Category Archives: Solar

Some Things I’ve Learned About Solar

Okay, I’m new at this Solar thing and far from an expert but I have learned a few things.  My goal was/is not to go off grid, it is simply to power most of the items in my bedroom with solar to stretch out gasoline for the generator in a power outage situation such as with the two hurricanes I’ve experienced since moving to Eastern North Carolina.  Secondly I’d like to save a few bucks on the electric bill, and thirdly I get a kick out of doing stuff like this.

My basic goals for solar are:

  • Power a TV and Firestick for entertainment
  • Power a small portable refrigerator
  • Power a Shortwave receiver with an active (powered) antenna
  • Power an LED lamp
  • Power a 12v fan
  • Power a battery recharge station to keep AM/FM/Shortwave radios powered
  • Save a few bucks (with the understanding I’ll probably never recoup the cost of all this stuff)

I call this my lifeboat.  Here are a couple of things I have learned so far.

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Already Changing The Solar Build

I built a solar system to power my master bedroom and placed it in the closet. I had intended for it to sit between two sets of shelves against the wall.  Rather than measure I guessed it was slightly more than 2′ between the shelves.   Guess what?  It was just less than 2 feet.

So I was in a situation where I needed to trim the board down however that would have caused a full disassemble.  I decided the easiest and fasted thing to do was to just go to Lowe’s and get a smaller board and then swap over.

Then at some point upgrade-itis got the best of me.  I had no method of battery monitoring other than the voltage displayed on the MT50 display screen.  That’s not really a battery monitor.  Then I decided I’d get a bluetooth fancy Charge Controller that I could monitor from everywhere.  I have a Mac mini at home that is on all the time and within BlueTooth range of the controller.  I can just VPN into my network and see the battery state.

VictronConnect App on MacOS displaying battery information

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BattleBorn Batteries LiFePO4 Settings on Epever MPPT Charge Controller

BattleBorn LiFePO4 Battery

I took the $1000 plunge and got a BattleBorn 100 amp hour battery.  I know it sounds crazy but there is literally NO COMPARISON between this battery and a Flooded Lead Acid battery (my first solar battery) or an AGM Deep Cycle Battery (my second solar battery).

The BattleBorn Battery wins in EVERY single metric except maybe for cost.

It charges like lightning, stays charged, and uses power way more efficiently and lasts longer than the other two batteries I mentioned above.

 

If you have a solar storage system of any kind you will benefit from this battery.  I guarantee it.  The biggest advantage is in depth of discharge (DOD).  That means you can use the battery near death and it won’t damage it.   Take a lead acid battery and use it below 50% of charge and you’ll damage it.

My charge controller is an Epever 20 amp Tracer BN 2215 MPPT.  It does NOT have a Lithium Iron Phosphate setting but it does have a configurable USER mode.   If you set the parameters manually you’ll have a perfect setup for maintaining your $1000 battery.

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Off Grid Solar – First Experiments

I am neither prepper nor survivalist but I do get a kick out of being somewhat self sustainable.  At the end of this I hope to achieve a working knowledge of solar systems and to possibly apply that knowledge to a larger scale application of a solar installation.

Make your own free electricity.  No taxes, no smart meter checking your consumption.  Yeah, well, we’re not making that much electricity here.😃

My intent here is to make a 12vdc system with a Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) battery and create 1000 watts of AC power via a pure sine wave inverter.  1000 watts won’t carry you too far or too long but with the right component mix you could do some large essential tasks like maybe run the washing machine or watching TV for several hours.  Small current drawing appliances like LED lights and items like that will run for ages.

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