Advice for Solar Power, other alternative advice

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Advice for Solar Power, other alternative advice

I'm looking to set my home up for solar power in the DC/N. VA area as well as to look at other types of energy production/survival issues.  I'm learning to turn a screw driver but not very good at doing labor on my own at this time (but am frantically trying to learn).  So I need advice, help or companies that will come out and do what needs to be done.  I want to spend my dollar while it's still worth a whopping penny as it will be worth $.00001 soon. 

 Any help will do but again, I'm not good at nor do I trust my own work yet.

 

Thanks in advance.

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Re: Advice for Solar Power, other alternative advice

titanic,

My electrician's truck has a bumper sticker.."Electricity is not an amateur sport."  There are folks on this site here who know a lot but they (probably) don't live next door.

Maybe you can use barter or a local voc tech school? I work PT at one and they are really getting into alternative enegy. They love projects for their students to practice on and they are well supervised.

 

SG

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Re: Advice for Solar Power, other alternative advice

If you were on the other side of the country, I could help!  I have 30+ years of experience with solar HW systems plus PV/wind charging systems. For myself, I have only solar HW and wood heat since our electricity is so cheap here ($.05/KW) that the return on investment is horrible.  I do have an electric golf cart that has a PV for a roof that produces approx 1 mile of driving/hour or charge.  Perfect for zooming around our community and hauling firewood off our 20 acres.  This fall, I will convert an old pickup to all electric so I can actually drive that to work.... still working out the best way to recharge that unit.  I'd love to go solar but wind is a good option here too.

If you're a good student, don't worry about 'electricity'.  It's hardly the magic electricians would have you believe though there are some cautions and procedures you need to follow when working with it.  I'm no genius but was able to learn enough in a couple weeks to completely wire my own home when I built it.... and passed the inspection on the first try.  So it can be done and by mere mortals!  Good luck with your project, it's a worthy cause and sometimes the learning can be half the fun. 

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Re: Advice for Solar Power, other alternative advice

Thanks~!  I appreciate the insight and agree it doesn't look that hard but I remember the first time my hair stood on end touching a live wire....not fun.  Learning slowely and will continue to do so....

Anyone have advice on good books or videos that may help?  I've gone to YouTube and found a couple but will try Google Video as well. 

Keep the info coming!  Thanks!

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Re: Advice for Solar Power, other alternative advice

Titanic.

I'm a well established electrical engineer. I'd suggest that you look at this company. 

www.sunpower.com

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Re: Advice for Solar Power, other alternative advice
Roundhouse wrote:

If you were on the other side of the country, I could help!  I have 30+ years of experience with solar HW systems plus PV/wind charging systems. For myself, I have only solar HW and wood heat since our electricity is so cheap here ($.05/KW) that the return on investment is horrible.  I do have an electric golf cart that has a PV for a roof that produces approx 1 mile of driving/hour or charge.  Perfect for zooming around our community and hauling firewood off our 20 acres.  This fall, I will convert an old pickup to all electric so I can actually drive that to work.... still working out the best way to recharge that unit.  I'd love to go solar but wind is a good option here too.

If you're a good student, don't worry about 'electricity'.  It's hardly the magic electricians would have you believe though there are some cautions and procedures you need to follow when working with it.  I'm no genius but was able to learn enough in a couple weeks to completely wire my own home when I built it.... and passed the inspection on the first try.  So it can be done and by mere mortals!  Good luck with your project, it's a worthy cause and sometimes the learning can be half the fun. 

Until you guess wrong my friend, and find out the hard way what the defiinition of a "ground loop" is. 

Just be careful. I've got a Master's degree in the stuff, authored multiple papers and hold several patents and still remain cautious even after 15+ years of engineering. 

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Re: Advice for Solar Power, other alternative advice

Got an estimate (real quick and no real info) but the two that I got were in the $37k and $52k before Fed Tax Incentive.  They both only said that they would save approx. $600 and $800 annually.  First one generates 5,317kw per year and the second generates 8,800kw per year.

Price sound extremely high and power generation sounds extremely low.  House sits in full southern view and have enough roof space for a large amount of panels.  Any insight? 

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Re: Advice for Solar Power, other alternative advice

Look into do it yourself solar panels.

http://www.savehomeenergy.org/review/solarpanels.php?t=E4EY006

Here are some home kits that maybe interesting for you to look over.

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Re: Advice for Solar Power, other alternative advice
mpelchat wrote:

Look into do it yourself solar panels.

http://www.savehomeenergy.org/review/solarpanels.php?t=E4EY006

Here are some home kits that maybe interesting for you to look over.

have you used this kit? Is it as easy as it says? I'm reading over it now...

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Re: Advice for Solar Power, other alternative advice

I have not but am seriously looking at purchasing the 1st of the three.  Other seemingly independent sites have liked there system as well.

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Re: Advice for Solar Power, other alternative advice

I think I'm gonna do it, Ill let you  know how it goes, and if it is as detailed as it says

thanks for the link....I have gotten quotes from companies, but even on the low end still ran 4-8thousand.........knowledge like this is invaluable..

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Re: Advice for Solar Power, other alternative advice

Sounds really good.  Yes, I'm probably going to do it myself and will let you know which direction I go.  I'm looking at getting a LARGE settup so I can have bakcup power as well.  Should be interesting. 

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Re: Advice for Solar Power, other alternative advice

Well, I don't have a master's degree in anything and I have wired three houses I built. Two houses I have installed solar power in and one of them, a wind generator. Two also utilized the grid, but one never touched the grid and 100% of everything was produced on site. Electrical wiring is not at all difficult and reading any book on the basic principles of electricity should prepare anyone for these very simple projects.

Just know the difference between wiring in series and in parallel. understand the formula volts x amps = watts and go for it.

One tip when dealing with solar panels, remember that at night the panels will bleed electricity out of the battery bank into the night sky. A diode (one way electrical valve) has to be installed between the two to prevent this.

Many of the older cars used a diode like this to prevent the battery of the car from bleeding out when it wasn't charging. I just went to an auto parts store, asked for one of these and it worked fine.

I don't work for this company, but I am familiar with it:

http://www.how70.com/

 

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Re: Advice for Solar Power, other alternative advice

titanic, before spending ANY money on PVs, cut your consumption down....  Doing that will be waaaaaayy cheaper than any amount of solar power will save you.

How old is your fridge?  If it's more than ten years old, then it's likely to be on its way out, already consuming as much as 50% more power than when it was new.  Buying a brand new fridge will be heaps cheaper than buying panels to drive a hungry one.  We are about to remove our fridge from service, and go the way of this guy in Australia:  http://mountbest.net/chest_fridge.html  I'm sure he can service your needs with your different mains voltage.

Hopefully, you already have low power lighting...?

Replacing your PC with a laptop will also be cheaper than powering a hungry computer with PVs.

Solar Water Heating is a must.....  always do that FIRST!  If you live in a cloudy area, back up with wood.

When I do the occasional consultancy job here, the first thing I do is an energy audit.  There is no reason to spend $50K on PVs, our system cost $14K before government rebate.

Mike 

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Re: Advice for Solar Power, other alternative advice

Mike,

I find myself agreeing with you more than hating you lately. I must have had some bad pistachios or something.

For the guys trying to build their own PVs, I doubt you can do it for less than $2.55 per watt, and you can buy blemished (but still built in clean room environment) panels right now for that. Personally, I'd spend my time on building a solar hot water heater and getting the install site ready / electronics in while I was waiting on the shipment to arrive rather than spending many Saturdays in the basement building panels that, depending on your learning curve and skills, may not work out to be the wattage you are expecting. Having played around with this stuff, I have come to the realization that my time is not worth nothing when there is so much to do to prepare.

If anyone does go the route of building at home, I would love to hear some real numbers in terms of total cost of building (give yourself at least minimum wage for the time you spend ordering, learning, driving to radio shack, etc.) and the expected vs. delivered watts per panel. I spent a lot of time and money building windmills before I realized I was chasing one, and found a good, cheap source to buy a kit. When you start to factor in not only the time that you spend building this stuff, but the time you loose planting or whatever, it is a real liability unless you are looking to make a career out of PV.

Regardless what you decide, please let us know how you make out!

Rog

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Re: Advice for Solar Power, other alternative advice
Ready wrote:

I spent a lot of time and money building windmills before I realized I was chasing one, and found a good, cheap source to buy a kit.

 Rog,

Do you mind sharing this cheap source with us? 

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Re: Advice for Solar Power, other alternative advice
Jarhett wrote:
Ready wrote:

I spent a lot of time and money building windmills before I realized I was chasing one, and found a good, cheap source to buy a kit.

 Rog,

Do you mind sharing this cheap source with us? 

Seeing how I am in the process of becoming a dealer, I don't want to mix business and pleasure.

I'll say this and then you can contact me off list if you want more details: If you are buying multiple anythings in the US when it comes to green energy, there is enough chum in the water to get dealer pricing for equipment without huge committments. The administration likes wind and solar!

Rog

 

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Re: Advice for Solar Power, other alternative advice

Ebay is a good place to get a lot of the stuff. Any DC servo motor can be made into a generator. Preferably one with brushes. When you apply power it spins, when you spin it, it generates power. A certain rpm will give you a certain voltage, but it depends on the motor. An alternator can be used, and are actually rather effeceint for this purpose. They sell special rebuilt alternators specifically for wind power on ebay.

All this stuff is fairly complex for people without proper background. How it works is simple in theory but you need to know the math so that you can rate everything.

When you get into aH of batteries, and how much kW you need, it gets more complex. You need a system that you can fully charge your batteries during the day, or wind, all while you are using power that you would normally need during the course of a day. So you need to charge the batteries, and use power at the same time. At night, you need enough battey capacity, that you can have on all your gagets and gismos and not drain the batteries past 50%. Then start all over the next day.

Hydro would be the best if you have access. It has potential to generate power 24/7.

Ebay is a great place for everything.

Your power generating (ie. Solar, Wind, Hydro) needs to be more than what you use, because you need to charge the batteries and use power at the same time. The batteries can be rated for whatever you figure you would use during an evening, but your system needs to be able to charge itself while using power. Everything is interdependant.

 

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Re: Advice for Solar Power, other alternative advice

I purchased 200 individual solar cells off Ebay. I will get about 500 watts from the panels. I am still working on making them into panels. I have two done, but after I finished the two I read the longevity of non-encapsulated panels was pretty poor. Meaning the solar panel must be completely sealed, and in a vacuum, to prevent moisture from ruining the cells.

So now I ordered a small industrial vacuum pump and 10 mil laminating film. Still waiting. I will have to figure out a way to laminate everything to a piece of glass once it gets here. I'm thinking put it in a bag with vacuum on, and use a heatgun to get the laminate to stick. The laminate melts at 230 F, but my heatgun goes way beyond this, even on low. If I can find a Nylon bag vs PVC, Nylon melts at 400 F about 100 higher than PVC, it might be enough to get it to work. The heat needs to transfer through the bag to the laminate without melting the outer vacuum bag. No other plastic bag material goes beyond 400. Any other suggestions are welcome.

I'm still ironing out my kinks.

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Re: Advice for Solar Power, other alternative advice

If you have any specific questions regarding sizing, battery capacity, efficiency, things like that, I will be happy to help if I can.

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Re: Advice for Solar Power, other alternative advice

Those are all very good points, and I would like to get your source for the cheap windmill kits too (ready).

My job right now is an electrician and an environmental (oxygen, pressurization...ect) for aircraft. From what I have been looking at everything required to know or have, aside from the solar cells, I have access too, or knowledge about I.E. soldering, wiring, series/parallel, inverters, generators...ect. I'm sure you guys know what I mean.

With that said though, I am REALLY interested in the windmills, and solar water heating even more so hence the reason finding that kit would be awesome.

SPM, did you use flexi glass and silicone over the two panels you  made so far? From what you read does the air need to be sucked out before you seal the panel?

Thanks ahead of time all...

Mike (#2...lol)

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Re: Advice for Solar Power, other alternative advice

I would love to do a windmill as I live ontop of a hill that is pretty much a wind alley.  If I could put 2-5 up I could power the block...lol  But my HOA board would probably have a fit.  Then again, my nieghbor is on the board and she wants to raise chickens so....maybe worth a try. 

As I go through the process I'll be asking Q's left and right and I appreciate the info given.  As for cutting down on usage, all appliances are low energy use (3-4yo) and I do need to drop my PC for laptop it's just that I bought the most expensive dang PC I could manage 3 yrs ago when I was still in the "consumption" mode that helped create the current mess that I don't want to scrap it yet....But will have to obviously.  The water heater is the kicker.  I'm not all that mechanically balanced so I may just have to buy it. 

On this topic, has anyone SOLD their house after installing Solar?  What was the reaction of the persons walking through?  Just curious.

Thanks again!

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Re: Advice for Solar Power, other alternative advice

That1guy - Search ebay for 'wind generator kit, or 'wind turbine kit', I think a bunch of stuff will come back. I don't have much experience with the wind power stuff, so I cant recommend one over another. Much cheaper than solar though. I payed about $1 a Watt just for the solar cells off Ebay. I have always been inclined to try and do things myself. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesnt.

I know with wind or hydro generators you need a diversion load and special controller to switch back and forth from batteries. I think a heating element or motor could be used, I read that some use their water heater as the load.

I saw a video on youtube of a kid who built his own wind generator, wound his own stator coils and everything. It got destroyed in a storm though. Pretty cool to see that he was able to do that. I found the video.  

 not pretty, but it was functional.

The first two panels I made are just on masonite. I didn't put them in a frame or anything like that. Lol. I have been experimenting with them in the window. They get pretty hot under direct sunlight and lose about a volt or two. You can watch the analog ampere gauge peg once it gets direct sunlight though. The cells I got off Ebay are actually pretty good. They are capable of what was advertised for power ratings. The bad part is I siliconed them to the masonite and these things are like 0.01" thick piece of glass. I don't think I can get them off without breaking them. That was over $100 worth of cells =(. I have enough to make about 3 more panels, the correct way.

I figure it will be cheaper to do it the correct way anyways. This way I only have to pay for a piece of tempered glass and frame, vs glass, backing, support for cells and frame. Laminate was cheap, and I have enough now for 30 panels. Vacuum pump was $15, plus shipping.

If you are going to buy solar cells off Ebay. Buy the ones that already have tabs. It cost me a addition $70 for tabbing and bus wire. And the time involved is insane to do by hand with a soldering iron. If it was only a couple, no big deal, but a few hundred, it starts to not be fun anymore.

For solar water heater, you just need a box with a mirror on the bottom and run a bunch of black pvc water lines in a grid over it. You can get creative and try and make reflective troughs for each tube. Black absorbs sunlight and will heat up the liquid inside, and the mirror or reflectors helps channel as much sunlight to the black tube as possible. It would be nice if their was another way, but you will always need a supplemental electric or gas water heater. Every little bit helps though.

Logically, if you could slow down the flow of water through the solar water heater, you could give more time for the heat to transfer from the tubing to the water, giving you hotter water. Maybe some kind of closed circulation set-up with seperate insulated tank and circulation pump. Have it empty the hot side into your normal water heater, then through your normal house lines. Resupply water through the cold line. Although it would have to know to open the system into the water heater supply side and shut off the circulation pump anytime someone turned on a hot water faucet (a differential pressure switch might work), and at night or when there isnt enough sunlight. You would have to play around with it, but i think if you worked at it you could make one that is pretty efficient. I guess if you lived near a hot springs you would be set, except that you live on top of a volcano. Maybe you could always build a fire to heat water? I have been thinking about this one for a while. I just live in an apartment, so my hands are kind of tied. When I have access to a roof I will be able to try more stuff.

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Re: PBS Green Builders Film available online April 20th

Hi Folks-

    I wrote to WGBY, the PBS station that  produced and broadcast a show with Chris back a few months ago, to see if they would give my local PBS station access to the show.  Well, I haven't heard back from their General Manager about that yet, but it  does appear that I got added to their e-mailing list!

   It turns out even PBS spam is of a higher quality.  Among other things, they had a promo for an upcoming "Green Builders" show that looks pretty interesting. Here's what they say:

"Green Builders, a one-hour high definition special, profiles a cast of green building pioneers who have taken the leap into making their part of the “built environment” a more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly place.

Watch the entire program online beginning April 20, 2009."

 Here's the link: http://www.pbs.org/greenbuilders/watch-the-film.html  .  They have a couple of short promos you can watch now.

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Re: Advice for Solar Power, other alternative advice
jerrydon10 wrote:

Well, I don't have a master's degree in anything and I have wired three houses I built. Two houses I have installed solar power in and one of them, a wind generator. Two also utilized the grid, but one never touched the grid and 100% of everything was produced on site. Electrical wiring is not at all difficult and reading any book on the basic principles of electricity should prepare anyone for these very simple projects.

Just know the difference between wiring in series and in parallel. understand the formula volts x amps = watts and go for it.

One tip when dealing with solar panels, remember that at night the panels will bleed electricity out of the battery bank into the night sky. A diode (one way electrical valve) has to be installed between the two to prevent this.

Many of the older cars used a diode like this to prevent the battery of the car from bleeding out when it wasn't charging. I just went to an auto parts store, asked for one of these and it worked fine.

I don't work for this company, but I am familiar with it:

http://www.how70.com/

 

 

It's not difficult, but can be dangerous as hell. Personally I'm thrilled that you're 3/3. I hope you go 40/40. What I pray never happens is 39/40. 

volts x amps = volt-amperes which is the sum of real and reactive power. Watts are real power and require the power factor correction when calculating, as the current and voltage waveforms can lag or lead each other depending on phase. So when you measure with a wattmeter you may be getting an incorrect reading. VA is always equal to or greater than the wattage. You CAN underrate your system if you're relying on watts rather than VA. 

And if you're connecting to the grid and you're not at equal potential, and don't account for that then you have by definition contention. In short, you'll get a quasi-short. Looks like it hasn't happened to you. Good. Too big a potential difference and you get heat. Not good.  

And I am serious about ground loops. My older brother is a Master Electrican and he'll concure. At the very least you need to know how to sense them. Because you don't want to sense them the hard way. 

Wiring a home does not require a Ph.D. All I ask is that you don't toss out the term "easy". It's suggests cavaliarity and this kind of power does not forgive. It only takes one mistake. Just one. 

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Re: Advice for Solar Power, other alternative advice
Pete In Florida wrote:

 

It's not difficult, but can be dangerous as hell. Personally I'm thrilled that you're 3/3. I hope you go 40/40. What I pray never happens is 39/40. 

volts x amps = volt-amperes which is the sum of real and reactive power. Watts are real power and require the power factor correction when calculating, as the current and voltage waveforms can lag or lead each other depending on phase. So when you measure with a wattmeter you may be getting an incorrect reading. VA is always equal to or greater than the wattage. You CAN underrate your system if you're relying on watts rather than VA. 

And if you're connecting to the grid and you're not at equal potential, and don't account for that then you have by definition contention. In short, you'll get a quasi-short. Looks like it hasn't happened to you. Good. Too big a potential difference and you get heat. Not good.  

And I am serious about ground loops. My older brother is a Master Electrican and he'll concure. At the very least you need to know how to sense them. Because you don't want to sense them the hard way. 

Wiring a home does not require a Ph.D. All I ask is that you don't toss out the term "easy". It's suggests cavaliarity and this kind of power does not forgive. It only takes one mistake. Just one. 

Well, I'll give you that one, Pete. Wiring is not for everyone and does require that you study up and know what you're doing.

BTW, I have never attempted to wire any alternative systems into the grid. I kept the systems separate from the grid.

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Re: Advice for Solar Power, other alternative advice

One thing I've learned from wiring my houses and other electrical work (not a pro) is to always always always shut off the main breaker... don't screw around with just flipping the one breaker you think goes to the room/outlet, especially not if someone else has done installation before you. I learned the hard way that sometimes your nifty tester can say the circuit is dead, but one of the wires in a 3-way lightswitch can still be live if someone accidentally crossed wires with another circuit. Luckily, I was wearing rubber gloves, rubber-soled shoes, and had a rubber coated screwdriver handle so I only got showered with a few sparks!

If you're installing a non-grid system, it's always best to wire the receptacles back to the electrical panel, then the cables from the electrical panel to the power generator housing BEFORE you hook up the PV or Turbine. Once the PV or Turbine is up and doing it's thing then it's generating juice and you'll be working with live wires. If you're not 100% confident in your breaker wiring skills, then this could be a recipe for disaster.

If you have a somewhat sunny fall/winter/spring you can also install a thermo collector with a PV fan to blow the warm air around your house (sort of similar to Solar HW & Central Air combined). It might not be enough to heat your home 100%, but it does at least cut down on the heating bills by supplementing and keeping the base temps higher.  One of the previous owners installed a system like this in our house and it saves us about $50 a month during the sunnier cold months.

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Re: Advice for Solar Power, other alternative advice

Actually you raise an interesting point, Solar isn't purely about
PV (and this thread seems to be stuck there), it also includes Passive Solar heating, and Solar collectors for
water heating. Eliminating electrical heating for water, and home heating can dramatically reduce your overall power requirements to make a PV system effective and affordable, by dropping your KWh usage from unreasonable for a PV system, to more than reasonable for a PV system. I'd say that a 2-3 kW system would in most cases be sufficient if you remove heating for water and air.

A lot of electrical power is used for highly inefficient
purposes such as heating (environmental, and water), I don't know the
overall efficiency figures, but they can't be good, where we burn
fossil fuel, to heat water into steam to spin turbines, to drive
generators to generate electrical power, thats distributed through the
grid, to your house where it's passed through high a resistance (either air, or water cooled) to
generate heat . Burning the fuel in the first place to generate heat
would be far more efficient.

Anyway back to your scheduled programming now.

 

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Re: Advice for Solar Power, other alternative advice

Good point Gungnir. Look at the biggest power-suckers in the home and some non-electric/fossil fuel alternatives:

1) Water heater - Solar HW, water jacket on a wood stove or a wood boiler

2) Home heating - Solar thermal collection (passive or active), wood or biomass stove, solar hw or wood boiler with radiant heat system

3) Home cooling - proper solar design (orientation), curtains & awnings, low-E insulated windows, opening the windows, using fans rather than AC

4) Refrigerator/Freezer - root cellar, high-efficiency appliances, multi-fuel appliances (LNG or Propane rather than electricity), canning or drying instead of freezing, chest freezer rather than upright

5) Clothes dryer - hang them on a line either outside or in the bathroom/utility room

6) Lighting - CFL or LED, dimmers, turn them off when not in use, use task lighting rather than ambient lighting, open the curtains during the day, skylights or solar tubes for "daylighting", turn them off when not in use (or install timers!)

If you can implement a combination of these things to dramatically reduce your consumption and conserve what you do have, a smaller alternate energy system (3-7 kwh a day) could easily handle your electrical needs if you weren't running huge power tools or vacuum cleaners all day!

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Re: Advice for Solar Power, other alternative advice

One thing I'd also consider when determining whether to buy PV panels or wind turbines from a dealer/manufacturer vs building your own is warranty and customer support.  If TSHTF so hard that the warranty is useless, at least having customer service to help answer questions during installation and tweaking would be useful. If TS doesn't HTF or doesn't hit so hard, then the warranty would come in really useful if you got a gimpy piece of equipment.

Building your own might save some up front money... might, because we always tend to underestimate DIY projects... but you don't get the benefit of performance testing, etc.

However, building/designing your own system from pre-manufactured parts or swapping in a few DIY bits (like a car generator or diode) would probably save you a lot without putting you behind the performance curve. Hiring an energy consultant by the hour would also save you money and time... you get the benefit of an energy audit and their experience without them strong-arming you to buy their system package or installation services (i.e. you can cut out the "value-add" up-pricing if you don't need it).

Personally, I think you need a combo-solution geared toward your usage and your climate. Solar for summer, wind for winter, micro-hydro if you have a stream (still might have to factor in the seasonal flow), an efficient generator for high loads or days when the other systems can't work well enough. And if you're completely off-grid, never underestimate the amount of batteries you should have or what it will take to store and maintain them properly.

SPM's picture
SPM
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Joined: Mar 20 2009
Posts: 241
Re: Advice for Solar Power, other alternative advice

These are only averages, you will have to check your unit for your own numbers. The figures are out there, but its best to check your own appliance.

Central air: 2 - 4 kW

Electric oven/range: 5 kW

Electric central heater: 15 kW

Electric water heater: 5 - 10 kW

 

The biggest reason I like to do things myself is for performance testing. I can build a Solar panel, and test all my individual components prior to moving forward with a complete panel. This gives me the ability to make changes or imporve upon designs and components. If I buy a premanufactured unit, I am relying on someone elses math, and also the coners they cut so that things can be mass manufactured efficiently, meaning lowest cost to manufacture. Instead of having a product thats the most efficient to manufacture, I would rather have the most efficient product.

For me personally, I expect my panles to last as long or longer than pre-manufactured units. I take the time to do things properly.  For me it becomes more a issue of what is the value of my time.

For my background, I graduated ASU with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. I have been a manufacturing engineer in automotive and aviation production for the last 6 years. Thankfully I'm am out of automotive now, but it was fun.

I have actually worked in Industrial Load Centers 480/240 3 phase, while live. Just be careful. Sometimes you have to check circuits or breakers while they are live. I have only been electrocuted once by a 480v 3p  motor. It was a 25 HP motor. I was checking the amperage draw of the motor while it was running, and the tape had worn off one of the leads. My arm hurt for a few weeks. Its wierd, for the first fraction of a second, that much power, scrambled my brain. I took a second to realize what happened, and build enough adrenaline to be able to pull away. To be fair, I only shorted myself between a phase and ground so the voltage was only 240, but the amperage was probably up around 50 amps. Luckily it only shorted through my hand, and not my whole body.

I usually leave house lines on, unless I am doing something where the wires might short. House voltage is more of an annoyance than painful. Don't follow my example though, I am just more comfortable with the stuff. Always turn off your breakers.

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