A Dummy’s Solar Recommendations

A friend of mine emailed on facebook about my solar power system.  Not that I know much, but the system is working.  I thought about blogging my response in case anyone else cares, and then my connection got way too slow for facebook, but not for Windows Live Writer so I am blogging, with a cross posting to facebook.  In case you care.   

And my cat came back last night relatively unscathed, in case you care about that.



How are you? So fun to reconnect on facebook!

Ok, solar system. My solar panels are ancient random Finnish panels that came from a Dutch aid organization. Even if you could get them in the States, I wouldn’t, because they’ve come up with newer ones that are less expensive and more efficient. They roll up, pretty cool. I have a friend who has one, I can ask him the brand name.

I have a charge controller that I really like, it’s a Xantrex C 12, I like it because I can set the voltage that the controller cuts off whatever is connected to the battery, to protect the battery.

I just got the C 12.  For years I’ve used a SunSaver 20 which is simpler, and cheaper.  The low voltage disconnect is preset on the SunSaver, though, and it’s too low to protect the batteries.  So, I’d recommend something from Xantrex.

I also have a volt meter that I really like, but it was pretty expensive, a Trimetric. A cheaper option which I’ll be trying soon is a $35 dealie called a Voltminder. It gives a voltage readout on the batteries, and has an alarm that goes off when they get too low. Like the C 12, it can be set to the voltage you want for the alarm to go off, that’s the nice thing.

I hate my inverter, don’t buy one at Pep Boys! They were on sale. The brand is Peak. It’s loud and inefficient.  I don’t have a brand name for a good one, but on solar websites or discussion boards you should be able to find some recommendations.

You’ll be able to get better batteries cheaper in the States than I can get here, your best bet is deep cycle marine batteries. They do better on a solar panel system than the car batteries that I can get here. Long technical discussion avoided here…

Something I’ve always wanted to try in the States is an idea I read on the internet for getting free solar panels. You get the number of the company that owns the highway warning lights off a warning light, then call them up and ask them if they have any damaged panels that they would give away. Drunk drivers hit them, and then they only work at 50-75% of their capacity. No good for the warning lights, but fine for home use. Solar panels are hugely expensive. If they weren’t also heavy and tricky to ship, I’d try to get some over here.

I have a battery charger that I like too, it’s a Samlex America. I use it when city power is on to top up my batteries at night.

I don’t know if you’ll want 12v fans that can run directly off the system instead of through an inverter, but if you do, I really like O2 Cool. There’s a guy in Aurora who has a website that sells them, I don’t have the web address for them, and my internet connection is pathetic these days, but if it speeds up I’ll send it to you.

Aaah, all the wonderful new skills I get to learn to live over here. Can you just see the new neural connections blossoming in my brain?

Are you thinking of going off grid, or is this for camping? I love being green and not polluting, but there is a pretty big initial outlay. Also know that what I do here in Africa is nowhere near compliant with American code!

Great to hear from you!


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