Thursday, November 16, 2017

Let's Get Back on Track - Creating a Rural Getaway

Let's get back to talk about the sun.

I get off the subject quite often. I originally created this blog to share our country getaway experience. I often feel that I don't have much to share. Actually, there are plenty of things to write about when we make an effort to actually GO to the country. I've been making a few trips lately. I love this time of year. While there, I successfully created a small solar power system!

This looks pretty trashy, but I'm not one to go all out and spend a bunch of money on something until I know it's actually going to work. 

1. This set up includes one 100W 12V monocrystaline solar panel. Monocrystaline panels are more efficient than polycrystaline. However, they are bit more expensive, and maybe not necessary for a weekend set up. 

2. Two 75AH deep cycle batteries. They're inside the cooler to keep the temperature constant, and to protect them. They are lead acid batteries, and they do require maintenance. Some schools of thought say they last longer. The upside to maintaining them is price. They cost less than gel batteries.

3. 30 Amp charge controller. It's inside the cooler, too. I attached it to the side. It's connected to the solar panel, and the batteries. The batteries are wired in parallel (I'll get into that in a later post). The charge controller regulates the flow of power from the solar panel. Once the batteries are charged, it goes into a "float" mode and acts to trickle charge the batteries and keep them topped off. 

4. 1,100 watt power inverter. I connect this to the batteries when I'm ready for power. It converts direct current power to alternating current. Your household electric is alternating current. So DC to AC power. The inverter has two places to plug in an extension cord. I run that from the cabin to the cooler, and viola! Power!

5. A cheap cooler makes a great place to store batteries. You don't have to feel bad about drilling holes in it to run your cables. Mine has wheels because I might want to move this system around, and the batteries weight about 48 pounds a piece. So, you could call my little system "portable."

Realistic Power Expectations

Let me say up front that this system is not a final solution to having the comforts of all things electric. It runs a box fan all night. I would probably run a small heater, but I think I'll stick to propane heaters for now. It runs lights, keeps a computer powered, and charges phones.

It will not run the window unit. It will not reliably run a small refrigerator. To do these things, I need more batteries. Extra panels would charge more batteries faster. Right now, I don't need all that. I just like the idea of having some quick power and a few comforts.

Turnkey cost of this system is around $500. The panel and charge controller cost around $175. The inverter was close to $100. Batteries run around $95 a piece (on the cheap side). The cooler was $40. Heavy gauge extension cords are $50. I also have my backup generator. A night of air conditioning costs around $20 in propane. The generator will run the window unit. However, Tammy is right when she says this is all still cheaper than a hotel.

And I'm learning something new. Heck. I'm even thinking of going to a prepper convention to see what other neat things I can try. Rainwater collection is definitely in my future.

Also, I have a sanitary, smell free composting toilet set up, too. I use old ash from campfires or brush burns, and I mix it with hay and wood shavings. Works pretty well along with a little outdoor washing station. I'm telling you. A 2-gallon sprayer will give an efficient and effective shower while saving lots of water. And I have water left over for hand washing and washing dishes.

Our plan is to get out to the land this weekend and try out some of my handy work. 

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