Saturday, December 5, 2009

Solar Electric Power

"How much solar electric do I need?"

That question came up a lot during the almost 20 years I've had solar electric power.

At one time I'd go into great detail about what it takes to live off of electrons from the sun. There were long lectures about reducing loads. Usually it's easier to conserve power than make it. (big lesson here, but few pay attention . . . sigh) The lecture would go on and on about phantom loads, appliance efficiency, compact florescent, sun angle, inverters, system efficiency, storage batteries, charge controllers, and yadda yadda yadda. Damn! I must have been boring people to tears.

After all these years I changed my answer to, "As much as you can afford."

If someone is really serious about running a home completely off-grid, they aren't afraid to do their homework. Those people only need to be pointed in the right direction and they are off and running. They are serious about it. They want enough power to live a lifestyle not totally unlike their neighbors. Before long they learn about the trade offs. They learn how to make it work for them. They don't need my lecture.

For everybody else, please get some alternative electric power. Solar is nice as the sun shines in most places, it's quiet, easy to assemble, reasonably safe, and useful in even small amounts. You'll have some power when the grid goes down. The grid will go down you know, it always does. Maybe for just a few hours, but maybe for weeks, months, or even longer. Doesn't have to be the end of the world, just one good widespread ice storm can do it.

Generators are great. Lot's of power. Many people get generators big enough to power their whole house. They are in fine shape, living high on the hog. The big screen TV is going, margaritas are in the blender, the furnace is blasting away . . . and then the generator runs out of fuel. It's back to the dark ages boys and girls.

No wait! It's just a matter of loading up a bunch of gas cans into the SUV and driving down to the gas station . . . driving on ice covered roads strewn with downed trees to the gas station that doesn't have power to run their pumps . . . never mind.

Much better to have even one good sized solar panel, a deep discharge battery and a small inverter. Having a light to read by beats the heck out of candles. Power for a small TV or radio to keep informed could be a life saver. Heck, you could even charge your cell phone off of it. Sure, it's humble, but it beats the heck out of the dark ages. A little sun light and your power comes to you. Sure is nicer than hunting for gas in a storm blasted wasteland.

I'm not totally off the gird. Winter is long and dark up here in the woods. However, my system is big enough to keep 12 golf cart batteries reasonably charged up. From there it goes from DC power to 2500 watts of 120 volt house current. With that, I could power essential needs for a long long time. I'd have to conserve -cut back to the minimum during the winter. Might put off doing some things until there's a few really sunny days -no big deal. I've got enough for all essential needs and quite a few extras.

It's a good feeling. Just think how secure it would make you feel to have some power that won't go down in a storm, or for non payment of electric bills.



  1. Nice informative blog. I have some solar panels myself that we got at Habor Freight. Not much I know just 2 x 45 watts units. Don't have alot of prior knowledge about using all that I can to be off grid in an on grid enviroment but trust me I sure as hell will. Now I'll read your other post and be up to date. Thanks

  2. Thanks! You've got some, much better than none