Off the grid and out in the woods would not be feasible for us without solar energy systems.
So here is our
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May 2003 : Moved to the woods and started building our home. Our
consisted of one 120-watt, 12- volt Kyocera panel, a Prostar-15 charge controller, and a 12-volt deep cycle battery. Later I was able to get some used L16 batteries to replace the single 12-volt deep cycle RV battery. This powered up the small trailer we were living in at the start,
and then the small cabin that we are still living in.
Hot water came from the trailer water heater (propane), and then solar shower bags or water heated on the wood stove in the small cabin. Note that we went through the coldest winter we have had yet in the little trailer. Because of this, we had to run the generator to charge the RV battery so we could run the trailer furnace. We went through 800 gallons of propane the first year, but we did not freeze to death. We have only used 350 gallons of propane in the last 10 years.
Summer 2004 : Installed a Solahart
solar hot water
heating system on our small cabin.
We have city water to the cabin, and the Solahart is a thermo siphon system, which means no pumps to power. This type system will not be installed on our new home. I explain why in the Solar Hot Water Post.
August 2005 : Put up twelve 120-watt, 12-volt Kyocera panels on a Wattsun tracker.
Installed a Xantrax SW4024 inverter and an Outback MX-60 charge controller in a shed with eight used L16 batteries. We have a circuit running to the small cabin for the frig, washer, TV/DVD/VCR, two 120-volt lights, computers, and internet dish. With a wood stove for heat and cooking, we need no propane our 240vac to the cabin. We don’t have a lot of room, but we live just fine.
November 2009 : Or 8 used L16 batteries died. We replaced them with four Interstate L16 batteries wired for 24-volts. The array has always been wired for 48-volts and the charge controller cuts it to 24-volts for the 24-volt inverter.
So that’s where we are now, off the grid for 12 years! The only other thing I should mention is our new home is passive solar, no heating unit required. We do have a wood stove we will put in because we do have a lot of wood here. But it looks like it will not be needed much.
One thing about solar energy I would like to point out is it works best if combined. In other words use solar electric with solar thermal and passive solar design combined with super insulation where needed. Heating systems like hydronic and forced air eat up most of your gas and electric in cold climates. Solar thermal does a great job for heating your domestic hot water, but I would discourage its use for central heating. The cost, complexity, and maintenance of large solar thermal systems make them impractical at this time. Large solar thermal systems require lots of panels or tubes. This in turn requires lots of heat transfer fluid that must be moved around. To move the fluid around requires large pumps or circulators, which requires more electric power. It will cost far less to super insulate and build passive solar from the start, with little or no maintenance.
Now check out these Post for more solar energy information: