Solar Panel Open Discussion/Debate/Review

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4wheelspulling

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So those of you off grid with a true solar system what kind/brand of batteries do you recommend? My goal is to build an off grid house on some land before I retire so trying to learn as much as I can now. Been watching a show called Building Off Grid that I've been recording and enjoying those shows but they don't ever go into what kind of solar panels or batteries they're using. Seen some pretty amazing stuff, one guy used mushrooms to insulate a cottage he built and a couple of them now have used straw bales for their walls, apparently they have an R35 insulation value. Seems like a lot of work! I like the guys that buy a bigger piece of wooded property and bring a portable sawmill on site and cut their own trees and mill the wood and build their house from the wood on their property!
Viking,
Sorry about hitting the love it emoji, should have been a like! I am leaving today soon to make a Rally point trip I setup. I will get back to you with some information when I return. Vance.
 
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Viking1204

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Not sure what you mean by a 'true' solar system. What would make it an untrue system? :wink:
Thanks for the information! To answer your question, a true solar system to me is a solar system that uses a battery bank for power storage. Companies are trying to sell these solar systems to homeowners in Florida that replace their bill with the power company but in conjunction with the power company. They try and get you to buy enough solar panels to supply power to your home in place of line power from the power company but they don't install any battery bank to store power. Sure you no longer have a bill with the power company but now you are paying off a loan to the Solar company and if your line power goes out you'll still lose power since you have no batteries storing energy. That to me is not true solar system and not what I want when I build my off grid home in the future.
 
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1Louder

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I can't always agree with buying cheap as being the best way to learn, @Lanlubber. I've bought cheap and I've bought the best I could afford. Too many times having the cheapest of something can be frustrating and doesn't help me learn well. Not saying you, or anyone else, has to be like me, but I've found that getting the best I can afford is less expensive in the long run and lasts a lot longer, creates a far greater understanding of what I'd hoped to learn, and is way less exasperating in trying to understand how something works.

There may be something better to come in future, but having the best I can afford now has always been the wisest choice for me.
I agree buy what you can afford. If you need to save a bit to get a better quality widget so be it. Buying cheap usually fails early and ends up in a landfill. Yes, some items may be the same or appear to be the same. Look at the RTT market. But the quality may be different with 2nds and 3rds sold to other vendors. That topic is a can of worms. To each his own. Every once and a while some cheap gear may come out and be great.

Anyway, back to the solar discussion. Remember that just because a panel may say 10amp output doesn't mean it will reach that amount. That is in perfect sun. A home setup is very different than a mobile setup. I am the wrong guy to ask about running things in parallel or in series because everything I have is single panel. Thanks to the others with more knowledge for chiming in.
 
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1Louder

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Thanks for the information! To answer your question, a true solar system to me is a solar system that uses a battery bank for power storage. Companies are trying to sell these solar systems to homeowners in Florida that replace their bill with the power company but in conjunction with the power company. They try and get you to buy enough solar panels to supply power to your home in place of line power from the power company but they don't install any battery bank to store power. Sure you no longer have a bill with the power company but now you are paying off a loan to the Solar company and if your line power goes out you'll still lose power since you have no batteries storing energy. That to me is not true solar system and not what I want when I build my off grid home in the future.
What you are talking about is Off-Grid solar. I know there are a few systems types which can still work with the grid but be independent should the power fail. I believe they are called Hybrid systems. This happens either automatically or by you manually flipping a switch. Manual is a much cheaper setup. Again I am no expert. Just read a lot. I was pricing systems about a year ago when we moved into our new house. I don't being tied to the grid is horrible as long as I have an option to be off-grid. Even if it means I need to switch it manually. This video shows a couple of examples. Having individual breakers would be cool. Costs keep coming down but still too expensive for us vs the rate of return. At least my primitive DIY setup could power our fridge and maybe a few lights.
 
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Road

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Thanks for the information! To answer your question, a true solar system to me is a solar system that uses a battery bank for power storage. Companies are trying to sell these solar systems to homeowners in Florida that replace their bill with the power company but in conjunction with the power company. They try and get you to buy enough solar panels to supply power to your home in place of line power from the power company but they don't install any battery bank to store power. Sure you no longer have a bill with the power company but now you are paying off a loan to the Solar company and if your line power goes out you'll still lose power since you have no batteries storing energy. That to me is not true solar system and not what I want when I build my off grid home in the future.
.
What you are talking about is Off-Grid solar. I know there are a few systems types which can still work with the grid but be independent should the power fail. I believe they are called Hybrid systems. This happens either automatically or by you manually flipping a switch. Manual is a much cheaper setup. Again I am no expert. Just read a lot. I was pricing systems about a year ago when we moved into our new house. I don't being tied to the grid is horrible as long as I have an option to be off-grid. Even if it means I need to switch it manually. This video shows a couple of examples. Having individual breakers would be cool. Costs keep coming down but still too expensive for us vs the rate of return. At least my primitive DIY setup could power our fridge and maybe a few lights.
.

Interesting. Being an off-grid fan, I've not looked into grid-tied or hybrid. Here's an informative article I found while researching types of solar systems: Grid-tied, Off-grid, and Hybrid Solar Systems. Good info I may not have known had it not been for this thread.

.
 

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I can't always agree with buying cheap as being the best way to learn, @Lanlubber. I've bought cheap and I've bought the best I could afford. Too many times having the cheapest of something can be frustrating and doesn't help me learn well. Not saying you, or anyone else, has to be like me, but I've found that getting the best I can afford is less expensive in the long run and lasts a lot longer, creates a far greater understanding of what I'd hoped to learn, and is way less exasperating in trying to understand how something works.

There may be something better to come in future, but having the best I can afford now has always been the wisest choice for me.

.
I would never disagree with experience. In fact I agree you much of what you are saying because it applies to your needs. Two years ago only a few OB participants even considered solar. The last two years has seen many more OB and other campers looking at and buying solar. Most of us are learning and doing research on the subject which is what this thread is all about. Questions have been brought up and various answers have come forth. When I said cheap I was not referring to quality as much as I was price. When it comes to cost almost all the makes have very reasonable prices and we are just trying to get the most bang for the buck. There are many solar products being offered by many different, mostly Chinese, manufactures. Most of us wanting to go solar need to know if they truly need solar for their application. I have determined that for my needs, disbursed camping for LONG periods of time
(possibly 2 weeks) I do need solar or else a generator (not desirable) or a huge bank of storage batteries. For my particular needs I could probably go two weeks without any charge but I would be taking my energy level below the 50% max low for my batteries. So I need a solar array of at least 100w panels (or a single 100w panel) with a 10a charge controller since I don't need any more than that in a camping situation. I wont be going all that often because of my age and so I don't need expensive equipment to just sit around not being used. If I was a permanent wanderer I would want something more reliable and I would be willing to invest a little more. When I do a three day camp out or road trip My duel battery (remote) is more than adequate and I wouldn't even take a solar devise. I believe in storage capacity more than how many watts you need for either condition, 3 day or 2 weeks. That brings me to my other need for solar. I have building on my property that have no electricity. I am planning to buy 2 100w solar panels fixed on the roof to handle that situation. I want to be able to use my camping solar set up and ties it together with the 200w system on my shop. My shop will have an additional 2 deep cycle 12v batteries. When I tie the portable system to the fixed system I will have a total of 4 deep cycle batteries and 300w of solar. For that I will need to add a 20a charge controller to the system that will be a permanent part of the fixed 200w system. In addition I will add my 1100w continuous -2200w surge inverter to handle my 110v dc service I need for the shop. I have a source for used solar panels near me that are very reasonably priced for a quality used panel (260w panel cost $60). What I am buying fits my pocket book. If I could afford more I would seek out the best of everything. Please forgive the long post, I hope it will help others in making a decision on which direction best suits their needs.


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Lanlubber

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Viking,
Sorry about hitting the love it emoji, should have been a like! I am leaving today soon to make a Rally point trip I setup. I will get back to you with some information when I return. Vance.
Have a goodun Vance.
Lanlubber
 

Viking1204

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What you are talking about is Off-Grid solar. I know there are a few systems types which can still work with the grid but be independent should the power fail. I believe they are called Hybrid systems. This happens either automatically or by you manually flipping a switch. Manual is a much cheaper setup. Again I am no expert. Just read a lot. I was pricing systems about a year ago when we moved into our new house. I don't being tied to the grid is horrible as long as I have an option to be off-grid. Even if it means I need to switch it manually. This video shows a couple of examples. Having individual breakers would be cool. Costs keep coming down but still too expensive for us vs the rate of return. At least my primitive DIY setup could power our fridge and maybe a few lights.
Thanks, now I know. What these companies are trying to sell me is a grid tied system. I won't do that in my current house as I plan to sell and move and don't need to take on anymore debt I can't completely recoup in the sale.

My plan is to sell my current house, 2070 sq. ft. house close to the water and move into a townhouse to save money in the next 6 months to a year. With the equity I get from the sale of my house I should be able to pay off my debt and buy my future off grid property. I want a minimum of 60 acres but would prefer around 100 acres of land mostly covered in planted pines. With this I can start building my hunting camp. By the time my youngest graduates High School I should be able to sell off some of the pines and use that money to build my off grid dream home! This will be an energy efficient home with its own well and off grid power from solar. I'm not a builder so I will seek help from friends and a builder I know to assist me to help save money. By then I hope to have taught myself enough about solar to install my own off grid solar system and save money on labor. I've read Will's book and ordered another book to read today. Time will tell if my plan works but right now I'm pretty motivated so we'll see.

 
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Lanlubber

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The best independent system uses a variety of power input and is flexible depending on need and situation. I've found over the years that solar is my primary input for power, as I tend to basecamp for weeks at a time. I depend on both solar and my van's alternator when underway to charge my deep cycles. I rarely use my generator to provide power to top off my deep cycles or for direct power, but it's there if the need arises, like an insurance policy. I even more rarely use shore power, such as 110 hookups at house or campground and don't even bother making it a consideration when I stop anywhere.

The point is, there are no absolute rules about how many days for this or that or if it's more than three you have to do this. Create a flexible, multi-sourced system you can adapt to the situation.

.
I cant see where we disagree on anything. Solar has it's place as well as shore power and generators. At different times and different places they are all used to replenish our power needs.
 

Lanlubber

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The best independent system uses a variety of power input and is flexible depending on need and situation. I've found over the years that solar is my primary input for power, as I tend to basecamp for weeks at a time. I depend on both solar and my van's alternator when underway to charge my deep cycles. I rarely use my generator to provide power to top off my deep cycles or for direct power, but it's there if the need arises, like an insurance policy. I even more rarely use shore power, such as 110 hookups at house or campground and don't even bother making it a consideration when I stop anywhere.

The point is, there are no absolute rules about how many days for this or that or if it's more than three you have to do this. Create a flexible, multi-sourced system you can adapt to the situation.

.
There is still one point I wanted to clarify. When I was talking about cheap (meaning economical system) I was saying don't spend money on something you don't need. An example would be a system that is hooked up to your vehicles charging system. It takes a little more knowledge and quite a bit more money to tie your solar system to your vehicles charging system. If you have solar, use it to do the work of a tied in system and save money on your start up. Add the tie in system whenever it suits your needs. You don't need the tie in system to have a solar set up is all I was trying to get across here.
 

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Thanks, now I know. What these companies are trying to sell me is a grid tied system. I won't do that in my current house as I plan to sell and move and don't need to take on anymore debt I can't completely recoup in the sale.

My plan is to sell my current house, 2070 sq. ft. house close to the water and move into a townhouse to save money in the next 6 months to a year. With the equity I get from the sale of my house I should be able to pay off my debt and buy my future off grid property. I want a minimum of 60 acres but would prefer around 100 acres of land mostly covered in planted pines. With this I can start building my hunting camp. By the time my youngest graduates High School I should be able to sell off some of the pines and use that money to build my off grid dream home! This will be an energy efficient home with its own well and off grid power from solar. I'm not a builder so I will seek help from friends and a builder I know to assist me to help save money. By then I hope to have taught myself enough about solar to install my own off grid solar system and save money on labor. I've read Will's book and ordered another book to read today. Time will tell if my plan works but right now I'm pretty motivated so we'll see.

Your on the right path Scott !
 
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Viking1204

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Well now that I have my solar panel I have a question for those of you with a Flexopower. What kind of cable are you using to connect the solar panel to the Flexopower to charge it? The solar panel comes with MC4 connectors and the Flexopower comes with what I assume is a female Anderson connector. I'm on Amazon now looking but curious to what others have used. Since my solar panel will be portable I'm looking for a maybe a 15' - 25' heavy duty cable that can be run across the ground.

Below is what I've found so far, looking for better options as this doesn't look overly heavy duty. Looking for a cable that isn't two separate cables.


 
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Lanlubber

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Well now that I have my solar panel I have a question for those of you with a Flexopower. What kind of cable are you using to connect the solar panel to the Flexopower to charge it? The solar panel comes with MC4 connectors and the Flexopower comes with what I assume is a female Anderson connector. I'm on Amazon now looking but curious to what others have used. Since my solar panel will be portable I'm looking for a maybe a 15' - 25' heavy duty cable that can be run across the ground.

Below is what I've found so far, looking for better options as this doesn't look overly heavy duty. Looking for a cable that isn't two separate cables.


My solar charts say that if you are sending 5a or less through the wire for a distance up to 25' the wire size should be no less than 18 ga. If your solar puts out 6-7a the wire size can be 18 ga up to 20 feet long. Above that the wire size should be 16 ga wire. That would be a minimum. I like to step it up one size myself but my kit came with a 20' of wire in the kit. If I want a longer wire I will step up the wire size to 16 ga. for over 20' length. If you fins something different let us all know.
 

Lanlubber

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Well now that I have my solar panel I have a question for those of you with a Flexopower. What kind of cable are you using to connect the solar panel to the Flexopower to charge it? The solar panel comes with MC4 connectors and the Flexopower comes with what I assume is a female Anderson connector. I'm on Amazon now looking but curious to what others have used. Since my solar panel will be portable I'm looking for a maybe a 15' - 25' heavy duty cable that can be run across the ground.

Below is what I've found so far, looking for better options as this doesn't look overly heavy duty. Looking for a cable that isn't two separate cables.


I think it is a two wire cable because it is a positive and negative but I'm not sure what your talking about.
 

Lanlubber

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Well now that I have my solar panel I have a question for those of you with a Flexopower. What kind of cable are you using to connect the solar panel to the Flexopower to charge it? The solar panel comes with MC4 connectors and the Flexopower comes with what I assume is a female Anderson connector. I'm on Amazon now looking but curious to what others have used. Since my solar panel will be portable I'm looking for a maybe a 15' - 25' heavy duty cable that can be run across the ground.

Below is what I've found so far, looking for better options as this doesn't look overly heavy duty. Looking for a cable that isn't two separate cables.


The amazon info you sent did not come through for some reason. It just shows an a surrounded by a cloud and wont open.
 

Viking1204

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The amazon info you sent did not come through for some reason. It just shows an a surrounded by a cloud and wont open.
I just tested them and they both open for me. Anyone else have issues opening them? BTW, since the solar panels come with 10 ga wire I'm going to stick with use 10 ga wire to extend it.
 
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Viking1204

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I think it is a two wire cable because it is a positive and negative but I'm not sure what your talking about.
Typically if you are going to run a 2 wire cable over the ground it would come with a outer jacket that protected it and kept the cables together until they reached their termination point.
 

Road

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I just tested them and they both open for me. Anyone else have issues opening them? BTW, since the solar panels come with 10 ga wire I'm going to stick with use 10 ga wire to extend it.
Your amazon links always show up for me as just the amazon smile icon with no image and is not clickable. You may be able to see them because the image is cached on your system, not sure. Or maybe it'd different in the OB app, or tapatalk on mobile. I have a hard time with OB on mobile and am viewing this on a laptop and browser.
 

Lanlubber

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Typically if you are going to run a 2 wire cable over the ground it would come with a outer jacket that protected it and kept the cables together until they reached their termination point.
I guess I don't know how to read the chart I was telling you about but I watched a video and it said for a 100w solar the cable should be #10 which confirms what you said. He said in the video that he has 60 foot long and only lost a small amount of power because of it's length. I haven even opened mine yet or I would have known by looking at how big the wire is. So don't listen to me anymore, I don't know S - - -
 
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Lanlubber

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Your amazon links always show up for me as just the amazon smile icon with no image and is not clickable. You may be able to see them because the image is cached on your system, not sure. Or maybe it'd different in the OB app, or tapatalk on mobile. I have a hard time with OB on mobile and am viewing this on a laptop and browser.
I just tested them and they both open for me. Anyone else have issues opening them? BTW, since the solar panels come with 10 ga wire I'm going to stick with use 10 ga wire to extend it.
This is strange about the link. I checked my Kendal and there was nothing at all on todays message. A couple of days ago you sent a link and it was there for all to see. So I went back to pc and looked to see what I receive on it for the exact same message and all that was there was the amazon smiling a, same as today. So on my Kendal some come through and some don't. On my pc no link comes though at all which confirms what @Road said about his pc or mobile unit.