Saturday, April 09, 2011

Building Our Off-The-Grid System

Solar array going on the roof! May 2010
This is the year my husband and I have devoted to food and fuel. Part of that goal is working on our alternative energy system. Our system is small but works well for us. I wrote about it in the post, Living With An Alternative Energy System and Part Two Of Our Alternative Energy System. Many people think the only way to build a system, is by putting up a big amount of money for a big system to run their whole house. The way it has always been run. That would be nice. I would have liked that myself. But it was never an option for us.

Our first 55 watt solar panel!     
In 1999 when we started here, we used one 55 watt solar panel, two fork-lift truck batteries, an automotive inverter and a very small charge controller that would fit in the palm of your hand. Very simple. Very basic.

We used kerosene lamps for lights at that time. Our little 12 volt tv that had a VCR player in it was our only electrical output. No computers. No tools. We would be watching a long movie and have to run out and start the vehicle, to charge the battery because we were losing power! Whew! We've come a long way baby!

Three solar panels - all different brands!
Then we purchased a new panel from eBay, then another, until we had three. We lived with them for awhile. We bought a generator that is made for charging DC only. It uses less gas and works like a charm. After all, it was built for an off-the-grid system. Added two more batteries. You get the idea. One thing at a time, as our system grew. That way it wasn't a large amount of money and was well within our budget.

Xantrex C60 Charge Controller
 We added a new charge controller in 2004. It is the type that can be used for our system as it is enlarged. The charge controller controls the amount of power coming into your batteries. You don't want to overcharge them. We added a meter and some other components over more time. It is ongoing, adding here and there. More affordable that way too. Not to mention that as you grow your system, you will be learning about it.........slowly, over time. It won't hit you all of a sudden with a big system and not know how it works. You learn while it grows.

As you build your system you can add more electrical appliances and gadgets. Build it smart and you will be pleased with it. Don't do like so many others do and cave in to giving up and hooking up to the grid. It gives you independence and a feeling of satisfaction to be providing your own electric. Kind of like the way a garden gives you that feeling, because you are providing your own food. Understand what I mean?

I will be posting more on our system weekly. So check back soon! It is growing and I will have much to share here.





Copyright © 2011 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2011 Kathleen G. Lupole
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