Picture of Home built solar power system
Hi. I've been interested in renewables for a while now. Our society can't continue to work on oil, and with rising gas prices and more frequent power outages, solar energy seems to be the way to go. The main problem that inspired me to make this system comes from my love of technology. When my iPhone and laptop run out of juice, my life becomes very primitive. With the goal of keeping all my electronics up and running no matter what the weather and grid status is the main reason I made this system and instructable. This is my system and how it functions. I'll start with the original setup and show how it has evolved over time.

Step 1: The Original setup

Picture of The Original setup
My original setup started off with a 10 watt panel I built myself from some cells I found off of eBay. These were the tougher CIGS cells rather than monocrystalline or polycrystalline. The cell was originally rated at 15 watts but because of all the inefficient soldered connections (I wasn't that great at soldering yet), it made about 10 watts. Each black square is one cell that makes approx. 5 volts. The voltage was combined in series to create around 20 volts, and then the amperage was adjusted with wiring the strings of 20 volts into parallel. I'm not really going to go in a crazy amount of detail because this is explained on hundreds of other instructables. This amount of power is ideal for maybe some DC lights and charging cell phones. It's not nearly enough for even my laptop. The inverter would whine and the adapter on my laptop would begin to buzz. Probably not a good sign!
*Note* The third picture to this step is a quickly drawn schematic of how everythig in this system currently works. It will help with trying to understand the basic function of the system if you are new to solar for simplicity. I'll try to include a schematic after every major change to clarify.
BaruchS4 months ago

Impressive system! I'm curious how much is the total cost? This is nice for off the grid, but I'm thinking about buying a simple on-grid plug-in system. It seems to be the easiest way to offset your usage with solar. Lots of info here: http://www.pluginsolar.org/

Mjtrinihobby4 months ago

this setup is impressive!

Clay_Dog5 months ago
I was wondering I am looking to build a solar charger to charge maybe my devices while also having a little bit of battery storage so far I have about 20-30 .518 volt at 4.01 amp solar cells what would I need to complete this project?
andreqeens5 months ago

My boss was talking to me about inplix -> http://inplix.com , after seeing it on the news. She said she has saved almost 70% on her utility bill and I'm thinking about giving this new program a shot. Has anybody else used it? It seems to be super popular.

If you are interested in learning exactly how to generate power and reduce your bill then this is the perfect resource for you! With the ever increasing costs of living, there is no better time than right now to stop throwing money out the window and start generating our own electricity. Check http://inplix.com

I think you'll find that it is better for a sump pump to be run less frequently, for a longer time... In other words, rather than 15 seconds per minute, 45 seconds for 3 minutes would be less damaging to the pump.... The constant starting/stopping is what's really bad for the motor..... I have one pump that usually runs (as is rated to run) continuously, because it recirculates a fish pond in the yard... But, if it's just for de-watering (drainage) in order for your pump to run longer, either the sump pit needs to be wider (but not necessarily deeper), or to have a separate long-interval float (and maybe a deeper sump).... In the last option, the pump goes into the water deeper, but the float actuates where you want it to (usually several inches or more below the floor), and the float keeps pump on until it reaches the either the top of the pump (kept submerged), or less as long as the pump stays on longer.... In any case, 15 seconds is a pretty short cycle-on time....

alltopindex10 months ago

Make your own solar pannel..

How To Make Your Own Solar Panels




Very nicely done. I didn't know at first that this is much simpler to build a solar power system. thank you very much for posting. God bless

jackwp1 year ago

I lived off the grid for 26 years, using a similar setup (just a bit bigger). Now I am on the grid, and I use a small grid-tie inverter rather than voltage controllers, batteries, and inverters. It seems to be a great savings if you are on the grid. Of course, I still use my solar panels !

I like this solar stuff allot. You keep updating your systems and for us novices it would be help if you placed a price tage on the new stuff you add. Doesn't have to be exact just what you paid would give us all a better idea of the cost. Thanks Grandpablabe
john33471 year ago
In your drawing on the last slide, you show two negative wires - or circuits - with a fuse in them. Why is the negative side fused and the positive side only has the one fuse at the battery positive? Shouldn't all these fuses be in the positive run?
Macattacku2 years ago
I seem to be the only one to know this(no one else seems to comment on it). But a 3 stage charger is not good for a loaded system. If you are drawing power from the battery while its in absorbtion it will confuse the charge controller into thinking that the battery isnt charged. Absorbtion hold voltage constant and watchs the amperage until it falls low indicating full charge. If the system is loaded it senses that alot of current is still flowing and its not fully charged. This will lead to boiling and overcharging. In a loaded solar system it should always be a 2 stage charger with just bulk and float. This protects the battery. Although as you stated before a 2 stage charger would waste a little more power when its in float but it will prevent accidental overcharge. In an unloaded system such as for emergencies only a 3 stage system would work best but that is not the case here. By using a 3 stage charger you will have to fill it with water more often and drastically shorten the life of your battery.
wolfgang642 years ago
I have just favorited you. your work is very interesting. Have ever played with gell cell sealed batteries? They have the advantage of being able to be taken down to zero and come back quickly. I have rolled dune buggies with these as back ups and with 30 watts of solar got the winch working well enough to right it and start.
wolfgang642 years ago
This space is really about experimenting ,learning, and having conversations for new possibilties. there may be some waste in the learning curve but it keep others from making the same mistakes over again.
wolfgang642 years ago
Yes let's please put this one to rest once and for all,in the 1910s to the 30s Battery bodies were made out of hardwood. especially Henry Ford's model Ts and tractors. His thinking, It's on rubber tires so who cares it's insulated anyway. Remember electric start was a bonus because these vehicles all had handcrank starters.
Paul Janes2 years ago
Thanks for the post. Home made solar panel is an amazing and important thing.....
I want to make one like that and for that searched over the internet
And then find a Homemade Solar Panels Blog ...
Where an engineer gives tips how to make homemade solar panels..
MacOSJoey (author)  Paul Janes2 years ago
Everyone who is reading this, I just want to say from my own personal experience (which you can see in my instructable) that websites like the homemade solar panels blog mentioned in Paul Janes' post are PURE LIES!!! Being that I made a solar panel myself, I will tell you straight out that it's work. Working every evening in my free time, it took me 2 WEEKS to build a 15 watt panel. This is a minuscule amount of power compared to what an extremely energy efficient home uses. Now imagine building 3000 watts worth of panels? Sure, it is cheaper, but who really has that kind of time?

There are many benefits to buying panels. The most important is being that they typically have a nice 20 to 25 year warranty that protects just about everything. Home made panels? They can't possibly survive that long because they aren't sealed in a vacuum in 99.9% dust free conditions with zero moisture. Not to say that you can't build a very nice solar panel that will last for a very long time, but for the amount of time and energy it takes to make them, it's just not economical.

Companies like the one mentioned are scams. They get you to invest big bucks into their cells only for you to find out that youll never complete all the panels.

So, to end this ramble, I would suggest to all of you that want to build solar panels (and I'd encourage anyone to build one in order to fully understand how these things work, or if they need a very small amount of power), but be aware that building them yourself is not the way to lower your electric bill.

For some REAL information about building solar panels, take a look at http://mdpub.com/solar/index.html . This was the general template I used to build mine, and its still running after two years in the sun!
batman963 years ago
Good instructable!
I have that same volt meter! Got it for 12 dollars, my favorite tool too.
Where did you get that volt meter? What is the make/model? I really like it. Seems like a simple way to monitor things passively.
I got mine at my local Walmart, in the automotive section.
MacOSJoey (author)  bfarr-gaynor2 years ago
I got it from Northern tool I think. It was only about 10 bucks. It has a nice rubber casing over it (because we all know it's going to be dropped from time to time). I tried looking for it on their website, but I couldn't find it... I wonder if its discontinued...
MacOSJoey (author)  batman963 years ago
Yea, I love that meter. Only thing is the amp meter part just broke. Checked the fuse and it was fine. But for the price, who cares?
Did you test over 10 amps?
The DC 10 amp part is not fused, only the miliamp part is fused.
MacOSJoey (author)  batman963 years ago
Ahhh. Now I see. Guess I shot the amp reading part. Still is very accurate for voltage, though. I'll have to pick up another one from harbor frieght.. I was wondering what gave in it. Now I know. Thanks!
im a beginner but do you think if you put a schlotzsky diode on the positive out put of the solar panel and then connected it to some type of capacitor whos voltage is well over the max out put of the solar panel voltage and then hook a resistor to the capacitor to bring the voltage down to a voltage that the charge controller can handle do you think this would make the voltage completely stable to the controllers without any voltage fluctuation and maybe the controllers wont burn out?
MacOSJoey (author)  jack.spigack3 years ago
The controllers don't burn out. They're designed to handle the 20+ volts from the solar panel. When the entire system is connected, the solar panel can "see" the battery, and it's voltage is limited to slightly above the battery's voltage (That's how all charging sources work. The battery will pull down the voltage until it's slightly above). Since the solar panel is still making the same amount of power, it trades voltage for amperage. For example, open circuit, my 100 watt panel makes 5 amps @ 20 volts, or 100 watts (5*20) or about 8.5 amps @ 12 volts. Either way you put it, the output is exactly the same. The only reason my first controller burned out was due to poor design and over complexity. All my other Xantrex controllers are running fine.

ALL solar panels come with a diode built in. Otherwise, during the night the panel will pull electricity backwards, discharging the battery.

Would your idea work? Yes. It would be a good way to limit voltage. The only problem I could see is when the panel becomes shaded or as the sun sets. That's why the controllers are made and designed to take such a range. My Xantrex C35 is capable of regulating voltage from 12 - 55 volts. WAY more than I would ever really think of putting into a 12v system. And by the time the sun sets, it's not really worth all the effort and losses just to gain a couple more watts.

Thanks for commenting, and good luck!

I really hate to disagree with you about all solar panels coming with blocking diodes. I have a pair here that do not have blocking diodes built into them. How ever all quality charge controllers have blocking diodes built into them.
hassman2 years ago
Solar energy is the infinitely available and easily accessible source of energy that anyone can utilize. Technology development and man's unstoppable desires have made solar energy available for many residential as well as commercial uses.

Electricians Perth.
duggerpato3 years ago
Actually, if solar were the way to go, society would have done it by now. The problem is, to make all these renewable products, you need vast amounts of oil too (to make them) and the batteries are all toxic disposal problems by themselves.

That said, if I weren't renting I'd have built a solar system for my house by now. It's still expensive to do, but as you said, the world can't just keep going the way it is. I think it is more rational to accept that all renewable energy should ben combined with oil products, to definitely converse more energy consumption without having to pay half your salary for it. I'm looking forward to the day that happens in some small degree. Good instructable.
MacOSJoey (author)  duggerpato3 years ago
I agree with you on some points, and disagree on others. The idea with solar panels is that you make enough off of oil to start making more through solar. The future for the renewable energy industry does not rely solely on everyone having an off-grid system and toxic batteries. The entire utility grid needs to adopt this style. If everyone were to have panels on their roof pumping juice directly into the grid, there would be no loss from batteries. It would be much more efficient and probable.

You were very specific about solar, but solar is NOT the 100% solution to our problems. The only way our entire grid system as we know it could function is with a giant hybrid system of solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal. And if you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. During the day humans use the most electricity. That is also when solar production is at its highest. During the night, the rapid change in temperature causes more wind, all of which can help compensate the night load. Hydro and geothermal are extremely reliable 24/7 resources. PLUS... in the United States, the east coast has sun before the west, and the west has it longer than the east. If our grid system could go from coast to coast, you could essentially have 8 hours of constant solar input per day around the country. In the end, the only reason we still would need oil is so the fat cats who own oil reserves can make a few million a year.

As you said, it is expensive, but if gas prices can take another hit, we can expect the price per watt to fall to $1. That's something very promising and reasonable.
Don't believe the hype that solar would have been adopted by now it it made financial sense. The original funding of fossil fuel and nuclear far surpasses what "green" power receives now. so basically you have the upstart trying to battle the entrenched establishment. That is always a hard fight. A quick search turned up these numbers(websites included and they have links to where their info came from for further research)

Given the history of Nuclear Plant construction in the U.S.A., the financial industry sees the construction of the new generation of reactors as a risky investment and demands a premium on capital lent for the purpose. The Energy Bill recently passed by the US Congress assumes this risk and provides production credits of 1.8 cents per KW-Hr for the first 3 years of operation. This subsidy is equivalent to what is paid to Wind Power companies and is designed to encourage new nuclear reactor construction in the USA.

If the AP1000 lives up to its promises of $1000 per KW construction cost and 3 year construction time, it will provide cheaper electricity than any other Fossil Fuel based generating facility, including Australian Coal power, even with no sequestration charges. This promise appears to have been unfulfilled. The cost of the first AP1000 is expected to be over $3500 per KW.


about one quarter of the electricity we pay for is wasted because our household appliances operate when they’re not needed.

Approximately 10% of electricity generated is lost in the transmission and distribution system, costing consumers roughly $25 billion annually.
Power demand rose nearly 30% between 1990 and 2009, resulting in a rising number of power outages and blackouts, which now cost the nation at least $150 billion per year.

Over the next 25 years an estimated $1.5 trillion will be spent upgrading and expanding the electric grid. The choice is between building a whole new fleet of wasteful, inexpensive fossil fuel power plants or creating a flexible, efficient and resilient smart grid."

Fossil fuels and nuclear is not so cheap when the cost of environmental damage(which we WILL have to deal with eventually. Also the CDC has estimated that right now 3.1 million people die every year due to the pollution caused by fossil fuels(this is easily looked up) it is is killing that many imagine the health affects and doctor bills associated with those affects. When ALL the costs are factored in "green" energy is much cheaper than fossil fuels. But to make it work we must stop this more society we have developed. Appliances that never really cut off just to save us a few seconds of inconvenience is retarded. For instance I actually watch my TV maybe 5 hours a month but It wants to burn electricity 24/7 just so I don't have to wait 60 seconds for it to reprogram the channels when I do turn it on. Really? We're that spoiled? And I know some of the satellite systems use the exact same amount of energy when turned off as when they are on, meaning the only difference is the red "off" light comes on when you turn it off.

This wasteful spoiled consumption is what we must stop if renewables are to ever work for us. And do we really need to live in houses that are so huge compared to just a few generations ago? It's stupid. No family of four needs 2,000 SQ'FT 1,000 is more than enough and most of the world makes it quite well on less than half that. In fact, in some of the poorer nations a family of 6-7 makes do with well less than 300. What makes us so privileged that we need to waste so many resources on our dwelling and energy to power it?

The price of energy will go up and down, but it will always go up in the long run, guaranteed. We will never have a 20 year period go by where it's cheaper at the end than the beginning.

the total cost of fossil is many times higher than we pay the utility company, we just don't associate it since it's paid in taxes. and not even that covers the true cost we have to pay in extra medical bills, funerals and eventual clean up. Nuclear always gets touted as cheap, but it always seems to cost much more than the original quoted price, and even then you have to pay hundreds of millions at the end to decommission the plant and then there's the cost of disposal of the waste( not chump change by any means)

If the numbers from that second link or accurate we have close to 175 billion a year in wasted electricity. that could be drastically reduced by spending that money to upgrade our houses to use less and making it law that appliances and electronics must turn off when they are turned off. Then after a few years of doing that we could put that 175 billion to work adding solar and wind, not to mention using the billions we would spend building fossil fuel plants to add more solar and wind instead. With the energy savings from the few years of home improvements and stopping the waste of appliances and electronics
I think we would currently have more than enough base load energy production that wind and solar could more than make up the difference, and we could probably shut some fossil plants down(remember we waste about 25% of our electricity by appliances using it when not needed. Imagine the benefits if we just stopped that waste, and it's easy to do)

Sorry for the long rant, But you're doing a good thing with this 'ible and don't let the naysayers discourage you. You're doing more than just saving a few bucks, you're also helping reduce the poisoning of our planet, which is indeed absolutely priceless. I encourage you and others to read those two links there is a wealth of information in them. i also encourage all to Google something like "CDC study 3.1 million deaths per year from fossil fuel" It will help you see there is a cost to fossil fuels well beyond what we pay in our bill. You and all your loved ones are being poisoned.

OK, I'm done. :-)
MacOSJoey (author)  lordgarion5143 years ago
I never really looked at the deaths caused by using fossil fuels and it makes complete sense. I agree with you on nuclear. Look at Germany's progress. Even though they get FAR less sun than the northern U.S. (where I am) they still produces about 40% of their power straight from solar (and here we are wondering why we can't honestly do the same). After the Fukushimi nuclear power plant became unstable in 2011, Germany instantly opted to close its remaining nuclear power plants. If there's ever a leader to look to, Germany is it. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_in_Germany).

As far as grid ineffeciency goes, there's not a ton we can do about it. The only thing I can think of to reduce those losses is to have areas with specific resources harness those resources. For example, Arizona has the most solar irridance of the United States by far. If they were able to provide all of the state's power through solar, they could essentially lose those transmission costs altogether.

I know I'm ranting, too, but you posed a good issue. Phantom loads (things that consume power even when turned off) need to go. A few weeks ago, just as an experiment, I connected a 23 inch LCD monitor to my solar setup. The monitor is extremely efficient and consumes about 30 - 40 watts running. HOWEVER, when the computer is turned off the monitor consumes 10 watts just sitting and waiting to be turned on. That doesn't seem like much, but 10 watts * 24 hours is 240 watt hours per day WASTED. Right now, my system produces approx. 500 watt hours per day ON A GOOD DAY. Then, every night I lose 120 watt hours to the outoor lighting. After all the losses from the latter, I end up with only 140 watt hours left, which is about enough to keep my laptop and cell phone working. It may not seem like much, but you're definetly right about how much is wasted just waiting to be turned on. If this is one monitor, I don't even want to know how much is wasted in the entire house.

Sorry for ranting again, but you definetly brought on some good topics and numbers. Thanks!
Ok. I love where this conversation is going.

The next obvious step is to figure out an effective (and preferably cheap) method to force devices to turn off entirely such as a switch between the outlet and the plug of the device. If possible, this device would be removable, so it can be used in apartments or other areas where a permanent installation isn't possible.

It may also be prudent to have the "control switch" on a few feet of cord, so outlets that are difficult to access can still be switched off.

I know that a relay is likely to use some power even when in the "off" state, but I think its consumption will be small enough to be either negligible, or very close to that (I have no data to back me up, but that is what would seem to make sense to me, at least).
pfred2 im37333 years ago
Why would an off relay use any power? All a relay is is a coil of wire. If you don't supply it with any electricity it certainly can't suck the stuff out of the air. Well, it could, if there was a magnetic field moving near it, but that is a conversation for another day, or my name is Michael Faraday.

Or were you talking about a normally closed relay that you would have to energize its coil in order to open the contacts? That would indeed use some power in order to attain an off state.

Power strips have switches on them, so if you want to stop an appliance from drawing any power when not is use plug into that then simply flip the power strip off.

But first realize that lordgarion514 is completely full of it with their 25% of the electricity figure. Perhaps some appliances use 25% power when off, but don't for a minute think that 25% of power is being wasted overall. First off residential consumption is only 27% of the grid load. So saying there is a 25% waste is like saying we're wasting 98% of power. You don't think it is that bad do you? More likely lordgarion514 is playing fast and loose with some of the statistics.

Those appliances that are drawing such a significant percentage of their load "off" aren't typically big current drawing devices to begin with. I mean how many watts do you think your cable box is sucking back?

Tree huggers are claiming 55 watts but the actual figure is likely closer to 25. On par with leaving one 100 watt equivalent CFL bulb running.
Well we have another one of those people who don't "really" know about electricity but thin their opinions count as fact. Just what we need.

The numbers, and I mean all the numbers I give are not mine, they are listed in either one of the two links I gave. and on those pages they give links to the original source for every number I listed.
And yes 25% of the AVERAGE homes electric bill is wasted due to things using electricity when not being actively used.

Let us jump right to that cable box example you gave with your "opinion fact" number of it actually being25 watts(because you actually have no clue and are apparently too lazy to loo it up.
My info link(again, with a lin to the original source)

Did you know that a "typical" (I said typical! so if yours is different don't try and say "mine isn't like that your wrong wrong wrong, there are just a few more people in this country than you) Home cable box setup is 1 HD-DVR and 1HD set top box. Together these 2 "little" boxes together use more energy in a year than an average 21cubic foot Energy Star fridge in a years time? No you didn't but they do.(and you not believing it doesn't really matter. Physics doesn't hold to your whole "my opinion must be fact" mentality.
Typical cable box setup = 446KwH per year. Average 21cubic FT. Energy Star fridge = 415KwH per year.

It has been proven that these HD-DVR's(which actually are nothing but computers, including hard-drives, HD graphics cards, ram memory, and processors. run at near full power even when doing nothing(recording or watching TV).

All these numbers can be looked up by yourself by simply going to the website of the cable box manufacturers if you choose not to believe the numbers I have quoted(and provided links to back up, UNLIKE your numbers which you pulled from which orifice exactly?) Don't let your opinion(which is wrong actually) keep you from seeing the truth. Such as I never said 25% of ALL electricity is wasted(how did you even get that from what I wrote anyway?)
I plainly said about 25% of the electricity we pay for, meaning that 25% of MY electric bill is to pay for electricity that MY appliances and electronics use while not actively used by me. every TV, Computer, electronic microwave, stove with a clock, alarm clock that stays lit up when no one is there to look at it, router, cable modem(router and cable modems also run at near full power when not actively in use also, for obvious reasons) DC converters that stay plugged in when not charging their device, even digital dishwashers, and a myriad other electric devices all burn electricity 24 hours a day when not used.

Now think how long it actually takes to charge a dead cell phone. Mine from totally dead takes less than 3 hours, but that converter burns juice the other 21 hours in the day. and yes even a computer that is turned completely off uses electricity, even if it's a laptop, which actually has 2 batteries(all computers have batteries)

So if you choose to not believe the numbers, too bad, that doesn't change the facts one iota. If you want to debate how their wrong/lying then go to the manufacturers site and find the numbers yourself(but get a bunch of different ones since no one said that "every" one used that much, just the typical(you know as in "averages") one does. If it isn't listed on their site then get un-lazy and send them an email and do the work to prove others wrong. Otherwise shut up and just agree with those who aren't lazy that do care and HAVE researched this stuff.

And just because most of these phantom loads aren't that big(unlike the HD-DVR boxes which use more than an average fridge) means what exactly? So what if it was "ONLY" half what the tree huggers say? You do realize there are over 160 MILLION of those things right? Why don't YOU do the math on that and figure out how many coal power plants it would take just to run those boxes if they only used half. (answer: about 3 average coal fired power plants) Just because each one might be small doesn't mean much when you have to multiply it out by the tens and hundreds of millions that are out there. This is America, well over 300 million people, all of whom think they should be free to use, consume and waste as much as they want without paying consequences like health problems and financial costs to build, maintain and upgrade the system because of their waste.

I'm sorry, but you and the numbers you "believe in" without any real research to verify are wrong.
well done !
MacOSJoey (author)  pfred23 years ago
I think there's a flat out misunderstanding about lordgarion514's comment. He's saying that for a given appliance (your home DVR), it consumes at least 25% of its full power when shut off. Average that with all the fancy gadgets one has in a house, and you come to the conclusion that overall 25% of the electricity is used just keeping items powered on IN A SINGLE HOUSE. The grid is only about 1/3 efficient in moving electricity from production to final consumption (between transformers, long distances, etc). However, in the home there is another whole level of energy being wasted because of the American lifestyle which prohibits waiting a minute for an appliance to turn fully on from fully off instead of a sleep mode.

I guess I don't understand how leaving a 25 watt device on is the equivelent of leaving a 100 watt device on. 100 watts is 100 watts, which is 4 times as much as even you claim. I can't even see 100 watts even if the device uses 55 watts fully running. That just doesn't make any sense.
Is it so difficult to simply unplug...well, yes in some cases then how about organizing what is plugged in onto a panel that plugs into the wall plug and simply pulling out the panel from the wall to disconnect appliances, cable box, have to leave the phone alone I guess......but in our "instant satisfaction" society, who would actually do this to save a few cents per day?
im3733 im37333 years ago
Btw, voted, 5 starred, and favorited.
MacOSJoey (author)  im37333 years ago
Thanks for the 5 stars! I've personally used the switch on 5 plug dividers to immidiately shut off all power, but I find that it doesn't completely work. At night, I'll click the plug to my desk, which includes my laptop, fishtank (led lights) and cell phone charger. HOWEVER (and I just noticed it recently) the fishtank lights would still give off an eerie moonlight-like glow even with the switch turned off. I unplugged it to see if it was just some capacitor thing, and immidiately the light turned fully off. I don't know if electricity is allowed to arc in these dividers and if they really do their job.

My personal solution to this problem with my inverter is to get a remote starter on the inverter, which turns it on and off conveniently from any location (up to 50 feet).

I've seen someone use your relay idea to control his living room lighting (Link to his page http://2manytoyz.com/gridless.html), and it could probably work with AC outlets, too.

I've also seen these new 5 way dividers that "sense" when the main device (such as your TV) is turned on. When the TV is turned on, it will supply power to other items such as your Blu-ray player, DVD player, speaker system, etc. THEN, when the TV is turned off, the divider senses that and cuts all the power to the peripherals except the tv. It's a simple way to reduce phantom loads.

A good place to look for those is here: https://www.google.com/search?q=Reduce+phantom+loads&rls=com.microsoft:en-us&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&startIndex=&startPage=1&rlz=#hl=en&rls=com.microsoft:en-us&tbm=shop&sclient=psy-ab&q=Tripp+Lite+phantom+load&oq=Tripp+Lite+phantom+load&gs_l=serp.3...7261.7424.1.7679.,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.,cf.osb&fp=c34cc57b569ee8e9&biw=1440&bih=815

Thanks again for the 5 stars, and please vote for me in the green tech contest!
Great Ible...

I've pondered the phantom energy load problem for a while and have wondered if on-board, re-chargeable batteries might be a partial solution.

Say, for instance, a TV or cable/sat box requires some energy to maintain its memory (i.e. all those programmed channels) as well as sitting quietly waiting for a signal from the remote to turn the system on.

An on-board re-chargeable battery might provide sufficient energy to maintain the memory as well as a low-power receiver/sensor to pick-up the signal from the remote. Once that signal is received, the system can then power up. It wouldn't be "instant on," but what's the problem with waiting a minute or so?

Just thinking out-loud.

Again, great Ible...
I thought the same thing as you about using batteries that could be recharged while the TV is on(as in active use). It too a while(looong while actually) for me to realize that batteries would actually cause the appliance in question to use even MORE electricity than not having batteries.
Reason being is that it takes more energy to charge a battery than the battery provides. Meaning that it would take enough electricity to run appliance for say 1 hour to charge the battery enough to run it for 45 minutes(a made up example the times are not accurate, but it gets the point across to people).

A solution to this would be to install a small thermo-electric charger on the side of the appliances transformer or in the heat exhaust stream. That way you would be using the waste heat given off to produce the electricity needed to charge the batteries. Small thermo-electric generators are pretty cheap, as are small AA sized chargers and batteries.

And to be honest with the amount of energy wasted by these types of devices I could get behind a government made private company(like Fanny Mae and Freddy Ma are in the finance sector) with very limited profits written in the charter, and before anyone says anything about allowing government to control profits/prices remember I said a gov. made company, that means the U.S. citizens paid to make the company and gave it to another company to run, I see no reason not to be able to control the profit. They could build and sell a cheap thermo-electric charger that could be mounted on top of the TV(and anything else that generates enough heat to need cooling vents to let it escape)All you need is to give it a low profile by stacking everything side by side instead of "bundling" the components, and to include vents so the heat from the appliance can continue on out of the system). Include a small power cord that can be plugged into the wall and the appliance plugged piggyback into that plug(like some Christmas lights) and a switch that can detect when the appliance is trying to draw more power(meaning it was turned on) With a total profit of say 5% and no taxes charged by the government(This is for our benefit, that benefit(not to mention goes way down if they have to charge us enough to pay taxes as well. Right now set top HD-DVR boxes and the like consume about 6 average coal power plants total output per year, about 500MW each when they are not being used). If America can start this company and sell these things for TV's, set top boxes etc., we could stop the need to build more power plants, more and bigger power transmission lines, saving the country literally Billions of dollars. Might even be able to shut down a few power plants, helping the environment, and our health even more.

I could see a "master" battery backup set like his including many batteries that is run off the considerable heat from the TV's transformer(especially the older CRT TV's, which millions of homes still have.and will have for many many years) with a "power strip" to plug in the TV, DVD, DVR, surround sound system with a couple of extra plugs for whatever..

With the above mentioned stipulations for profit and taxes i can see the power strip model going for under 20 bucks.(hey, i bought a VCR/DVD combo for under $40 ten years ago, and this year i bought a universal remote at the dollar store for well, a dollar so $20 for a product from a company that was built and paid for by taxpayers that pays no taxes should be a piece of cake)

Making it law that starting in a year all electronic devices have one built in(negating the need for the external box and extra power cord) shouldn't add more than just a few dollars to the device. for what's already out there regulations could easily get them installed on a wide scale rapidly. such as making able companies by and install them with all new hookups at cost(their one of the ones that chose to use such an inefficient device, we have no real options if we want the features, but they could have designed a more efficient system and chose not to.) Tax rebates like for wind and solar now, making them basically free.and charging higher electric rates for those who do not get them(If all Americans must pay for a multi-billion dollar power plant and power line expansion I see nothing wrong with making those who don't even try to stop the need for it to pay more. If you can't afford $20 or even $60(for more than one room) Then you probably can't really afford a luxury like able TV to begin with.

Sorry about another long rant. But the subject of electricity and health environment problems caused by the need to use, and waste it due to how lazy we have become disturbs me greatly. Especially considering just how little the inconvenience is compared to the benefits.
Already voted. It won't let me vote for you twice :(

You can get the "smart strips", i think they're called, at Best Buy. Unfortunately, they are kind of pricey.

Unfortunately, I think you are correct, power strips tend to let power "leak" through, meaning they never fully disconnect, what I would like to do is essentially force it to disconnect, using a relay or similar. Won't be perfect, but it will probably work better than a power strip, and 100x better than not using anything at all.
GREAT instuctable. I agree with you for the most part on everything but one thing. Solar is not the way to go, TESLA is the way to go :). Solar is expensive, wasteful and doesnt generate nearly enough electricity, especially for my needs!
MacOSJoey (author)  Stefhan Albayaty3 years ago
I'm not familiar with TESLA. A quick google search and I can't find much on it besides a few cars. Could you elaborate?

Solar is pretty wasteful. Out of all the light energy that strikes the panel, 88% becomes heat, and between 12 and 19% becomes electricity. There's definetly room for improvement which I believe we'll be seeing in the next few years as solar becomes a strong market in the world.

Thanks for commenting! Please vote 5 stars and vote for me in the green tech contest!
I think he was calling good old fashioned (and modern) AC electricity by the term "Tesla". Nikola Tesla to be exact. Google that, and be amazed. He is basically the reason so many live how we do today. He is the "father" of alternating current. Among his patents and inventions: the tesla coil, fluorescent lights, the induction electric motor (ac powered electric motor) -- not to mention wireless energy transmission back in 1891. Those new cordless chargers for your controllers, toothbrushes, etc. had their technology originate from him. He invented the x-ray technology about 12 years before the actual invention of the xray machine. The first radio patent, including radio controlled boats and cars -- Tesla too.

When he lived in Colorado Springs, he did all kinds of work too. So basically he laid the groundwork for entire AC driven world, with well over 100 patents, etc. Check his bio out on wikipedia, it's pretty impressive. The tesla cars you found are in honor of Nikola Tesla.

All that said, he also stated that the use of fossil fuels (this was over 100 years ago) for energy was barbaric, and could not be sustainable in the long-term. In one of his patents, he actually invented a rudimentary type of photovoltaic solar cell. He ultimately claimed that the universe was full of infinite energy, and it would only be a matter of time until man would learn how to tap into it. I guess he needed to live 100 more years for us, and we'd all have free energy and be driving antigravity cars (theorized only), and living a bit differently. There's my soapbox, I'm off it now :)

Summary: Nikola Tesla = genius.
MacOSJoey (author)  duggerpato3 years ago
Wow. Yes. He is definetly an important figure. I'm surprised I wasn't familiar with him.

Getting back to Stafhan Albayaty's comment, I guess one of the other problems with solar is that panels produce DC current which must be converted to AC to run our modern appliances. This is where micro inverters come in. They are attatched directly to the underside of a panel and produce AC power much more efficiently. From there it can be directly connected to the grid. A very promising idea for the future.

Thanks for commenting!
Whether solar is worth it depends on how much your utility rates are in your area and your solar resources. Really, the higher rates get, the better renewables will be, especially as prices keep falling on solar panels and more installation companies come around. Doing stuff yourself just puts money in your pocket that much faster. I suppose doing stuff yourself might not work as well if you hope to be grid tied.
RolyB3 years ago
I'm all for renewables. As for carbon payback savings, I wonder how many manufacturers, suppliers, etc., actually use renewable energy and systems in the manufacture of their products, in their offices and homes. I see few factories with industrial sized wind turbines or solar installations and the one company here in Cork, Ireland, that does sport a wind turbine, has one so small that it would barely light a single bulb. I see farmers here with bigger turbines.
MacOSJoey (author)  RolyB3 years ago
Yes, that's true. I've seen them cropping up quite a bit more in the United States. A trip down the freeway recently and I spotted a red roof in sporting two HUGE wind turbines, and even a local business installing one themselves.

I guess in the end the reason that the idea isn't lighting very fast is due to how it works. We're used to having practically unlimited elecricity from our wall outlet. If you plug in a giant electric spaceheater, it will work (until your wallet declares a limit). The problem with all renewables is that they can't be predicted or relied upon. NOT to say that this is where our society needs to go, but as a business, they can't MAKE it sunny on maximum production days, and the same with wind. That's my big theory why more people haven't adopted this style of energy. The solution (in my opinion) as I've said before is that we need a giant hybrid (not like in cars) system that has wind, geothermal, solar, and hydro. Together, all of these sources can provide a constant supply of power, with geothermal the most constant of all.
triumphman3 years ago
So what will this cost me,( ballpark figures of course) to power a fridge, well pump and some lights ? Can it be done on the cheap ?I will probably need a real good 12v to 110 v converter thingy ? Please get back to me ! Thanks.
Wow, I am impressed! You are awesome! Thanks for the numbers and info. I appreciate your time and effort and speed of which you got back to me. I have a lot to to think about now. Thanks again!
MacOSJoey (author)  triumphman3 years ago
Yes, I will have to use ballpark figures. There are so many options this can go anywhere on the board.

First, your fridge. You weren't specific about the size and/or type. If this is a standard everyday big fridge, you can expect it to use approximately 63 watts CONSTANTLY IF you were to divide it's daily usage (because fridges cycle on and off). The total PER DAY is about 1512 watts, or 1.5 KwH.

Then let's move on to a well pump. An average 1/2 horsepower pump uses about 370 watts give or take. Now, since you only use the pump for maybe a few seconds every while or so (depending on your usage) we'll round this to about 0.8 KwHs.

Then the lights. If you are using standard incandescent lighting that's been around since the beginning of electric lighting, you could expect to use 60 watts per bulb. For 5 lights, that's 300 watts. IF however you use energy efficient CFL bulbs (compact flourescent) you would consume only 15*5 or 75 watts. All depends on your efficiency.

Then you mention your "12v to 110 v converter thingy". The inverter is that thingy. It converts the electricity from your batteries into normal everyday houseplug power you can plug your appliances into. IF all your loads were running at the same time, you would consume about 733 watts with inefficient lighting, or 508 WITH effecient lighting. An inverter sized for about 1000 watts will fit your needs.

After all of these loads, you will consume about 2 KwH per day WITH losses from battery efficiency, inverter, etc.

In order for two days of no sun (in which you want the entire system to work even if it's cloudy), you would need approximately 580 watts of solar panels, and a 900 amp-hour battery.

580 watts of panels will cost about $700. An inverter will cost about $100, and a battery bank of that size will cost about $900.

So, to add everything up, that's $1700. THEN, there's the 30% tax credit, which will take your overall price to 1190. Of course, you could change this depending on your loads, but overall that's what it will cost.

To find out most if this information, I used a load calculator here: http://www.altestore.com/store/calculators/load_calculator/

You can play with different wattages and loads, etc.

And an off grid calculator here: http://www.altestore.com/store/calculators/off_grid_calculator/

Hope this helps. Feel free to contact me if you still need more info.
chrisf05283 years ago
I really like the idea of using the sun and even wind, but one has to stop and think about how much fossil fuel was used in the manufacturing, construction, packaging and transportation of all the components in the system; especially if you have now purchased 3 controllers instead of purchasing one that might have fit your final needs up front. I'm not "hating" on your instructible! I really like where you are going with it, but I think a bit more planning up front might have been a bit more green! Keep up the good work, though!
MacOSJoey (author)  chrisf05283 years ago
Yes... All the parts will be recycled at the end of their lives. HOWEVER, I see your point. A calculator online suggested that it will take between 5-15 years before the amount of carbon released during manufacturing is equal to the amount of carbon it has saved.

I realize now that much more upfront planning would have worked a lot better. I was just experimenting with solar as a hobby and after I got a taste of my own power I wanted more.

Thanks for commenting! Pleaser rate this instructable and vote for me in the green tech contest!
ironsmiter3 years ago
that's a nice set-up.

you need MOAR BATTERS!

seriously, especially with the sump.
By the time you NEED the 12V sump pump, it's already raining(with the accompanied low solar yield) and the power is out. Unless your basement is VERY well designed, built, and maintained... You'll have flat batteries in pretty short order.

One place to look is actually, used car batteries.
If you can find a nice shop that will let you have their old lead-acid batteries for pennies, or free... a desulfating circuit/charger will probably bring half of the ones you get, back to nearly new operation. Sure, it's not deep-cycle, or SLA, but a rack of 24 starter batteries will store a ton of solar charge, and be almost ideal for sump pump activity (heavy draw at 12 volt, for short duration).
As a bonus, you can keep your deep-cycle batteries set up for the inverter/emergency power, on a separate circuit.
The car batteries could work but they are not designed to be heavily discharged at such low rates.
MacOSJoey (author)  trublu2893 years ago
Yes, that's true, but if you connect enough of them, the overall discharge rate per battery drops. If you have a single car battery that holds x amp-hours, and take out 50%, the battery would be at 50% and probably ruined. BUT... If I had 4 batteries and took out the same amount of amp hours, each battery would only loose about 12% or their charge, and therefore the batteries aren't discharged as much individually. That's the idea with using car batteries: you have to use a lot of them so that each battery individually isn't deeply discharged.
That would get pretty expensive if your trying to drive a very large load.
MacOSJoey (author)  trublu2893 years ago
That's true. I've decided to take rwolkens advice about going to an Advanced Auto Parts store and get them cheap. My highest load that I ever run on the system at night when the batteries would be used is about 20 watts * 12 hours of night (no sun) = 240 watt hours every night. The draw out of 4 car batteries PLUS the deep cycle and commercial battery already down there wouldn't make a big difference. Of course, there's expansion, so that will be worked in as progress moves on.

Thanks for commenting!
MacOSJoey (author)  ironsmiter3 years ago
Thanks for commenting! Yes, I know I need more batteries. They're expensive and delicate, and I haven't really found a good retailer where I can buy in bulk. Another user suggested golf courses if they could give me batteries for free from their golf carts. I will look into some more commercial batteries for that cranking power which is needed for a pump.
I work for Advance Auto Parts here in Manistee, MI, and we get a lot of batteries that are traded in on new ones, that are still good, including deep cycle marine and rv batteries, and we give them a full recondition recharge, and sell them as used REALLY cheap, but we don't advertise the fact that we sell used batteries you have to ask about them, because on hand changes a lot, and there are no warranties on used batts..

We are also running a recycling promo right now, that we will give $5.00 a piece for old car batteries, good or bad. No purchase necessary, but I think the $5.00 MIGHT be in the form of a store gift card. Check with your local store first.
MacOSJoey (author)  rwolkens3 years ago
Thanks! We have an Advanced Auto Parts in my town (I'm not going to be very specific because its the internet and all) that I'm going to definetly check out! Manistee is quite a drive for me, though. Do all AAP stores offer this? Also, how cheap do they usually go for? I've seen a group of 4 golf cart batteries go for upwards of $200, so I don't want anything crazy.

Thanks so much! Please rate this instructable and vote for me in the Green Tech contest!
I was looking for a replacement battery for my '92 S-10 today, and a new Autocraft Silver runs @ $100.00, but just happen to have one at our store used for $40.00, just for reference. Yes, all AAP stores do used batteries, but again, availability is limited to on hand stock.

I have voted for you already, but thanks for the reminder!

If your local AAP store has a golf course nearby, chances are pretty good that they have a commercial account with your local store, too.
MacOSJoey (author)  rwolkens3 years ago
Thanks for all your comments! It has been extremely helpful! Yes, there is a golf course not less than 5 miles away from the AAP store! Thanks for your vote and rating!!!!!!
Also, gave you a 5 star rating!
You can go to an auto-salvage yard or if you have access to one an industrial salvage to get batteries a lot cheaper if you are willing to harvest for yourself.
MacOSJoey (author)  Garasvaldi3 years ago
I could, and I'm considering CMMDRDATA and ironsmiter'se advice about auto shops and golf courses for old batteries. One of the concerns I have with going towards used batteries is the lack of capacity and completely dead cells. If I put in one battery that's completely dead, the rest of the system would become extremely inefficient in trying to charge a battery that will never become fully charged. Thanks to everyones support on the battery issue!
you wouldn't believe the amount of nearly new gear you can find at a salvage yard. I used to spend my summers as a kid at my uncles yard, I used to harvest parts to resell. Batteries were one of my biggest sellers.
MacOSJoey (author)  Garasvaldi3 years ago
Really... I never really gave them a second thought... Now that two people have suggested it, I'm honestly going to see what I can find. Thanks.
RogueOne3 years ago
Is there any circuit protection in the system? If not I think it should be pointed out in the name of safety that at a minimum there needs to be a fuse/circuit breaker on the line connected to the batteries. If the wires short circuited they would simply melt and possibly splatter molten metal since there would be nothing to cut off the energy from the batteries. You can at least use the same DC fuses used in cars that you can pick up anywhere. There should also be a fuse from the line connected to the solar panel.

It wasn't clear if the system was grounded? There should be a common ground with this system and the electrical system connected to the utility power. If it isn't you can be introducing a ground loop into your electronics..
MacOSJoey (author)  RogueOne3 years ago
Yes, there is circuit protection that was added later. I installed ATC fuses on both charge controllers, the panels, the inverter, and the battery bank. I have yet to finish the grounding work. Where the system is situated in the basement, it's very difficult to find something I can ground. I have thought about this, though, and after some testing, I learned that my grounding risk is not very high.

Thanks for commenting! Please rate, and vote for me in the green tech contest!
teddlesruss3 years ago
Good instructable! Can I suggest a few things though?

You mentioned an inverter driving the laptop power supply whining - small inverters waste energy, and on top of that I've found that even so-called 300W inverters buckle if you plug a 90W - 110W load such as a laptop adaptor into them. A better solution is to get a 12V laptop adaptor (there's quite a few on the market and fit most laptops via selector switches and adaptors) because that eliminates one inefficiency in the form of eliminating the inverter.

Same goes for lights or appliances - rather than use mains devices that need an inverter, use 12V equipment, and scale the wiring appropriately for the length of the cable run and the current you intend to draw. It'll make you think - really think - about what you can do without... %)
MacOSJoey (author)  teddlesruss3 years ago
I see your point, and a few others have suggested this, too. My laptop draws approx. 60 watts when charging. At 120 volts, thats .5 amps. Despite the losses from converting to DC-AC-DC, the 50 foot run from the inverter to the laptop (the other side of the house) would be 0.1 % loss. However, say the laptop draws only 50 watts sans the adapter, I would be drawing 4 amps @ 12v. I would need 252 MCM wire in order to keep the same losses. If my laptop were closer to the system, this would make complete sense. However, because I'm not willing to purchase such a thick gauge wire, and it's more convenient, I'm going to probably keep it at 120v.

HOWEVER... In the kitchen (almost directly above the system), I plan on installing a 12v outlet and a 5v (USB) outlet for cell phones.

Thanks for your comment, and please rate my instructable and vote for me in the green tech contest!
It would be best if you DID take into account the losses from the inverter. What inverter are you using? There could easily be a 50% loss in the inverter alone. All inverters have an efficiency curve. It will be very difficult if not impossible to find the efficiency curve on cheap inverters because they don't want you to know how bad it is. They will usually just list "max efficiency". Even very expensive ones will have terrible inefficiency at the low end. Inverters usually are the most efficient near their rated power. So a QUALITY 300 watt sine-wave inverter would typically be about 95% efficient when using around 280 watts.

How are you measuring the wattage? The only way to know your true energy use of that laptop is to measure the amperage coming directly out of the battery (not with an AC meter in your wall outlet). Since you are using less then 10A your fluke meter can measure the amps by placing it in-line. It would not be surprising if your laptop is actually using 90 watts when charging coming out of the battery because of the inverter inefficiency.

Using 10 gauge copper wiring would be more then enough to run that laptop from 50ft. away and result in only around 3% loss in the wiring and a little more with the DC to DC converter for the laptop. This will be far less then the amount lost because of the inverter inefficiency.
073553 years ago
due to the increase in hybrid cars, it might be possible to pick up a bank of batteries....maybe a few bucks, but aren't they ion batteries
MacOSJoey (author)  073553 years ago
Depends on the car Lithium-ion batteries (the same type of battery found in cell phones or laptops) hold their charge well and prefer to be constantly "topped off". If you continually discharge them below their limit (btwn 50 and 75%) they will loose capacity. It is good for them to be completely drained once a month, but beyond that they are no good.

If they're standard deep-cycle batteries (as found in golf carts), they will work perfectly in this application.

Thanks for commenting! Please rate and vote for me in the green tech contest!
webbhost3 years ago
how much did the whole instructable cost you do you reckon? and how much did you save?

Also did you need any form of planning permissions to mount it onto your roof?
MacOSJoey (author)  webbhost3 years ago
I never really officially tallied it up because for me, it is never officially done. I'm constantly modifying or adding new components or panels. I can try and break down what I have so far.

15 watt solar panel -- $80
10 watt solar panel -- $30 --Ebay is a great place to find panels
100 watt solar panel -- $200

Coleman Air controller -- $60 (died a while ago; don't purchase)
Xantrex C35 -- $100 (best controller I've seen)
Xantrex C12 -- $80

Misc. wires -- $30
Wood -- -- $0 (had it on hand)

total -- ~$580

Then there's the tax credits which take out 30%

new total -- $406

Minus the kilowatt hour production it has saved from purchase over the course of a year.

Final total == $115

I didn't need any sort of permission because it is completely grid independent. If I were to add a grid tie inverter or anything like that, I would need to get the proper permits. But because I live in the country, nobody cares what happens on the roof. Thanks for commenting!
From your above figures you seem to indicate a savings of $406 - $115 = $291 per year in electricity cost savings.  Is that correct? Even if you had sun for 10 hours a day for 365 days you would only have generated about 365 Kwh (100 watt/hour * 10 * 365). The average utility price of electricity is around $0.12/Kwh in the USA so 365 * $0.12 would only yield $44 per year.

MacOSJoey (author)  RogueOne3 years ago
After some more precise math, I came up with some different numbers more in your range. 115 watts (not 100) * 4.2 average sun hours in my location * 365 days a year comes to approx. 176295 watt hours, or 176 KwH. My apologies for forgetting to convert watt/hours to KwH. At a rate in my area approx. 0.16 per KwH, over a year is approximately $28 in savings. I will revise my other comments for the new results.
MacOSJoey (author)  RogueOne3 years ago
A lot of these number are ball-park numbers. I didn't fully calculate all of the costs and everything. The rate per KwH in my area has changed dramatically with oil prices flying all over the place, so I'm not able to give a straight per-kwH cost. Also, in a system like this, it's important to realize that a battery can be at a maximum of 80% efficient. Most solar panels are derated at about 70%, since temperature and other factors can change the output significantly. My calculations would be in perfect conditions.

In the end, a system of this size isn't designed to drastically reduce the amount of power from the grid. It's made to provide reliable power available for use 24/7. Where I am, outages are frequent and it's convenient to keep my sensitive electronics running, and to keep a backup sump pump running.

Of course, any power during an outage is priceless :-)

If you are seriously considering knocking out some of your electric bill, I highly consider you opt for a grid-tie system. This is extremely efficient as in about every watt you make goes into the grid. This would directly use all the power that is created and would be put into your existing electrical system (no losses from batteries). AND, if you go on vacation and shut down all but vital loads, you COULD get the meter to spin backwards. HOWEVER... when the grid goes out, you're screwed. Without anything to regulate a constant supply of power, every time a cloud passes by, you would loose all your loads.
The Outback grid-tie inverters allow you to sell back to the utility company and have backup power when the power goes out (assuming you added a battery bank). With the outback grid-tie inverters if the utility power goes out it will instantly switch over to battery backup.. you'd never notice you lost power.. so it is basically a whole-house UPS assuming you have a large enough battery bank.. The best of both worlds.
MacOSJoey (author)  RogueOne3 years ago
I have considered these, but their high prices keep me from purchasing one. The decent ones are upwards of $1000, way more than I'm willing to spend.

My idea for grid-tie expansion is to connect the next few panels I get directly to a standard grid-tie inverter ($200). Then, I will use a relay system to automatically detect if the grid goes down. If it goes down, a relay will click and all the solar power that WAS going into the grid-tie inverter is now going into the Xantrex C35 controller and battery bank. It does the same task as one of those, except much cheaper. Plus, my batteries could never sustain the whole house for more than maybe 5 minutes.

Thanks for commenting! Please rate this instructable and vote for me in the green tech contest!
Hey quick question. On step 9, you say you have it wired in a "weird" way, such that both batteries have the same draw. Do you just mean that you wired them in parallel, or the way you wired them in parallel? If the latter, are the cable losses really large enough that it matters which terminals you use to get the + and - lines? I would not expect that to be the case.
MacOSJoey (author)  silentquasar3 years ago
They are technically wired in parallel. I have the + connected to +, and the same for negative on both batteries. However, instead of connecting the rest of the system to just one battery in normal parallel, the positive connects to the positive on one battery, and the negative is connected to the other battery. The cable size doesn't matter as much, but its VITAL that the lengths are the same to reduce one battery being drawn more than the other. Thanks for commenting!
Get them batteries off the floor. Cut a piece of plywood to size for the batteries. Then put the batteries on top of the plywood. Leaving the batteries on the cement floor will draw the life out of them.
RogueOne dontno3 years ago
Yes, please listen to MacOSJoey. This is a complete fallacy that for some reason refuses to die.
MacOSJoey (author)  dontno3 years ago
I have mentioned this several times and you will see on Step 7 IN BIG LETTERS that that's a complete myth! It dates back to the 1920s when batteries were made of wood cases! The plastic (unlike wood) doesn't fall apart as easily due to the temperature difference. If you want proof of this issue, here is my proof.


I have a rug down there though that the battery sits on, but I'd be just as happy to set it on the cement. Technically (and I have seen many places that suggest this) a battery is more efficient at cooler temperatures (a cement floor) and therefore will perform better. The floor never gets colder than maybe 55 - 60 degrees, so I have no danger of the electrolyte freezing.

dean141113 years ago
MacOSJoey (author)  dean141113 years ago
Thank you :-)
dagob3 years ago
WhenI go back to Brazil, This is what I want to build for sunbright days then combine it with aeolian energy. Thanks for sharing this instructables with us.
MacOSJoey (author)  dagob3 years ago
No problem! Thanks for commenting. I, too am also working in wind energy because technically here in Michigan we get more wind than sun. If you plan on building a wind generator, I made a site for my progress at homemadewindpower.webs.com The site mdpub.com also has some great resources.
RogueOne3 years ago
Anybody interested in purely generating power should realize that it is far less hassle and cheaper or nearly as cheap to purchase a fully assembled warranted PV panel. I would also suggest not purchasing renewable energy products from some non-renewable energy focused website. Northern Arizona Wind and Sun for example has been in existence for decades selling only RE equipment and will have far better prices.

You should also be aware that the smaller wattage panels cost significantly more per watt then larger ones. You will easily pay $5+ per watt for a 10 watt panel whereas a 200 watt panel is around $1.50 per watt. As example. Northern Tool sells a 33 watt panel for $200 ($6/watt). From NA wind and sun you can get a 230 watt panel for only $90 more ($1.25/watt).

MacOSJoey (author)  RogueOne3 years ago
I don't believe I mentioned this, but I'll mention this now. Even though it would be so much easier to buy the panels, I decided on building one because I wanted to understand how they worked. That's why after I completed my 10 watt panel, I sticked to buying them. Since the cells come in at about $30 for 15 watts, that's $2 per watt. HOWEVER, the northern tool 15 watt panel I purchased costed upward of $80 ($5.30 per watt). If you want a smaller panel, it's typically much cheaper to build. Anything bigger than about 20 watts isn't worth the hassle of building like you said, and should stick to the pros.
fixit-fox3 years ago
You mention that your first controller the C-35 was replaced. What happened to it? Did it die? I've been looking at the specs of the the two, the C-12 and the C-35.

It would appear that the C-135 is rated at much higher current than the later one you used, the C-12.

Thanks CT
MacOSJoey (author)  fixit-fox3 years ago
I don't think I was clear in this area, and I'm going to modify my instructable to clarify. The C35 was never replaced. It is my most reliable controller and I trust it the most. You are correct, it does have a significantly higher current rating. The "first" controller I replaced was the Coleman Air C40 found on the second step of this instructable. The Coleman controller is the only controller I've owned that's died.

The only reason I purchased another controller (the C12) even though the C35 can handle all of the current is for the lighting control of my outdoor lighting. With any future panels I install, I will connect to the C35.

My suggestion to you if you were deciding on buying one of the two is to get the C35 because it is built pretty tough, the lugs for connecting the wires are nice and big, and it's much simpler. The C12 is tiny in comparison, and I would only mess with it if you had specific night time lighting needs.

Thanks for commenting!
profpat3 years ago
i see you charge or power your laptop thru your solar power system, are you using your 120~240V ac charger plug to your dc-ac inverter?

to save more on battery charge, you may use a 12Volts to 19volts dc-dc laptop adapter, with this gadget, you may power your laptop directly from the batteries, thus increasing the efficiency of the system.

just an idea.
MacOSJoey (author)  profpat3 years ago
I never realized that... I did notice though that the adapter on the laptop becomes very hot when charging. I am using a standard American 120v outlet, so I will definetly look into that in order to reduce losses!
Thanks for the idea!
profpat3 years ago
nice instructables! we really need to save on energy.
MacOSJoey (author)  profpat3 years ago
Thanks! Saving energy is one of the benefits of this system.
very impressive ,you get top marks for the detail you provided,and including the upgrades and reasons why,i am looking to make a wind generator (hopefully soon) and might be following in some of your footsteps
MacOSJoey (author)  bobby sissom3 years ago
Thank you! I'm trying out a wind turbine, too. A really good place to look is at
mdpub.com. The guy there did a really nice job. I've been waiting to make a instructable for mine, but in the mean time I have it on its seperate website here: http://homemadewindpower.webs.com/ Again, thanks for your comments!
Wow MacosJoey. Great job and I really like all the detail you listed. Can't wait to hear more on how you add to your system. This is what our world needs, people working on new ideas on how to use renewable energy like the sun!
MacOSJoey (author) 3 years ago
If you like my setup, PLEASE VOTE FOR ME FOR THE GREEN TECH CONTEST!!!!! I really appreciate all of the comments and I will be sure to read and respond to every comment! I appreciate your advice, as I am already starting to integrate some!
cmmdrdata3 years ago
Hey that is a nice setup! I agree with ironsmiter, you can also get used batteries from golf courses which are deep-cycle and use a conditioner on them to get them to nearly new state.

Also you know you don't have to run christmas lights on ac right ? You can use straight DC from your batteries.
MacOSJoey (author)  cmmdrdata3 years ago
Thanks for commenting! Yes, I know I could have ran each string of lights off of DC, but I chose AC for a couple of reasons. 1) I have a quick and easy way to turn them off after a couple of hours. They would have to be manually turned off unless I wanted to buy a timer for DC, which costs up to $70 (don't forget this was before I had the Xantrex C12 controller). And 2) The lights were put up at the front of the house. If I ran it through DC, I would have significant losses from the distance. So overall, it could have worked, and this Christmas I am considering doing it that way now that I have a C12 controller which can turn them off, and the fact that I already have a 12v line available since I installed my path lights.

I haven't looked into getting golf cart batteries because they are so expensive. I never thought about looking into golf courses for getting their old batteries. Thanks for the tip! I will be emailing some local places about them!
That's some impressive ingenuity, MacOSJoey. Could be a fun project for the very handy. For most people looking for solar on a scale that can power their whole house, however, savings from a DIY installation can quickly be replaced by rewiring, upgrades and injuries.
MacOSJoey (author)  Real Goods Solar3 years ago
It was a fun project and it is very useful. I know what you mean by the savings from a DIY installation not adding up, but for me it was worth the few pricks and shocks. The understanding of how everything works together in my opinion is better than just having someone else do it for you. I'm not trying to power my whole house though, just to suppliment it and to power critical loads during an outage, as we havet them so frequently here.
Tony Rimmer3 years ago
Nice work, MacOSJoey. I been fitting half of the house with 12v lighting with the same thing in mind. Your efforts are an inspiration.
MacOSJoey (author)  Tony Rimmer3 years ago
Thank you! When it comes to 12 volt wiring, though, be sure your wire gauge is big enough. I've seen over time how much juice is used just to get the power to the other side of the house to the lights.