So far outside the box you can't even see the box from here.
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Wednesday, November 8, 2017
Making every watt count
In the bad old days of terribly expensive solar electric power, there were some tricks to keep power usage down. Now that solar electric is a fraction of the cost, most of those don't make much sense anymore. There is one trick that still has merit in a number of specific instances.
Here's the thing about solar electric systems. The panels generate DC power. Everything in your house runs on AC power. An inverter is used to convert that DC power, stored in batteries, into AC power that all your electrical stuff uses. Good sized quality inverters used to be terribly expensive. Even today, while there are cheap ones on the market, the better ones will cost some real coin. For most people, they are necessary.
Another disadvantage of inverters is that they are not 100% efficient. At best they run around 90%, but under some load conditions they can be much lower, around 50%. When you are counting every expensive solar watt, throwing half of them away was a terrible deal.
Most small solar panels run at the proper voltage to charge 12 volt batteries. That's pretty handy, as there are lots of things that run at 12 volts. When panels and inverters were expensive, many people set up their places to run totally on 12 volt. There are lots of things built to run on 12 volt, everything from radios to coffee makers. People even went to the trouble of buying 12 volt deep well submersible water pumps.
People who have small solar systems might want to consider taking a page out of the early days of solar. For example, my small sailboat doesn't have a lot of room to mount solar panels and store batteries. My van has only a 105 watts of power. The longer I can stretch those watts, the longer I can stay out.
You probably already have things like 12 volt adapters to charge your cell phone and tablets. My marine radio has a 12 volt charging option. I use 12 volt fans to keep cool. My small computer has a 12 volt charging option. Recently I even ordered a DC adapter for my C-pap machine. Not having to run the inverter saves energy. In fact, I can use a cheap 400 watt inverter for the remaining things rather than a more expensive larger inverter. Running directly on 12 volt, there is one less piece of machinery that can fail. An added bonus is not having to listen to the buzz of an inverter working.
Sometimes the old tricks find life in new applications.
I live in an area of NH known as the Great North Woods. I'm in my dome-i-cile out in the county with my lovely wife and a varying number of family and friends
-part red neck, part hippie but all country. Experimenting and enjoying the adventure of life.