I could run a substantial portion of my home during an extended outage or even a multi year period of “shitty power grid times”.
I got some inspiration from this:
Id like to find a resource that could help me with design issues (like what sort of thing do you connect to the breaker box with and what do they cost and which ones are “the best” for various scenarios. Same question for… well every part of a system like that.
Then with my best laid plans in hand, I could start out small buying just what I feel I need and can afford knowing that I’m not gonna have a huge regret later on when I try to go to the next step.
The generators in that video were pretty cool in that you could get a few and run them on different kinds of fuel and add more as your needs grow. Maybe not the “best way” in some lights but an interesting idea for a guy who is presently most worried about keeping his furnace and computers running and then building out from there.
Thanks for any pointers
I set up off grid solar/power in the early 80’s and without the internet or mentor, and made most (if not all) of available mistakes, There are good packages out there now, and probably worth a bit of a premium they charge. No system, that I know of, is completely hands off and without issues of some kind to set up and run, but they are a lot easier to set up now, especially if one has done it before. One of my friends electrocuted himself with 220 doing some household stuff, so I don’t allow my education in basic electrical skills much leeway.
Check out SMA Sunny Island inverters (there are probably others now). They allow connecting multiple DC/AC generation sources and handle islanding so that you can use PV with/battery when the power company is down. You might also look up AC coupled backup systems, they are a good solution when you plan to be mostly on-grid but want the ability to operate off-grid. It allows you to take advantage of the grid solar inverters / power company net metering and still have backup power. Here is an article I wrote for PP along time ago. It’s mostly still right. Things I learned are not to use the manifold design for thermal, better to use a primary loop type system, you get a lot more control/data. Also – many solar companies are unreliable so do-it-yourself is good so that you have an understanding and can work on the system when companies go under.
The PV system described in the article once configured correctly was pretty much maintenance free for 10 years. It just worked. The thermal we had issues with a design flaw in the collectors, they had a > 50% failure rate with leaks and the company did not stand behind them. 🙁
We have since moved. into a much more passive solar home but we will probably do another similar PV system on it in the near future.
I had an off grid PV system for 10 years. It’s not for the faint of heart. I found Home Power Magazine to be an extremely helpful resource. It’s defunct now and you can still download the old issues.
My sweet sweet lady and I are putting together an array of 8 400 W panels (due to arrive on-island later this week or early next), and mounting them on our converted shuttle bus tiny home. We’re going to use a lithium phosphate battery system (our consultant said that’s the latest-mostest [proven] battery tech, and we got 40% off during a “Labor Day” sale from a company in China <smile>) which should story 2+ days of power for rainy/cloudy times, although where we are on Maui is pretty sunny. We are ruthlessly trimming electrical addictions (clothes dryer is a biggie) so we can be comfortably under the storage ceiling of our system. The batteries are going to take a month+ to arrive (delays due to all the mayhem with the 3 Gorges Dam) but will be worth the wait, evidently.
Another adventure! May Fortune smile upon us all!
VIVA — Sager
One of my considerations in rural or off-grid/survival property would be year-round running water, and oil/mineral rights. ( I am not sure if you can still get this )
I actually owned property that had both of these, wont go into to much detail why i no longer do. But wish I still did. Moving water generates a massive amount of energy with very little working mechanics. Not near as complex as solar, and not near as expensive to set up as wind, which is variable. Having an oil well at the end of your property which you own mineral rights is pretty evident to endless energy self-reliance.
Thanks for the very interesting and detailed replies all!
I don’t think anyone here in Canada gets mineral rights when they buy property. At least not that I’ve heard of. Maybe if I can pass myself off as a railroad…
I don’t live in Quebec but in the 90s they had this ice storm that took out major grid components and caused huge numbers of people to lose power for something like 2 weeks during a deep freeze. Not good. Lots of people died (yet somehow I still worry more about my pipes freezing).
Here in Alberta a few months back they announced they were a few minutes away from doing some rolling blackouts because the grid was at capacity. I know PP focuses on things going wrong, but even if everything is fine for the next ten years, I wonder whats gonna happen when 100,000 people want to charge their Teslas @30 amps during the dinner hour.
In my suburban home I have the… errr…. luxury of limiting myself to worrying about keeping a few things running during an emergency. If things really went off the rails, I have a feeling electricity will be the least of my worries. Nevertheless, if I am going to design something I may as well learn as much as I can. It beats the more mundane hobbies at least.