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unclsmitty

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Reply with quote  #1 
Howdy, 

I am a big fan of taking a not so cost effective approach of experience based learning.
With that being said, i would like to get suggestions from this group about what 'solar system' kits i should consider buying for my 1st foray into the world of solar.
Even though i am a DIYer i prefer to buy a complete small system to get an idea on how it all works.
Quick note: I live in southern FL in a house that has a concrete roof with a lot of sun exposure
Any kit suggestions?

Thank you,
Michael Smith

stmbtwle

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Reply with quote  #2 
Ok what part of southern Fl?   Assuming you're thinking of PV, unless you are really worried about power failure or nuclear attack, I'd go with grid-tied.

There are two general types, those with string inverters and those with microinverters.  A string inverter would be located near your switch panel and converts the high-voltage DC from ALL your solar panels to 240v AC. The microinverter systems employ a separate inverter mounted on each solar panel directly to AC and from there it goes to your switch panel. String systems are a little less expensive, but microinverters are better in areas that might be shaded or for complicated roofs.  Personally I think microinverters are probably safer.  

As to the size, what is your average KWH usage per month?  You should be able to get this off your bills, or by calling your utility.
http://pvwatts.nrel.gov/pvwatts.php can help you calculate how much to expect from a given installation.  You can work it backwards to determine how much energy you need.

If you're going to have it professionally installed, your installer can give you recommendations.




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Solar is like the wind. It may be free, but putting it to work isn't!
Willie, Tampa Bay
unclsmitty

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Reply with quote  #3 
stmbtwie, thank you for the response.
I live in Plantation, Broward County, FL.
I do not know what PV means but I am taking the off-the grid route.  Just looking for a self contained system consisting of a panel, a battery and whatever else is required to have a complete solar system.  
Not looking to hire an installer, going to do it myself.  There must be starter kits out there.
Hell, i don't even care if it generates enough power to operate a fan for 1 hour a week.  Just want to get my foot in the water...

 
stmbtwle

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OK that makes sense.   I wasn't sure what you were looking for.   
PV is short for PhotoVoltaic, panels that turn light into electricity.  Most folks simply call them solar panels,  But there are also solar THERMAL panels which make hot water or hot air (we try to call them "collectors" to differentiate).

So what you need is:

a PV panel,
a battery,
a charge controller (think of it as a voltage regulator) without it you'll cook your battery.
an inverter IF you want to run AC stuff (fans, tools etc)  If you're sticking with 12v, you don't need an inverter.  

A small 100w kit is here: https://www.amazon.com/Renogy-Polycrystalline-Solar-Bundle-Controller/dp/B01N0WIB18/ref=sr_1_14? 

$160 A nice feature of this kit is it's expandable, you can add another 2 or three panels to the same controller for more power.  You'll still need a deep cycle marine/RV battery from Walmart. https://www.walmart.com/ip/EverStart-Maxx-24DC-Marine-RV-Deep-Cycle-Battery/139801236  Total price about $260. If you want to run AC stuff an inverter is required.  this one will run small tools, TV, etc:
https://www.amazon.com/POTEK-Inverter-Converter-Charging-Smartphones/dp/B01B3ZQG4O/ref=sr_1_9?s=lawn-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1502476956&sr=1-9&keywords=inverter  You're probably in for about $300, total.  If you want to run heavy tools you'll need a bigger inverter, 1000w or more.

If you want to start off cheap get:
a 20w panel (good for battery charging) https://www.amazon.com/Polycrystalline-Solar-Module-Battery-Charging/dp/B01IFJ73X4/ref=sr_1_5?s=lawn-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1502481011&sr=1-5&keywords=20+watt+solar+panel 
 
a 5 amp controller https://www.amazon.com/Y-SOLAR-Waterproof-Controller-Lead-acid-Discharging/dp/B00XTQ76WW/ref=sr_1_98?s=lawn-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1502478040&sr=1-98-spons&keywords=waterproof+solar+charge+controller&psc=1 

and a U1 "lawnmower" battery from Walmart.   https://www.walmart.com/ip/EverStart-Lawn-and-Garden-Battery-Group-Size-U1-7/21984263

And you're in for less than $100, your call.   Like anything else, the more you spend the more you get.

However I use the above 20w setup to run a 2000# boat winch to haul my little fishing boat out of the water. The winch only runs for a minute or two, and the panel has all day to charge the battery.

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Solar is like the wind. It may be free, but putting it to work isn't!
Willie, Tampa Bay
Gordy

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Reply with quote  #5 
Another kit that may be worth a look. Harbor Freight's new 100 watt (4 panels x 25 watt) kit. Sine up for their email fliers this kit was recently on sale for $140. A selling point for those that use these in a mobile situation is that if one panel gets broken you still have 3 that will still produce power. A drawback would be the 90 day warranty.

https://www.harborfreight.com/household/renewable-energy/100-watt-solar-panel-kit-63585.html

I know their old 45 watt (3 panel x 15 watt) kits had a lot of reported issues with poor seals on the glass, allowing water in and controller issues. But many also report 10 & 15 years of daily use with no problems.

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Gordy,
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unclsmitty

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Reply with quote  #6 
Thank you Gordy.
stmbtwle

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Reply with quote  #7 
4 x 25w would be good for an RV or camper, as it would be easy to stow, a 100w panel is pretty big. I have a 60w for my camper with a controller, a long cord and a lighter plug. Works great, just set it up and plug it in. With LED lights, it's all I need.
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Solar is like the wind. It may be free, but putting it to work isn't!
Willie, Tampa Bay
Tori

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Posts: 64
Reply with quote  #8 
Quote:
Originally Posted by stmbtwle
4 x 25w would be good for an RV or camper, as it would be easy to stow, a 100w panel is pretty big. I have a 60w for my camper with a controller, a long cord and a lighter plug. Works great, just set it up and plug it in. With LED lights, it's all I need.


Finally i can offer some advise to you  [wink]     I've done half a dozen RV, PV installs now and thought i'd share how i do them.  I used to be like you and just set it out in the sun/chase the sun all day with it connected to the coach battery.   Got tired of doing that and wanted the PV panel to work all the time not just when boon-docking. 
Anyway,  $25 charge controller off ebay, $18 tube of 3M  5200 adhesive,  Glue the panel to the roof,  run the wires down the chimney for the refrigerator (that way you aren't putting any holes in the roof) and at the base of the chimney (base of where fridge mounts) there will be a 12v source where you can attach the wires from the controller. (exterior panel removed)  I've been able to mount the controller on the wall next to the fridge as it shares the same wall as the chimney.   Easy-peezy,  and now my PV is working everyday doing it's job keeping the coach batteries ready to go.
Tori

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Posts: 64
Reply with quote  #9 
To the OP,  i'm a newbie to this as well and like you just kinda jumped in head first.    What i would advise you do first is figure out what you want to do with your newly made power. 

When i set out to build my system, i wanted to run our TV/Entertainment system at night, and the house refrigerator during the day.   We don't use a lot of power,  (only 2 of us) only about 12 kwh per day.    Anyway my system consists of a single 250w panel (bought off CL for $200)  $25 charge controller from Amazon, a $400  2000w pure sine wave inverter, and 4  6v golf cart batteries.    I didn't know what i was doing when i threw all this together, and i really still don't to be honest.   All that said,  it won't do what i originally wanted %100 at this point, but it's probably related to wiring sizes......  so knowing what you want to do before hand would help you research what you "should" do.
stmbtwle

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Reply with quote  #10 
Agree with you Tori, My houseboat has fixed panels, and so did my previous camper. However this is FLORIDA and when I'm camping I try really hard to park in the shade, where solar panels don't work all that well. The portable panel and the long cord allow me to get it out from under the tree. Also when the little A-liner is not in use it's covered by a tarp which would also cover a fixed panel. In this case the portable panel goes on top of the cover.

For a larger rig with a larger array, having them fixed would probably be a better choice.

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Solar is like the wind. It may be free, but putting it to work isn't!
Willie, Tampa Bay
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